Ross Harris in conversation

The Kugels are a Klezmer group that features two former NZSO members, one Kiwi Jazz maestro, a fabulous vocalist and the New Zealand classical composer and Arts laureate Ross Harris. The members are Anna Gawn – vocals, Ross Harris – accordion, Robin Perks – violin, Debbie Rawson – clarinets xaphoon, and Nick Tipping – bass

The tunes they play include new compositions from both Robin Perks and Ross Harris as well as a selection of more traditional tunes. We were thrilled when Ross Harris agreed to be interviewed about The Kugels to tie in with the release of their second evocative CD The kugels at Breaker Bay and to tell us all about Klezmer; its history and its place in the contemporary music scene. The interview was done in conjunction with the Caffeine and Aspirin arts and entertainment review show on Radioactive FM.

Both Kugels CDs are available to borrow from the library along with a wide selection of Ross Harris compositions.

The Kugels at Breaker Bay. / Kugels
“This is the second release from the Wellington based Kugels the five-piece outfit which specialises in Klezmer and features some of New Zealand’ s finest classical musicians in their line-up. For a long time, they have been a bit of a hidden gem in the NZ music scene, but that changed recently when they did a sofa session with Bryan Crump. This latest release really shows how good they are, and includes emotive and atmospheric renditions of both traditional and original Klezmer pieces composed by arts laureate, and renown classical composer, Ross Harris.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Kugels play Klezmer by Ross Harris. / Kugels
“Ross Harris – The Kugels play Klezmer. … Melancholic, lyrical, delicate and beautiful , the music is played with grace and finesse by the Kugels who are the Wellington based quartet to which Ross Harris  belongs….” (Adapted from Catalogue)

 

 

Symphony no. 5 ; Violin concerto / Harris, Ross
“Ross Harris’s Symphony No.5 uses as its core poems by Panni Palasti.  The moving poems in the piece are based on the personal experiences of the poet during World War Two and the subsequent Hungarian Revolution. The work creates complex orchestral movements around these poems. This particular recording has conductor Eckehard Steir steering the orchestra and he judges well the balance between the moments of ferocity and the work’s sonic ebb and flow.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Free Radicals / Free Radicals (Musical group)
“Wellington based Free Radicals :-Ross Harris and Jonathan Besser were active in the early 80s, described by one reviewer as ‘Eno meets industrial punk meets Stockhausen’. This compilation of archival recordings show the full range, scope and ambition of the pioneering outfit.” (adapted from Catalogue.)

 

Requiem for the fallen / Harris, Ross
“Requiem for the fallen honours the memory of soldiers who died in the First World War. Poetry by Vincent O’Sullivan is woven through the Latin of the Requiem Mass and carries many homespun New Zealand references. Horomona Horo’s taonga pūoro improvisations add a haunting beauty that could only be from Aotearoa.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

 

Our exclusive author interview: John Summers on his latest book The Commercial Hotel

New Zealand writer and essayist John Summers has just published his latest work The Commercial Hotel.  John’s clever and often humorous book is part reportage, part memoir and is a meditation on his life and personal interests. Whilst the areas the book covers include John’s past, wider interests and obsessions, in doing so it also speaks to the reader about a wider story, about a side of New Zealand that is fast vanishing.

The book has a strangely modern, haunting quality to it. The Commercial Hotel in part achieves this by looking at some of the less celebrated and explored aspects of New Zealand’s recent past, especially in the more provincial areas of the country. By looking at things such as New Zealand Elvis impersonators, freezing works, night trains, hotel pubs and landfills he gets behind the surface of these things to reveal something deeper about life and death in New Zealand.

We recently had the pleasure of interviewing John about The Commercial Hotel in conjunction with the Caffeine and Aspirin arts and entertainment review show on Radioactive FM.

