It’s still pretty wild to me that Lost Time is about to be its own book, releasing this year in October. The book itself I’ve been working on for about 2-3 years, but honestly the concept itself was born in 2017… making it almost 7 years old at this point (geez!!). This story has probably gone through more versions than I can even remember, and as my first story at my side as I stumbled through publishing, its helped me learn and grow in so many different ways. I’m incredibly happy with the final result, and I can’t wait to hold the book in my hands–but it’s always fun to see the process from how I started to the end, especially for such a technically long time this has been knocking around in my brain! So I thought I’d make a little post here detailing parts of that process:
How it Began
So, maybe in a corny way, a lot of my concepts start in some way with dreams. But usually not, like, the actual dream content–save for maybe an element or two–but more like the vibe. Sometimes a dream just leaves me with such a cool feeling, I set out to recapture it with a story or a drawing. The final result is usually nothing like it, but it’s the starting point! This was sort of the case for Lost Time, though I couldn’t tell you what the dream even was now. I just remember shortly after having it, I drew the very first concept, which included proto-Evie holding a little clock sceptre, which was an element of the dream. And then I gave her a giant pterosaur buddy, naturally.
This is it! The start of Lost Time. At this point it was just a fun idea with some characters to play with, and I had a lot of fun doodling them more and more…
As always, a story began to develop as I drew the characters more. At this point they had their names–Evie and Ada–but the story itself was much different than what I would end up with. It involved a world where humans were living in little colonies in different pockets of time, and Evie was born and raised in the late Cretaceous. This idea was still very loose, and heavily inspired by the Dinotopia books I would pour over as a kid. It also maybe drew from the show Terra Nova (if… anyone even remembers that one), which had a similar premise of living in the past. I ran into a lot of problems with this concept, though–mainly I just didn’t know what direction to take it. I felt it was starting to become too complicated for what I really wanted, which was building the relationship between Evie and Ada, ala How to Train Your Dragon. I remember there were versions of this plot involving the meteor and other human characters, but it just wasn’t working for me. So, I honestly almost shelved the project, but then my partner suggested just taking all of that out and bringing the focus back to just Evie and Ada.
With that, then, came a much more familiar version of Lost Time. I cut out the stuff I was struggling with and focused on Evie and Ada, and I believe here was where the shift went from Evie being born in the Cretaceous, to she was accidentally trapped there. There was still some differences between this version and the final. Evie was originally going to be older, around 17-18, as you can see in the concept art. Ada’s design was also pretty different before I settled on the very shapely crest that made her easier to draw. There were a lot of different details at this point–Evie wasn’t trying to find her parents, just more humans, and I remember still flip-flopping on how exactly she came to have Ada by her side. But at this point I had enough to work with, and this was when I began putting together a pitch for it, after I drawing up some concept pages:
(These pages were actually slightly edited to fit some design changes that happened in the pitching process, but I’ll explain more of that later.)
It’s really funny looking at these early pages and seeing just how much Lost Time changed even from this point. Here, I was using completely different art programs, and a different style than what I ended up going with. This one still had a more realistic feel to it, which was cool, but I ended up skewing a bit more toonier for the final: one, because it was a middle grade book, and two, because it’s way more fun for me to draw that way.
Pitching the Story
I first pitched Lost Time to a publisher I found online that had open submissions, and I was shocked when an editor there reached back, interested in the story. For a few months I waited to hear more from this development, but when they came back the editor informed me they just couldn’t fit it into the publisher’s schedule, and so it was dropped before I signed anything. That was devastating, at the time. But it showed my first glimpse of promise for the story. Looking back on it, I’m grateful it happened since it led me to try harder and get better opportunities.
I ended up shopping Lost Time around for agents after that, and kept hitting snags–the biggest being that I described the comic as “slow-paced”, which probably wasn’t the greatest way to market something if it involves dinosaurs (even though, Lost Time was meant to be “slow” compared to most action-y in-your-face dinosaur media at the time). After a long slew of rejections, I ended up being contacted by Jen Azantian, who was super interested in Lost Time–she actually loved the idea that it was slower and involved a very small cast. So I signed with her.
Lost Time still needed some help after that, though, especially to fit into the publishing market (shudder). Mainly, I had to age Evie down to fit the middle grade age range, which was a bit of a struggle for me since I was so attached to the Evie design I had been using for years. Eventually, though, I got her down to a design I liked in the proper age range, and here was where the real style of Lost Time began to develop.
I was still struggling a little with Ada’s design, and getting her crest to look nice while also being just easier for me to draw, considering I’d have to be drawing her a lot in the comic.
(In the end I ended up with going with a different design than even these ones during the comic, go figure.)
