Area rancher releases graphic novel
Merritt-area rancher David Longworth can add “published author” to his resume after two decades and several setbacks on production of USNA: The United States of North America.
USNA follows a group of rebels rising in the foothills of the Rockies against the paramilitary regime that’s taken over North America and is fighting for control of South America. Longworth said the idea for the dystopian story was partially inspired by his upbringing close to the U.S. border.
“As a kid, [the U.S.] was always just a playground,” he said. “You went somewhere that was kind of exotic, things were cheaper, and there was more of them. Then, as you get older, you realize, as [Pierre] Trudeau said, you’re in bed with an elephant. It may not bother you, but you feel every twitch and movement. There’s always been that ‘What if?’”
That Trudeau quote opens the novel’s foreword by Calgary-based novelist and recent Scotiabank Giller Prize recipient Will Ferguson and sets the stage for gritty, conspiratorial action.
Longworth originally penned the story as a screenplay with writing partner Allan Stanleigh about 20 years ago, and the pair decided to change its format a decade later after hitting dead ends in the film world.
“We shopped it around and it got auctioned a time or two, but it was either too big or a little too much of a hot potato,” Longworth said of the story’s potential as a film.
“Then graphic novels started to get very popular, and I thought it would make a good graphic novel. It’s just a great Canadian adventure story.”
Longworth and Stanleigh brought friend and comic book enthusiast Harry Kalensky on board to help adapt the screenplay to a graphic novel.
The three then hired an illustrator, who completed about half of the novel before discontinuing the project.
“You look like you’re going somewhere, and then you’re dead in the water,” Longworth said, “but our supporters have been with us all the way through for the last 10 years.”
The group found its final illustrator in Alberta artist Dave Casey, but the project had new setbacks in store for them. During the illustration phase, Casey was accepted into a Masters of Fine Art program in New York.
“It’s been a cross-continental communication for him to keep up with his studies and also finish the novel,” Longworth said.
Though it’s been a long road, Longworth said it’s been worth it.
“It’s quite an incredible feeling to hold the thing in your hand and go, ‘We’re done,’” he said. “It’s about believing you have something that’s worth putting out there.”
Longworth said he has other screenplays he’d like to develop before tackling a combined sequel/prequel to USNA.
The 212-page novel is available on Amazon.com and iTunes, and will be launching in Merritt at Country Bug Books and Gifts on Friday at 11 a.m.