Our very own Storyboard Supervisor Paul Gunson has just published 'The Little Book of Latterday Victorians'. We sat down with Paul and asked him a few questions about his journey and what it's like to write and illustrate your own book.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Sure! I became interested in animation after going for a day's work experience at a studio in Bradford owned by the son of a family friend. He sold it as being a bit more glamorous than the reality, but I'm still in the industry years later! I did my studying at Newport Film School, South Wales and moved to London for work afterward.
I've always loved reading and writing, although, for quite a few years, I cut down on those to save my eyes after long days staring at storyboards and scripts.
Was writing and illustrating a book a lifetime goal?
It wasn’t! I’ve written proposals for animated TV shows, tried writing a war novel and got bogged down in technical detail, and done a couple of picture books for my daughter, but this is the first time I’ve actually finished something ‘big’!
What kind of books do you read?
I like reading humorous fantasy (Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, and Douglas Adams) and horror. I really like the tone of the authors mentioned above and they’ve been great influences. I can also recommend a children’s writer called Andy Stanton whose Mr. Gum books are surreal and insanely funny. Just as good for adults as the kids they are intended for.
Tell us a little bit about 'The Little Book of Latterday Victorians'...
It was inspired initially by my daughter! She wrote a strange message in her grandma’s birthday card one year. “Nostil Vandra…known for his moustache” and drew a little picture of him. Well, what a brilliant first line. Who was he? Why was he known for his moustache? The whole story came from trying to find out.
The story is set in Victorian times, so the style of language used is mildly influenced by that era. The narrator is an active character, a lively reporter of the events that unfurl in front of their eyes. At its core, it’s a simple story of identity theft, where the villain starts a campaign of revenge against the kind but boring person who got the job he didn't. He does this by training a group of crocodiles to steal the hero's famous moustache so he can wear it and take over his job at the Natural History Museum.
We meet strange versions of The Fates, a Scientist who uses maths as an assault weapon and a dog with no sense of metaphor. The story itself is alive in a way, and capable of being tricked and manipulated into rewriting itself to make the villain the lead character.
Who is your book aimed at?
12-year-olds to adults. People who like books by the above-mentioned authors and those who might like to read something that's playfully subversive when it comes to the usual writing clichés that come up frequently.
How did you come up with your pseudonym?
I wanted to use a pen name that fitted the era more than a normal one but used a few letters from my own. Jonas Lupin sounded antiquated enough and quite welcoming.
What advice do you have for someone looking to produce their own book?
If you have a short story, you want to tell it to a few people, tell them face to face.
If you want to reach more people, try to resist telling anyone too much, unless it’s a writing group who will support you. It takes time to write and the compulsion to keep going will fade if you finish telling your story aloud.
You also have to be able to put your story away for a few months before looking at it again. There will be many better ideas you will have that enrich character and story when you let it settle. Putting it away also helps with writer's block. It's when you are separated from your writing and under less pressure from yourself that you start to have ideas to fix things.
Pixar released a list of helpful rules. The most useful one for me is about writer’s block. When you don’t know what happens next, write a list of things that would NOT happen next. It takes the pressure off you and might give you some flashes of accidental genius!
How do you develop your work and skill set and what motivates you to do so?
I’ve been inspired a lot by my daughter, and how kids see the world - as a magical place where anything can happen.
She and I used to make up stories at her bedtime as often as reading them. It was fun but didn’t help her go to sleep in the slightest. My book was started by a phrase she wrote in her Grandma’s birthday card.
How do you approach a personal project and is this very different than your approach to a professional one?
Well, Brown Bag actually helped with that! I had picked up the story again after three years off last Autumn, and after doing Katie’s Goal setting workshop (Katie Lander is Learning and Development Advisor in Brown Bag Films Studio in Manchester), it made me determined to do just a little bit each evening. A read through, a drawing, etc to keep the project moving forward.
What tools do you use in your work and what is your favourite?
I use Word but also software called ‘Pro Writing Aid’ which analyses your text and suggests improvements.
Do you have any other creative outlets?
I also like to sculpt using polymer clay - it’s very relaxing.
What are your aspirations for the future?
I would love to write more.
I’m planning on turning an old TV series proposal about Easter Island into a book, and I’m plotting the follow up to ‘Latterday Victorians’ at the moment. I would love for the first book to be turned into an audiobook narrated by Stephen Fry, or even an animated film. Let’s see!