Today, The Brown Bookshelf brings you Renaissance Man and superhero Dwayne Ferguson, who also goes by the name Hunter Wolf (more on that later). Creator of the Kid Caramel chapter book series from Just Us Books, and much, much more, he’s created artwork for Walt Disney, Sony Music, Warner Bros., Mutant League, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Ghostbusters, Johnson & Johnson, and MacMillian Publishing to name just a few.
His own properties include the comic book series Hamster Vice, and the world’s toughest covert operative Black Zero: Mercenary Ant. He is also a professionally trained voice actor and has done commercials, the voice of Black Zero and yes, there’s more!
He is the CEO of DIEHARD Studio and produces awesomeness for clients and the world. When he isn’t fighting crime (and in the world we live in, that comes to roughly 42 seconds per day) he is creating entertaining and highly informative video tutorials for Virtual Training Company. He has taught classes on Photoshop, After Effects, Lightwave, Painter and more. He even produces a podcast on iTunes called VectorCrush!
Dwayne Ferguson writes technology books, and produces animated films, including the upcoming re-imagining of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. Hunter teams up with television actress Janet Hubert of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air to perform voices for the creepy tale.
This artist/author/animator plus has got a lot going on — as you might guess, there’s more, but I’ll let him tell you the rest himself: readers, here’s Dwayne Ferguson…or is it?
Hunter Wolf. Is that your superhero name? You say that it’s a long story. Can you tell us a bit about how you acquired it?
Yes, indeed I am a superhero but the specifics of all that intel is classified. I can tell you about my latest name, though. lol. The truth behind the name is that I believe parents name the child but the man names himself. I never, not for one day, liked my real name. Dwayne Joseph Ferguson sounds like someone totally not me. Sounds like an accountant or a lawyer. I’m an artist and writer. I needed a way cooler name. For a time, my nickname was “Storm,” in college I was called “Commander,” and now I’m “Hunter.” The wolf part is because they are my favorite animal. Wolves have very intense eyes with a distinct intelligence in them. Hence, Hunter Wolf. Tadaaaaaaa!
Kid Caramel came about because when I was a kid there were pretty much no characters I could pretend to be. Sure, it’s fun reading about Encyclopedia Brown, but could I be him, no. Doesn’t look like me. Even now, when I play role playing games, I prefer the games that let me change the character to look like me. If I’m going to fall into a suspension of belief in an imaginary world, whether through a book or a game, I need to be the character. If I can’t relate, it’s hard to fully partake in that world.
As a kid I loved mysteries, whether fictional or conspiratorial. Things like the Loch Ness Monster, Sasquatch, etc., would fall into the latter category since they are mysteries that may or may not be real. I even traveled to Scotland to search for Nessie long ago. I went to the shore of the loch and put my hand in the water. Imagine if, on that very day, the monster decided it would be a good time to eat someone. Well, that would be fun for the monster…for me, not so much.
As far as inspiration, anything that takes me to a cool place in a book, magazine, or a movie. It can be something as wacky as the movie Big Trouble in Little China, to Aliens, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. I also find tremendous inspiration in artwork. The list of artists I admire is too extensive to list.
What were some of your childhood reading favourites? What kind of reader were you? What kinds of Kid Caramel readers have you met along the way?
My favorite things to read were comic books and, well, practically everything. I read National Geographic, Popular Mechanics, Time, Peter Pan, Disney books, anything and everything with words. I loved Batman and Spider-Man and never liked Superman because he really couldn’t be hurt. To me a character needs realistic vulnerabilities.
To this day I am a rabid reader. My wife knows there’s no way on this planet we can drive by a bookstore. Oh, yes, we are stopping that truck, and I am indeed going in. Nothing stopping that from happening. Ever. Reading is total and complete power because the smarter you are, the more conversations you can partake in with a wide variety of people.
What’s your favourite part of the writing process? What’s the biggest challenge? Do you have a favourite Kid Caramel volume, or one that’s particularly close to your heart for some reason?
The best part of writing is the conceptualizing phase, where you come up with a new world. When you create the characters, define their personalities, etc. The hard part is the actual construction of the story. It is far harder than many people could imagine. Sometimes I have to take an extremely long break from writing because when the ideas don’t flow properly, it can be painful to force it.
Any creative person will tell you, you don’t control the art, it comes from and flows through you. We can’t do it on demand without the art suffering for it. We also need our space and time to zone out, to go into the right side of the brain, and we come out when we come out. This is the thing most non-creative people don’t get about artists and writers. They say we’re weird. To these people, I usually slide a blank sheet of paper in front of them and tell them to create a world. Suddenly they understand. Another victory for the Mighty Hunter.
