*･゜Hello, Damian! First of all, thank you for doing this interview. You recently published both Sevara, the graphic novel, and Sevara: Dawn of Hope. For those who haven’t read it, can you explain what it’s about?
DW: Thanks for this incredible opportunity to talk to you and your fans, I really appreciate it. I’ve got both a novel and a graphic novel out, and while they are very different, they’re both about a very strong woman named Sevara who always stands up for what she believes in, even when that gets her into trouble. The novel, Dawn of Hope, is about Sevara’s childhood and how she transforms into a hero. She’s an orphan girl in a cruel dystopian future, so far in the future that there’s no memory of our world. Instead of being forced to marry and become a servant wife, she goes out into the world alone with nothing. The society treats women awfully, and she’s persecuted and eventually drafted into war. But there are shape shifting immortals who watch over earth, and when Sevara tries to save an innocent man from an execution, she gets their attention. The graphic novel is a little different. In the graphic novel, Sevara has become a shape shifter who has lived thousands and thousands of years. She’s just awoken from a great sleep, only to find that while she slept, the memories of her mortal life (the events in the novel) have seeped out of her mind and infected all of humanity. She has to fight to put the world back to the way it was.
*･゜How did you come up with the idea for Sevara? What inspired you?
DW: I came up with the idea for the graphic novel first. I was in a religion class, and we were talking about how so many lines from holy books like the Bible had been changed by people who wanted to actually do evil. I thought about what would happen if Jesus woke up from a long sleep and saw how his words and teachings had been twisted. The idea for the novel came much much later, after the graphic novel was almost done.
*･゜It sounds like you’ve lived a large portion of your life abroad. How has that shaped how you created the world of Sevara?
DW: I moved overseas to become a Peace Corps volunteer in 1999, and from then on I’ve been outside of the US for about ten of the last fifteen years. I did research as a Fulbright scholar, and now I work for the U.S. State Department. Those years living overseas had a huge influence on the work, particularly the novel. The novel, Dawn of Hope, is full of real life events and situations. Some people find it a little brutal, but that’s the truth about human nature, and I don’t feel I should hide it. The politics and power struggles and corruption all come from things I’ve seen.
*･゜The Sevara graphic novel came out before the novel, Sevara: Dawn of Hope . Did you always plan on publishing both, or was there some point where you realized that you wanted to write a prequel to accompany the graphic novel?
DW: I never planned to write a novel, not at all. The graphic novel was in production, and my artists were doing a great job. But I had about a year with nothing really to do. Once the artists have the scripts, they start drawing the comic book and I just have to wait. But I started thinking that if Sevara wakes up from a long sleep and finds that the memories of her moral life have escaped, I should really know what those memories are. I had some idea because there are flashbacks to Sevara’s mortal life in the graphic novel, but I decided to really flesh it out and start from her days in an orphanage. I started just taking extended notes at first, but after a few weeks I realized that I could write a novel well before my art team finished the art, so I just went at full speed and wrote the novel.
*･゜Out of the two mediums, which do you prefer and why?
DW: Both mediums are so completely different. To write a graphic novel, you have to do a lot more planning. If you make a mistake in the script and the artists have already drawn the page, you really can’t fix it. A graphic novel is also more expensive and time consuming to produce. But there’s something magical about seeing the art team bring a comic book script to life, I love working in a team and seeing the lines and then the color come together. Writing a novel requires a lot of long hours sitting alone at the computer. I can’t say which I prefer more, both experiences were rewarding and I hope to continue doing both.
[Interviewer note: I included the link to The Art of Sevara found on ISSUU and the Sevara website]
*･゜What was the most difficult thing you’ve had to deal with while publishing your novels?
DW: For the graphic novel, challenges involved finding an art team and finding funds. Artists are busy people, so you have to catch them when they have a gap in their schedule. You also have to save up the funds to produce a graphic novel. For the young adult novel, I think the hardest thing was working alone and devoting the time to writing. I don’t have an agent or a publisher or an editor, so I had to get the cover and text and layout all formatted by myself. The text is 100,000 words long, and it would be nice to have people who can help find all the grammatical errors.
*･゜What’s your plan for Sevara? Do you hope to continue her story?
DW: Oh yes! Sevara is thousands of years old. There are lots of stories to tell, and lots more in my brain that’s bouncing around. Both the novel and the graphic novel have a long way to go. This is just the beginning. For the novel, Dawn of Hope, I see the series continuing for many more novels. I just need to find time to write it. I really want to continue the graphic novel, but that will depend on budget. If I can afford to write more, I will call up Andre again and we’ll get to work.
*･゜Are there moments you had written for Sevara that were ultimately cut out? Will they reappear in the next books?
DW: I did a lot of editing to the novel, but there’s only one scene that I cut from the novel. It’s a cut battle scene that I completely wrote and edited but then had to cut out. You can read it if you go to Amazon and check out the Sevara: Dawn of Hope Official Guidebook. This guide shows readers where I got the inspiration from for everything in the novel. It also has that cut battle scene at the end.
*･゜What do you hope that your readers ultimately take away from the story of Sevara?
DW: Sevara is a person who is not influenced by the world around her. She listens to her heart and tries to do what’s right, no matter what the odds or consequences. The immortals agree to help her because she is truly timeless. She’s my hero, and I wish I could be like her. I hope readers are inspired by her. In history, there are so many times where one person has been able to change the world. Sevara shows you that this is possible.
*･゜Besides writing, what are your hobbies and passions?
DW: I love photography, that is my first passion. I have two of my photographs in the Brooklyn Museum, you can see them here and you can see all my photographs on my website. You can see that there’s a strong message of social justice, even in my photography, where I’ve captured homeless, orphans, and refugees.
*･゜What’s your favorite social media platform and where can readers find you?
DW: I’m active on Facebook and Twitter, and I just started Instagram, which I love. My handle for all these is sevarawillrise, but I have a personal Facebook page too, you’re welcome to find me there. And I absolutely adore Goodreads, so I’m most active there.
*･゜What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
DW: Make time. Time won’t appear. You have to clear out your schedule, prioritize, and make time to write. Never stop writing and learning. Just write. You have to write in order to be able to submit your work to others for review, to submit to competitions, and to hone the craft. Writing is a long journey, and they payoff is at the end. It seems like you’ll never reach the end and find success, but don’t give up. It takes years and years to get a manuscript ready from start to finish, but that’s just the path of a writer.
*･゜I’d like to extend a huge thank you to Damian Wampler for agreeing to do an interview for [a cup of tea and an armful of books]. I look forward to reading what he comes out with next!