Welcome to StephenEmond.com - you've found yourself at the online home of writer and illustrator, Stephen Emond. My credits include HAPPYFACE and WINTER TOWN from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and the EMO BOY series from SLG Publishing. View my archived autobio comic strip LEMONS here, comment on my blog or send me an email to say hello and come back often to get the latest!

Current Project:

Book Three - BRIGHT LIGHTS, DARK NIGHTS, August 2015.

Walter Wilcox has never been in love. That is, until he meets Naomi, and sparks, and clever jokes, fly. But when his cop dad is caught in a racial profiling scandal, Walter and Naomi, who is African American, are called out at school, home, and online. Can their bond (and mutual love of the Foo Fighters) keep them together? With black-and-white illustrations throughout and a heartfelt, humorous voice, Bright Lights, Dark Nights authentically captures just how tough first love can be... and why it's worth fighting for.

Depressing Update!

Posted on Friday, July 29th, 2016

So I am currently at a Barnes & Noble cafe, staring at an empty sketchbook, empty brained, trying not to throw up. I feel sick and tired and empty, empty, empty. Today I got let go from my day job – for the third consecutive job in the past 16 years, a reorganization occurred and my role got cut in the process. The last time this happened was in 2014 and I blogged about it quite a bit for my three months of unemployment. In fact, for an author/illustrator’s website, I blog more about unemployment and day jobs than anything else.

So back in 2014 I was wrapping up BRIGHT LIGHTS, DARK NIGHTS, which comes out in paperback in a couple weeks. The length of unemployment was pretty much exactly how long my severance package lasted, and gave me just enough time to finish up the book, something that could have taken months longer had I not had that opportunity.

This time I’m in between projects. I’ve actually pitched a handful of ideas that haven’t gone anywhere in the past year or two; a Civil War project, a touring band book, a superhero thing, something about weird little creatures and dysfunctional families. Now I have something I’ve been working on since March or so, and it’s weird and it’s dark and I have zero idea if my agent or editor would have any interest in it.

So now I have some time, I guess, in between scrambling for work so I can pay rent and bills and for food and gas, and any semblance of a life. It’s really scary living alone sometimes. And while i wait to hear if the dark and weird project is a go or a no, I’m not sure what to work on. That’s why I am sitting here at Barnes & Noble listening to some creepy ambient thing I found on apple music and trying to focus on anything at all and maybe come up with that hit idea that’ll sky rocket my career so I don’t need to find an insurance job to cover my bills.

I spoke with a psychic two days ago who felt I should do something different than the path I’ve been on (realistic YA books). Should I try a children’s book? A middle grade series? Try to think of a movie idea? A graphic novel? Learn to play the banjo? I have no idea. My friend Cori thinks I should write a novel in a month, and do something simple with little to no research involved. “Highschool romance,” she says, and I could probably do that but the idea doesn’t excite me and I’m still sitting here staring at blank paper. She says I am a slow writer. I figure at least writing this blog is doing something. Maybe the wound of job loss is too fresh right now. Maybe I have abandonment issues and the lack of security is too much for me. Or maybe I’m just really tired, or maybe I don’t feel like writing right now. I really don’t want to do this again. I liked my job just fine, I had a good thing going. It wasn’t exciting and had nothing to do with my interests or creativity but it paid the bills and gave me no stress. Maybe that’s why it was expendable.

Anyway, I guess the takeaway from all this is that Bright Lights, Dark Nights comes out in paperback in like two weeks and I guess go buy it so I don’t starve. I’ll keep thinking of ideas in the meanwhile.

February Update, checking in!

Posted on Saturday, February 27th, 2016

So I’ve been away a while. I always want to keep this blog semi-updated but I’m usually working on pitches when I get the chance to write.

That’s basically been the past year or so for me – pitches. Often with authors you hear about their new project and the next one down the line and they seem to pump out books like a factory. I haven’t been so lucky! While it’s great that I had my 3rd book published last August, truthfully I’ve been spending the last year submitting lots of ideas that my editor and agent haven’t been onboard with. I couldn’t tell you if that’s common in the industry or not, because I’ve never heard anyone ever say they had a pitch rejected, aside from first-time authors who talk about all the rejections before THE ONE that got published.

You tend to think that once you’re in, you’re in, and all that rejection is done with, but for me every book is like the first book, and the process repeats again. After HAPPYFACE came out, I pitched a big sci fi series I worked on for a half a year before thinking of WINTER TOWN. After that book, I spent time working on a story about a band, and a ghost story before arriving at what would become BRIGHT LIGHTS. And since finishing that books, I’ve had a lot of various starts and stops. Last year I spent about 8 months researching the Civil War for a historical fiction idea I had, but ultimately the idea was good but I’m no historian and it was really difficult work for the results I could produce.

