Karly West Discusses Her Graphic Novel Series, The Scholarly Banana

An interview with Karly West
The Children’s Book Review

Karly West Takes Graphic Novels to Another Level

A self-admitted folklore enthusiast with a background in education and art, author Karly West has embraced her “irreverent nerdiness” to create a one-of-a-kind graphic novel series for teens and young adults entitled The Scholarly Banana.  This Cleveland native went from being a local cake decorator to owning her own sculpture business to sculpting figurines for her own books all within the span of 12 years.  She embodies strength and grit as she works hard to navigate this wonderful career of writing and illustrating.

Dr. Anna Iacovetta: The Scholarly Banana is a sculptural, graphic novel series that gives a unique twist to the fairy tales we know and love.  How did you come up with this idea?

Karly West: Several years ago, I realized there were not any new takes on fairy tales for young adults.  I was looking for something that covered the traditional, uncensored fairy tales, but in a more playful, easy-to-read format with pictures. After years of searching, I realized that I was the perfect person to bring the concept to life!  The Scholarly Banana series is geared toward teens and young adults that retells old, gruesome fairy tales and “tricks” you into learning fun facts about them.

The illustrations of your miniature sculptures are simply amazing. What inspired you to get into sculpting?

It was when I worked as a cake decorator back in 2010 that I realized I had a knack for fondant and fell in love with sculpture. I owe a lot of my speed, professionalism, and organizational skills to my experience there.  The only problem was, the bakery didn’t get many orders for fondant cakes or toppers. Since I didn’t get to sculpt much at work, I started a sculpture business called “The Republic of Cute,” and specialized in creative wedding cake toppers and quirky character figurines that I sold on Etsy.

Your books are far from ordinary.  How does your book-making process look?

After choosing a story, I bounce between drafting the retelling, organizing the research, and conceptualizing the art. I like to build my characters and sets early in the process because it helps me visualize the story and get better ideas along the way.  There are many rounds of drafting and sketching until the flow is solid enough to start photo drafts. At that point, I arrange my sculptures on a small set and photograph each scene page-by-page. To finish, I retouch and hand color every image in Photoshop and then link those files to an InDesign document, where my text lives.  Amazingly, it all works out! 

What is it about your book that stands out against other retellings of fairy tales and graphic novels? 

The Scholarly Banana takes old, uncensored fairy tales and collegiate-level research and presents them in a playful, artistic way. Typically, fairy tale books are either research-forward for adults or simple entertainment for younger readers.  I designed The Scholarly Banana to be the best of both worlds and introduce adolescents, young adults, and general audiences to the magical world of folklore studies.

What would you like teens and young adults to take away from The Scholarly Banana?

1.  Folklore studies are awesome. 

2.  Critical thinking comes in many flavors—like Banana! 

3.  Dare to be yourself. It’s more fun that way. 

What do you like more – writing or illustrating?   

It all depends on the day.  I like being able to switch tasks when I get stuck or fatigued., but I genuinely love both. Plus, I get my best ideas as I go back and forth! 

Favorite children’s book? 

I Had Trouble in Getting To Solla Sollew by Dr. Seuss 

What is next for you? 

I’m working on The Scholarly Banana’s fourth book, Rapunzel! In other news, I’m trying hard to reach more readers. As a one-woman operation, getting seen has been my biggest challenge. But for Banana’s sake, I’m determined to overcome it!

About The Scholarly Banana Series

The Scholarly Banana Presents Fitcher's Bird

Written and Illustrated by Karly West

Ages 13+ | 116 pages

Publisher: Semper Ridiculum | ISBN: 9781733850919

Publisher’s Synopsis: Murderous wizard. Forbidden door. Final girl.  

This action-packed Grimm tale is delightfully bizarre. I’m not sure if this tale is supposed to be funny…but it is.

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The Scholarly Banana Presents The Juniper Tree

Written and Illustrated by Karly West

Ages 13+ | 134 pages

Publisher: Semper Ridiculum | ISBN: 9781733850926

Publisher’s Synopsis: Insane stepmother. Human stew. Magical bird.

This wicked stepmother is frequently dubbed the evilest villain in fairy tale history! She’s also the craftiest. Literally. She fabricates her murdered stepson into a lawn ornament then cooks him in a stew!

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The Scholarly Banana Presents Little Red Riding Hood

Written and Illustrated by Karly West

Ages 13+ | 138 pages

Publisher: Semper Ridiculum | ISBN: 9781733850940

Publisher’s Synopsis: Hairy “grandmothers.” Questionable activities. Uncomfortable life lessons.

Why you’ll love Little Red Riding Hood: This Scholarly installment features THREE keystone versions of Little Red Riding Hood: “Little Red Cap” (the Brothers Grimm), “Le Petit Chaperon Rouge” (Charles Perrault), and “The Story of Grandmother” (oral folktale). From back-alley operations to cringeworthy stripteases, to cannibalism and bathroom humor, this trio of tales will traumatize your inner child (but, like, in a good way)!

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Karly West Author Headshot

About the Author

Karly West is an author and artist from Cleveland, Ohio, who loves old fairy tales and over-analyzing stuff. Inspired by the dreamy look of stop motion animation, she creates The Scholarly Banana’s illustrations with handmade figurines and photography. In her spare time, she loves to spend time with her husband, Ben, and their Boston Terrier, Luna.

For more information, visit https://www.thescholarlybanana.com/.

This interview—Karly West Discusses Her Graphic Novel, The Scholarly Banana—was conducted between Karly West and Anna Iacovetta, Ph.D.. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Brothers Grimm, Fractured Fairy Tales, and Graphic Novels.

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February 17, 2022 at 01:17PM Anna Iacovetta, Ph.D.