Click below to hear the interview:


The Commercial Hotel / Summers, John
Combining reportage and memoir, The Commercial Hotel is a sharp-eyed, poignant yet often hilarious tour of Aotearoa: a place in which Arcoroc mugs and dog-eared political biographies are as much a part of the scenery as the hills we tramp through ill-equipped. We encounter Elvis impersonators, the eccentric French horn player and adventurer Bernard Shapiro, Norman Kirk balancing timber on his handlebars while cycling to his building site, and Summers’s grandmother: the only woman imprisoned in New Zealand for protesting World War Two. And we meet the ghosts who haunt our loneliest spaces.” (Publisher information) 

The mermaid boy / Summers, John
“From Christchurch to China, from mattress manufacture to Burmese medicine, these true stories explore one man’s experience with the exotic and the mundane. Witty, perceptive, and often surprising, The Mermaid Boy introduces striking new ways to write about love, travel, and home.” (Publisher information) 

Free Radicals: An interview with Ross Harris

Free Radicals were a Wellington-based art music duo active in the early 80s, described by one reviewer as ‘Eno meets industrial punk meets Stockhausen’.

“The music of Free Radicals still, years later, sounds like no other, two experimental classical composers using technology developed primarily for pop music.” – Elizabeth Kerr

Free Radicals is one of four inaugural releases to mark the launch of a new Rattle Records imprint, Rattle Echo. This new label will present New Zealand art-music recordings from the past that have either never been commercially released or made available digitally, or that simply deserve to be more widely known.

Free Radicals were a Wellington-based art music ensemble that offered an outlet for the creative musical sensibilities of Ross Harris and Jonathan Besser in the early 80s. Ross and Jonathan recorded their music together in the electronic music studio at Victoria University of Wellington, which was established and run by Douglas Lilburn. It was a room fitted out with multi-track tape recorders, filters, ring modulators, and a classic reverberation plate mounted in one of the walls. Their initial recordings involved basic sound transforming techniques, such as speed changes, pitch shifts, cutting and splicing tape, and feeding sounds through various effects. They sought to create sounds that were of New Zealand by incorporating and manipulating environmental sounds into their recordings, but they also worked with voltage-controlled synthesizers such as the Putney VCS3 and 2 Synthi A.

In previous years, such machines were clock-synced, but in 1983 a new industry standard called MIDI appeared on the scene, which enabled a sophisticated connection and control of audio technologies that is still in use today. Machines such as the Roland TR-606, TR-303, and JX3P seduced the duo into creating rock-influenced textures and sequences to improvise over. Jonathan added a Roland RS 202 Keyboard, which brought string and organ sounds to their palette. Pre-recorded tapes of voices and industrial sounds were often added, but the creative possibilities increased dramatically in 1985 with the addition of The Drumulator (the most advanced drum machine at that time) and the Ensoniq Mirage, a “sampling” unit that enabled any sound to be recorded then played back at different pitches across the length of a triggering keyboard. In performance, everything (including voices) was processed through AKS synthesizers to produce often barely controllable chaos, which, in essence, was one of the defining characters of the Free Radicals.

Author Interview: Vogel Award-Winning Kura Carpenter!

The Sir Julius Vogel Awards are New Zealand’s annual celebration of home-grown science fiction and fantasy, with awards covering books, dramatic presentations, fan publications and more. One of the most competitive categories is Best New Talent, and this year’s winner was Dunedin-based author Kura Carpenter!

Kura’s debut novel, The Kingfisher’s Debt, tells the story of Tamsin Fairchild, a translator who must team up with rookie cop Scott Gale to investigate the disappearance of a newborn baby. But this is no ordinary crime: beneath familiar New Zealand locations is a world rich in danger–and magic. Vogel Award judges described The Kingfisher’s Debt as “very cleverly set in an urban fantasy world overlaying (or underlying, depending on your perspective) Dunedin, New Zealand. The writing is crisp, the plot excellently designed and executed.”

We contacted Kura to discuss her writing process, the Vogel Awards and what it’s like to be a fantasy writer in New Zealand. For more on her writing check out her website, and for the full Sir Julius Vogel Awards list, click here. Enjoy!

You’ve described The Kingfisher’s Debt as urban fantasy–a genre combining both fantasy and mystery. How did elements of these two genres complement each other in the shaping of the story?

My story follows a typical mystery structure–crime discovered, investigation, clues revealed, case solved–but the world it’s set in is an alternative New Zealand where magic exists, but most regular people don’t encounter it, in much the same way that you don’t know anything about crime unless it directly touches your life.

