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St. Paul Park artist, cartoonist inks book deal

St. Paul Park artist and cartoonist Lance Ward1 / 2
"Stovetop," a graphic novel by St. Paul Park artist and cartoonist Lance Ward.2 / 2

A single drawing turned into the first published graphic novel for Lance Ward.

Ward, a St. Paul Park artist, drew one illustration and his imagination took off, giving him all sorts of ideas to expand that initial science fiction-themed drawing.

"I said, 'That's it, I have to do this,'" Ward said.

For months he worked on the project daily, typically spending three to four hours on one illustrated page, before completing his 72-page graphic novel called "Stovetop." Unlike a comic book with multiple stories, a graphic novel tells just one story through illustrations and text.

Ward shopped the book earlier this year to publishers. One took it and a Nov. 30 release date is planned.

"It's very exciting," he said.

Bulletin readers may recognize Ward's name. He is the newspaper's freelance editorial cartoonist. His cartoons have appeared weekly on the Opinion page since February of 2010.

The work in "Stovetop" is a significant departure from what Ward draws for the Bulletin. He said the book is geared toward a mature audience.

"It's kind of dark," he said. "It is strange. It is unconventional."

Reluctant to spill details of the graphic novel, Ward said "Stovetop" is the story of a character he created named "Little Ern," whose bad day at work leads to a chain of bizarre events.

"It'll keep you guessing until the end," Ward teased.

Ward, who has drawn and painted since his childhood, said his style for "Stovetop" was inspired by old black and white movies.

"I wanted this book to feel out of time," he said.

Ward, 43, has self-published several books, but this is his first being printed and distributed by a publishing house, Creators Edge Press.

"It's real easy to self-publish," he said. "The problem is the marketing."

Authors who self-publish need to market their books on their own. Publishers, however, already have marketing strategies in place.

Landing a publishing deal isn't easy, however. Ward said authors must print numerous drafts of their work and send them to various publishers, "and prepare to get rejected - a lot."

Ward said he is coordinating marketing with Creators Edge Press, and he plans to attend comic book conventions locally and in Seattle and Chicago over the next several months.

Pre-ordering of Ward's book, which will cost $10, is available through the publisher and retail booksellers.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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