posted by Gina
Join me in conversation with Clark B., comic book expert and avid reader.
Clark and I have been obsessed with the Engelsfors Trilogy (The Circle, Fire, and The Key) by Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg, the third installment of which is due out in February. A group of teenage girls from vastly different social circles come together when they discover they are witches, destined to protect the world from a terrible evil. As the girls start to uncover the deep political intrigues of the magical world, we wonder (along with them) just who they can trust.
Clark and I were recently discussing Fire over Instagram, when the authors joined in the conversation. As you can imagine, we were over the moon, and are convinced that the four of us are destined to be best friends.
Pull up a chair and join me and Clark as we discuss comics, young adult literature, and our plans for Engelsfors domination.
Gina: Clark. Tell us about yourself.
Clark: Gina, it’s so much more fun for YOU to tell me about myself, but today I’ll give you the run-down as I see it: I’m the Anne Murray of my generation – a Canadian living and working in the Americas. Only I’m not quite as masculine as she ever was and I can’t belt out “Snowbird” the way I would like to. Is Queernadian a word? If you Venn diagram all the Canadians and all the Queer Boys, I’m happily in the intersection.
Gina: I did not know you were Candian. This changes everything. Do you have strong Anne of Green Gables feelings? Because I do.
Clark: I didn’t really realize that Anne was Canadian when I was reading her. Is that strange? She just seemed like a girl. And, sorry, kinda boring. My favorite redhead was Pippi Longstocking. I read every. single. book. Pippi in the South Seas was so much fun!
Gina: Let’s talk about comics. Comics and graphic novels are awesome. What would you say to the parental nay-sayers who worry about those kids who gravitate towards this medium?
Clark: I’d say they’re myopic. And wrong. No one just starts reading novels. They start somewhere else – picture books or big word books (font size, not complexity). Those books rarely teach “what comes next,” which is a necessity in order to develop the patience for reading books/novels. Narrative teaching/learning can start – or used to – with a daily comic strip or a weekly “funny” that would build, over time, into a story. Sure, a visual narrative is included. Think Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, or Peanuts. Read those, bit by bit, and you got an overall narrative. Kids used to be exposed to “comics” all the time. Every family in America used to get the paper! We don’t use the daily paper medium anymore, so modern comics and graphic novels are a good substitute – an exposure to that type of storytelling. So tell parents to keep buying their kids graphic novels and maybe – eventually – they’ll graduate to complex literary narrative. Which leads to the ability to sit down with a novel – even a YA novel – and enjoy it.
Gina: And I’ll throw a plug here for the fact that many comics and graphic novels are enormously complex, narratively. Anything to recommend to our YA crowd? What about older elementary kids?
Clark: Book-wise? I think James Howe (of Bunnicula fame) is a genius. He’s written a batch of teen books (Totally Joe, The Misfits) that shouldn’t be missed. And a glorious adult book (for anyone!) – The Mouse and his Child. That’s a must-read. It’s perfection.
Gina: My sister and I might suffer some residual trauma from the film version of The Mouse and his Child.
Clark: I’ve never seen it! That’s so strange! Have you gone to the source? It’s amazing. I think if you combine the best parts of The Rescuers, The Great Mouse Detective, An American Tail, Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, and whatever mouse tales I’ve forgotten, you get The Mouse and His Child.
Gina: Are you aware that I am the resident expert on post-apocalyptic young adult trilogies (usually with disappointing third installments)?
Clark: You’re not JUST a resident expert. You teach the class!! I’m shamed by the sheer volume you’re able to consume. And the 3rd book in a series isn’t always a disappointment. It’s just a trap we fall into: books 1 and 2 land on the shelves and we loooooove them and then we wait and wait and our love grows and grows … and then book 3 is delivered and it’s just a book. It’s not the magical portal to Neverland that we sold our souls for.
Gina: Mockingjay (of the Hunger Games trilogy) is just terrible. It is rushed and doesn’t hold together, character-arc wise. I’ll stand by that.
