Authors Kazu and Amy Kim Kibuishi. Photo by: Studio B Portraits
It’s not unusual for a member of the Kibuishi household to see their name on a bestseller list or a “Best of the Year” book list. Both Kazu Kibuishi and Amy Kim Kibuishi—who were married in 2007—have achieved those accomplishments. But the thing that may truly set the two creators apart is the number of times they’ve been told that their graphic novels are responsible for turning young people into readers. As Kazu says, “I hear stories about these students during nearly every school visit.”
Left: The final volume of the Amulet series, Amulet #9: Waverider coming 2/6/24. Right: The Rema Chronicles: Realm Of The Blue Mist.
Kazu is currently writing and illustrating the final title in his Amulet series (Scholastic). Amy is writing and illustrating a second title to follow her successful kickoff to The Rema Chronicles (Scholastic). Both graphic series feature compelling stories, complex characters, and elaborate world-building—and both have attracted a host of ardent fans.
Amy and Kazu Kibuishi Photo by: Studio B Portraits
Here, the two creators talk with Lisa Bullard about their different creative approaches, the inspiration they draw from each other, and the impact their graphic novels have had on readers.
Can you talk a little about your book-creation process? What’s a typical day like?
Amy: For me, a book always starts with an outline, character designs, and environment designs. Once I have all my thoughts in order (a process that can take anywhere from a few weeks to ten years or more), I then write a script followed by rough pencils, linework, and colors. My favorite part of the process is writing, followed by the rough pencil stage. I love the feeling of discovering the story!
Kazu: The writing and the artwork happen at the same time for me. I sketch pages and write dialogue in a very rough form, in thumbnail pages. I draw these repeatedly and consider this my rehearsal process. When I feel the pages are dialed in and read well, I ink them and color them.
A typical day for us begins with getting the kids ready for school. Once we drop them off at their schools, Amy and I choose a place to work, usually a café or restaurant, sometimes a library, and we work on our books until lunch. After lunch, we work for a little while longer before picking up our kids at their schools, and then we have an evening work session before going to bed.
Left: Work-in-progress for The Rema Chronicles: Realm Of The Blue Mist. Photo by Amy Kibuishi.
Right: Working on the second Rema Chronicles book and Amulet #9 at Gruene Coffee Haus in Gruene, TX. Photo by: Amy Kibuishi.
How long does it take, on average, to create one of your novels?
Amy: If life doesn’t interrupt, it can take me two to four years to create a graphic novel, depending on the content.
Kazu: I think the two-to-four-year period Amy describes is a reasonable amount of time to work on a graphic novel. Something that I think young authors forget to consider is how much time will be dedicated to talking about the book and sharing it with readers. This can take up more time than creating the material! I started the Amulet series by creating each book in less than a year, but the process took a toll on my health. As an older, wiser author, I make sure to stay healthy so I can continue making books!
Pages of The Rema Chronicles #1: Realm Of The Blue Mist
Amy, you are in the earlier phase of your new series, The Rema Chronicles #1: Realm of the Blue Mist (Scholastic, 2022), which has received positive reviews. What are the challenges and rewards of kicking off a new graphic series?
Amy: I had a long break between series, from 2007 to 2022, so it took me a while to get back into the swing of comics production and public speaking. Aside from that, drawing the book and sharing it with the world has been nothing but a joy. I always wanted to make a book that was healing, that could inspire others to see beauty in the world. I’ve gotten lots of feedback from young readers confirming my hope. What more could I ask for? I have the whole series mapped out to five books, but it could be shorter or longer depending on how it plays out. I’ve been developing The Rema Chronicles since I was twelve, and it’s been my creative playground most of my life. For me, the biggest challenge for these characters I love is making sure the story I write does them justice.
I always wanted to make a book that was healing, that could inspire others to see beauty in the world. I’ve gotten lots of feedback from young readers confirming my hope. What more could I ask for?”
— Amy Kim Kibuishi
Covers from the complete Amulet series
Kazu, you’re in the later phase of the Amulet series, with Amulet #8: Supernova (Scholastic, 2018) positioning fans to eagerly anticipate your upcoming series conclusion. What are the challenges and surprises in sustaining such an intricately woven series?
Kazu: At the start of this project, if someone had told me it would be nine books long, I don’t think I would have had the courage to begin working on it! The story evolved organically and grew to be nine books in length. During this time, there were many surprises, and discovering those surprises in the story has been one of my favorite parts of making the series. The big challenge has been developing new characters and working to bring them to a level of development that allows them to co-exist with familiar characters. Every time I brought in someone new, it meant I had to stop production to draft a lot of material with them, knowing I would have to throw the material away. Accepting that writing is rewriting can be difficult when you are drawing nearly everything that you write.
