Mental Health

Joshua Kemble on Creating Another World

A page from Jacob’s Apartment by Joshua Kemble

Joshua Kemble, award-winning artist and author of Two Stories, revisits Beautiful Voyager to share the story of his latest graphic novel, a beautiful book about identity, purpose, creativity, and love.

BEVOYA: It’s great to talk to you again Joshua! What’s changed since last we talked?

Illustrated self-portrait by Joshua Kemble

JOSHUA: A lot has changed. Since my graphic novel about dealing with mental illness Two Stories: Book One was picked up for publication by Markosia, I’ve gone on to get a book deal for my first graphic novel about the questions that can shake even the strongest of faith Jacob’s Apartment, which is releasing June 7th from Graphic Mundi, and am currently at work on the artwork for a collaborative historical fiction graphic novel about Elizabeth Barrett Browning written by my sister, Lavender Vroman, Not Death, But Love: The Strange, Supernatural Story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to be released in 2024 from West Margin Press, as well as working on Two Stories: Book Two. So it’s been a very busy, and exciting time, where a lot of publishing doors and opportunities have opened. And it’s extremely busy.

BEVOYA: How has your mental health been lately? Your creativity?

JOSHUA: My mental health has been fairly balanced. One thing that’s helped me with not overthinking is being swamped with so much work I’ve barely got time to think. Saying yes to opportunities as they arise has really helped put me in a situation where I have to move forward and be creative every day without second guessing or overthinking since there’s just honestly no time to do so.

BEVOYA: Tell us about Jacob’s Apartment. What led you to create this book?

JOSHUA: Jacob’s Apartment is a coming-of-age graphic novel in the vein of Ghost World and Fun Home. At first glance, college roommates Jacob and Sarah seem like polar opposites. Jacob is a Christian; Sarah is an atheist. Sarah is a drinker, and Jacob, a teetotaler. But they have been friends for years, finding commonality in their shared dream to create art. Jacob’s world is turned upside down when his father dies, causing him to question his faith. Meanwhile, Sarah wrestles with her own demons, searching for solace in one-night stands after her boyfriend (and professor) leaves her for a job in New York.

I was inspired to create the book in response to the tumultuous time in my life where I had lost my father to cancer and was questioning my faith while simultaneously trying to start my career as an artist. It was a tumultuous time of life in which grief and young love became confused and often complicated. It seemed like a good area to mine for storytelling. I was also intrigued by the idea of using dreams both waking and sleeping as a theme that could weave in and out throughout the story.

A page from Jacob’s Apartment by Joshua Kemble

BEVOYA: What are the steps you take to get a graphic novel published? Is that a hard journey at this point, or pretty straight forward?

JOSHUA: In most of the cases, I’ve had a completed graphic novel, with everything, including the artwork finished. Each book took about 5 years to complete, and I was fortunate enough to have a literary agent who advocated for my books to get published, helped edit, refine and build book proposals for the books. In the case of Jacob’s Apartment, my editor at Graphic Mundi, Kendra, had some amazing editorial guidance that helped me to refine the story, and fix a few untied plot threads throughout it. With Not Death, But Love: The Strange, Supernatural Story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, this was the first book proposal where we only had submitted sample pages and a script through my literary agent, and it got picked up, so it’s a new, but exciting experience.

It’s still a hard journey to get a graphic novel published, but less so than it was for the first, and now the bigger struggle is finding the time to produce the work, and to promote the books when they are out. My literary agent, Keely, was a game changer in that respect.

BEVOYA: What do you most want people to know about Jacob’s Apartment? Why should they check it out?

JOSHUA: Jacob’s Apartment weaves together the threads of spiritual faith, identity, purpose, love, and loss to create an engrossing world in which waking and sleeping dreams collide. I believe it will be an impactful, meaningful, and beautiful experience for readers, especially those who’ve lost a loved one at a young age.

Photo of Joshua Kemble at work

BEVOYA. Any final thoughts to share?

JOSHUA: I’m thankful for the opportunity to share with you a bit about Jacob’s Apartmentand appreciate your openness and encouragement of open discussions on hard and often taboo topics, it’s a giant interest of mine to write about such topics, and it’s awesome there are others out there interested in similar themes.

BEVOYA: Thank YOU, Joshua, for creating another world for us all to connect with, escape to, and learn from.

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