ComicBuzz Chats With Kristen Kiesling

With the release of her debut graphic novel, The Harrowing, today from Abrams Fanfare, we are delighted to be joined by writer Kristen Kiesling.


Hi, Kirsten; it’s so wonderful to have you here with us.


Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

Hi! Thank you for having me! I’m Kristen Kiesling, the writer of the graphic novel, The Harrowing. I’m a graphic novelist, screenwriter, and novelist.


Can you tell us about the origins of The Harrowing?

I wrote The Harrowing during a time in my life when I felt surrounded by hypocrisy. It seemed like everyone felt entitled to voice their opinions, persuade others of their correctness, and dismiss alternative perspectives. I probably should have gone into law instead of creative writing as I love a good ethical debate. I’m a big fan of Watchmen, Batman, Prisoners, and other stories that put readers in the position of asking themselves what they would do when the answer is not always clear. I knew I wanted to craft a character who drank the Kool-Aid, embraced a certain belief system, and felt confident in her choices, perhaps a bit superior, and then rip it all away to reveal the fragility of her convictions.


How would you describe The Harrowing?

I believe one reviewer best described it as…”Dark, twisted, and gruesome. This graphic novel will worm its way into your head and make you question everyone around you, or scarier yet, what horrors you may be capable of.” It’s about a teen who has the psychic ability to spot killers before they commit crimes, a power she shared with her murdered mother. She is sent to a training facility where she hones her craft and learns how to wield it to remove imminent criminals “imcrims” from society. She believes she is serving the greater good until she has a vision of her best friend committing murder.


What can you tell us about Rowan Sterling?

Rowan is a seventeen-year-old social outcast who should be thinking about where she is going to college next year or if her best friend is maybe more than a friend, but instead, she’s having violent terrifying visions.


Who is Lucas?

Lucas is Rowan’s neighbor and has been her best friend since elementary school.


What has it been like working with Rye Hickman and Amulet Books?

What Rye is able to bring to the page is amazing!!! I have been a fan of their work on Moth & Whisper and their other comics work and I love their grasp of character and the edginess they bring to each page. They are an incredible artist and an amazing partner I was honored to collaborate with. Rye’s deliberate use of a muted color palette adds depth and significance to each use of color, which enhances the narrative in a profound manner by visually emphasizing important scenes in the story. My editor at Amulet, Charlotte Greenbaum also really helped me visualize the interplay between text and art…Charlotte pushed me to ask if a particular scene really needed more text or if the same impact could be conveyed more visually with less text.


How did Rye Hickman become part of The Harrowing team?

My agent suggested we package the pitch with some ‘concept art’ and through her industry connections, we were able to connect with Rye who was open to the idea. We were able to convey the ‘look and feel’ of the book much more directly by having some concept art packaged with the pitch and were so happy to hear that my editor was already a big fan of Rye’s work.


What made Rye the right artist for The Harrowing

Rye has a very keen eye for detail and can translate my thoughts and words onto the page in a compelling way. They and I worked closely, panel by panel, to determine the best way to tell the story. Rye also has quite a bit of experience in the comics and graphic novel world so that definitely helped!


How did Amulet Books get involved with The Harrowing?

My literary agent pitched the book to several editors at different imprints but Charlotte had the most enthusiastic response and best vision for the project. She really understood the story, how it is about a teen who is struggling with some very real moral issues that challenge her character and desire to ‘do the right thing.’ Amulet was the perfect publisher for The Harrowing because they understood the essence of the story I was trying to tell and the many shades of gray required to really capture the nuance behind Rowan’s character and her choices.


What can you tell us about Rosewood?

Rosewood was started by a group who met in grief counseling. All the handlers at Rosewood have lost someone to violent crime. (There’s a lot more to this side of the story if I ever write a prequel!)


How long have you been working on The Harrowing?

I initially wrote The Harrowing as a YA novel in prose. The prose version took me about nine months. While I was waiting for my agent to finish reading the draft of the novel, I decided to adapt it to a graphic novel. Although I’ve been writing screenplays for a while, it was my first time attempting the GN script medium. It took me about another three months to adapt it into a submission-ready draft. Then when I showed my agent the graphic novel version we were both so excited to go out with it that we decided to submit it to publishers before the prose!

Any message for the ComicBuzz readers?

This is my graphic novel debut and I’m so excited for you to check it out.

We would like to say thank you to Kristen for chatting with us and wish her and Rye the best of luck with The Harrowing.

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