“Why don’t you start with something smaller? A mini webcomic, perhaps?” “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket!” “Take it easy. You’ll burn yourself out if you’re not careful.”
These are all things people said to me—in high school, college—when I told them I was starting a graphic novel called “Boys with Wings”. They’re all perfectly reasonable arguments. I wouldn’t even say I disagree with them!
But… drawing has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. And at a certain point, I felt the same about the characters and the world I’d started to spend so much time with. I couldn’t just stop. It got to a point where I was working on it for so long, it was natural to just keep going. And I did—for ten years.
Ask any sequential artist, and they’ll likely agree that this medium is a “labor of love.” I joked with a friend recently that you don’t choose comics, they choose you. After all, for me, the best way to cope with life’s hardships is to draw.
Boys with Wings became Amelia Erroway: Castaway Commander, and on August 3rd, 2021, my debut graphic novel released to the world in its full form: an original 280-page watercolor science-fantasy adventure about a girl who takes her father’s ship for a joyride and winds up hopelessly lost. Now, people everywhere are reading a story that is so deeply personal in ways most may not even realize.
Since its genesis, Amelia’s tale has remained the same at its core. Even though the style changed dramatically over the years, the message of agency, the value of mistakes, and finding yourself despite the odds stayed true.
By the time Amelia was acquired by Scholastic, my style had completely changed. I had to go back and “remaster” the pages from even a year prior because my style had grown so dramatically. Then it was pushed out three seasons, which was the right call but still challenging. It got hard to remember why I was still going.
I can talk about the technical details that kept me going, like how the first concepts of the ornithopter were based on spaceships I built in Spore, that the characters originated with ears competing in size and length with the elves of World of Warcraft, and how I worked closely with the engineers in my family to solidify the scientific angle of the novel.
But on the good days, I did remember: It was always about the journey. Amelia had something to prove to her father—that she could command her own life. Likewise, I had something to prove to myself—that I could stick with this, see this story through, that I could call myself a professional artist. But when I hold the completed book, I have this deep feeling that the adventure has only just begun.
Amelia Erroway, by Betsy Peterschmidt, is available now from Scholastic Books: