Vlad the Rad

Written and Illustrated by Brigette Barrager

Random House, 2019
Medium: Photoshop

While we were students at CalArts I made Sean a card…I forget why. Birthday? Valentines? It was a gouache painting of Sean riding a skateboard dressed as a vampire. I put it on my blog and forgot about it. Sean never forgot about it: he framed it and hung it up in his office. 

Fast forward many years and I’m trying to figure out what my next book will be. This is harder than it sounds. Everyone thinks they have a great picture book idea until the rubber hits the road and you actually have to figure it all out. 

My agent Kirsten was scanning my old blog to see if there was anything there that might spark a story – and she found the card. “I’ve never seen a vampire that skateboards” she said, “that’s fun!” “That’s just a card I made for Sean a long time ago,” I told her. “I like it!” she said. 

I began hammering away at the story and drawing an aged down, kid version of vampire Sean – and he became Vlad. This story took a few years and iterations before it found its footing, but I was excited to work on a book that was not only written and illustrated by me, but also my own original idea. 

As much as I put Sean into the character (the skateboarding, the SoCal lingo, the spookiness), I also put quite a bit of myself into Vlad  too. I spent a lot of my time at school daydreaming, wishing I was watching cartoons and drawing said cartoons all over my math worksheets. Sean admits to being a terrible student, always goofing off and barely skating by. Vlad is constantly being told that the impulse that he feels to express his creativity is incorrect, and it is up to him to prove that his spooky nature and his favorite activity are one in the same. There’s no reason why he can’t do both!

Working on this book was such a joy. I got to build this wonderful little world inside its pages: a spooky school populated with mythical, ethereal students.  Every student at Miss Fussbucket’s School for Aspiring Spooks has a name, a personality, and a little back story. Even Miss Fussbucket herself is based on my high school French teacher, Miss Rosedale, who could deliver the most withering of glances from across the classroom. 

Perhaps it goes without saying, but Sean is also pretty stoked to have a picture book character based on himself. It makes him feel like sugar frosted lightning bolts.

Want to know even more?

Join my brand new email list, and get the occasional update, from me! There will definitely be pictures, illustrations, stories, sharing of book launches and all around fun and magical things!