Saturday, 23 October 2010

Author Interview with Neill Cameron

For those of you wanting to find out more behind Mo-Bot High, I'm pleased to present Neill Cameron both author and illustrator of the book (which is a hit on my shelf). 

1) What was the inspiration for creating Mo-Bot High? 

I was at a comics convention a few years ago, doodling to myself, and I doodled a picture of a stroppy-looking schoolgirl with a giant robot. And I thought, y'know, that could work.

And now I suddenly realise that wow, I really need to come up with a more exciting version of that anecdote.

2) The concept of human controlled robots/machines is extremely popular in Japanese anime and manga (my favourite is the classic Sakura Wars). Did these influence you at all in Mo-Bot High?

Absolutely. I'm by no means an expert on the huge area that is Japanese mecha anime and manga - I've seen the first 3Gundam movies, and of course grew up watching Transformers, but that's about it - but it's an aesthetic that I absolutely love. I've been to Japan a couple of times, and both times came back weighed down with toys, model kits and books about giant robots. Of which I couldn't understand a single word, of course, and had no idea what it all meant or even what series any of it was from, but they just looked so cool.

I guess on one level Mo-Bot High looks like a bit of a collation of familiar manga cliches - schoolgirls, giant robots - but what I wanted to do was take some of those elements but try and do them in a way that I hadn't seen done before. So for example, yeah, the characters go to a high school, but it's not a glamorous exotic Tokyo or LA high school, but a regular shabby-looking British comprehensive in some nowhere market town deep in middle England, full of surly dinner ladies, horrible 60's architecture and puke-green corridors. You know, somewhere I could relate to.

(PS I've not seen Sakura Wars - will have to check that out!)

3) Graphic novels, comics and manga in the past have been (and probably to a small extent still are) regarded as being for boys. In creating Mo-Bot High, were you aiming to provide stories that girls would enjoy? 

Totally! As far as I'm concerned, comics - and comics about giant robots in particular, of course - just are awesome, in a universal and non-gendered way, and it seems a shame that - in this country at least - girls should have to miss out on the fun. I was trying to think what would make giant robots more appealing for girls, and that's where things like the fact that they come out of your mobile phone, and you get to customise your robot and choose your own design and colour scheme come from. (Of course, the great thing then is that those ideas aren't just cool for girls, they're cool for everybody. Who wouldn't want to design their own giant robot?)

I was a bit worried that I'd cleverly come up with a concept that would appeal to absolutely nobody - that boys wouldn't want to read it because it was about girls, and that girls wouldn't want to read it because it was about robots - but the response so far has been so terrific that I'm starting to think it may actually have worked out okay.

4) Do you know/are you able to reveal how many books could be in the series? 

I'm going to have to be a bit lame and dodge the direct question there for the time being, sorry! Suffice to say I've got a lot - I mean, really, a LOT - more stories in my head about for Asha and her world, so I'm just really hoping that the first book does well enough that I'll get to tell them!

5) What happens in a typical (if it exists) day's work for you? 

For a freelance artist I actually have a pretty regular work schedule - I get up and get my son dressed and breakfasted, then take him to nursery and get home for a pretty solid 9-to-5 shift of comics-drawing. (Or writing. Or giant-robot-designing. Or whatever it may happen to be that day). I try to be pretty much finished for the day by the time my wife and son get home so that I can actually have an evening off and hang out with them. Before becoming a Dad I used to work through the nights and over weekends much more, so becoming more 9-to-5 was a bit of a strange adjustment. But one for the best, I think.Neill Cameron Illustration | w:  | 
Mo-Bot High - 
Thrilling Titanic Battles from the DFC Library!

Many thanks to Neill for conducting the interview. Check out the competition to win a signed copy of the book! 

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