Katja Vartiainen is a Master of Fine Arts, painting. She calls herself a multi-dilettante because she has done doodle books, illustration, two graphic novels, teaching, and even upholstery. Her visual inspiration comes from fine arts as well as from everything on this curious, tragicomic piece of a rock, and its creatures floating in space.
With her husband they share a taste for humour, cats, and nature. They live in Southern Germany.
When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/a storyteller?
Well, let's put aside the fact that I have been foremostly a painter, and every picture is worth a thousand words. Or so they say...
My husband and I joked about our kitchen's messiness. Clearly, the elves hadn't done their job- and then that led into a picture book that my husband wrote and I illustrated. I realized then, that I had all these extra plot twists and ideas, and so, I decided to continue the story and did my first graphic novel. So, I started late, that was 2015, I was 40 round years old.
What motivates you to write and where does your inspiration come from?
Some ideas don't seem to leave me alone. So, I have put them into creative work. I would like to wake people up to the ecological mess we are in, but I don't want to get too preachy. Humour helps to get the medicine down. I hope.
I believe everything influences everything. My inspiration is thus everything I have come into touch with.
How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
My last book, 'Half Done Fun', is actually a drawing book. The third one. It came about when I realized that people want draw, and rehearse drawing, but don't have the energy to start or to choose what to draw. So, in 'Half Done Fun', as the title hints, the pictures are vertically half done. You can relax and concentrate on the drawing.
What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book(s), but nobody has? Write it out here, and then answer it.
Isn't this too difficult for kids of 11, 12 etc years old?
No. Many people think that you can give kids bad paper, cheap colors, insufficient models and tacky exercises to teach them art and creativity, but this is all wrong. Even though the 11 year old doesn't know how to finish the picture perfectly, you give her/him the correct example. And decent materials!
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
Yes. Writing is new to me. Painting has always been easy to start, but since I've written two graphic novels with my second language, I have had a feeling of inadequacy at times. Also, since I do both the text and the illustration, I have hard time choosing which to start first. What to do? Just do. Write, write, write. What a waste of time thinking about that you can't write, when you could be writing.
What are your current/future projects?
Current/future project is an old story, or myth, or teaching, I want to rewrite and draw. Graphic novel meets maybe a picture book kind of thing. But it will take time.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
It seemed that comics/graphic novels would be the perfect medium for me, a painter, who wants to tell a story. And even though I had clear panels in my books, the possibilities to play with a page seem endless. As for the doodle books- well, I feel a bit of a missionary. I also have studied art pedagogy for a year. To draw is so amazing and fulfilling, I want people to try it and find new sides of themselves. Especially in our age of swiping screens.
As to the field IN graphic novels/comics, I naturally went into comedy, parody, because I like to laugh. I find the world a tragicomic. Through comedy one can tackle a lot of serious stuff, but it is difficult. Real humour requires intelligence but can't lack character either.
Are you traditional or self-published, and what process did you go through to get your book published?
I'm indie, I guess because I could not wait to get my stuff out there. The internet and digitalization has brought wonderful possibilities and I wanted to take advantage of them. We did try to publish our picture book (for adults, but no sex) traditionally, and I realized how difficult it is for books with colours and the whole concept. It seemed valuable time was waisted, so we went through Createspace, Amazon, and I continued with that. I also realized I enjoyed to have the control of it all. But I'm not a fanatic, I could publish traditionally if contracts were good. It definitely seems to have its benefits.
How do you think you have evolved as a person/author because of your writing and do you believe your writing has helped others, how/why?
I found perseverance in myself, in amounts, I could not believe, in doing my books. I learned how to make comics digitally, from the internet. I learned layout programs, speech bubbles, etc etc. I made lots of mistakes. I learned a huge amount of technical stuff, and then the whole 'getting the message out there' side. It has been very interesting, time consuming, but rewarding. I hope my husband agrees, ha ha. I've also found new authors and comic book creators whose work I enjoy.
I have gotten really good feedback from my doodle books. The comics as well, but they are a weird genre. They have an ecological message with a smile, and I hope people find them.
Do you believe there is value in a review? Do you believe they are under rated, over rated, or don’t matter at all?
If you have no reviews, it's as if your book seems to have lethal, infectious disease, and everyone avoids it. Regarding Amazon, there's a certain amount of reviews that makes your book appear more frequently in the search. It would be great that people would take a risk with a book, but we so often want the pros and the cons...Reviews do count. With comics it's also word to mouth that puts your work out there.
What is the intended audience for you book?
For 'Half Done Fun', 11 years upwards, also adults, who want to practice drawing, or relax by doing something a bit creative. The graphic novels have some cursing, so +12.
If you had the chance to get one message out there to reach readers all over the world, what would that message be?
Express yourself, AND save the planet!
What would you like to write about that you have never written about before?
An actual fictional book, with text only, and no support from images.
Do you have a subject/genre you would never write about, why?
Never say never, but I think there's a few! Zombies/horror/gore- they give me nightmares. Romance, maybe. But, I feel it's a crime to make big statements of this kind.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
This and the previous doodle books are pretty neutral in style. It's on purpose, because the idea is not that you draw like me, but you find out HOW YOU draw. My books are hopeful.
Do you read? Who are your favourite authors and how have they influenced your writing style?
I read all the time. I have several books I am reading in the mornings and evenings, and I love to read. There are so many good authors. From the traditional, I find myself fascinated at the moment by Doris Lessing's sci-fi, Ursula K. le Guin, Kurt Vonnegut, Rosa Liksom. Joseph Campbell, although non-fiction. I've enjoyed from comics: The Mountain, Papergirls, Saga- and so many more. This is impossible! Jonathan Dunne is an indie favourite, and then there's poetry, and all these preferences change during months.
Tell us three fun facts about yourself/ your book.
I'll mix them. 1. I love cats 2. I do homages in my graphic novels to my favourite series etc. 3. Half Done Fun got started by the title. It just popped I to my head, so a book had to follow.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers?
I post my art every Thursday on social media, and my web page, for you to enjoy. And my news! And I'm in Goodreads, etc etc, meet you there! Thanks for the Interview, this was fun!
Half Done Fun is an entertaining drawing/doodle book that makes it easier for those who want to practice their drawing and observation skills. It offers symmetrical (or closely symmetrical) things, humans, and animals that are half drawn so you can focus on finishing the other half and not worrying about 'what to draw'.
For children over 11 years and adults, as well.
Thank you for this amazing interview! I wish you success for all your future works. Keep writing!