In Bloom, writer Kevin Panetta and artist Savanna Ganucheau, young romance and baking collide to form a very strong graphic novel debut through First Second Books.
The book stars Ari, who’s desperate to move to the big city to play in a band with his friends. The only problem is that he’s obligated to work in the family bakery, even though his spark for baking was lost long ago. To make his dreams come true he finds his replacement in Hector, who’s passionate about baking. Over time, Ari and Hector become close over batches of bread and soon a romance blooms (pardon the pun) between them.
I had a chat with Savanna Ganucheau about baking, her creative process, what it was like illustrating the book when she was on the other side of the world from her collaborator, and much more.
HTLC: You illustrated Bloom when you were living in Melbourne, Australia. With your collaborator Kevin living in Washington DC, what was it like collaborating with someone on the other side of the world?
Savanna: The time difference actually worked out, I wake up pretty early and Kevin is up late so it ended up fine for the most part. Although, when I was getting thumbs approved I had to wake up at 4 am to have a meeting with Kevin and our editor Calista Brill. Luckily it wasn’t too formal and I was able to run through the thumbs in my pyjamas, haha.
HTLC: One of the first things that I noticed in Bloom was how lived-in and warm the environments feel. What was your approach when it came to designing these locales, whether it be Ari’s backyard or the wider surroundings of the town?
Savanna: Giving East Beach a strong sense of place was actually one of my main goals when it came to the art of Bloom, so I’m happy it came across. I actually made a map of the town for myself, and did preliminary location designs for most of the rooms and outdoor locations, and made sure to thoroughly set-dress them. I wanted them to feel like real spaces the reader could imagine stepping foot in.
HTLC: From a storytelling perspective, romance is something that’s often best expressed nonverbally for readers to believe the connection. Was this something you were conscious about when illustrating moments between Ari and Hector?
Savanna: For sure! Ari and Hector both have things they’re thinking about, and things they aren’t saying in the dialogue so I think that is always important to keep in mind when you’re illustrating two characters who eventually fall in love.
HTLC: Bloom has a diverse cast of characters, from a variety of backgrounds. How do you make sure that each character has their own touch of personality, even if they’re just a supporting character?
Savanna: I have to say Kevin and I work really well together on this front. Kevin is so good at looking at a character sketch and deciding what their personality will be like. I think, like most things in the narrative, making sure you have a real life example not only adds originality but it gives you a jumping off point to add more details that make them realistic.
HTLC: In the back of Bloom it’s mentioned that you and Kevin baked all of the food that’s featured in the book. How did this help inform your work and what does baking mean to you?
Savanna: I unfortunately did not get to bake everything, but Kevin definitely did. I mostly looked up references on youtube. I really wanted to get a feel of the day to day in a bakery, so I looked up a lot of videos of people just going through the motions at their job. I’m actually not great at baking although I love to bake. I’m much better at cooking where the measurements aren’t so restrictive haha.
HTLC: So, what’s next for you?
Savanna: Well I’m working on a number of projects at the moment, all in very early stages. One by myself and two with collaborators. Kevin and I will definitely work together again. So, please look out for that!
HTLC: Finally, what other graphic novels can you recommend to someone who enjoys Bloom?
Savanna: I really loved Prince and the Dressmaker, and I think anyone will enjoy that book! Also, This One Summer was a huge inspiration for me when working on this book.