Lost in Taiwan is a story you fall into! It’s the closest to visiting Taiwan you’ll get without having to get up from your couch, and it’ll get you putting away pennies for that flight one day. We sat down with author Mark Crilley to talk writing and illustrating process, his inspirations, and a sneak peek at what he’s up to next!
What was your initial inspiration for Lost in Taiwan?
I lived in Taiwan for two and a half years, teaching English, studying Chinese, and making loads of wonderful friends. I wanted to create a graphic novel that would pay tribute to the people and culture of Taiwan, and to give readers a taste of what it feels like to be there.
Can you describe your plotting process? How much of the plot do you have nailed down before you start sketching?
I always have a pretty detailed outline of the entire story in place before I get going on any artwork. It’s especially important to have a satisfying ending worked out; then I can make sure all the scenes are building toward that ending. But I leave things open enough that if I get a good idea later on, I can ignore the outline and institute that change, for the good of the story.
I’d love to hear more about the technical process for your drawings! What materials do you use and how would you describe your illustration techniques?
Lately I’ve been taking my penciled version of each page and scanning it into my computer without inking anything. Then I use Photoshop to darken the linework and add color. In Lost in Taiwan, I made a special effort to make the coloring look very organic and handmade, so as to avoid the smooth flatness that you see in a lot of computer coloring.
I loved seeing Paul’s growth from uninterested and self-isolated to adventurous and curious, and the way Peijing helps pull him out of his shell. What was it like tooling out their relationship?
Well thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed that aspect. I deliberately made Paul into a bit of a jerk at the beginning of the story, so as to give him plenty of room to grow. With Peijing, I had the opportunity to show how a stranger you’ve only just met can sometimes see and point out aspects of your personality that you’ve failed to see yourself. And of course Paul also ends up saying things to Peijing that she clearly hasn’t heard from others. You sense that their chance meeting will end up changing both of their lives for the better.
What are some places in Taiwan you would recommend to travelers?
Most people will visit Taipei, Taiwan’s largest city by far, which is filled with popular sites to see. But I’d encourage them to get out of the big cities and into the smaller towns, to see ordinary life in the countryside. For example there is a little village called Lukang which has preserved a lot of the architecture and atmosphere of “old Taiwan.” Really the key to getting the most out of Taiwan is getting to know the people. A Taiwanese person can get you away from the tourist trail and lead you to unforgettable experiences likes the ones depicted in my book.
What are some books you’ve been reading recently or would recommend?
I highly recommend Ira Marcks’ graphic novel Spirit Week. A great story with incredible artwork, and one that will resonate especially with fans of The Shining. I’m a big Beatles fan, so I was enormously pleased with Tune In, by Mark Lewisohn. After reading that, you’ll feel like an instant Beatles expert!
What are you working on now? Any exciting ideas you can share?
It’s a little too soon to reveal the name yet, but my next project is a two-book series that’s aimed at upper elementary and middle school students, due in stores this coming winter. It’s the first thing I’ve done in years that is focused directly on humor, and I’m having so much fun coming up with all the jokes and ridiculous situations. But the key thing about it is the format: These are highly experimental books that bring together comics, letters, diaries, and other unusual forms of storytelling. I can’t wait to see what people will think of them.
by Mark Crilley
THIS WASN’T PAUL’S IDEA.
The last thing he’s interested in is exploring new countries or experiencing anything that might be described as “cultural enrichment.” But like it or not, he’s stuck with his brother, Theo, for two weeks in Taiwan, a place that—while fascinating to Theo—holds no interest to Paul at all.
While on a short trip to a local electronics store, Paul becomes hopelessly lost in Taiwan’s twisting, narrow streets, and he has no choice but to explore this new environment in his quest to find his way back to Theo’s apartment.
In an unfamiliar place with no friends—and no GPS!—there’s no telling what adventures he could happen upon. And who knows? Maybe it turns out he has friends in Taiwan, after all.