Continuing on with our interview series with the makers behind Willy and Mathilda’s Houseboat Adventure, I caught up with Michael Torreiter. Michael is the artist, narrator and writer. Here’s what Michael had to say.
Is this the first book you have written? And do you have any other stories you are currently working on?
This is the first book I have written! I am not working on any stories at the moment, but I am considering a series of “Willy and Mathilda” adventure stories.
Willy and Mathilda are based on actual people how did you come to know theses two, and what sparked your imagination to write this story about them?
Willy is my partner of 18 years and Mathilda is a little girl that moved next door around the time that Willy’s nephew died. He was really grieving and I didn’t know how to help. But in came Mathilda! She latched onto Willy in this adorable way, sitting with him, asking him questions and talking talking talking. They both have such great imaginations that the friendship seemed natural. Other kids would come around to ask Mathilda to play and she would say, ‘ho, I’m hanging out with my friend Willy”. You could just see his heart melt! I got to know her too because she was always around. The months went by, and we thought she would soon realize that spending time with two middle-aged men was actually not that fun. But there she was, almost daily, knocking on the door, looking for snacks, drawing pictures, offering to help clean and entertaining us with her stories … sprinkling her fairy dust. I didn’t know how to help Willy but Mathilda sure did!
When we heard that Mathilda was moving away we were both quite sad. I also had a worry that she might forget us in time. I guess I put all of that energy into making something permanent – immortalizing their friendship, if you will!
The story of princess Balapoo came about because Mathilda was in that “Disney princess’ phase and I wanted to show a princess that was non-conventional.
What was your reaction when Kevin came to you about turning your story into a videogame?
I was excited! It seemed like another way of honouring their special friendship. If Willy and Mathilda couldn’t be together in person, they could still have adventures in cyberspace!
In addition to writing and illustrating the narrative, what other areas do you help out with in the game’s development?
I provide some feedback from the perspective of a user – this worked, that didn’t, this part was fun, that part wasn’t.
Did you and Kev face any difficulties when transferring your artwork from paper to digital and animated forms?
It took a couple of tries. As he started animating the figures, he was better able to let me know how he wanted to draw the extra arms and legs. And I’m not a professional, so that probably slowed things down too!
Do you agree that a story can make or break a game? How important do you feel an engaging narrative is for a successful game?
Good question! I don’t have any experience with story-based games so I can’t comment. I haven’t evolved past Tetris and Galaga and some of the videogames from the 80s.
Once the game is finished and it reaches an audience that reaches beyond that of just Mathilda, what do you hope other children will gain from the whimsical experience and story?
Well, the spirit of the book is about friends having adventures just being themselves and that they don’t need guns or Disney princesses to have fun, so I hope that message is received. 🙂
It is inspiring to hear where writers inspiration comes from and to have the opportunity of asking Michael some questions. Willy and Mathilda’s Houseboat Adventure has a beautiful creation story that I just can’t wait to learn more about! Don’t forget to catch our other interviews with Kevin Field and Mathilda herself.