Skip to main content

Jane Yolen and Foiled: The GNR Interview

Jane Yolen is one of fantasy publishing’s most prolific and renowned figures. Throughout hundreds of books spanning decades in an accomplished and award-winning career, she has built up a legion of followers. Now, she’s unleashing the graphic novel Foiled, a delightful and mysterious story centered on a teenage girl named Aliera who excels at fencing but not personal interaction. When she meets Avery, an enigmatic young man at her high school, she’s intrigued by his unique ways.

For this foray into the world of graphic novels, we were delighted to give a spotlight to Jane Yolen and this fun new book.

You’ve written more than 300 books. To what do you attribute your prolific writing spirit?

A passion for and total enjoyment of the writing process. I truly love what I do.

Have you covered the world of competitive fencing in any of your books before?
No—but I was a fencer in college, though it was only competitions within the Smith College community in those days. I was second on my class team. Channeled old pirate and musketeer movies and made a lot of noise. Only one girl—who was a careful and elegant fencer—beat me. The others ran screaming from my shouts and waving arms. My granddaughter Maddison was a young fencer and beating everyone—even the older boys—in tournaments when I started writing Foiled, though she is a ballet dancer now.

What made you want to write a graphic novel at this point?
I had been trying to sell a graphic novel (I grew up on comics) for years and no one wanted me to do one. No one until Mark Siegel started the First Second imprint at Macmillan, that is.

What are some of your favorite graphic novels and comics?
Gaiman's Sandman, Mignola's Hellboy, Medley's Castle Waiting are my three favorites, and lately David Small's Stitches and a bunch of others have bowled me over, like Laika, Deo Gratias, and others.

What did you find appealing about working in the graphic-novel format? Were there any challenges you hadn’t been expecting?
Oh, the learning curve was very steep indeed. Neil Gaiman kindly sent me some script pages from one of his books, which at least showed me format. However, even having read comics forever, I am still learning. But of course I have been a picture book writer as well as a novelist, and have done some small screenplays. So I used all that knowledge to (I hope) good advantage. You will notice, though, that I use a great many more words in my graphic novel than other folk.

How did you and Mike Cavallaro meet? What was the process of working together on Foiled like?

We met after he was already at work on Foiled. And the process was mostly that I wrote the script (with artist notes for panels) and he did the pictures and often ignored my notes! I ADORE what he has done by the way.

Aliera is a fascinating character, and a great role model. What was the inspiration for her?
Me as a teen, I expect. I was more popular in high school than she, but I was the same focused individual. I did horseback riding and ballet and was an all-A student and was incredibly snarky. It seems to be a Yolen woman's gene. You should hear my daughter and granddaughters. And of course, I wrote, wrote, wrote.

More and more today, comics and manga are finding larger audiences with young female readers. They’re finding a home here in the graphic format. Do you see that as a good thing?
I think anything that keeps kids reading is a good thing. Even (Ugh) Twilight.

Would you like to continue working in graphic novels?
I have The Last Dragon coming out next year (I hope) from Dark Horse Comics and a sequel to Foiled called Curses Foiled Again, which I am revising now.

What’s your next project?
A bunch of picture books, some poetry collections, a cookbook, some novels, a nonfiction project about the Bible…and I hope some more graphic novels.

-- John Hogan