Could you share some stories about the impact of your books on people?
Amy: I’ve been told by many teachers and librarians that The Rema Chronicles #1 was a child’s first complete book, which is such an honor. Graphic novels are an excellent tool to boost reader confidence and comprehension, a secret they’ve known in Korea and Japan for generations. At a recent event, someone told Kazu and me that our books were being used by her daughter’s child psychiatrist. Amulet was used to discuss how to overcome anxiety, while The Rema Chronicles was used to discuss how to overcome feelings of low self-worth. That was definitely the first time I heard of graphic novels being used in such a way, but it makes sense. The combination of words and pictures is a powerful tool to convey complex ideas.
Graphic novels are an excellent tool to boost reader confidence and comprehension.”
—Amy Kim Kibuishi
Kazu: As for the readers who start reading because of our books, I hear stories about these students during nearly every school visit, and I always love to hear about them. One time, a mother and daughter came to my signing table and became so overwhelmed with emotion when talking about how much the books meant to them that they both began to cry. I could tell that the stories had helped them through a difficult time. I consoled them and talked while I signed. Over the years there have been a few moments like this, and it has changed my perspective about the books I create. What started as a fun hobby turned into something important in many people’s lives. I now take that responsibility seriously.
One time, a mother and daughter came to my signing table and became so overwhelmed with emotion when talking about how much the books meant to them that they both began to cry.”
— Kazu Kibuishi
A young Kazu and Amy at San Diego Comic-Con. Photo by: Eric Wu
Do you collaborate on your book projects?
Amy: Kazu and I talk out story ideas once in a great while, but mostly we admire each other’s work from afar and give each other space to produce it. I would say we are more collaborative on the business side of things than creative. In cases of emergency, we will jump on each other’s books and lend a hand to color pages.
Kazu: Amulet would not be what it is without Amy. Not just because of her love and support through the years, or her help coloring Amulet pages when I need the help, but because her love of stories and myths and life in general has inspired me to take this work quite seriously! I was always the kid that listened to songs just for the sound of them, but Amy taught me to listen to the words.
Pages from the original book proposal for Amulet #1: The Stonekeeper.
What’s the primary way your spouse has inspired or influenced your work?
Amy: I admire so many things about Kazu and his Amulet series, but more than anything I’m inspired by his ability to trust his instincts and see his vision through, even when no one around him understands. He is heroic to me in that sense. He’s also always striving to give the reader what they want even when they don’t know they want it. He has inspired so many with his vision, his work ethic, his generosity, and his dedication to the readers. I am very biased, of course, but in my view, he is one of the most important cartoonists of our time.
Kazu: Because of Amy’s influence, I aspire to make sure the work I do has staying power, because she reminds me that the words and pictures are going to mean a lot to someone out there. Amy puts this high level of care for the reader in everything she writes and draws, and I try to follow her lead.
What’s the best advice you have for the educators and librarians who work with young writers and artists?
Amy: My best advice is to give them space to fall in love with the medium on their own terms. That was really all that was provided to me as a child, and it was all I needed at the time. If it’s meant to be, the artist will make it happen and find a way.
Kazu: I agree with Amy. It’s important to leave the young artist or writer to develop on their own. The best creators are leaders and visionaries, so they should become comfortable enough with their own processes that they do not second guess themselves. Giving them access to tools to create is important, as well as getting access to material that inspires them, but when it comes to the act of creating things, it is best to stay out of their way.
It’s important to leave the young artist or writer to develop on their own … Giving them access to tools to create is important, as well as getting access to material that inspires them, but when it comes to the act of creating things, it is best to stay out of their way.”
— Kazu Kibuishi
What can you tell your fans about your upcoming books?
Amy: The Rema Chronicles #2: The Kingdom of Water (Scholastic) will answer all your questions from Book #1. Book #2 is the story I’ve been working toward for decades, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone at long last.
Kazu: Amulet #9: Waverider (Scholastic, 2024) is the final book in the Amulet series, and it is the longest one. My hope has been to make this book feel large in scope and provide a fitting ending to the journey.
What are the best ways for readers to connect with you or to follow you on social media?
Amy: You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @amykibuishi, or you can find us at http://boltcityproductions.com.
Kazu: You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram @boltcity.
Connect With Amy Kim Kibuishi
Connect With Kazu Kibuishi
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Amy: To young readers, I hope you can find joy in every day. To educators and librarians, thank you for all you do for your communities and for sharing the love of reading!
Kazu: Thank you to all the readers, librarians, teachers, and booksellers for supporting both Amy and me over the years! I hope we can continue to bring joy to classrooms, libraries, and bookstores for many more years to come.