It’s tough, ideally I’d put out a book every year, every pitch would get accepted unquestionably and it would publish whether my previous books succeeded or failed but it doesn’t really work that way. In fact, I think each book gets a little bit harder to publish because they can say well, your previous books aren’t setting the charts on fire. Now I have a track record to think about. So I have to continuously try and raise the stakes each pitch.

It’s a heartbreaking process, really. I fall in love with each one of these ideas, with all the characters I create, I start delving into world building and getting into their heads and lives and to spend a few months making this thing with the hopes to bring it to the world only to get cut off and start over, it does get old.

That said I still feel passionate and I’m trying my best. I hope to have something soon and I can be “officially” working on a project but I’ll keep you posted. Anyway, that’s my February 2016 update! I’ve also been sick since New Years, I guess that’s the other update. Sigh.

Hopefully next update will be a good one!


Over The Garden Wall

Posted on Saturday, September 12th, 2015

I got completely obsessed with this cartoon mini-series that came out last year, I didn’t discover it until a month or so ago. It’s really beautiful and some of it ties into things i’ve been working on so it was really inspirational too. I worked on this piece for about a day and a half. Look at the large size to see all the details!



Posted on Sunday, September 6th, 2015

So I started a new Tumblr because the old one was full of my Lemons auto-bio stuff and only haphazardly used since then. I’m gonna post some behind the scenes stuff, lots of art, stuff from my old or abandoned projects, it’ll be fun! Check it out here and add me so good things happen:


Steven Universe

Posted on Saturday, July 25th, 2015

With just a couple weeks to go until the release of BRIGHT LIGHTS, DARK NIGHTS, I have been home the past week as sick as I’ve ever been, coughing and sneezing and trying to sleep. And watching Steven Universe! I figured I’d use the time to do a nice drawing and color it up and everything as long as i was home. What a great show! Hopefully I don’t forever associate it with illness.

Steven Universe

Steven Universe


Posted on Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

Here’s a review roundup for BRIGHT LIGHTS, DARK NIGHTS, so far! It’s out August 11th, we’re less than a month away!

Kirkus – Starred Review

“The pressure experienced by couples from different ethnic backgrounds is realistically intensified for this sweetly likable pair when Walter’s dad arrests a black teen for burglary and is accused of assaulting him, igniting debate and anger in their neighborhood and at large. Most impressive in this emotionally charged novel is the way each of the characters is fully imagined; they emerge as complex individuals who are shaped by a variety of factors and are not portrayed as simple heroes or villains.”

Voya – Starred Review

“This illustrated novel is timely and realistic. Walter’s voice is funny and true, and the banter between him and Naomi is clever and engaging. The depiction of their budding romance is sweet. The illustrations add an interesting layer to the tale. The racial scandal, white cop against black teen, offers a nuanced depiction of a divisive, current issue. The online community is portrayed perfectly, demonstrating how the knee-jerk reactions of angry, anonymous posters have real-world effects. Walter undergoes real change and growth.”

Publisher’s Weekly

“Emond raises difficult questions about racism, crime, and civil rights, without promising or providing easy answers. As in Happyface and Winter Town, illustrations share part of the storytelling weight; Emond’s stark b&w imagery, mostly cityscapes and neighborhood scenes, dovetails with Walter’s interest in comic books and noir films, while underscoring his idea of the city as a “mood ring,” reflecting what one brings to it.”


“Emond’s take on a ripped-from-the-headlines story is decidedly understated and deeply rooted in the characters and
the setting. The fictional East Bridge comes to life in Emond’s gorgeous, inky, noir-infused cityscapes, and the richly imagined inhabitants add verisimilitude to the novel.”

School Library Journal

“The story focuses on Walter trying to reconcile reality with the way he has been raised to see the world and Emond handles it authentically, including making it clear that Walter is just starting to understand the bigger issues like his own privilege.”

Also here’s a look at the cover! This is the first cover I designed myself, so happy with how it came out!


And thanks to Faith Erin Hicks, Michael Buckley, and Mariko Tamaki for the kind words we used on the back!


BRIGHT LIGHTS, DARK NIGHTS – first two reviews!

