For Day 2 of Taiwanese American Heritage Week, I interviewed Victoria Ying, whose debut middle grade graphic novel City of Secrets releases July 28th, 2020!
Ever Barnes is a shy orphan guarding a secret in an amazing puzzle box of a building.
Most of the young women who work at the building’s Switchboard Operating Facility, which connects the whole city of Oskar, look the other way as Ever roams around in the shadows. But one of them, Lisa, keeps an eye on the boy. So does the head of the Switchboard, Madame Alexander . . . a rather sharp eye.
Enter Hannah, the spunky daughter of the building’s owner. She thinks Ever needs a friend, even if he doesn’t know it yet.
Good thing she does!
Lisa and Madame Alexander are each clearly up to something.
Ever is beset by a menacing band of rogues looking to unlock the secret he holds–at any cost.
And whatever is hidden deep in the Switchboard building will determine all of their futures.
On a journey that twists and turns as much as the mechanical building Ever Barnes calls home, he and his new friend Hannah have to and out what’s really going on in this mysterious city of secrets . . . or else!
Q: Where did the idea for City of Secrets come from?
A: I often dream with characters in them instead of myself. I had a dream one night of a pair of kids opening up a secret safe with an assassin chasing them. I was so curious about them that I built the story backwards from there. I asked myself “who are they?” “what are they doing?” “why?” And the story formed itself from there.
Q: Is the city in the story inspired by any real-life cities and their architecture/layout? If not, what was your process for building and designing the city?
City of Secrets is a city that’s built from many different fantasy inspirations as well as my travels. The closest real life cities are Copenhagen and Barcelona. I loved the art nouveau architecture and twisty organic shapes in their buildings.
Q: I saw that you’ve worked on some pretty big projects for Disney, such as Tangled, Wreck it Ralph, Frozen, Paperman, Big Hero 6, and Moana. What kind of work did you do on those projects?
I was a visual development artist for those films, also known as the art department. I was a concept artist and would help early in the film by designing sets, props and characters. We would then shepherd the artwork through to the next departments who would build the sets, color and light them. Our teams were in charge of what the films would look like.
Q: I know graphic novels are pretty labor-intensive, but as consumers, we may not realize just how much work goes into making them. With that in mind, I wanted to ask: How long does it take, on average, for you to finish a single page, from the initial sketch to the finished, inked and colored version?
Oof, the labor that goes into graphic novels is indeed intense. Each page probably takes around four hours each, and I’m considered fast! I spend about half an hour on the thumbnail layouts, an hour on the inks and two hours on the color process. At 252 pages, it really adds up!
Q: I know a lot of creatives have dream projects where they would get to officially create something for something/someone they’re a fan of. Is there a particular IP/writer that you would love to work on/collaborate with as an illustrator?
I’ve always wanted to work on a Star Wars story. I would love to take on a young Rose Tico!
Q: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to get into illustration?
Everyone started out knowing how to draw and paint. We all get bogged down by expectation and what we think art should look like that we get scared off. Don’t be afraid and let yourself be bad at it! You’ll only get better and that’s the only way to become a professional!
About the Author/Artist:
Victoria Ying is an author and artist living in Los Angeles. She started her career in the arts by falling in love with comic books, this eventually turned into a career working in animation and graphic novels. She loves Japanese Curry, putting things in her shopping cart online and taking them out again and hanging out with her dopey dog. Her film credits include Tangled, Wreck it Ralph, Frozen, Paperman, Big Hero 6, and Moana. Her upcoming projects include illustrating the DC Comic book, “Diana Princess of the Amazons” and her authored graphic novel “City of Secrets” to be published in 2020.
Website – http://www.victoriaying.com/
Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/victoriaying