When Sang-Sun Park’s The Tarot Café came to an end I found myself wondering what to read next. I loved Park’s story and illustrations so much, the way she wove Pamela’s past in with different character’s futures. I was thrilled when I learned that Tokyopop was going to be publishing a novel, The Wild Hunt by Chandra Rooney. It turned out even better than I expected and Ms. Rooney was kind enough to answer some of my burning questions about tackling a well loved manga series.
I’ve done a little bit of research online and it looks like The Wild Hunt is your first published novel. What was the writing experience like for you?
First published work, yes. I had previously published a short story in On Spec magazine, which was nominated for Canada’s Journey Prize. I’d also completed and revised an adult manuscript with my agent before I began writing The Wild Hunt.
One of the best parts of writing as a professional is that you have feedback available when you need it. Until I worked with an editor, I didn’t fully understand the extent of what it is that they do. An editor—like an agent—wants the novel to be the best it can. A really wonderful editor knows how to phrase constructive criticism so that you understand not just what changes need to be made but why making them betters the manuscript. My editor for The Wild Hunt, Jenna Winterberg, was amazing. The novel is so much better because of her.
The main difference in writing The Wild Hunt was that there was an established universe. My writing style had to adapt and conform to a pre-existing tone and conventions.
Do you think that working with Tokyopop, who mainly publish graphic novels and manga, was any different from working with a publishing house whose main focus a traditional novel?
As Jenna has previous traditional editorial experience, the differences come more from the nature of the work than the house. We had to go through a translator to communicate with Park, for example. That delayed the start of the actual writing, because what she had approval on needed to go from English to Korean then back to English.
The only house-related difference I could determine was that TOKYOPOP is a smaller press, so Jenna was also my copy editor. In that situation, more responsibility falls on the author and editor to pay attention to details. If a spelling error slips through or there’s an inconsistency in the text, there won’t be a third party looking over the manuscript before it goes to press. We had an assistant editor, Michelle, who looked over the rough draft, but revised and final drafts had to be done without her.
Did it make things easier going into The Wild Hunt to have a cast of characters already in place that you could play with?
Yes, I would say it’s definitely an advantage. The challenge comes from then finding a way to present those characters to readers who have never met them without boring an established fan. Also, where you can take the characters is governed by the existing dynamics, histories and personalities.
Moving from a visual medium to strictly prose creates an additional challenge. In a comic, images convey the majority of the story. In prose, those visuals have to be drawn with words. That’s part of why the narrative voice for the novel is so ornate—it was done intentionally to try and evoke the beauty of Park’s art.
One of the things that I really enjoyed about The Wild Hunt was the fact that you used the Tarot Café characters as background for your own. It reminded me of the side stories that Park wove through her main storyline as the series progressed. Was it hard to do that, did you ever find yourself wanting to expand on Pamela’s story?
Thank you! Jenna was very good about trying to involve as many characters as we could. We also discussed how Pamela and Ash’s story was mostly covered by the comic series. The novel was intended to complement the comic, not retell it. For that purpose, we chose to write something more like the vignettes that comprised most of the first and second volumes. I wanted to do something between when Aaron came to work at the café and Ash arrived on the scene, because it seemed that timeframe was the most open for side stories.