Chris Oliveros: How I wrote The Envelope Manufacturer

For 25 years, Chris Oliveros worked tirelessly to turn the Montreal-based comics publisher Drawn & Quarterly into a true publishing success story. Now that he's stepped down as publisher, he's working on a new legacy: writing his own graphic novels. His first book, The Envelope Manufacturer, is an understated tale of a small business owner who clings to his failing company, his loveless marriage and two apathetic employees. 

In his own words, Oliveros tell us about the process of writing The Envelope Manufacturer.

chris-oliveros-hiwi-new.jpgDrawing (at right) ©Adrian Tomine.

The story of The Envelope Manufacturer came about a long time ago in the mid-1990s, when I was ordering envelopes for Drawn & Quarterly. At one point, one of our suppliers was a company run by this older gentleman and the company itself seemed to have been more successful years earlier, but by that point it was on its last legs. This older fellow seemed to be the only employee left - he was even doing the deliveries himself. I thought, "Who is this guy? How did he get to this point?" So I started to imagine what his life was like, how his business got to that point and where it was going. Running a small business myself, I was able to empathize with a lot of what I assumed he was going through.

In the past, I've had trouble getting my own stuff done and it was mostly because I hardly had any time, spending 25 years working with Drawn & Quarterly and raising a family with three kids. It was a real challenge to find the time to do this book.

For The Envelope Manufacturer I was able to carve out about a 90-minute segment in the early morning, 5:30 a.m. to 7:00 a.m., and that was enough to get the book done. It took a lot of discipline. Even though I now have more time because I stepped down as publisher, I'm still sticking to the 5:30 a.m. wake-up time because I just want to maintain that discipline. I want to get things done early in the morning and then after the kids have breakfast and go to school, I just want to feel that at least the day's still young and I've gotten something done today.

I finished The Envelope Manufacturer a couple of months ago and I immediately started a second project because I wanted to make sure there was no lull. I just wanted to make sure I didn't lose any steam.

Doing comics is a lot of work. One page could be 20 hours of work. You just have to keep at it because if you look back after one month, you're not going to say "Oh wow, I did 50 pages." It's more like, "Oh great, I did seven pages of this 200-page book."

Chris Oliveros' comments have been edited and condensed.

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