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Interview with Will Robertson, Author of Casey and Kyle

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A musician and tennis player, in 2007 Will Robertson began to draw a series of cartoons based on his two boys. Those early drawings became the strip “Casey and Kyle,” which debuted online at www.comicsherpa.com. His work now appears in several publications, where it is read by nearly 200,000 readers.

You can visit him online at www.caseyandkylecomics.com.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a fierce NERF fighter and my boys and I drive my wife crazy running around the house shooting each other with foam bullets. I drink gallons of iced tea every day (even when it’s cold). I love to travel. I love walking, thinking, and playing Frisbee.

I’m best known for turning a few lines and dots into characters that make people laugh. I draw a family comic called “Casey and Kyle” which is based on my two kids. We’ve got a third child on the way. I married my high school sweetheart and we live in a yellow house in the farmlands of Oregon.

What made you first decide to become a writer?

When I was a kid, I was an avid reader. My parents kept me in a steady diet of the classics, but also of comics and books that were more age appropriate. My local thrift stores at the time would always have twenty or thirty different comic books for a quarter or so, and I would buy them ten at a time and devour them. I always dreamed that someday I’d write and draw a comic book just like theirs.
The challenge was that when I was younger, my skill level changed so fast that six months after I drew a cartoon, I was humiliated to show it to anyone, so I despaired that I’d never be consistent enough to release a book of my work.
And so years and years went by, and honestly, the way it happened for me was almost accidental. I’d been publishing “Casey and Kyle” cartoons for nearly a year when I decided to count up how many cartoons were in a national book. When I went back and looked at how many I had, I was only ten or so short. I took care of that fairly quickly and released my first collection.

I’ll tell you what, though… each book has about 300 comics in it, and it was pretty intimidating to contemplate starting in on the next one. These days I like to be about 60 cartoons into the following book before I put a new one out. It just works better to already be onto the next.

Can you tell us about your latest book?

I’m really excited about I’m Saving Up For A Big Brother!!! because I feel like the strip has found its voice and is moving in a really fun direction. My first book obviously has a special place in my mind, but the characters were still finding their voices and the art was always in a bit of transition; you can see the changes from the front to the back.

With this new book, everything is beginning to be comfortable, and that’s not a bad thing at all. You think of a writer being comfortable, and automatically, it’s like they’ve peaked. But for me, it’s the opposite. I’m finding that there’s a wonderful freedom when I don’t have to worry about the mechanics of everything. I’m not concerned with messing up the line of the art. Things are fluid, and the energy can go into writing fun scenarios, creating more memorable characters and moments, and letting things change naturally.

What inspired you to write it?

I started writing the strip just after my mother died in October of 2007. There was a kind of melancholy that set in, and since I’ve always worked in creative fields, I tend to be prone to a bit of melancholia anyway, so it’s not healthy for me to brood.

I’d drawn comics my whole life, but for eight years or so, I’d set it aside to work in other mediums, so I went back to it with quite a bit of hesitation. All of the old demons that told me that I would be terrible came to the forefront, and I spent a month or two just drawing characters and trying to find a sketch that resonated with me.

I decided to base the main characters on my own kids, and initially, I just thought it’d be kind of a fun way to capture their personalities for the future and that was it, but as I started putting ink to paper, I was drawn into the world I was creating. I waited to show anyone until I had a whole batch done up, and the response was amazing… and that was it. We were off and running. I started posting them online and within two weeks or so, I had a few hundred regular readers and self-imposed deadlines.

With this book, I’d say deadlines had a lot to do with it getting done. At this point, the strip is carried in other publications, and I have to turn in new material each week or I lose my spot, but I think that’s a wonderful pressure to have. Maybe it’s a bit weird to feel that way, but for me, being forced to step away from the sometimes chaotic qualities of life and say that for the next day, I’m going to focus on joy, pleasure, simplicity, and to make myself laugh and to then, hopefully bring a small blessing to a reader somewhere… it’s a wonderful thing to be forced to do, and so I guess that inspires me to keep going and to push myself to be the best I can be.

What is one thing you hope readers will take away from this book?

A comic is different from a novel, or other types of writing, because everything always comes full circle. The characters develop, but they don’t change, so the themes are different, and the purpose is different.

When I write, my goal is to share a bit of joy with the reader. Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I don’t, but the purpose of my work is to bring a smile every day. It seems more and more that people are trying to push the envelope, and everyone wants to be edgy and, frankly, vulgar to get a laugh. I want to go the opposite direction with my work. There is a kind of wonder and charm that kids bring that’s unmatched. I’ve created a world where that is on display and my hope is that people will walk away from the book feeling a bit better than when they picked it up.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

All of my books are available through my website at www.caseyandkylecomics.com.

If you could meet any writer (living or dead) who would it be?

Hands down, I would want to meet Mark Twain. A while ago, I subscribed to Audible.com and began purchasing an audio book a month, and so I got the first volume of his new autobiography, and I’d put it on while I inked so that I didn’t get bored. The more I listened to him (and it was the world’s longest book, by the way) the more entertained I was. That man was something else… I’m more fascinated with him now then I was before.

What is one fact about yourself you wish to share with our readers?

I have terrible handwriting. When I started the strip, I started contacting some of the national cartoonists to see if they would look over my work and possibly mentor me. Jan Eliot, who draws the strip “Stone Soup,” responded and has been a huge part of helping me craft the strip into a professional format. One of her first pieces of advice was to have someone else do the final inking for the lettering. My wife stepped up to the plate, so at this point, she has hand lettered about 800 cartoons.

What is up next for you?

“Casey and Kyle” never stops, really, and so that’s something that will always be up next for me, but the next project that I’m working on specifically is somewhat different. It’s a story inspired by a conversation I had in December with my grandmother. She was telling me about a boy that she was watching who was pushing a box so big he couldn’t even see over the top. As she was telling me about it, I started sketching ideas in my mind and I’ve turned the idea into a humorous fable that I’m in the process of illustrating. As I complete it, there’ll be more information on my website.

Is there anything you would like to add?

I publish new comics several times a week on my site at www.caseyandkylecomics.com. I also offer a free email subscription with a blog that goes into more detail about what’s going on in our family as well as my thoughts on each day’s cartoons.

Thanks so much for having me out today!

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About Cheryl C. Malandrinos