The crime in my story is connected to the people who deal in magic, I guess maybe that’s what you mean by shape. The mystery and magic are interconnected. Without the magic, there would be no desire to try and steal it.

Reviews of The Kingfisher’s Debt have praised your descriptions of real-life locations–Dunedin’s midwinter darkness and the “80s kitsch of St Clair”. Were there many challenges in bringing this familiar world to the page?

None. Although I was going for a 90s vibe, so I guess I failed.

There has also been a lot of positive feedback about the characters in The Kingfisher’s Debt–their grittiness, unusualness and dialogue. How did the character of Tamsin–and her excellent first person perspective–come about?

She just popped into my head and I wrote down what she said.

I’m an introvert, I feel awkward meeting people, so I talk to myself all the time, practice conversations, that kind of thing. It’s probably the only benefit of anxiety, all the internal practice improves ones writing ability to capture ‘voice’.

Was it difficult to create a story with both past and present timelines? Was there much planning or re-drafting required with this?

No. I don’t plan, I’m a pantser, an intuitive writer, (which often surprises people who assume I must be a strict outliner). I’m just fortunate to have better than normal intuition for pattern and structure.

I’d come across the zipper-structure (alternating timelines) when reading a novel years ago, and after I’d written my first draft I realised that’s what I’d inadvertently created, it just needed some shuffling of scenes to get the timeline straight and make sure the subtext was as I wanted.

It’s always exciting to have a story that includes a library! You’ve previously worked in Dunedin City Library–what was it that drew you to the library as one of the locations in The Kingfisher’s Debt?

Yes. I’m lazy. It was the easiest thing to do, use locations I’m familiar with.

How do you feel about the fantasy writing scene in New Zealand at the moment? How do you think it might develop in the future, especially with WorldCon taking place in New Zealand next year?

That’s a hard one. On the one hand adult-reading level fantasy has been all but deserted by New Zealand’s traditional publishers, not for lack of talent, but because it’s simply not profitable. Talent wise I think the scene is stronger than it ever was. With the rise of self and indie publishing, has come a lot of opportunity.

While in many fields New Zealand punches above its weight internationally, for example film, sport, and even our P.M. is beloved globally, however when it comes to fantasy writing, we haven’t managed to carve out a spot beyond our borders.

Other New Zealand writers who write realist fiction consider what I write to be commercial and appealing to the masses, but because I’m not writing American or U.K. stories my story is actually non-commercial, it only has local appeal. WorldCon will shine a spotlight on us briefly, but the trouble ultimately remains that we’re a small market for telling our own stories, our own brand of fantasy. If we’re going to develop in the future then we must become leaders and not just followers.

ComicFest 2019 – 5 minutes with Paul Diamond

ComicFest is back for 2019! On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 2 to 4 of May at the National Library there will be panels, talks and workshops all day long for comic-lovers of all ages. You can also pick up a free comic from us on May the 4th and celebrate Free Comic Book Day, courtesy of GRAPHIC! For full programme click here and follow our updates on our Facebook event.

Today is the first day of ComicFest! To finish our special “5 minutes with…” feature we have Paul Diamon, the author of three books (A Fire in Your Belly, Huia 2003; Makereti: taking Māori to the World, Random House NZ 2007; and Savaged to Suit: Māori and Cartooning in New Zealand, Fraser Books 2018), and has also worked as an oral historian and broadcaster. From 2007 to 2009 Paul managed the Vietnam War Oral History Project for the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. In 2017 Paul was awarded Creative New Zealand’s Berlin Writer’s Residency to complete a book about Charles Mackay, a mayor of Whanganui who was killed in Berlin in 1929. Paul Diamond appears at ComicFest with the support of the New Zealand Cartoon Archive.

Q: What first got you interested in comics?
A: I was asked to write a book about the history of Māori and cartoons. This initially focused on editorial cartoons in newspapers, but the scope was broadened to include images of Māori in other places, such as comics and graphic novels.

Q: What is your average day like?
A: Ideally, made up of coffee, collections, cartoons, cycling and cursive creation.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?
A: My book, Savaged to Suit: Māori and Cartooning in New Zealand, was launched by MP Louisa Wall at the National Library in September 2018.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?
A: Not really, but preceding this, my cycle along the Wellington waterfront means it’s difficult to arrive at work grumpy, even if I may be a bit puffed.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?
A: Personally: my parents, Briar and Eddie Diamond, and my bicultural ancestry, which I wrote about in the acknowledgements section of Savaged to Suit.
An illustration inspiration: An exhibition I saw at the House of Illustration in London in 2016, Comix Creatrix: 100 Women Making Comics, was wonderful to experience and has stayed with me. The exhibition introduced me to artists and work I wasn’t aware of, including Jacky Fleming and her marvellous book, The Trouble With Women as well as Barbara Yelin, see below. The exhibition was also a powerful reminder that just because work by different groups may not be obvious doesn’t mean it’s not out there. Which is why books and exhibitions play an important role in bringing collections to audiences and providing context to understand them.

 Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?
A: As part of my research it was great to find out more about the Māori who’ve worked at editorial cartoonists. It’s not a very long list: Harry Dansey, Oriwa Haddon, Mark Tapsell, Noel Cook, James Waerea, Anthony Ellison, and Sharon Murdoch. I’m also a big admirer of Murray Webb’s caricatures.

Q: What is your dream comic project?
A: A graphic novel about the story I’m going to be writing about in Berlin later this year, check it here. This is to do with the 1929 May Day riots in Berlin, in which Charles Mackay, a former mayor of Whanganui was shot. There are at least two graphic novels about the 1929 May Day riots: Babylon Berlin by Arne Jysch is a graphic novel adaptation of Volker Kutscher’s novel, Der Nasse Fisch and Jason Lutes’ Berlin series. Another inspiration for how to tell the story is Irmina, by Barbara Yelin, which I saw in the Comix Creatrix: 100 Women Making Comics exhibition in 2016. Subsequently, an English translation of Irmina was released, and I’ve been meaning to have a read. I loved the way Yelin combined images and text to bring alive a remarkable story and the history of the period leading up to the Second World War.

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!
A: I’m looking forward to yarning about how cartoons work. In my research I learned about how nothing in a cartoon is there by accident, but the layers of meaning are not always obvious. It’d also be good to talk about stereotyping in cartoons, as I’ve been reflecting on this in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Christchurch.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?
A: Not sure, but I might see if another of my inspirations, Varla Jean Merman aka Jeffery Roberson has any ideas!

You can find more about Paul online here.

5 minutes with Dylan Horrocks — from ComicFest 2019

Next up on our special feature “5 minutes with…” we have Dylan Horrocks, a cartoonist best known for his graphic novel Hicksville and his scripts for the Batgirl comic book series. His works are published by the University of Auckland student magazine Craccum, Australia’s Fox Comics, the current affairs magazine New Zealand Listener from 1995 to 1997, the Canadian publishers Black Eye Comics and Drawn and Quarterly, and the American publishers Vertigo and Fantagraphics Books. He currently serialises new work online at Hicksville Comics.

Q: What first got you interested in comics?
A: My Dad has always been interested in comics, so I grew up in a house full of classics like Carl Barks’ Donald Duck as well as underground, European, and experimental comix. He also taught film, and watching the movies he’d project on our living room wall made me realise you could use visual narrative to do anything.

Q: What is your average day like?
A: I recently started teaching at the Victoria University of Wellington School of Design, so my days have become very busy. I’m often either in class or planning a class, or looking at students’ work. Otherwise, I’m probably at my studio writing or drawing. To relax, I watch old movies, read (often history), or play table-top role-playing games with friends.

dav

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?
A: I’m working on a long non-fiction comic exploring the history and culture of Dungeons & Dragons. It’s about world-building – the urge to create an imaginary reality so detailed it begins to feel almost real – and how the emergence of fantasy role-playing games 45 years ago introduced a new way to inhabit these fictional worlds. There are other, shorter, comics I’ve drawn recently, but that’s the big one that’s occupying my time.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?
A: One trick I learned a while back was to leave something unfinished at the end of each day. That way, when I sit down to start drawing or writing, I don’t have to stare at a blank page; I can just pick up where I left off – and before I know it I’m back in the groove.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?
A: There are so many! Hergé’s Tintin is a huge influence on my work. But one New Zealand cartoonist who’s had a big impact on me for most of my life is Barry Linton, who died last year. He drew comics for more than 40 years, and left behind an extraordinary body of work. I hope someone gets it all back into print soon.

 Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?
A: Again, there are too many to mention even a fraction! Strips was a New Zealand comics magazine published between 1977 & 1987. Barry Linton (who I mentioned above) was one of its founding artists, but there were so many great cartoonists in there: Colin Wilson (the main driving force for the first few years), Joe Wylie, Kevin Jenkinson, Laurence Clark. There are earlier comics I’m fascinated by, too, including the work of Eric Resetar, Harry Bennett, and Jack Raeburn (all of who were publishing locally in the 1940s and 1950s). These days New Zealand has a large and diverse comics scene, with many cartoonists whose work I find inspiring. And every week I find someone new who’s putting out beautiful zines or webcomics. Each new discovery is like a treasure: an Instagram post or a page in a student’s sketchbook.

dav

Q: What is your dream comic project?
A: I have a comic I daydream about now and then. Sometimes when I’m lying in bed half-asleep, or when I’m walking to work in the morning, I’ll think about it. So far, all there is to show is a few words in my notebook. It may never happen. But I love that stage in a project, when everything’s still open, possible, uncontained. When it really is still a dream….

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!
A: That depends how much I get done between now and then.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?
A: I reckon Toby Morris and I could do a mean Captain Haddock and Tintin (now, if we can just find the right dog to play Snowy…).

You can find Dylan online in the following places:
Twitter: @dylanhorrocks
Website: hicksvillecomics.com
Instagram: @dylan.horrocks

5 minutes with Jem Yoshioka — from ComicFest 2019

Edited 07/21: Jem Yoshioka is back for ComicFest 2021! Have a read of our 2019 interview with Jem ahead of this year’s ComicFest — coming up Saturday 21 August at the National Library in Thorndon.


Next on the list is Jem Yoshioka, an illustrator and comic artist living in Wellington, New Zealand. Deftly weaving words and pictures together, Jem’s comics tell evocative and emotional stories with themes of belonging, place, and heritage. Jem’s current webcomic project is a soft science fiction romance between an android and a human called Circuits and Veins.
Jem Yoshioka appears at ComicFest with the support of the New Zealand Cartoon Archive.

Q: What first got you interested in comics?
A: I have always loved to tell stories and draw pictures, so in a way I feel like I was always on the path to comics. I read a lot as a kid and loved picture books fiercely.

Q: What is your average day like?
A: I work a full time job in communications, so I spend my day getting to help tell people’s stories and make sure things are understood by as many people as possible. I walk to and from work along the Wellington waterfront. I spend my evenings drawing, with breaks for dinner, chores, or whatever. It’s a balance that has worked well for me, but I am careful to be mindful of my limits and not push myself too hard if I know I need a break. Lately I’ve been playing a lot of Tetris and Star dew Valley to recharge when I need to!

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?
A: My webcomic Circuits and Veins is my current biggest project. I’ve been updating it since July, 2017 (coming up on two years, goodness!), and it’s honestly such a rewarding project. Long form serialised webcomics are notoriously difficult to keep going, and some weeks are a lot harder than others.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?
A: I’m constantly listening to podcasts or watching YouTube. Podcasts have helped me so much to keep focused and motivated when I need to meet a deadline. Having my ears occupied helps keep my mind from straying away. I’m a big fan of Actual Play podcasts (listening to other people play table top roleplaying games), because it’s like a form of collaborative storytelling. My favourites are Friends at the Table and The Adventure Zone. If you have recommendations, let me know! I’m always looking for new ones.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?
A: That’s a tough one. Can I say my grandma, Taeko? She’s led an amazing life, growing up in Hiroshima, Japan, witnessing the horrors of war as a young girl and teenager, meeting my granddad in Japan, and moving to New Zealand in the 50s, before you could even really find rice here, let alone the right kind of rice. Whenever I get stuck I think back on who she is, that she still has such a lightness and humour about her through everything. It makes me feel strong again. This has been something that has been coming through in my art since 2015, when I started writing autobiography comics exploring my connection to Japan and my Japanese heritage, which of course is all through her.

 

Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?
A: I love Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe, published on Webtoon. Rachel’s my best friend and we’ve known each other for half our lives, so I’m a bit biased. Rachel is a master illustrator and her work is so expressive, emotive, and even now her sense of storytelling, drama and comedic timing all work together to make me gasp. What else could you want from a comic?

Q: What is your dream comic project?
A: To be honest, I’m doing it! Making Circuits and Veins is honestly a dream, and I’m so happy that so many people love reading it. It does have an end though, and I’m also equally excited about my next story, which will be a fantasy story based on Japanese folk stories. I tried to launch it last year as Starstruck, but I wasn’t completely happy with the execution, and splitting my time between two ongoing comic projects wasn’t the smartest, so I’ve pulled it back to the drawing board. I chip away on concepts for it in between updating Circuits and Veins

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!
A: I’m keen to talk about what it takes to update a regular serialised webcomic, and also about how to balance comics and non-comics life.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?
A: Marceline, from Adventure Time. She’s got the best style.

You can find Jem online in the following places:
Instagram: @jemyoshioka
Twitter: @jemyoshioka
Blog/Website: jemshed.com

ComicFest 2019 – 5 minutes with Alex Cara

ComicFest is back for 2019! On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 2 to 4 of May at the National Library there will be panels, talks and workshops all day long for comic-lovers of all ages. You can also pick up a free comic from us on May the 4th and celebrate Free Comic Book Day, courtesy of GRAPHIC! For full programme click here and follow our updates on our Facebook event.

We caught up with Alex Cara and asked her a couple questions for our “5 minutes with…”. Alex Cara is a Christchurch-based comic artist. In addition to being featured in recent issues of Funtime Comics, her work has also been published in the Three Words anthology.  She has completed a BFA in printmaking at the Ilam School of Fine Arts, and since graduating has developed and produced her own prints and comic projects, self-publishing the New Zealand historical short comic collection “Dreams of Here, Far from Home” in 2017. Her sketches and works-in-progress can be found at @alexcara.art on Instagram. Alex Cara appears at ComicFest with the support of the New Zealand Cartoon Archive.

 

Q: What first got you interested in comics?
A: I used to read the Beano and old English things like that when I was first learning to read, so that was pretty early exposure! I also had a volume of Krazy Kat and some very comic-like picture books that I loved, likeCaptain Abdul’s Pirate School by Colin McNaughton. They all had good grotesque characters with lots of background details and jokes, as well as speech bubbles. I was able to read lots of different manga and graphic novels as a teen, but reading TamaraDrewe by Posy Simmonds made me really want to write and draw my own comics.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?
A: I feel like I’ve been caught up in a studying-slash-new-job whirlwind for a long time, but I self-published my own first book of comics and illustrations in 2017 (“Dreams of Here, Far from Home”) and launched it at Chromacon. At the moment I’m looking at putting together a little book or pamphlet of drawings and am also working towards posting some short comics online.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?
A: A few different things; all my various niche book interests, especially writers like Denton Welch, Barbara Comyns and Colette. Real life and people-watching. Definitely old photographs and different types of graphic art like painting or illustration, and of course other comics; my current top favourite would be the Belgian comic artist Olivier Schrauwen, I love everything he’s done.

Q: What is your dream comic project?
A: It would be something where I can try lots of different art-styles, very ambitious and with interweaving themes and multiple time periods, etcetera… But I’m not high-powered enough to get very far with that kind of thing and need to build my way up from shorter works! I do often think about finding some obscure old public-domain novel or story to adapt as a comic, so maybe that.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?
A: Maybe the Groke from Moomins…

You can find Alex online in the following places:
Instagram: alexcara.art
Blog/Website: alexcaraart.bigcartel.com

5 minutes with Sarah Laing — from ComicFest 2019

Edited 07/21: Sarah Laing is back for ComicFest 2021! Have a read of our 2019 interview with Sarah ahead of this year’s ComicFest — coming up Saturday 21 August at the National Library in Thorndon.


We are pleased to have Sarah Laing for our next “5 minutes with…” feature. Sarah is a Wellington-based writer and illustrator who has had novels, short stories and the graphic memoir Mansfield and Me published. A collection of comics from the past ten years is forthcoming from VUP – Let Me Be Frank will be published late 2019. She also the co-editor of Three Words: An Anthology of Aotearoa/NZ Women’s Comics and has illustrated a number of children’s books.


Q: What first got you interested in comics?

A: My dad was a big comics fan – he’d grown up on the war comics you could buy at the dairy – so we always had comics lying around. Tintin, Asterix, Garfield, Charlie Brown. My cousins had a big stash of Disney comics and I particularly liked tales of Uncle Scrooge and his mountains of money. I also used to read Bogor in the Listener, and wrote some fanmail to him, with my own fanart of hedgehogs and snails. He offered me a job when I grew up – I wonder if that offer is still on the table?

Q: What is your average day like?
A: Up until recently I’ve been finishing off my Let Me Be Frank manuscript – a collection of my comics over the past ten years, to be published by VUP in late 2019. I’ve got to be an almost fulltime cartoonist thanks to a CNZ grant. Almost fulltime, I say, as I have three kids and various part-time gigs, including mentoring creative writing students, and illustrating for a number of publications. Right now, since I have submitted my manuscipt, I am lookng for a proper job to pay my bills – feel free to hit me up!

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?
A: My most recent project I talked about in the previous question, but I worked on a great project last year, in collaboration with Dr Giacomo Lichtner, the Italian Embassy and the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand – it was an adaptation of Denebedetti’s account of the SS raid of the ghetto in Rome. You can read that comic here.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?
A: I waste an awful lot of time and feel incredibly guilty about it, and then sometimes I’m freakishly productive. I have to check Facebook, Instagram and Twitter each morning before I start work, and I also have to make myself coffee and a piece of toast and peanut butter. When I’m in my productive phase, I allow myself to draw badly and make mistakes, focussing instead on the shape of the story and actually completing it. The drawings may look terrible at the time, but when I go back to them, they have a looseness and a spontaneity that I like, and I often wonder if they are better than my final illustrations.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?
A: I have so many influences and inspirations! I am a huge fiction reader, so always have a novel on the go. I love all the women I follow on instagram and support on patreon, like Gabrielle Bell and Sarah Glidden, Mimi Pond Lisa Hanawalt, Summer Pierre, Glynnis Fawkes and of course the indominatible Jillian Tamaki. I am also a big music fan, and my latest discoveries include Nilüfer Yanya and Charlotte Adigéry. Nature, films, TV (Russian Doll! So good!), art, foreign cities, family, friends, random encounters… all of this feeds into the psychic soup I take ladles from to make my work.


Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?
A: Again, there are so many people I like and I always scared of making these lists for fear of missing someone off! I really love Sophie Watson’s comics, and I’m excited about her larger project she’s working on. Ross Murray’s latest book, Rufus Marigold, is great – I’m looking forward to hearing him talk about it at ComicsFest. Giselle Clarkson makes hilarious, beautifully drawn comics, and I really admire Zoë Colling’s autobio works. Indira Neville is hilarious and arresting, and Kirsten Slade is unmissable. Sam Orchard makes great comics about his life as a transman, which always hit the spot. The greats are still great – Dylan Horrocks, Ant Sang, Toby Morris – and I really love the irreverant lo-fi nature of Brent Willis’s comics. Austen Milne is an up-and-coming cartoonist who I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of, and I wish I could see more of Meng Zhu’s comics, who was in Three Words…. Arrgh, gotta stop now!

Q: What is your dream comic project?
A: I have a few graphic novels bubbling away in my head… my dream involves being published by Drawn and Quarterly and being invited to all those American and Scandanavian comics festivals!

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?
A: Hmm, tough call. