Alberto Hernández’s experimentation with the book readily manifests his passion for visual storytelling, and proves how completely it can captivate the reader. One story that piqued Alberto’s creativity was Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Read how this visceral story was transformed into a “hybrid novel” which uses “playful graphic devices” to help the reader’s engagement of both the book and the story that lies therein.
Can you please tell a little bit about yourself?
Where are you from? What do you do for a living?
I am from Móstoles, a small town in the south of Madrid, Spain, but I am currently living in London where I have just finished my MA in Graphic Design at the London College of Communication. At present, I’m looking for work to gain some experience and learn some new skills before going back to my country, where I want to work in a few months.
When and how did you arrive at the idea of a “hybrid novel”
and are there other practitioners of this medium?
“Hybrid novels” is a project that I carried out while pursuing my MA some months ago. It was my Major Project. The challenge by the tutors was open, and that’s the most difficult part about open briefs: one does not know where to start. The idea of ‘hybrid novels’ came after a long time searching through piles of books, particularly novels. I realized that barely any of them contained imagery. Why is this? My thought was that the older we get, the less able we are to read images and that people generally tend to think that images diminish good writing. Ninety-five percent of the books that I saw did not contain imagery. In addition, in a time in which the tradition of reading physical books is getting more and more lost and the sale of e-books is rapidly increasing, the use of visual devices in books—to encourage us to read them in our own hands and feel the experience, which we cannot feel through the digital world—is increasingly important.
But the use of graphic elements in fiction is not new. We can find some examples of this in pioneering work such as the series of five novels in which Lope de Vega Carpio (16th century) omitted one vowel; Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759) which used hyphens, dashes, and asterisks, blank pages, even entire pages in black to denote a character’s death; James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1922) in which he scrambled the text to create a range of visual effects; William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch (1962) whose reordered text challenged conventional ideas of linear reading and narrative structure; and Georges Perec’s A Void (1969) written without the
Nowadays, we can find quite famous examples of graphics novels such as Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves (2000), Steve Tomasula’s VAS: An Opera in Flatland (2004), Graham Rawle’s Woman’s World (2005), Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2006) and Steven Hall’s The Raw Shark Texts (2007).
What are the narrative ingredients that make a compelling story?
Actually, I do not think there are any clearly defined ingredients that make a story more compelling. But from my point of view, as a graphic designer, page design, typography, binding and materials play a very important role in novels. And I suppose that a story would be more gripping if readers could interfere in the story and get involved in
What storytellers or stories motivate you?
Most of the music I listen to is electronic. Luis Buñuel, Alfred Hitchcock, Tim Burton inspire me and influence my work, and I really love the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Was The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde the first story
that you transformed into a hybrid novel? If so, why?
Yes, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was the first story I remediated, and I hope it is not the last because I enjoyed working on that project so much. What led me to work on this novel, and one of the most important things in R. L. Stevenson’s story, is its narrative technique, presented as a dossier of witness statements, a ‘Case’ evoking the procedures of both legal and medical knowledge and testimony. There are also different overlapping narratives: two of the chapters are written by protagonists and a third is presented as a newspaper report of a crime.
What tools and materials were used to work
on the idea of a “hybrid novel” and make it grow?
I began sketching (above and bottom images) some ideas in my notebook. But those ideas started growing when I began making some actual size prototypes, through which one can see whether the sketched ideas work or not. Lastly, I designed the final pieces by using Adobe InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator. The actual book was printed on a wide range of paper from Bible paper to newsprint paper or glossy paper, which gives the book a more odd feeling and suggests the idea that there are different documents.
What was the most rewarding part of making
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde into a hybrid novel?
The most rewarding part was the research. It took most of my time. Thanks to the research, I learned a lot about the Victorian era in England. I saw a lot of material from this time period, and I visited loads of cool places. Most importantly, I learned how to do good research to inform a project. A special moment was when I borrowed the actual novel of the The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, written 120 years ago and from a private collection. The book was delicate. It was a wonderful feeling to hold the original book in
Was there a part of the work that was particularly trying?
How did you deal with it?
I suppose the most difficult part was producing the final piece because I wanted it well printed, and the finishing had to be perfect. How did I deal with it? By buying three more printers. So imagine my tiny bedroom looking like a copy shop (above image) rather than a place where I actually live. Piles of paper, ink cartridges, rulers and scalpels all over the place, plus four printers. The month before final submission was complete madness.
What is your advice to nurture curiosity and turn it into a project?
People should do whatever they like and work hard to achieve what they want to do—even if it is a high and risky goal. Everything is hard work and more hard work. The harder you work, the better the outcome.
Any future stories you’re pursuing as “hybrid novels”
and will you be making one of your own story?
I have no future plans to remediate other stories unless someone commissioned me to do it, which I would be really happy to do, but for the moment, I think if I remediated a story, it would be mine, one which would take me a while because it is quite long.
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