It’s time to get ready for the upcoming release of Aru Shah and the End of Time: The Graphic Novel! Roshani Chokshi reached out to writer Joe Caramagna and illustrator Anu Chouhan to talk about their experiences working on the adaptation, and we have the transcript!
Roshani Chokshi and Joe Caramagna
ROSHANI CHOKSHI: The ARU SHAH graphic novel is downright incredible, and something I would never, EVER be able to do. My brain just does not compute like that! I am in utter awe of you, and I’m delighted to pick your brain and talk about this upcoming release.
Joe, you are a titan in the comics and graphic novels realm, so of course, you seamlessly captured the humor, spirit, and heart of ARU. Can you walk us through a little about how you approached the adaptation?
JOE CARAMAGNA: First I needed source material with humor, spirit, and heart to work with, and you provided plenty of that. So thank you! The challenge for any adaptation is deciding what to cut from the source material, because when you’re writing a graphic novel, you have strict space limitations. Someone has to draw all these pages, and it takes a lot longer to draw a page than it does to write one. A direct word-for-word, beat-for-beat adaptation would run really long—and that’s true for all novels, not just this one! It could take a whole page to show an action that was explained in the novel with just one or two sentences.
I approach the adaptation by reading the novel straight through once and making notes of the major beats that absolutely have to be in the graphic novel and need a lot of space to show, like the inciting incident and the dramatic climax of the story. Then I re-read the novel and block out chunks of text into potential graphic novel pages, trying to visualize it in my head. I also cross out any scenes that can be sacrificed without losing *too* much plot or story and then highlighting the lines from those sections I’d like to salvage and use elsewhere. Then I outline the whole book and end up with a really long graphic novel that has to be trimmed down. At that time it’s so tempting to cut the jokes and character moments because it’s easy to do and stay true to the plot of the novel. But I force myself to do the opposite. I also constantly think to myself, “Would it make Rosh mad if I took this part out?” That helps!
ROSHANI CHOKSHI: Do you have any advice for budding graphic novelists, or perhaps some favorite reads that have inspired you along the way?
JOE CARAMAGNA: I think I just accidentally gave some! Don’t sacrifice humor and great character moments for the sake of keeping every detail of plot true to the novel. If the reader doesn’t like or get to know the character, it doesn’t matter what those characters are doing, the book will seem boring. Aru Shah and Mini (and Boo too!) are wonderful characters, I wouldn’t want to deprive the readers of getting to know them! You can always salvage the important moments of the cut scenes to be worked in elsewhere, even if that’s not exactly what happened in the book.
ROSHANI CHOKSHI: This question is more for my own curiosity…but for some reason, I imagine that you dream in panels. Yay? Nay?
JOE CARAMAGNA: I DAYdream in panels, that is for sure!
Roshani Chokshi and Anu Chouhan
ROSHANI CHOKSHI: Anu, I have been a massive fan of yours for, like, years. I was so excited when I found out we’d get the chance to work together. This is your first graphic novel adaptation! How was the experience?
ANU CHOUHAN: I still remember how excited I got when I learned I’d be working with you, Rosh! Thank you for being so fun to work with, and for hyping me up along the way, haha.
Since this was my first time illustrating a graphic novel, there was a lot of learning on the job. I definitely came to understand a ton about timeline management but also best (and . . . not so best) practices when it came to the art itself. Early last year, I decided I’d learn a new software (Clip Studio Paint) for the inking and coloring. Of course, looking back, I can see that was a crazy idea. But I am happy with all the wisdom I picked up along the way and I’m proud that I was able to accomplish the illustrations.
ROSHANI CHOKSHI: How did you decide on the visual look and feel of the graphic novel?
ANU CHOUHAN: The overall look and feel of the characters came a bit naturally to me. While I did use the source material closely when it came to Aru and Mini’s designs, the style in which I drew them came about while I was doing some rough facial expression sketches early on. I love drawing expressive characters, especially kids, so I soon realized how fun it was going to be to draw their many emotions and reactions in the book. Once I determined that, I designed the backgrounds and colored them in a way that was complementary to the characters.
There was a lot of trial and error when it came to the colors used for backgrounds, but overall I tried to use it as a means to set the tone of the scenes and to change it up to create visual interest after page flips.
ROSHANI CHOKSHI: What were your favorite (and, let’s be real, least favorite since I am notoriously both vague and bombastic when describing where people are and what things look like around them) scenes to illustrate and why?
ANU CHOUHAN: My favorite scenes to illustrate were when Aru has to find a way to escape the fireflies (during the Palace of Illusions scene), and also the moment she unlocks Vajra’s power in order to rescue Mini. Drawing her overcome these obstacles was super fun for me, and also quite invigorating!
Least favorite scene to draw was DEFINITELY the Costco exterior and interior haha. I know it was only a couple of pages, but my brain had THE hardest time understanding how to draw a mundane big-box store that’s also somehow magical?? Transitioning that immediately into the Night Bazaar proved to be a challenge, so I actually drew the Bazaar first and came back to the store interior a week later.
Pre-order your copy now! Aru Shah and the End of Time: The Graphic Novel is on sale 4/19.