This month our Ink Splat author interview features brilliant illustrator and author, Stan Yan. Stan is the author of There’s a Zombie in the Basement and The Many Misfortunes of Eugenia Wang (coming fall 2025).
He shared with us about how he got started as an illustrator, how to build suspense, and what to expect for his exciting upcoming release and its deeper connection to the 2022 Pixar animated film, Turning Red.
“No matter what, I typically always start with my characters, brainstorm a back story, and build a story around their motivations.” – Stan Yan
Take a look at Stan’s two illustrations. Choose one and try one or more of the following prompts:
1. Write the story of this moment.
2. Consider this the end of the story, and write what events have led up to this moment.
3. Consider this the beginning of the story and write what happens next.
Where do you find/search for inspiration for your plotlines and illustrations?
No matter how far-fetched my story scenarios might be, I totally mine material from my life and the lives of others around me. I am irreparably paranoid, which helps me come up with worst-case scenarios in my writing. Recently, Instagram has been a huge source of inspiration for my illustrations. I save folders of art I love on IG and will browse through them anytime I feel a bit stuck or stale.
How do you like to approach building suspense and spookiness into your stories?
Building suspense is a bit of a dance for me. I don’t like movies that are so heavily spooky all the way through. I feel like there needs to be a rhythm to it where you intersperse levity in order to make the scary parts more impactful. And, of course, I want to construct characters that are relatable and readers care about as a way to amplify the stakes, amplifying the suspense. Spookiness is subjective, so I have to rely on what I’m subjectively scared of.
What is the most difficult part of your creative process?
Right now, writing paranormal. I find that having to create rules for a paranormal world or force interacting with the normal world creates all sorts of problems that would ordinarily be a lot faster to write, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself and find out that I ignored or changed a rule by accident. Going back and doing editorial revisions with this in mind is just as bad. I don’t know why I do this to myself: I’m now working on another middle grade graphic novel with a time travel element.
A special thank you to Stan Yan for sharing with us!
Stan is an award-winning, first-generation American-born-Chinese, Denver-based writer, illustrator, caricature artist, and instructor.
He helped to co-found the Squid Works comic creator cooperative, was a board member of the Colorado Alliance of Illustrators, and is currently the co-Regional Advisor for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (RMC-SCBWI), and a member of the Cuddlefish Gang art “cuddlective.”
His work has been seen in THE SUNDAY HA HA, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS (BlueWater Productions / Storm Comics / Tidal Wave), THERE’S A ZOMBIE IN THE BASEMENT (Squid Works Kids), DENVER COMIX, KITE TALES, the RMC-SCBWI annual calendar, THE QUEUING DEAD (British zombie anthology), POP CULTURE CLASSROOM, and THE WESTWORD, among many others.
His late middle-grade graphic novel, THE MANY MISFORTUNES OF EUGENIA WANG is being published by Atheneum (S&S), scheduled for Fall ’25.
His work was the grand prize recipient of the 2022 SCBWI-FL Conference Portfolio Excellence Award!
The Inklings Book Contest is Here!
We're accepting short stories and poems from youth writers in grades 3-12. Submit today! We can't wait to read what you write.
Submissions due by 3/15/24.
Educators, check out info about submitting a class set here.