Leopoldo Gout is graphic novelist, director, producer, composer and the author. His first novel, Ghost Radio (read our review here) builds on Gout’s already-expansive creative universe by taking a step into the unknown territory of the supernatural. Taking time out from his current project, producing an animated picture with Curious Pictures and NBC, Leopoldo agreed to take some questions from Pop Culture Zoo about this paranormal thriller.
PCZ: I know that you must get this question with great frequency, so let me get it out of the way. Are the ghost stories interjected throughout your book personal in nature, the result of research or purely from your imagination?
LG: They are a combination of personal stories, research, ideas, nightmares and dreams.
PCZ: As the story evolves you frequently change point of view and voice, while moving backwards and forwards in time. How important were these elements to the story?
LG: I have experienced in the past at least three major life and death situations where my view of life changed. In addition to those personal situations I created the central character – Joaquin. The only way to depict his supernatural experiences was to stay true to what happened to him as these phenomena affected his past, present and future simultaneously. I realized that the way that I could get closer to his extraordinary experience was to write the novel in that manner. I love the idea that the supernatural forces that affect Joaquin haunt him in a metaphysical as well as physical way as it manifests itself both viscerally and through the conduit of his memories.
PCZ: Were these techniques that you set out to employ or did they come about as you wrote the book?
LG: The technique is made out of the same fabric as the supernatural experience that my characters live.
PCZ: Speaking of how you write, are you an outline writer or do you start with an idea and just start typing?
LG: I actually start by drawing. Its weird process but I studied art in Saint Martins School in London and I have being drawing since I was a kid. The images are compressed stories.
“I love the idea that the supernatural forces that affect Joaquin haunt him in a metaphysical as well as physical way as it manifests itself both viscerally and through the conduit of his memories.”
PCZ: Among your other talents and pursuits, you are an artist and a composer. What influences, if any, do you feel these have on your writing?
LG: Everything is based on experience and storytelling: on the observation and the objectivity of the ideas, characters and stories that survive my process.
PCZ: Each chapter in your book begins with a picture, something you normally don’t see in books anymore. Considering the additional production costs and the general state of the publishing industry, was this a difficult concept to sell to your publisher? How important to you was the inclusion of the artwork?
LG: The publisher was easy. I just showed them my images and they wanted them. I am a huge fan of old books like Byron’s works published in the 1800’s where they would add incredible engravings at the start of each chapter. I miss those books so I am trying to continue with that tradition. I am always drawing and I’m a partner at Curious Pictures, a big animation and film studio in New York, so I have many resources to create and develop my artwork.
PCZ: Are any aspects of the book autobiographical in nature? I understand that you emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, as did Joaquin, your main character. Did this and other experience translate to the page?
LG: Absolutely. I came here following an interest in the art world but then I fell in love and I stayed. Mexico, with all its traditions connected to the supernatural, is a huge influence on all my work.
PCZ: Some writers find great pleasure and vast rewards in writing while others agonize over each word while feeling compelled to tell a story. How is writing for you personally?
LG: Hard, Very hard because English is my second language. So I work with it like a sculptor chiseling and hacking away.
PCZ: With your first book released in hardcover, what is next for you? Can we expect more books or are you focusing more on your art or your work in film?
LG: I have a graphic novel being published this month, called Daniel X, co-written with James Patterson, which will be on the front of all Barnes and Noble stores. We set it up at New Regency / Fox to be adapted into a film. I have also begun my next graphic novel, edited by the amazing Karen Berger from Vertigo, and William Morrow / Harper Collins have just offered me a 2 book deal.
On the film side I have recently directed and produced my first fully CGI animated film starring Danny DeVito, Lucy Liu and Brian Williams called “Little Spirit”, which will air this December 10 at 8 pm on NBC. We are also preparing a film in Mexico that my brother will direct, and are producing the first ever Michel Gondry animated film… SO we have our plates full.
PCZ: Finally, I always like to finish off my interviews with writers by asking if there is any advice they would like to share with those trying to get their writing published. Your personal story is inspirational in itself. Are there any lessons you learned or advice you could pass on to others?
LG: Don’t take yourself too seriously but at the same time, work and put everything you’ve got into the process. I enjoy every day that I work, even when it’s hard and rocky: I am invigorated by the process, not the destination.
We’d like to thank Leopoldo Gout for taking the time to share some of his insights and inspirations on Ghost Radio with us. You can learn more about this book at the official Ghost Radio Website. To find out what Leopoldo is up to when he’s not writing about the supernatural, check out his work with Curious Pictures.