Interviewed by Tina Jenkins Bell
Alverne Ball is a prolific creative who writes multi-genre fiction, such as mystery novels, screenplays, comic books, and graphic novels. A family man who balances full time work with his life as a husband and father, Alverne writes primarily after his family is tucked in. A Columbia College graduate, he uses two terms to describe himself as a writer and an individual, determined and creative, two dispositions sparked in him before the age of six after his mother read him a story about the fall of Lucifer. “I was all in after that,” Alverne says.
Tell me a little about your upbringing, background and how it contributed to your life as a writer. Where did you grow up? Well let’s see….I grew up on the West side of Chicago in an area called K-Town. I remember when I was six or maybe a bit younger my mother told me a story about the fall of Lucifer, and I never forgot that story. I think in some way it sparked my imagination (even though) I could barely read and write when I entered the 4th grade. Thankfully, I had an amazing teacher, Miss Bernetta Jackson (Banks at the time) who was determined to see that I learned to read. From there the rest is history. I fell in love with reading and the idea that I could escape to new worlds that weren’t my neighborhood. Before I knew it, I was just writing and telling stories to the best of my ability. Then, one day I said I want to make this my career. I’m still chasing it as a full-time thing, but writing is like breathing to me. I have to do it.
What is your process? I write is a bit archaic because I tend to write my comics and graphic novels by hand. I usually draw layouts of the panels in the margins of the page. I write what is called a full comic script, so I include directional prompts to the artist such as camera angles; you can say I’m more like Ryan Cooler just in the comic scripting sense.
You write comic books, graphic novels, historical mysteries, screenplays, etc. Which has most of your attention these days and why? Well right now I’ve adapted a screenplay into a graphic novel about a group of Afro-German entertainers who band together to fight Hitler and his Nazi regime in order to save thousands of Jews, Gypsies, and Afro-Germans from extinction. I’m trying to get a publisher interested in it because it’s a true untold story that the world needs to know about. I’m also trying to get a publisher to pick up my modern adaptation of Othello set in the backdrop of the Iraq war.
How do you stay abreast of the various genres? For me I guess in some ways it’s a natural ability, but I tend to read and watch a lot of things within the genres that I like to write.
Which do you tend to write more—graphic novels or comic books? I write comics more since again I’m writing a 22-page story over six or more issues, but I love writing graphic novels because it forces me to tell the whole story in one large chunk.
What is your latest graphic novel? Who will publish it? Right now, I just pitched a publisher on a graphic novel that can best be described as “Angels and Demons” meets “National Treasure” they’re reading it now and I’m just waiting for the contract to come through before I can talk about it. I’m also hoping in the meantime I can get Othello and Rhineland Bastards picked up by publishers and that would be awesome because then I’d have all 3 graphic novels in production.
Does your attraction to graphic novels have anything to do with your background as a screenwriter? It’s totally vice versa. I fell into screenwriting because I could write graphic novels, and I realized that the two forms are very similar in how they’re composed. I think writing graphic novels allowed me to have a “director’s eye” which helps when writing screenplays because a lot of what occurs on the page plays out in the theatre of the mind.
Do you self-publish at all or seek traditional publishers? I do both in regard to comics books and usually that’s because I can’t find a publisher that will give me a fair deal without wanting to own the rights to my work. As a writer sometimes, you have to believe in your work even when no one else does. Somewhere, someone in the world will read it if you can get it out to them.