Gabriel Frizzera– Graphic Novelist

Gabriel Frizzera was born in Brazil in 1975. Son of an architect with artistic inclinations and a politician with writer’s soul, he soon developed the taste for art and storytelling. Soon he was writing and drawing his own stories, and started distributing them where he could, from the university to alternative rock concerts. After working briefly in the advertising world, Gabriel decided to fulfill his dream to live off his art. He moved to Canada with his son-to-be wife Claudia in hopes of finding a place where he could meet talented people from other places and learn with the experience. Today he works as a concept artist at Electronic Arts Canada, and creates his own graphic novels. In the last two years he published two books, Isthmus and Heavy Metal Heart, and it’s working on a couple of more projects for 2007.


What made you want to become a writer?

Like many kids, I always felt the urge to give voice to my imagination and tell stories. The first way I found to do that was by drawing. But while most children abandon drawing as expression when they grow up in favour of writing (a far easier “code” to master if you want to be understood in a simple level), I followed another path and kept drawing every day. I wanted to be an artist.

It was much later in life that I understood something about my own desire to create: I loved drawing so much not because I loved images, but because I loved creating. While some ideas are better expressed by images, only writing has this mysterious quality of stimulating the imagination of the readers, who can complement the text with their own experience. I started then to write my own stories and also draw them, combining image and text in my own graphic novels.


Was the journey difficult?

I always had the full support of my parents to follow my creative dreams. I come from a family that always loved to read and discuss ideas, and this environment was very fertile for me to find my own voice. Unfortunately, the world outside is not as forgiving. Sometimes harsh critics and closed doors can take away your enthusiasm while you’re still developing your style. I hit a lot of walls, but my love for storytelling was always stronger. Even when I could not find an audience, I wrote for myself, always trying to improve my technique. Eventually, I found and audience for my writing, or they found me.


Any lessons learned on your writer’s journey?

First, everything people say about your work is just opinions, not necessarily the truth. Sometimes people’s opinions motivate you, sometimes they discourage you; but either way you have to take all of them with a grain of salt, learn what you can and move forward. Many people create beautiful stories and never let anyone see them, for fear of being criticized. It’s absolutely crucial to put your work out there, and grow from people’s reactions.

Second, don’t get attached to your ideas like they’re the only ones you could ever have. It’s a beautiful thing to have creative ideas, but if you are hanging to the same idea forever and never goes anywhere, just put it in a drawer and start something new. Give the ideas and stories the sweat they deserve, push them as much as you can, but don’t be afraid to throw it away, or completely change it. If you are a real writer (or any kind of artist for that matter) you’ll always be able to come up with more ideas, even better ones, if you keep your mind open and don’t get attached to just one “baby”.


Where does that inner drive to write come from?

Good question. I though a lot about it, and as I get older my own theories about it keep changing. But even without fully knowing the answer, one thing I know since I wrote my first story: it’s the greatest feeling in the world to connect to someone through your work. Of any the differences you the writer and the reader might have, for that moment reality is suspended; the person enters your world, and you communicate in a very deep way. That’s why I do it.


How do you keep readers turning pages?

I think that in all interesting stories information is always revealed in small doses, just enough to entice the reader to turn the page and know more. I take that to heart, and try to keep the pace gradual enough to maintain the interest. I usually take that to extremes, and characters often have a complex back story that is never fully revealed, just suggested (like the story is just a snapshot of a larger picture). I even put a lot of secret messages in the way people talk and act in the book, so if readers are really attentive, they can see foreshadows of what’s going to happen. That’s part of my fun when I write.


How often will you revise and re-write your work?

I often rewrite until the very last minute. Somebody once said that creative projects are never truly finished, only abandoned. I think that’s true. In all my stories there’s always something I want to improve, and there always will be. But now I know that most of the things I change by the end of the project nobody will ever notice, so I try not to be too nitpicking and just let go.


What are some creative ways you’ve learned to generate ideas?

Experience is everything for a writer, both good and bad moments. Talk to people, watch movies, internet, travel… you never know where the ideas will come from, and they usually arise from unusual places, so I like to be open. But it’s also important to know when to close the gates. I usually alternate the search for inspiration and the time to digest that inspiration and create. First I try to absorb everything and keep my mind open to the world outside; and then, when I’m ready to write, I isolate myself from strong influences that could dilute my creativity and style. That seems to work best for me.


What are some practical solutions for writer’s block?

Basically, time. Leave the work alone for awhile, and come back with fresh eyes. Go have a walk, try to think about something else. It’s a very efficient method, because sometimes you become too close to your own work, and you get stuck. Sometimes I need more time than others, but it always works for me.


Do you have a favorite book?

It’s hard to point just one, but there are some books that change my way of seeing life. One was Don Quixote. I was taken by the richness of the characters and the text. It was probably the first “grown up” book I read. Then there’s Moby Dick, which even to this day is very entertaining and alive to me, a breath of fresh air. I love everything by Jose Saramago and Umberto Eco. In the graphic novel world, I guess V for Vendetta was the one that really opened my eyes about the possibility of the medium in literary terms. Alan Moore is probably the writer who influenced me the most, and he keeps getting better.


Do you have a favorite time of day when you like to write?

I’m usually more prolific in the morning. I think because my mind is cleaner, and the logical part of my brain is not overanalyzing what the creative side does.


What is one saying or proverb you live by?

“We are what we think. With our thoughts we make the world.”


What advice would you give kids who wish to pursue a career in writing?

First, Read a lot. No way to become a good writer without it. Read everything, from the classics of literature to daily comic strips, and everything in between. All the things you read will mix in your head and combine with your own experience, creating your unique style.

Second, be true to your own experience. Even if you’re writing about some faraway planet or distant past, you have to bring something from yourself, or it will sound false to the reader. Try to learn with everything you experience, because eventually those things will find their way into you work, and they will resonate with people.

Third, write a lot. There’s no substitute for practice. If you write something great today, don’t waste too much time patting yourself in the back, go ahead and write more while you have the momentum. Just imagine how great your next work will be. You can only improve, while you get more experienced and learn new tricks.

Fourth, put it out there! If your work is in a drawer and nobody reads it, it doesn’t exist. Writing is communication, and you will see that this dialogue with readers makes you stronger as a writer. There’s no perfect book and it’s guaranteed that less than 100% of the readers will like your work. So make sure you do your best, and show it to everyone you think it’s going to help you improve. You can only gain from the exchange of ideas.


Where can parents and kids find out more about your work?

My two latest graphic novels, Isthmus and Heavy Metal Heart, published by Lulu, are on sale online at both in print and download formats. I am currently writing a new book tentatively called At First There Was the End, due sometime next year, which will be available online too.

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About Jolene Owen (Editor-at-large)

Jolene Owen is an interactive journalist working in the transmedia sector. View all posts by Jolene Owen (Editor-at-large)

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