As someone is who’s way past her prime when it comes to reading YA novels, I unabashedly still love them. From Ransom Rigg’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children to Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series, I read them with no shame in my game. They are engrossing, fast reads and many are series based, which is another strong appeal to me.
Once such book that caught my eye was Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye developed by Tania Del Rio and William Staehle. It tells the story of an odd young boy, who after the death of his father, helps around the family hotel and by help I mean he does it all, from errand boy to groundskeeper and everything in between. When Warren’s Uncle Rupert and Aunt Annaconda move in to help, their motives are not all pure. They are on a treasure hunt to find the All-Seeing Eye and with the arrival of a new guest, Uncle Rupert and Aunt Annaconda may have some competition for the prize. With a combination of mysteries, riddles and puzzles encased with a gothic Burtonesque feel with accompanying art on almost every page, Warren the 13th, is one of those books that if you are looking to get kids into horror then this can be your intro.
Currently, the book’s sequel, Warren the 13th and The Whispering Woods is available now. Luckily I got an opportunity to chat with author Tania Del Rio about her life in comics, YA books and more.
Being both an author and a comic book illustrator. How did you get your start?
I’ve been drawing and writing stories all my life and I always dreamed of writing books and making comics, but I also knew it wouldn’t be easy to break into either field. So in art school I majored in animation, which I thought would be more practical for finding work after graduation. The irony is, I had a really hard time finding animation work, and a comic job sort of landed in my lap. I had entered a manga competition held by Tokyopop and it was enough to get noticed by Archie Comics, who offered me a chance to reboot the Sabrina the Teenage Witch series. I worked on this (both writing and drawing each issue) for about five years until the series ended. By the end of that run, I was sort of burnt out on drawing, and I found writing to be a more enjoyable process, so that’s where I’ve been focusing my attentions ever since.
Warren is so out of the box of typical characters and stories that you see in young adult books. How did the concept for him and his story come about?
The character of Warren was actually created by the illustrator of the series, Will Staehle. We went to art school together, where he came up with Warren in a comics class we shared. I was so taken by the odd appearance of Warren with his weird face and beautiful hair, that I was inspired to write an early novel based on the character. A lot has changed, plot-wise from that early draft, but the character of Warren has always remained the same. He’s loosely inspired by the classic character of Cedric from the 1886 novel, Little Lord Fauntleroy about a young lad with a very upstanding and moral personality.
One of the things that I really enjoyed about Warren the 13th and The All Seeing Eye, is that it has this great overtone of gothic atmosphere with whimsical charm. Was it hard to balance those two elements along with it being relatable for young adults?
Thank you! I think the balance is a result of my longstanding and very comfortable collaboration with Will. His art and design definitely create a spooky, gothic look and feel, but the story is a little more lighthearted and quirky. Striking the right balance was never something we were too concerned about, it just seemed to work out naturally!
What can you tell us about Warren and his adventures in The Whispering Woods?
The first book was more of a straight mystery, as Warren worked to solve a riddle about a secret hidden inside his hotel. The second book still has riddles, but it’s more of an adventure/quest story as Warren must venture into the dreaded Malwoods to search for his missing hotel. I can’t say too much without giving it away, but there are some interesting characters that Warren meets along the way… and three times as many villains!
Now that you have tackled young adult horror have you ever thought about venturing into other areas of horror?
To be honest, horror isn’t a genre I generally gravitate towards, so I don’t see myself doing much in other areas. But I love writing for a young adult audience, and I do have an idea for a creepy horror YA that I’ve been dabbling with… we’ll see!
Comic books have always been in an evolving state. Having worked with both Dark Horse and Marvel, what is your take on the current situation in comics?
Comics as a industry tends to ebb and flow, but right now I think it’s definitely in “flow” mode. There’s a lot of new and really exciting stuff coming out from creators who are more diverse than ever before. Not to mention the amount of cool stuff that indie creators are working on. I was recently at Emerald City Comic Con and the stuff I saw in Artists Alley blew me away.
Now that Warren the 13th and The Whispering Woods is available for readers. What’s up next for you?
I’m in the early stages of working on Book 3 in the Warren series, and I’m also working on a couple other projects: the aforementioned horror project, and a middle grade portal fantasy. And then there’s a comic idea I’ve been thinking about for a while… if only there were more hours in the day!
Interview by EvilQueenB