Sunday, March 25, 2001

Interview: Jonathan Abucejo

The Defender of the Faith speaks! The webmaster of the Compleat Bellairs, Jonathan Abucejo, sits down to discuss his vast creation, its history, and his Bellairsian interests.

Q: Were you born in the United States? How would you say your Filipino ancestry has influence who you are today?

A: Yep, I was born and raised near Denver, Colorado, in a small (at the time) town known as Broomfield. When I was 13, we moved to Monroeville, Pennsylvania (about 15 minutes from Pittsburgh), as jobs for my parents were easier to find over there. Our parents raised us Catholic, but sent us to public schools. Growing up Filipino instilled in us (my siblings and I) a sense of deep respect towards our elders, especially our parents, and a strong sense of family.

Q: Would you mind explaining for us briefly the inception of The Compleat Bellairs site?

A: Well, it started off as a college web project, in lieu of a "final paper" for one of my Elementary Education classes at the University of Pittsburgh. From there, it whirl-winded into the behemoth that it is today.

Q: When did you realize that you had a site that was going to be more than a mere college assignment and that you would be maintaining it, what is it, 5 years later?

A: From the tremendous response in the form of fan mail! In fact, it was the large amounts of letters (e-mail and snail-wise) requesting that the URL be shortened and quicker to get to that prompted me to register its own domain name.

Q: Speaking of which, where did the name “The Compleat Bellairs” come from (spelling, etc.)?

A: If I'm not mistaken, there used to be an old documentary dedicated to the Beatles entitled, "The Compleat Beatles". I liked the name, the spelling, and the name recognition. At the time, there were no John Bellairs sites to be found... and "the Compleat Bellairs" seemed to fit.

Q: What were the early days of CB like?

A: Content-wise, great! Look and design... well, it left a lot to be desired. It was one of my first websites, so I really didn't know what I was doing. I still don't--I've got a lot to learn-- but it looks a lot better than its original form!

Q: What type of art and what artists have influenced and inspired you?

A: I like all kinds of styles and artists, from classic to modern, and it's a pretty eclectic mix: Edward Gorey, M.C. Escher, Norman Rockwell, Salvador Dali, Chris Van Allsburg, Wayne Douglas Barlowe, Kit Williams (remember that treasure hunt book, "Masquerade"?), Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Japanese manga & anime, modern comic books... the list goes on and on and on...

Q: We hear of writer’s block. Is there such a thing as web builder’s block, and if so, have you ever experienced it?

A: All the time. That's pretty apparent in the many still unfinished sections in the site. With the Compleat Bellairs, the way it's set up now, it calls for a different look and feel for nearly every page. It's tough trying not to repeat yourself design-wise.

Q: With all the time, effort, and frustration that has undoubtedly gone into building the CB site, how would you say this has effected your appreciation for the works of Bellairs & Strickland?

A: It's taught me to become a better reader, definitely. There would be many fans who would bring up a particular point in one of the Bellairs books, and I'd be like "...hmm. I didn't catch that." Getting other viewpoints on the books, most I wouldn't even fathom unless brought to my attention, is something I find incredibly interesting!

Q: With the rapidly changing face of technology, where do you see The Compleat Bellairs in the next few years?

A: Hopefully, still up! I'd love it to be twice... or THRICE...the size it is now, chock full of great Bellairs-inspired content. I only wish I had more time to devote to everyone's contributions. I'm in the process of getting cloned soon, so that should help immensely.

Q: Any CB projects slated for the near future you wouldn’t mind letting us in on?

A: A section of facts and references with each page headed by a cool, neo-cyber-looking Macromedia Flash animation based on my favorite creepy scenes from the Bellairs books

Q: What has been one of your biggest honors as webmaster of CB?

A: I've two, actually: first, getting in contact with Brad Strickland (and a few years later, meeting him in person!) and second, getting in contact with artist Marilyn Fitschen and receiving art from her! Such an honor on both accounts!

Q: Any other interesting or amusing anecdotes you wouldn’t mind sharing with us about your Bellairs related experience?

A: I can't think of anything amusing off the top of my head, but I have to admit, those initial contacts with Brad Strickland were pretty embarrassing... "Uh, hi... I did a search for your name using Altavista...are you the Brad Strickland, who wrote those um, Bellairs books?"

Q: What kind of response, e-mail or otherwise, do you receive on your site?

A: Tons! I get e-mails from around the world... it's pretty amazing to see the Bellairs influence in far-off places such as Japan! I get quite a number of regular postal letters as well, usually from elementary school children who think I'm John Bellairs. I set them straight...unfortunately, with the sad news of his passing a decade back.

Q: Okay, you’re stranded on a desert island and can only have one Bellairs book with you. Which would you pick? And as far as we know The Compleat Works of John Bellairs has never been published.

A: That's a tough one. I couldn't decide amongst all the spooky adventures, as after a reading of one, I'd go crazy thinking about the continuity of the other stories! So, I'd have to settle on one of his early stand-alone books. I'm probably going to get a lot of boos and hisses on this, but I'd have to pick St. Fidgeta & Other Parodies, because of the combination of wacky illustrations and in-your-face satire. The little vignettes found in the book are stuff I could read over and over without getting bored on that aforementioned desert isle.

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