Shawn Brook Williams has always loved comics, and he can now officially call himself a cartoonist.
He self-published his first graphic novel Five Pounds & Screaming and received his first copies of the book just last week.
“The story is about as semiautobiographical as you could get,” Williams said.
Written for his daughter, Briar, it follows a young couple and their struggles with not only with wanting to have a child but with each other.
“I was really inspired when I was going to become a father – the anticipation of it,” he said. “I thought it was a really neat time.”
Williams, of Iola, had always wanted to be a cartoonist, but up until the approach of fatherhood, he did not know what the topic of his cartoons would be or how he could justify spending so much time working on such a project.
“Three months into her pregnancy, I started to write it. I just didn’t think there was a lot of documentation out there, and I didn’t see books from a father’s perspective,” he said.
The book tells the story of Ben and Eliza, beginning with a negative pregnancy test and each of their reactions to it.
Soon, there is a positive pregnancy test, morning sickness and the sharing of their news with family.
That is followed by a baby shower, Lamaze class and doctor appointments as they prepare for their first child.
Of course, Williams’ book includes the birth and as they leave the hospital, Ben’s question, “There is no test? We can just go?”
The new parents deal with a crying infant and with their own desires to have some time to themselves.
“Most of it is the first couple weeks when they come home. Then, there is a flashback to a birthday when she’s 1,” Williams said.
He did all of the drawings in hand – first in pencil and then in ink – working from home. “I did a lot of drawing during Packers’ games,” he said.
Williams is a New London native who studied graphic design at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He is a graphic designer for Comics Buyer’s Guide magazine and other periodicals, books and electronic media for F + W Media. He is also the illustrator and co-creator of the comic strips “Simple Pleasures” and “Supe & Indy.”
Most of the writing for Five Pounds & Screaming took place about seven years ago.
“I outlined things I thought were really important,” Williams said. “I kept snippets of dialog and whittled it down to become the story.”
When asked about the title of his 142-page book, he said of his daughter, Briar, “She was 5 pounds, and there was a lot of screaming.”
Briar, who just turned 7 on July 10, says it is fun to have a book written about her. The artwork in the front and back of the book was done by her.
Williams said he never really stopped working on the graphic novel, but with a full-time job and being a father, he did not always have the time nor the energy to work on it.
“I got really serious about two years ago,” he said.
He decided to figure out how long it would take him to complete the project if he inked two pages per week. His estimate was April 2011.
Williams kept the schedule and by the time it was Briar’s birthday, the book was in a done state.
He was able to include his family in his work – changing their names, of course. “My grandfather died when we had just learned she was pregnant, so there is a little scene about that. It meant a lot to my dad,” he said.
The book also includes a number of heartfelt conversations between the husband and wife, such as their doubts about being parents. “I wanted to share it,” he said, “because I thought people could relate to it.”
Williams’ work at F + W in Iola gave him a sense of what it takes to publish something. As a self-publisher, he did all the design work on his book.
The book is for sale on his website at www.shawnbrookwilliams.com and on Amazon. It is $15.
Williams sees how his art improved over the course of his work on the book. He has lots of ideas for other projects and says they will likely be more fiction.
“I’ve wanted to share this story for a long time,” Williams said of Five Pounds & Screaming. “I’m very proud of it. I can’t wait for other people to see it. Briar has seen me working at my desk, and it’s for her to read now and in the future.”