RICH INTERVIEWS: Kimberly Dwinell Writer/Artist Surfside Girls

First Comics News: Can you tell us what “Surfside Girls: The Secret of Danger Point” is all about?

Kimberly Dwinell: “Surfside Girls: The Secret of Danger Point” is an action-adventure-mystery graphic novel about twelve-year-old best friends in a small beach town who uncover a big mystery. It’s about girls and friendship, about using your wits and being brave. It’s also about the ocean and a bit about California’s past. And there may be ghosts…

1st: What are Samantha and Jade’s personalities?

Kimberly: Samantha- “Sam”- is athletic, intuitive, and usually, acts before she thinks. Jade is logical, organized, and boy-crazy.

1st: You were once a lifeguard is this why you made this about girls who surf?

Kimberly: So much of who I am now, comes from the time I spent in the ocean as a young woman, both lifeguarding, and surfing. I pushed myself in big surf, in swimming through underwater caves, and trying to keep up with the guys during lifeguarding workouts. I’ve played with dolphins while out surfing. There were clear, calm ocean days where I could see twenty feet down to the bottom of the ocean without goggles during a workout, and could see leopard sharks and garibaldi. Laguna Beach has these beautiful underwater rocks and kelp forests. It was a very magical time for me, and I wanted to put all of that into this book.

1st: You use painted watercolors for your art, why?

Kimberly: Watercolor is not the most efficient way to accomplish a graphic novel, I will admit. In my head, though, that is the only way I could see this project looking like I wanted it to. Digital color just felt too cold, and there’s something funny about painting water with water. Plus, I really love the process of watercolor. It’s slow and quiet and meditative.

1st: Is this graphic novel at all like Nancy Drew?

Kimberly: Nancy Drew was a huge inspiration to me. In fact, one of my mini-comic covers is a tribute (see the cover of The Seal Ordeal below.) I have a collection of the original series that my aunt gave me as a child. Nancy was so independent. She got herself into some serious danger, and always managed to think her way out. She had her good friends and a cute convertible. I totally wanted to be her when I grew up.

1st: Are any of the characters based on actual people you know?

Kimberly: Sam and Jade are based VERY loosely on my best friend Melissa and me. We would take the bus in the summer down to Doheny Beach when we were young to teach ourselves to surf. We had a lot of funny adventures, but none as crazy as Sam and Jade’s!

1st: What kind of adventures will Samantha and Jade have together?

Kimberly: Sam and Jade will always find a mystery to solve. There will always be plenty of action and outdoor adventure. They will usually have to dig into a bit of local history for clues, and there will most likely be ghosts. They’ll always end up doing a little surfing to relax.

1st: How does being a Professor help in becoming a comic book creator?

Kimberly: I’m so fortunate to be able to spend time at a university with young people for part of my week. They are so energetic and enthusiastic, and really really creative. I’m also surrounded by fellow professors who are all talented and creative and work on their own projects. That environment keeps me inspired. I spend a lot of time helping students work out story problems in their animated films, and I find that helps my own storytelling.

1st: Since Surfside Girls is Book One will there be a Book Two?

Kimberly: Yes, “The Secret of Danger Point” is book one in a series. There are definitely more adventures coming!

1st: Do you have any more ideas for graphic novels?

Kimberly: I do. They are very unlike the Surfside Girls universe, so they are way back on the backburner right now. One involves medieval times and the plague, and another is slightly autobiographical about being a military “brat.”

1st: How was your trip to Okinawa and would you like to travel more?

Kimberly: I spent two years in Okinawa growing up- one in first grade and one in high school. I made really close friends there. I love Japan so much! I took my husband and son last summer, and they loved it too, even though it was really hot and humid. We can’t wait to go back, but maybe not in summer. I moved around a lot as a kid since my father was a Marine Corps pilot. It definitely gave me the travel bug!

1st: What is something that almost no one knows about you?

Kimberly: Most people don’t know how much I want a pet capybara.

1st: How many freckles do you have?

Kimberly: I have too many freckles. Some day they will all unite and I will be very tan.

1st: Do you have anything to say to all the people who will pick up “Surfside Girls: The Secret of Danger Point”?

Kimberly: I really hope you like this book. I put a lot of heart into it.

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