Artist Sarah D. Harrell
Sarah D. Harrell, aka Jabberwockyface, is a freelance artist/aspiring published author attempting to balance work and personal projects. You can see her awesome art here:
She is also the wonderful woman who brought
my Aronian characters to life! You can see them
on my Aronia page.
1. Tell us about yourself and your work.
Hi!! My name is Sarah D. Harrell, but you are more than welcome to call me Jabberwockyface. I’m a freelance artist/aspiring published author attempting to balance work and personal projects. I was ten years old when I started drawing seriously (as seriously as I could do anything when I was ten, anyway), when I became inspired by the gorgeous animation of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Most of my artwork is digital, but I love doing traditional pencil sketches as well, ink, watercolor, acrylic--a little bit of everything.
I’ve also been working on the same series of books for the past eight years (literally only just did the math as I was typing this and that number sort of hit me like a truck). The series contains nine and a half books so far and has reached nearly three million words. I hope to publish it someday, but in the meantime, while I summon the nerve to send my children out into the world, you can look at all of my character drawings on my websites, mostly featuring Al, my protagonist.
2. Do you have any unusual creative habits?
When writing an action sequence, or any large set-piece with many different characters in it, I use action figures to help me visualize everybody in the setting. It helps me keep track of where everyone is. This resulted most recently in Link and Kylo Ren having a showdown with Treebeard and the Burger King mascot (I own a bobblehead of him; his name is Vlad).
I usually name chapters after I’ve finished writing them, so I always type ‘Wheat Thins’ as my placeholder chapter title until I can think of something better. I’ve been doing this since I was eleven, and I can’t remember why I started.
When I have music on in the background, if I happen to type a word at the same moment the word also occurs in the song, I have to stop and write it down. Some of the oddest song-and-text-coincidences I have are: Patrick, Anticipated, In his pocket, Shut the door, Fall through the, and Sink.
If I ever get any particularly great typos, I screenshot them and doodle them.
I choose the birthdays of my characters by going through my Dilbert desk calendar and finding a comic that suits their personality.
I keep very detailed logs of every time I manage to move myself to tears while writing. I record the date and time, down to the minute, and the scene in question.
As for unusual habits while drawing…I don’t think I have nearly as many. I always label mylineart layer ‘LIES,’ due to a typo I made once. Occasionally, when I think I need extra encouragement for a picture I’m nervous about, I’ll name it something like, ‘very very good lies,’ ‘wow lies look good,’ or ‘you did a good job on these lies.’
Now I’m a little bit disappointed that I don’t do anything weirder while drawing.
3. What are you working on now?
In writing--I just finished revising book 7 (boy, did it need it), and I’m currently writing book 10. I’m about to go back and look over book 1 one more time before seeing if I’m brave enough to send him out into the world.
In drawing--I’m finishing up my current queue of commissioners, and about to start early work on a picture I draw every year for Tanabata. I named my protagonist Altair long before I knew Altair was the name of the star in the Tanabata legend (and haha, long before I knew about Assassin’s Creed too), so I’ve drawn him a Tanabata picture every year since.
4. What is the best advice you have ever heard?
“Everything is copy.” ‘Copy’ being in the sense of the noun meaning ‘written text.’
It came from a very unlikely place--the audio commentary of the Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan movie, “You’ve Got Mail.” The director, Nora Ephron, had a lot of good advice throughout the entire commentary. She says that her parents used to tell it to her when she was young. It’s amazing advice. You can use it for everything. ‘I’m having trouble falling asleep because I’m busy worrying about this problem. Oh--I should pay attention to my thought process here so I can lend verisimilitude to the scene where my protagonist is dreading the big showdown.’ Stuff of that nature. Basically, whatever happens to you is experience gained, and you’re able to more accurately depict a character who is going through it as well.
5. How do you select the names of your characters?
I have nine name and surname dictionaries. When I was younger, I used to read through the whole thing, write down all the names I liked on the back of library receipts (those being the longest pieces of paper in the house), and narrow it down from there. Nowadays, names sort of spring up around a character as they’re forming in my head, so I don’t have to search very long for a name that fits them. Occasionally, if it’s someone who isn’t too important, I’ll close my eyes, open the name books at random, and point. This doesn’t always go very well: I need a last name for Nicholas.” *closes eyes* *opens at random* *points* “Cage. Sounds good. Nicholas Ca--” *facepalm*
6. If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?
Since the shock might have killed me if I had told my ten-year-old self, “One day, Dante Basco (the voice of Zuko on Avatar: The Last Airbender) will compliment your work,” I don’t think I can use that. But I have thought about it. I think I would sit my younger self down and give a very long lecture on why actually studying anatomy before you turn twenty-two is very important for someone who wants to be an artist. My ten-year-old self would not respond well to that, but it would save me a lot of distress in the future if she would listen.
7. What is your favorite quote?
I’m partial to: “Your money, your singleness, marriage, talents, your time--they were loaned to you to show the world that Christ is divine.” -Lecrae. It’s a line from his song, ‘Don’t Waste Your Life,’ and is a good reminder to me to deal honorably in my business, and to use my talents (such as they are) in a way that glorifies God. Even if that means doing stuff like turning down $10,000 to illustrate a porno. Also a true story.
I also have a canvas print on my workroom door that says: “As Shakespeare says, if you’re going to do a thing you might as well pop right at it and get it over.” -Bertie Wooster. It’s from a P. G. Wodehouse Jeeves and Wooster novel, and if you think it was easy to narrow down the Wodehouse quote I wanted for my door, that would be incorrect. The man has made so many amazing quotes.
8. If you could be a character in any novel you've ever read, who would you be and why?
This is so difficult, because I adore Sophie Hatter and I love and support her relationship with Howl, but I would still take her place in a heartbeat. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones is my absolute favorite book. I fell madly in love with Howl when I read it the first time, but as I got older, my appreciation for Sophie increased as well. The fact that she starts out as shy and dull and self-defeating, yet turns into an old woman and completely finds herself, is amazing. We’re treated to great lines like:
“It was odd. As a girl, Sophie would have shriveled with embarrassment at the way she was behaving. As an old woman, she did not mind what she did or said. She found that a great relief.”
Which perfectly encapsulates her transformation.
Howl, on the other hand, is made up of almost nothing but vices, but is so completely open about them, and is also actually very good at what he does--being a surprisingly productive wizard who manages to accomplish an awful lot of good deeds--that I wouldn’t mind at all ending up with him. I also wouldn’t mind being a cool old lady who spent all my time tidying up around a magical moving castle, so really, I’d be happy to be Sophie during any part of the book.