In conversation with author and artist Paul Madonna

This week we’ll publish celebrated artist Paul Madonna’s exquisite novel,
Come to Light. This intriguing mystery is full of eccentric characters, unpredictable plot twists, and striking drawings that transport readers to stunning locales across Europe.

Paul shares what inspired him to write this new book in the blog today.

Describe what inspired you to write the book?

Of all the detectives in the ranks of great mystery fiction, I’d never come across one who was an artist.

Detective stories have always been my favorite genre. When I was young—eight, nine years old—I had a curfew, and the one thing I always begged my parents to stay up past my bedtime for was to watch the two-hour Agatha Christie specials that would air—all too infrequently for my taste—on Sunday night TV.

We all know that in a detective story the protagonist wants to solve the mystery—sometimes it’s for personal reasons, sometimes professional—and I loved the idea of having two stories play out at once: a mystery, and the story of an artist making work.

For myself, and for many creative people, life is inspiration. Be it natural beauty, events, or emotions, the experience of being alive informs the stories we tell, the music we compose, and the drawings we make. I loved the idea of an artist finding themselves in a complicated mystery, then having their art reflect their experience. This is the premise for Emit’s character. The art we see is not the art he set out to make, but the art the story events inspired—or more appropriately, provoked—him to make.

Describe your creative process and materials you use to craft your illustrated novels.

I love having a studio. I own lots of art supplies, and enjoy having a dedicated space for them. I think of my studio as the perfect kitchen, or a well-organized laboratory. But the studio is a place of craft. It’s out in the world where I find inspiration. And to be out in the world, I want the simplest, lightest materials possible so that I can work anywhere, at any time.

Emit does a lot of traveling in this book—Thailand, Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, and the Netherlands—which are all places I had been and wanted to return to. So to write and draw Come to Light, I lived in all of these places for various periods, from weeks to months.

When writing and drawing Come to Light I practiced the belief that there is no place or time I couldn’t work. Everywhere I went I carried a sketchbook, a set of pens and pencils, and a small laptop, and those were all I needed. I wrote and drew in airports, markets, parks, lobbies, and, more than a few times, in a car. And while I did ultimately return to my studio to finish large pieces and assemble the finished project, those simple materials were all I needed to make this book.

Tell us about the unique and interesting format of this book.

The book is set in three volumes for many reasons. One being because I wanted the reader to have small, easy to handle objects to hold.

Another being that Emit has a love for noir fiction. As he travels, Emit is consistently buying and reading paperbacks. I wanted the reader to feel that they were doing the same. By having several paperbacks, they too might take it with them to some foreign destination, and be able to have the same joy of reading on the road as Emit.

I also set the book is set in three volumes because I wanted each book to have its own visual aesthetic. One of the stories in Come to Light is the story of Emit’s drawings. In each volume he makes different work. Most notably in volume two, where all his drawings are of unique sculptures (by Dianne Hoffman) he finds in the posh Roman villa where he is being given refuge.

Want to learn more? RSVP for the October 8 launch party with The Booksmith and The Bindery HERE.

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