About Alan J. Hesse:
Based in biodiversity-rich Ecuador, Alan wears several hats: he is an author-illustrator, an educator and a conservation biologist. Alan’s work is inspired by the majesty and fragility of nature and the need to do everything we can to protect it.
Alan combines his artistic creativity with his technical experience and knowledge to create scientifically accurate, educational children’s books full of quirky, comic humour and fun action, and usually bearing a message about how everyone can help preserve Nature.
Alan draws the artwork in his comic or picture books by hand and then edits it all digitally.
He is the author of five educational comic books for middle grade children, among which his main ongoing focus is the Captain Polo series about climate change featuring a globe-trotting, anthropomorphic polar bear who is a gifted sailor and communicator.
Alan is also the author of 3 climate change-themed picture books for children within the 6-8 age range.
What inspires you to write?
My work is inspired by the majesty and fragility of Nature and the need to do everything we can to protect it. As a scientist, I find that technical information about Nature is not very useful to get more people to care. I achieve greater impact through my educational comic books, because these are visually entertaining and they tell a story.
What authors do you read when you aren’t writing?
In my genre they are Goscinny and Uderzo, authors of the European comic books Asterix, and Hergé, author of Tintin. Outside my genre, George McDonald Fraser, Bill Bryson, Noah Gordon, Frank Herbert.
Tell us about your writing process.
I am definitely an outliner, and this is by necessity. Because my content is factual, I need to research it thoroughly. This often includes consulting subject matter experts, some of who I persuade to write an editorial review. To outline I write down the results of my research in MS Word. I then think up a fictional story around those facts, making sure to include a lot of purely fictional adventure, action and humour. This leads to my inventing characters and dialogues. I then write out how all of this will pan out in comic book format, pairing each scene to it's corresponding panel of artwork. After this I sketch out a story board for the whole book, before starting on the actual book, frame by frame. Because I do it all, it's an extremely labour intensive process! Lately however, to optimise efficiency, I have started drawing my artwork directly in Photoshop, using a digital tablet. Photoshop is where all my artwork ends up, and where it gets edited and coloured. I then switch to Indesign to lay out the book, all the artwork plus speech bubbles and texts.
My next comic book is to be an experiment: I figured out that for the same amount of effort, just by reversing certain processes, I can end up with two books: one in full colour and the same in black and white. My idea is to use the latter as a colouring book. Two products for the price of one!
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I often chuckle and smile when I draw or write a particularly funny scene, whether this be slapstick, visual action (like my main character slipping on ice), or textual (use of vocabulary or writing style to express different emotions and situations). When I draw my characters experiencing a particular emotion, I often catch myself unconsciously assuming that same expression, like eyes wide open for example. For some reason, this helps me get it just right!
What advice would you give other writers?
You've got to write about what truly motivates you. You have to come from a very authentic place, whether this is for fiction or non-fiction. Writing a book that gets published, whether by yourself or traditionally, is a gift to mankind, so you have to make it count. The other thing I would say is that it's one thing to write a book, another to publish it, and another to sell it! The first bit is the easy part. I learned the hard way, and I'm still learning, that if you want to make your book into some form of income, you have to quickly become an entrepreneur and see your book as a business. This is very hard for me and for a lot of other creatives out there.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
At first I went for traditional publishing. It took a while but I was lucky to stumble on a small press in the UK specialising in education, with a particular penchant for comics and cartoons. However, I later found out they have no clue about promotion and sales, and I learned my first lesson: unless you are already a big name, a publisher will not promote you or your books nearly enough, and usually not at all. So I switched to self publishing, making me a hybrid author, and that was – and still is – a whole new learning experience all of its own. I would advise new authors to first understand what they goals are: if they want to make money, or if they are publishing just for fun. If it's the former, you'll need to grow a hat as an entrepreneur, whether you like it or not, and regardless of which publishing route you go for. Traditional publishing sounds great, but for unknown authors, it can be very frustrating and it can take years to get signed on. And after that, you will typically still need to do your own marketing. I would therefore suggest new authors to get straight into self publishing, the tools for which are all out there, many of them free. It just takes time, so you need to see it as a business, with targets, a timeline, etc. The bottom line is, keep on creating new books. That's the most important.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I see more and more people writing books and publishing themselves. The tools online are broad, it's not just Amazon. Each platform is user friendly, free, designed to encourage indie authors. Social media is geared towards sharing content of value. I personally think, based on recent trends, that indie publishing is going up, and traditional publishing may have to rethink itself and up it's game.
What genres do you write?: Children's MG, comics & graphic novels, children's 6-8
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit to allow you the reader to hear the author in their own voice.