After Jen took me in she began pitching Lost Time to publishers, and it was met with a lot of the same apprehension I got when pitching to agents: it was slow, and its cast was very small (only one human!). After I shifted focus of the comic to be about just Evie and Ada, the story became a much more internal one, and personal to some degree. It became about loneliness, and the struggle to survive it–sure, Evie can outlast in a world filled with dangerous environments and dinosaurs, but it’s the loneliness that’s hard to get through. This was something that meant a lot to me, in a lot of ways, and not something I wanted to change. It would make no sense for Evie to have other characters present to talk to.
The Final Book
After another slew of rejections, Lost Time finally fell into the hands of Chris Hernandez, from Peguin Razorbill, and like Jen, he really liked the premise as is. After all that time–years, at this point!–of working and pitching this story, it was such a wonderful relief that it finally found a home. It was overwhelming for me, honestly. At this point there were so many iterations of the story, I honestly couldn’t even keep track. Thankfully Chris only wanted a few little changes–the big one being showing off Ada as a baby, so you can thank him for the lovely little Muppet baby she is in the comic.
I was happy to sign with Razorbill, and the rest is history (I mean, aside from the 2-3 years it took me to finish the comic). It felt surreal, and still is–that a book, a comic, that I made is going to be published and on book store shelves. Although I’ve been self-publishing for years, and I have some of my printed books in stores, it’s obviously never to this scale. It’s both terrifying and exciting to have my work out there in this way, and as I write this I still can’t wait to hold the actual books in my hand.
Of course, right after I signed Lost Time, 2020 hit, and that slowed down the process considerably… that was a very rough, strange year, and a lot of those feelings I would end of channelling into the comic as I worked on it. A story about loneliness took on a whole new meaning after the pandemic.
I also ended up enlisting my fiance, Winter, to do the inks, because I knew there was no way I was going to finish this comic in a good amount of time without some help. We’ve worked together on plenty of comics in the past, and at this point it’s almost weird for any of us to work on a comic alone, so this was pretty much inevitable. They knocked it out of the park, though, providing a really clean but just sketchy enough style for Lost Time that was a perfect fit. This book 100% wouldn’t have been possible without their help! With the inks off my shoulders I could really go in and make the sketches and colours shine.
I’m quite proud of the work for this comic, and I’m so excited to see it in print and on shelves in stores. I remember ever since I was young, whenever I’d see a book section in any store, I’d dream about having one my books there. So, in a lot of corny ways, this book is a dream come true.
Addendum: Why Quetzalcoatlus?
You might be wondering, why specifically does Evie have a Quetzalcoatlus companion? I mean, other than the fact that it’s a really cool animal (A giraffe sized reptile that can fly? Hello?). In a way it was a love letter to my childhood, because I had a major fascination with Quetzalcoatlus as a kid. I remember the museum I would frequent, the Royal Tyrrell, used to have a model hanging overhead, and I was enthralled with it. I always had a love of things that could fly, and Quetzalcoatlus being basically the largest thing to fly ever was all little me could ever want.
I even had a little Quetzalcoatlus toy that I adored, and looking at it again I realize I probably based much of Ada’s design on it.
(Image not mine, from eBay)
(Side note —Funny enough, a lot of the dinosaurs in Lost Time I designed to in a way resemble dinosaur toys—not specific ones, just the general vibe, with the designs and colours. Accuracy in dinosaurs is important to me, but I also wanted the dinos in Lost Time to spark imagination, with more striking colours and designs that kids can see and understand are dinosaurs, but maybe not the kind of dinosaurs they’re typically used to.)
As I mentioned, Ada also takes inspiration from Dinotopia by James Gurney, particularly with the Skybax. Every time I’d crack open my Dinotopia books I would lovingly look at all the art related to the Skybax, and dream about riding one. I’m so happy I got to have Evie live my dream in Lost Time.
(I guess having a dark stripe on your giant pterosaur was ingrained in me, both with the toy and the skybax, huh?)
I adored dinosaurs a lot as a kid, but I lost interest in it for a good while. It was only recently when I fell back into learning about dinosaurs and palaeofauna again, that I was delighted to see just how much the understanding of my beloved Quetzalcoatlus had changed. Gone were the days where pterosaurs were thought of as inferior and sluggish, having to throw themselves off of cliffs to even get airborne. Now, as far as we know, they were active hunters, able to take off in a completely unique way to anything living today, no cliffs required! My love for it and all giant pterosaurs only grew, and so I wanted to channel that for this story. It warms my heart to see that as I was working on Lost Time that even popular media was highlighting the giant Azhdarchid, as they should: both Jurassic World and the wonderful Prehistoric Planet involved them in their more updated look.
I’ll say the more the merrier, when it comes to love for these creatures. They’re so absolutely unique, and have been overshadowed by their dino cousins for so long! I hope I can capture kids’s imaginations enough with Ada to have them fall in love with big weird pterosaurs as much as I did when I was little.