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Meet Comic Book Author & Illustrator Jo Rioux

The Golden Twine by Jo Rioux is recommended for ages 9 to 12 or Grades 4 to 6.

We’re excited to introduce you to comic book author and illustrator Jo Rioux! She created the graphic novel, The Golden Twine, a fantasy/adventure story starring an orphan girl named Suri who yearns to be a monster tamer. Check out the interview below!

Find out more about Jo on her website. There are lots of cool illustrations! Or view more pages from The Golden Twine.

Material from The Golden Twine used by permission of Kids Can Press Ltd., Toronto. Text and illustrations © 2012 Jo Rioux.

  • [+] 1. The Golden Twine, is your first book as an author/illustrator. How excited are you?
    Very, very excited! I had a lot of fun making this graphic novel, and I learned a lot, as well. Now I'm looking forward to the next story I want to tell and anxious to put everything I've learned to the test. I'm also ecstatic about the reception my first book has gotten, first with the Joe Shuster Dragon Award and recently the Rocky Mountain Book Award, which will have me touring schools in Alberta in the fall.
    Golden Twine book cover
    The Golden Twine by Jo Rioux
  • [+] 2. Congratulations! For people who don’t know, who is Joe Shuster? What is the award for?
    Joe Shuster was a Canadian comic artist most famous for co-creating the character of Superman. The Joe Shuster Awards were created in 2005 to recognize Canadian comic art talent. The Joe Shuster Dragon Award is given to the best comic book for kids.
  • [+] 3. Can you tell us a bit about The Golden Twine without too many spoilers?
    The setting is the fantastic valley of Galatea, and the story follows the adventures of Suri, a young foundling who was taken in by a camp of travelling merchants. The valley is infested with monsters, and Suri yearns to be a monster tamer so she can one day be strong enough to search for her true family. For the time being, she earns her living telling monster stories to other children. She gets the chance to prove herself when she befriends a gigantic monster locked up in one of the camp's caravans. She is eager to brag of her first monster-taming exploit to anyone who will listen, including a boy she meets in the camp. But instead of being impressed, the boy runs away as fast as he can, leaving behind many of his things, including a beautiful ball of golden twine. Suri doesn't know it yet, but this is no ordinary twine. It has magical properties that can grant her great power, while also putting her in grave danger. She may need help from some unlikely friends in her quest to become a monster tamer.

  • [+] 4. How did you create The Golden Twine? Did you write the story first and then illustrate?
    My inspiration for The Golden Twine came from my boyfriend's family dog, who was called Byron. He was a big, scary pit bull who thought he was a small, cuddly lap dog. Whenever I would sit on the floor, Byron would collapse into my lap, and then pretend not to hear my cries of pain. One day, as he was slowly crushing me to death, I told him I should send him to the land of giants, where he could finally be a lap dog.
    That idea stayed with me, and eventually I developed it into a full storyline. I started by drawing the main characters and developing their personalities. I like to write comics by keeping the general idea in mind, then writing scene by scene. Dialogue is very important to me, so I rework it until it sounds genuine. By the time I'm done writing, I usually have a pretty clear idea of what the comic will look like. Then comes the time to illustrate. I love the drawing part of comic creation; it's exhilarating to see the story come to life!
  • [+] 5. Before Cat’s The Golden Twine, you illustrated the Sam & Friends Mysteries, a spooky graphic novel series by writer Mary Labatt. How did that come about?
    There's actually a bit of a story behind that. After graduating college, I moved back to Ottawa with the intention of doing children's books illustration. While I was building up my portfolio, I decided to take a part-time job at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Not two weeks after I had started working, I heard that a top editor from Kids Can Press was coming to the museum for a book launch! Now usually, it's pretty hard to arrange a meeting with an editor from a big publisher, and here she was coming to my workplace! My boss, who was the greatest boss ever, introduced me to her and I gave her some samples of my work. A few weeks later, she contacted me to do a new graphic novel series called Sam & Friends Mystery. All these years later, I'm still amazed at that lucky coincidence.
  • [+] 6. Hmm, monsters and spooky mysteries... Do you like scary stories?
    I've loved scary stories since I was a kid. There was nothing more exciting to me than hearing a spooky story told by the light of a campfire. Which is not to say I was particularly brave. Once the story was over and it was time to go to bed, I would often lay awake, clutching an armload of stuffed animals and hoping the monsters wouldn't get me in my sleep! It was never enough to discourage me from seeking out more scary stories, though.
  • [+] 7. We read that you loved comic books as a kid (and still do). What’s so great about them? Any favourites?
    I'm a visual person, and comics helped me get interested in reading. Since then, I've come to appreciate comics as a unique storytelling medium. I love the way they weave together writing and drawing. French is my mother tongue and I started out by reading bandes-dessinées (the French term for comics), and later discovered Japanese manga, which greatly influenced my artistic style. Adventure stories with strong, well-developed characters are at the top of my list, but I enjoy many other genres, as well. Some of my favourites include Spirou et Fantasio, Tintin, Calvin and Hobbes, Ranma 1/2, A Bride's Story and Hikaru No Go.
  • [+] 8. How did you become such an awesome illustrator? Did you go to school for it?
    Drawing is something I've always enjoyed, and I took many art classes when I was young. Later on, I went to a high school with a strong arts program and then to Sheridan College to study illustration. It was helpful, but in my opinion, not essential to the process of becoming an artist. You can learn quite a bit by yourself if you draw regularly and spend time studying the art that inspires you.
  • [+] 9. You do comic workshops for kids. If we were in your workshop, what kind of fun could we expect?
    You can expect lots of drawing, for a start! One of the hardest parts about making comics is coming up with the initial idea. I like to use drawing exercises to generate ideas and get the kids excited about the creative process. One exercise I love is called "The Island," where kids come up with their own personal island. Once the island is finished, and I ask them to make a comic, they already have many ideas to choose from. I also encourage them to talk and get people's feedback and suggestions—it’s a great way to get a fresh perspective and prevent writer's block.
  • [+] 10. What advice do you have for budding comic book writers and artists?

    Making comics is hard work, but it's also the most fun I've ever had as an artist, so I heartily encourage everyone to try it! There are two pieces of advice I'd like to share. The first is to read comics. Lots of them! And the second is... to make comics. This sounds incredibly obvious, but really, making a comic from beginning to end is the best way to learn. It doesn't need to be long. In fact, it's a good idea to start with a very short comic. The important part is to finish it and share it with people.

    If you're stuck for ideas, try making a "comic diary." You can recount your day, or tell a funny incident that happened to you and your friends. As the weeks and months go by, you'll be able to see your style develop and how much progress you've made.

  • [+] 11. Last question. What are you working on right now? Does it involve monsters?

    I can't say too much, but I can say it explores the themes I love the most: magic, adventure, friends and of course, monsters.