My favorite Kid Caramel book is all of them. Kinda weird that way. It’s hard to choose one over the others because so much thought and work go into each one.
You run an animation studio, produce videos, teach software courses, have a podcast…Tell us about how you got involved with new media technologies — where did you start? What interested you most? What advice do you have for anyone looking to get started in animated
I love technology. I am a total geek. Computers don’t scare me at all and I’ll tear one open to tinker with the insides in a second and put it back together. To me that’s a good time. I actually got involved in new media the instant clip art became popular. You see, for most of my career, I was an illustrator for clients all over the world. But, once clip art came out, many people suddenly thought it made them instant designers. Why hire an illustrator when you can get your secretary to place some clip art in a poster or invitation. Their results were always horrible beyond words, but the damage had been done to many of my colleagues, who were also illustrators. We quickly transitioned to the computer design industry. I found out that I really enjoyed it. I’ve been in the digital realm ever since.
What are your thoughts regarding digital technology and literature, digital literacy and multiple ways of approaching storytelling and reading? What are you excited about? Is there anything that concerns you?
I’m a major fan of digital tech, especially ebooks, and other media that I can read on a device like my iPhone. I’m massively excited about the new iPad from Apple. To be able to read on that thing will make me verrrry happy. My Hamster Vice graphic novel is already formatted to be red on the iPad and I’m preparing several other books to place on the device in March.
Can you tell us a bit about how you developed your re-imagining of The Tell-Tale Heart? How did you choose the story? What were you able to do in animation to enhance the story experience?
In my re-imagining of the classic Poe tale, I’m making it scarier. I choose the story because it struck me as a work of genius when I read it decades ago. Poe was remarkable and he himself was quite complex and misunderstood, like practically every creative person. I related to him.
Have you found that you’ve faced unique challenges as a Black male in the business? How have you overcome them? What’s your vision for the children’s literature and media industry today?
Great question and I have an answer that may surprise the readers. If you excel at your craft, no matter what it is, people can see past your color. I make sure to be dangerous in whatever I put my mind to. Not okay, not good, not proficient, but dangerous. My mascot is a shark for a good reason. The shark is the top predator in the ocean because of its efficiency his reputation. Competition doesn’t scare me. Competition motivates me.
You are doing a LOT! What do you do for fun? Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I do a lot for one reason: I’ve met too many people who dream and do nothing about it. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, it depends on how you use it that will determine your outcome. You can dream of being a writer one day or that one day can start today, right now. I tell people to stop flapping their gums and get to work on that first book or that piece of artwork.
For fun, I play video games, but only after putting in the hours and time to really keep my A Game going in this industry. You had better get a grip on priorities quickly, if you plan to compete in this or any business. If Final Fantasy comes out and you decide to take a week off to play it, well, let’s just say your clients, school, or boss won’t like that very much. And there are a ton of other creative people in line that they can call and replace you with.
As a child, video games had not existed. I’m 45 years old. lol. But today I like Neverwinter Nights 2, Dragon Age, Fallout 2, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2…man this list is out of control already.
What’s the best advice you’ve gotten as a writer? Tell us a little about the support you’ve gotten along the way.
The best advice I’ve gotten was to never edit your own work. We write it so we can’t see the mistakes someone else would see. As far as support, my mother helped me to publish my first novel long ago. Just Us Books provides tremendous support to me and Wade Hudson, the company president, is like a father. He’s a great man, if you ask me.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers, animators, etc.? What do you wish someone had told you?
My advice is plain and simple for writers: to be a better writer, you read more. You can write all day until the end of time and not get better because you might be writing incorrectly repeatedly. Read more of everything. Expand your knowledge of the world. Watch Discovery Channel, History Channel, read magazines about politics, different cultures, etc. Fiction is based on reality so if you have a limited scope of information, you’ll return that limited vision to your readers. If you’re an animator, practice a ton. I’m far, far from even being a decent animator but I practice and experiment.
What can readers expect from you next?
I am working on a fantasy book called Egyptica: The Sword of Ra (the subtitle might change). It will be in color and will have a ton of 3D artwork in it. Here’s a screenshot of the castle. As you can see, it’s a combination of both Khemetic (Egyptian) and medieval architecture, two of my favorite periods in history. I have no release date on it since it’s very early in it’s production but I’ll update my website when I have more to show. Check me out at Die Hard Studio.
Thank you for having me and take care everyone. Best of luck to you!
Thank you, Hunter! It’s been fascinating, and a real pleasure.