One of the many fun things about always attending the Gaithersburg Book Festival has been getting to know perennial guest, Dave Roman (who comes down from NYC!) When I first met Dave, he was working on his cool series ASTRONAUT ACADEMY (hmm, guess I like books about kids going to school in space). But now he has a new hero: Unicorn Boy! I caught up with Dave to learn more:

Me: Congratulations on your awesome new graphic novel, UNICORN BOY (First Second, March 2024)! I love the mix of magic, talking muffins, friendship and – spoiler alert – the power of cats! How did you come up with this epic tale?

Dave: All my books are just big mashups of cartoons, movies, and books I’ve thrown into a blender and frapped into something with my own weird flavors added in. I initially started making a “fractured fairytales” anthology type book for all these random ideas that kept calling for attention from my sketchbook. I had drawn a simple doodle of a boy with a Unicorn horn and as I began fleshing out a story for him, I started to identify with him in ways I didn’t expect. It grew into a chance to do a very traditional hero’s journey story but with a personal connection.

 

Me: Can you share a little about your writing and illustrating process?

Dave: Usually, I write scattershot over the course of a long time! Ideas will come to me at random times, and I just jot them down in a notebook or google doc until enough of them collect into something that starts to excite me and take over my brain. Comics are visual so it’s often something about the characters that seem like they would be fun to draw! Sometimes I start with a short outline and other times I dive in and start sketching out rough comic pages to get a better sense of what this project could FEEL like. Best case scenario I don’t start to second guess myself too much! So often I’ll be really into the idea at first and then as I’m writing an inner critic takes over and dissects every aspect of the initial idea. Too often I shelve my work in progress and never show it to anyone. It takes a lot of disconnect from reality before I show a pitch to my agent or even close friends! Most of my comic pages still start off with pencil drawings and I used to ink with a brush and India ink. But about 100 pages into inking Unicorn Boy book one I started experimenting with inking in the Procreate app on an Ipad. I’m still getting used to it, but it was a chance to try something new and it allowed me to ink at the park and over friend’s houses which was good for my mental health!

Me: Editors always help improve work, but since you also edit graphic novels, what’s it like being edited yourself?

Dave: Ha! Yeah, I’m a really harsh editor on myself! I’m always reading and re-reading my work-in-progress and looking for story issues, better ways to say things, sometimes replacing entire scenes at the last minute! But even then, I can miss glaring issues, so I’m grateful to have the help of folks like Steve Foxe and Samia Fakih to keep my stories from going (too far) off the rails!

Me: “But that’s a story for another book…” Does this mean that we can expect a UNICORN BOY 2?

Dave: Yes! I was very fortunate that First Second said from the start that Unicorn Boy should be (at least) a three book series! It’s exciting and overwhelming because it means no breaks between drawing books! I’m halfway into drawing book 2 and currently feel like it’s one of the most fun things I’ve ever made. There’s a ton of new characters and the ones from book 1 get to really mature in heartfelt and also hilarious ways!

 

Me: Any other fun projects lined up?

Dave: I wish I had time to draw other projects! Unicorn Boy has totally taken over my life. But hopefully by the time I’m drawing Book 3, I’ll be able to sneak off a bit and play with some other characters waiting patiently for attention. I also have all these ideas for silly podcasts that I never get around to!

Me: Hey, I never get around to most ideas too! Guess that’s the nature of things…

In the meantime, wishing UNICORN BOY much success! And see you at this year’s GBF on May 18!

To learn more about Dave and his books, please visit: it’s yaytime! | dave roman

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