Posted on Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

We’re just a few months away from the release of BRIGHT LIGHTS, DARK NIGHTS! The first two reviews are in. Booklist gave a positive review:

“Walter Wilcox has always wanted to blend in, especially since his parents split up and he moved to the city with his police officer father. Then Walter meets a cute, funny, black girl named Naomi, he is surprised to find she actually seems to like him back. Walter’s life, and his and relationship with Naomi, becomes complicated when his dad is accused of racial profiling. Officer Wilcox says he was just doing his job, but Walter knows what he hears around the dinner table and that parts of his dad’s story don’t add up. When the couple’s relationship becomes a hot topic online, it might be too much for them to handle. The story focuses on Walter trying to reconcile reality with the way he has been raised to see the world and Emond handles it authentically, including making it clear that Walter is just starting to understand the bigger issues like his own privilege. While Walter and Naomi are well developed, other characters lack dimension, which is unfortunate, given the book’s focus on perception and stereotypes. The author’s illustrations, interspersed with the text, help set the mood, as do references to today’s social media climate. Though similar in topic to Kekla Magoon’s How It Went Down (Holt, 2014), this readalike is more inward-focused, instead of examinging the effects of racial profiling on the greater community.

VERDICT A timely choice that will get teens talking.”

And Kirkus gave it a STARRED review!

“First love, racism, family strife, and the Internet’s culture of anonymous cruelty are some of the many themes explored in this illustrated novel by Happyface (2010) author Emond.

High school senior Walter, who is white, lives with his dad, a cop whose career has nose-dived in the years since he and Walter’s mom divorced and they moved from a middle-class suburb to a working-class neighborhood in the city. Anxious and endearingly awkward, Walter has done his best to fly under the radar with his peers, until he falls hard for his friend’s sister: smart, witty, harp-playing Naomi, who is black. The pressure experienced by couples from different ethnic backgrounds is realistically intensified for this sweetly likable pair when Walter’s dad arrests a black teen for burglary and is accused of assaulting him, igniting debate and anger in their neighborhood and at large. Most impressive in this emotionally charged novel is the way each of the characters is fully imagined; they emerge as complex individuals who are shaped by a variety of factors and are not portrayed as simple heroes or villains.

There are no easy answers to the issues at play in this story, and fittingly, there is much that is left open-ended. Readers will be left with plenty on their minds and in their hearts.”


Posted on Saturday, February 7th, 2015

Been working on my art in between projects. Some day I’ll get back to doing something in comics!


Bright Lights Cover Blog, part 3

Posted on Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

My editor, designer and myself all liked the fire escape cover, but thought there was a charm in the heart-shape cover that was worth exploring. Worst case, it didn’t work out, best case, it had an iconic look to it and could be the best cover yet. So I set off to re-do the art.

The design was good from the start but I wanted to give it more effort since the first time I did it, it was just a for-fun piece to set tone. Decided to bring more detail to Naomi’s face first. Much like with the pair on the other covers, I drew them many times trying to get something good, and it did take a while!


And I again tried a lot of different options for the design, including a traditionally done painting, which was ill-advised.


Eventually we had something we all decided was the best, and that cover is floating around now, although I’ve done some tweaking since, including warming the colors, lighting Naomi a little better, and making the BG inks a dark brown to help push Walter and Naomi forward a bit.

A couple months of work, and we have our cover to BRIGHT LIGHTS, DARK NIGHTS!


Bright Lights Cover Blog, part 2

Posted on Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

So after going through all the various sketches I did in varying stages of completion, my editor and designer and I settled on 3 to fluff out with a little more detail. They were:
Pitch A, Naomi and Walter standing on a rooftop overlooking the city. The dark night above them, the bright lights below.
Pitch B, Walter and Naomi embraced on the fire escape. It has the city vibe I was clearly hooked on while also showcasing the characters. We also toyed with the idea of having cast members in windows of buildings but it was distracting and the windows were too small.
Pitch C, Walter and Naomi under the bright street light by themselves, while the busy world hustles on around them.
Pitch C was knocked out of contention early on while the other two went through a plethora of alterations. One thing I learned doing this was every little tiny thing could be changed and throw off the whole look of the cover. There were so many options, would it look better brighter, more saturated? Should there be more windows, more buildings? How much space should the logo take up? How much space should Walter and Naomi take up? Is that a good pose for them? It became really easy to lose myself in modifications, a little change here, a change there. My editor would ask me for one thing and I’d make 17 adjustments before sending it back. It was easy to get lost.
And there was the logo. I had the image of a hand-scrawled logo early on but I tried a ton of different logos to see if anything else really jumped out or captured the tone of the book better. Even the hand-written logo was done over and over and over to find just the right look.
Here’s the rooftop cover with a variety of logos. I also was thinking it could look like a poster or old pulp novel cover too at some point, hence the frayed edges.
And an example of the kinds of tweaking I would do – should it be cell-shaded coloring? Painted? Warm? Cool? Are the lights bright enough? Too bright?
And then I tried varying color methods, more comic book-style, heavily inked and noirish, etc. Each of the covers went through quite a few different looks.
Of course, ultimately we didn’t go with any of those. I’d included the heart-shape cover in the bonus materials and my editor and designer thought it had a real charm to it. And so I set out to make the final cover, which I’ll write about in my next blog.