The long-awaited second collection of the addictive syndicated comic strip Kyle’s Bed & Breakfast has arrived. This volume finds the boys of the harbor-town B&B up to their collective ears in romance, drama, intrigue, insanity, laughter and the occasional heartbreak … sometimes all in the same episode. Artist Greg Fox premiered Kyle’s in 1998 and published his first volume in 2004.
This is your second collection of Kyle’s B&B. Have the characters matured since the first book? Well, the book starts up right where the last one left off, so I don’t know that they’ve really matured to any considerable degree. They’ve certainly learned some “life lessons” through what went on in the first book, but… I think they all still have a tendency to get themselves into remarkably screwed up and whacky situations. Most of the characters also have a penchant for speaking their minds without thinking first, which usually leads to trouble. Much to the delight, I’m sure, of many readers! There’s one of the hidden lessons in Kyle’s B&B … it’s not always a wise thing to speak your mind! <laughs>
Do you need to have read the first book to enjoy this new book? No, not at all. I’ve always written the comic strip so that new readers can jump in at any point, and get swept up into the story. And at the beginning of this book, I did include a “Who’s Who” section, to introduce all of the characters in the comic strip. But you probably don’t even need that. You can start reading the episodes, and meet the characters as the story progresses.
Do readers seem to have a favorite character in the strip? I think there are “camps” of readers who rally for each character. I guess some of the characters seem to be more popular than others. People really seem to like Kyle a lot.
And then Brad, the baseball player, is a very polarizing character. People seem to either love him or hate him. I suppose a lot of people don’t like the fact he’s still in the closet in his professional life. But then, I get a lot of e-mails from people who can relate to that.
Oh, and people really seem to love Jeff Olsen, who’s not really a main character, but one of those supporting characters who comes in & out of the strip periodically. Not sure what is it about him people love so much… that hairy chest? The Southern accent?
Jeff Olsen, without giving too much away, has a very life-changing experience in this book. Yes, and I think what is interesting is how Brad responds to this. Again, how readers reacted to Brad’s handling of Jeff’s “news” is telling. A lot of readers thought he was being harsh and ignorant, and others thought it was pretty honest. Thankfully, he does seem to learn something here.
Kyle finds love in this book. Ah, yes, at long last! I think he had a pretty crappy run with men in the first book, so it’s really about time. And his new boyfriend, Breyer, is pretty awesome. In his own, screwed-up way, that is!
You also included a multi-episode story in this book that’s never been published before. Yeah, I did that in the first book, too. I think it’s important to put a little something in each book that’s never appeared anywhere else.
With all these ongoing stories of romance and love gone bad, do you think of this comic strip as a soap opera? Not exactly. I think of it more as a comedy-drama. I think soaps are fine, it’s just… there’s not a lot of humor in them. I really try to mix it up. Some Kyle’s B&B episodes are more humorous, and some very serious. I think the best ones have elements of both. I was watching reruns of an old show called “Thirtysomething” recently and thought, “Yes, that’s it, that’s precisely what I’m trying to do in the comic strip”, which is bring a deft blend of humor and drama, with intelligent, snappy conversation.
The episodes in this book are in black & white, yet the current episodes of the comic strip are in color. When, and why, did you make the changeover to color? It was something I’d been wanting to do for a while. I really liked the look of the strip in black & white, but … there were a lot of times I imagined how a particular episode would look in color. And then, I was getting increasing pressure from publishers. A number of the publications that run the strip were asking for it in color, and it got to a point where I had to say, “OK, I need to do this.” It just happened to work out that where the black & white episodes end and the color episodes began was the point where I wanted to end this current book, so the next book, book 3, will begin with the color episodes. It’s really nice seeing this book, though…it makes me a little wistful for the strip in black & white. I miss that look. I also miss not having to do 8 hours of coloring work on each episode, too!
Is that how long it takes to color one episode? 8 hours? It can take that long. It varies by episode. I think the average time to color an episode is about 6 to 8 hours.
And how long to draw it before you start coloring? Also varies, but anywhere from 12 to 16 hours. I usually split up the drawing part over 3 days, while I’m simultaneously coloring the following episode at the same time.
Is there any one character who is your favorite to draw? And any character who is your least favorite? Um, I like drawing all of them. I don’t think there are any I dislike drawing. There are some that take longer, though. Usually it has to do with their hair. Kyle takes a long time – any character with that sort of dark, wavy hair involves a lot of brush and pen work. Breyer’s hair is the quickest, I think… that sort of jet-black GI Joe close-cropped hair. So easy! Oh, but Kristian…. his hair is pretty quick to draw, but coloring it involves a lot of effort. He’s got these honey blond, sun-streaked dreadlocks. I love how it ends up looking, but it does take some time. As Loreal would say, “he’s worth it!”
The first Kyle’s B&B book, which was released in 2004, was a Lambda Literary Award Finalist for “Best Humor Book” of the year. Any reason why it took until now for the second book to be published? Well, the original plan was that I’d begin putting the second book together in 2007, for a 2008 release. Unfortunately, 2007 was when my Mom’s illness began, (she passed away about a year and a half later), and that pretty much took precedence over doing a new book at that time. I knew from my experience with the first book that the level of production involved, followed by the intense promotion upon publication … the touring and publicity and interviews and all that … it’s a major commitment of time and energy, and it goes on for over a year. I just couldn’t do that; I needed to be with my Mom at that time. The good thing was, I didn’t stop doing the comic strip at any point during this; I stayed on schedule, like always … a new episode every 2 weeks, (except for one episode … the week she passed away, I did take off). In some ways, doing the comic strip helped keep me sane during what was a pretty trying time, when she was going through her illness. I set up a drawing board in the basement of her house, and was able to be there with her for a good amount of time over those months, which I’m really grateful for. But after she had passed, and after using most of following year to just … regroup, I started focusing on putting the next Kyle’s B&B book together. And now, finally, it’s here! One other good thing to note here is that I have already produced enough episodes of the comic strip for Book 3, so it won’t be nearly as long of a wait until that one is published!
Any reason why Kyle’s B&B is done in full page installments, as opposed to doing it in a traditional, 3- or 4-panel strip format? I like to think of the way I do it as a “Sunday page” format. With 9 or 10 panels, you’re sort of getting the equivalent of 3 strips instead of just one. This way just works better for me, writing-wise. You know, I used to write comic strips in that short, 3- or 4-panel style. My high school and college strips, and also my first real professional comic strip, “Manic Music,” were all 4-panel strips. But I’m not crazy about that writing style, that bam-bam-bam-punchline format. I like being able to spend some time with the characters, have some more dialogue unfold. It’s more intimate, and involving, and I think the reader tends to get more invested in the story this way. I just enjoy it more. And somehow, the strip seems… heartwarming because of it, if that makes any sense. So many of those short comic strips involve really sarcastic, “put down” humor. I’m not a big fan of that. I want to tell warm, uplifting stories. Yes, I want them to be funny, too… but not cynical. I hope I’ve accomplished that.