This week, I sat with spooky crew member Ira Marcks to discuss his graphic novel, Shark Summer. In addition, I wanted to learn about his creative process and get the skinny on his new book, Spirit Week, available October 25, 2022. So, without further ado, let’s wade into the spine-chilling waters of graphic novels.
Lisa: What inspired you to make Shark Summer?
Ira: I’ve always wanted to make a comic about kids on a summer adventure. But I could never find a way into the story that didn’t seem like it’d been done before. Then one day I was reading a book about the making of JAWS and I thought to myself “wow, what a wild, madcap summer that must have been for the cast and crew.” It got me thinking… is there a more iconic summer adventure than the one JAWS captured on film? Suddenly, I had my inciting incident; a sleepy New England island is overrun with a Hollywood production. Now, all I had to do was decide what happens to the people who live there behind the scenes.
Lisa: What can readers expect from the story?
Ira: A fast paced, nostalgia infused, summer adventure about new friendships, filmmaking, and the creepy secret history of a New England island!
Lisa: What were some of the challenges of turning this story into a graphic novel?
Ira: The most difficult part of the process was trying to find the right balance of cartoon humor, horror movie tropes, and real world consequences. Shark Summer takes place on Martha’s Vineyard in the summer of 1974 during the filming of JAWS. While I worked hard to convey the geography and spirit of this time and place, there were also choices to be made about how to use these elements to tell an inspirational comic for kids. My editor Andrea Colvin deserves a lot of credit for helping me find the best way to tell this story.
Lisa: How long have you been interested in comics? Is this what you wanted to do when you “grew up”?
Ira: Comics are a balance of drawing and writing so while I loved to draw as a little kid, I soon realized that I couldn’t tell a good story with a comic unless I practiced my writing. Putting those two skills together inevitably led me to making comics! I’ve always been good enough at it to keep a few people interested in what I was working on, and I built my ‘career’ from there.
Lisa: What’s the best writing advice you have received?
Ira: I like the quote by fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett that goes “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” Which is to say, the later drafts are intended for the reader. I think it’s important to distinguish a first draft from the rest of the process. To be honest with yourself is crucial to the early stages of a project. So when you bring other cooks into the kitchen and begin to edit and clarify the story, there will always be a seed of truth left from that first draft you wrote for yourself.
Lisa: I see you have a new graphic novel coming out on October 25, 2022. Please tell us about Spirit Week.
Ira: It’s kinda like a sequel to Shark Summer. In the second book we join Shark Summer’s aspiring filmmaker Elijah Jones as he heads off to Colorado to make a documentary about a reclusive horror writer who has been living at a certain infamous hotel.
Ira Marcks is a graphic novelist based in Upstate NY. He make comics, teaches comics, and podcast about cartoons. His books have been recommended by The New York Times, BuzzFeed, and American Library Learn more: https://lnk.bio/iramarcks