Halloween may be in our past this year, but there's always time for a haunted house.
In the upcoming graphic novel Haunted, a Halloween party in abandoned mansion goes all wrong. When a group of teenagers sneak into this invitation-only party by hiding in the basement, they're the only ones left when the police bust the party early. Now they're stuck – trapped – and find out there may be others I there, but not with a pulse.
Describe by series creator Joshua Smeaton as "Goonies in a haunted house", the book first started as a webcomic on Joshua's website. While it was being published online, Smeaton applied for the prestigious Xeric grant for self-publishing comics. After get news he had in-fact won the scholarship, he quickly set about finalizing plans to turn the webcomic into a actual graphic novel. For more, we talked with Smeaton from his home in Tampa.
Newsarama: How would you describe Haunted for us, Joshua?
Joshua Smeaton: It’s an adventure story about a group of junior. high kids. They sneak in to a high school Halloween party thrown at an abandoned mansion. When the cops bust the party the kids hide in the basement to avoid getting caught. Unfortunately for them the place is haunted.
Nrama: What are the kids up against?
Smeaton: The mansion has been abandoned since the late 1800’s. Before that Jonathon Briar and his family lived there. One day he went crazy and murdered his wife and son then killed himself but no bodies were ever found. There have been ghost stories surrounding the place ever since.
It’s a creepy place but the kids don’t really believe the stories. Then Briar’s ghost shows up.
Nrama: What inspired you to do this comic?
Smeaton: I originally wrote it as a screenplay. I started it in 2002 I think. The idea of turning it into a comic was always in the back of my head. I had wanted to write a story like the one’s I grew up with. Goonies, The Explorers, Stand By Me. I love Halloween and I couldn’t really think of any good haunted house kid movies. So I went from there.
Nrama: I really love the clean lines your artwork has. What were you looking to portray, visually, for this series?
Smeaton: Thanks. I hope whatever I draw is clear. That you don’t have to try to figure out what going on in a panel or with the story telling. I also want the art to pull you in, that it’s inviting. Even though it’s a ghost story I didn’t want it to be dark.
Nrama: What led you to taking your online comic to a print edition, and self-publishing it no less?
Smeaton: I like having Haunted online and making it available to everyone that wants to read it that way. I like being able to share and update on a regular basis. But the goal was always print. I love books. Being able to hold them and read them. I also like my bookshelves and the way the books look on them. Much like the clothes that we wear represent our personalities and who we are, so do the books on our shelves.
Self-publishing has been an interesting experience. I’ve done a handful of comics with small print runs that I sell at conventions but that hardly compares to this. I’ve always admired the self-publishers. It’s the part of comics that’s punk rock. The do it your own way type of thing. There was a part of me that was drawn to that, to be a part of that world. But there’s also something to be said for letting someone else handle the publishing and business end so you can focus on creating.
Nrama: Tell us about your experience applying, and then winning, the Xeric.
Smeaton: When Haunted was far enough along I looked into the application process. I had put it off so, I was really working against the deadline. It’s not difficult but is fairly involved so you need to do your homework and do it properly.
My advice to anyone that wants to apply, set a deadline that’s 3 month’s away from the Xeric deadline and do everything you can to meet that deadline. Then if there are any issues it’s not a big deal to work them out with time to spare. I didn’t do that and was stressing and working right up to the actual cut off date. Fortunately I made it.
Also work and rework your application (and your story/art) so it’s the best you think it can be. Then get someone you trust to give you useful advice pick it apart. Then redo it again.
Then it’s a waiting game. You do your best to forget about it. Then one day a letter from the Xeric Foundation shows up. I’ve received my share of rejection letters just like anyone else trying to make it in a creative field. So it was a fantastic feeling being told yes.
Nrama: When will the comic be available for sale?
Smeaton: It’s available now for preorder at your local comic shop or online shops. The Previews order code is NOV090896. I’ve also made a form you can print out to give to your shop. The release date is January.