Clark: I support that. I was confused the entire time. And I kept thinking to myself, “What do you MEAN there’s no Hunger Games?” Wouldn’t it have been genius to put citizens of the Capital into the arena?
Gina: Talk to me about YA books. What are you loving right now?
Gina: You are ahead of me there – I haven’t gotten to either of those series yet. Should I be excited?
Clark: You should be! I can’t weigh in on Lightbringer yet (beginning with The Black Prism) but I’m hoping it works out. I’ll read it to the end regardless. I have a bad habit of overcommitting to an author.
Gina: Let’s talk Engelsfors and The Circle. You bought me this for my birthday last year, and I am super hooked. What drew you to this trilogy in the first place? What are you loving about it?
Clark: I bought it at the Brooklyn Book Fair! Someone at the Overlook table put it in my hand. Luckily, Lev Grossman did an author-recommend quote – what are those called? – so I couldn’t put it down. I’m so happy you loved it! It’s incredible. But there’d better be a demon battle at the end of this, because after two massive installments, we still haven’t seen anyone fight a demon! What’s the rule? When you show a gun in chapter 1, by chapter 3 the gun must go off? I NEED A DEMON FIGHT!
Gina: Do you worry the third book will be disappointing, as so many final installments are?
Clark: I’m already disappointed. It’s my magical portal to another life and it’s not here in my hand!
Gina: They’re making The Circle into a movie. From what I can tell, it’s in Swedish.
Clark: It appears that way. I’ve seen stills. But they’re very bright, those beautiful geniuses the Swedes. They could be filming two films simultaneously; acting out the scene in Swedish on one take and then switching to English in the next. They’re incredibly lovely but wicked smart – those crafty Swedes. In my narrative, they’re secretly all bilingual and perfect.
Gina: They should make this into an English film as well, yes? Specifically, because it would be a crime if I weren’t cast as Adriana Lopez [Adriana is the young witches’ mentor, principal of their school, and member of the Witch’s Council. Her familiar is a raven.] Agree? I would be amazing.
Clark: YOU WOULD BE AMAZING! You have all the qualities I’m asking for in my Adriana Lopez. Beauty, height, perfect posture, a piercing gaze … Shall I go on? Amazing diction, a bird already tattooed on your shoulder, hair that cascades down your back – and you’d look great in riding pants. The wardrobe in my narrative is very heavy on riding pants, boots, a crop, etc. for Adriana. A severe masculine beauty that radiates powerful femininity.
Gina: Well, now I need to be cast and have you costume it. Who do we need to talk to about that?
Clark: Well first we need PHDs (or the equivalent) in Wardrobe and Costume design … wait, don’t you know people.
Gina: Let’s talk about the fact that the authors recently totally engaged in convo with us over Instagram. WHAT WAS THAT.
Clark: That was the best! I didn’t know what to do! I kept telling people “THEY’RE TALKING TO ME. THEY’RE REAL. THEY’RE TALKING TO ME.” I can’t wait for these books to EXPLODE over here. Sara and Mats are geniuses.
Gina: Should they make it to New York, what is our plan to woo them into our circle of friendship forever more?
Clark: Don’t we have it in writing that they’re gonna hang with us? Let’s focus less on the wooing and decide where the wooing will take place. I need atmosphere to see them face to face. I envision an old-world New York City bar, library, reading room, cafe, tea house or social club. Think Downton Abbey’s sitting rooms, or a tavern overlooking a train station. Does it exist?
Gina: The Algonquin Hotel, or The Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Station – both worthy of the old-world wooing. We will sit in armchairs and discuss YA literature and riding pants. Sara and Mats – are you ready? It’s on the internet now, so it’s happening.
Will Gina and Clark meet up with Mats and Sara in New York? Will the next Lobestir Guest Edition feature these two massively fabulous Swedish authors? Stay tuned.