WAUCONDA – For graphic novelist Russell Lissau, inspiration revolves around a simple question: What if?
What if a super villain crashed through the skylight at The Art Institute of Chicago? What if a gang of bank robbers burst into this bank right now to rob it?
These are the thoughts that chase each other around his mind at any given time.
“I stand in line at a bank – every time I’m at the bank – and I think about the ways to rob it,” he said with a small laugh. “These are things that writers do.”
Lissau has been writing graphic novels for more than a decade – his first graphic novel published in 2005 – and since then, he has participated in comic conventions across the nation.
On March 9, he joined nearly 20 local authors at Wauconda Library’s second annual Local Author Fair.
Of the many misconceptions surrounding these blends of fine art and literature, Lissau said, the most common one is that they are geared toward children alone. The United States, he said, is behind the curve on the value and importance of comics and graphic novels in today’s culture compared with other countries around the world.
“That’s absolutely not true,” he added emphatically. “The combination of visual images and text helps make the story experience that much more enjoyable, especially for younger readers. But for someone my age … I love reading comics. I love art. I’ve been a fine art fan much of my life. I wanna see pretty pictures. I wanna read a great story. I wanna disappear into the world, whether it’s a superhero story or a crime story or a horror story. Comics put together pictures and words in a way that no other genre does.”
Event coordinator and Adult Services Librarian Kelly Kuningas said the library reached out to local authors in December to join the fair and hopes this will be a long-standing annual event for the library.
“I think it’s nice for people you know who are writers to be able to have an opportunity for people in the community to come meet them,” she said.
The authors who participated in the fair will have their books cataloged and added to the library’s permanent collection so they’ll be available to anyone who wasn’t able to make it to the fair.
Seated at the table beside Lissau is “middle grade” fiction writer Michele Weber Hurwitz, who marveled at the diversity of genres and authors in the library’s Lincoln Room.
“I think it’s great,” she said. “There’s everything from graphic novels to kid books up to adult, religious, spiritual – the whole gamut.”
A former journalist, Weber Hurwitz now writes fiction geared toward middle schoolers. She has published four books, with a fifth one on the way. She struggled for years with the juxtaposition of knowing she wanted to be a novelist but not knowing what she wanted to write about. As it turned out, her children were her answer.
After participating in several mother-daughter book clubs with her girls, she said, she discovered a great passion and appreciation for middle-grade fiction.
“I fell in love with those stories as an adult,” she said, “probably even more so than when I read them as a kid.”
A Buffalo Grove resident, Weber Hurwitz hosts author talks at local schools and Skypes with classrooms that are a bit more difficult to visit in person. This was her first year participating in the Wauconda Library’s Local Author Fair.
“I always will support a library,” she said. “I just feel they’re so important in our world.”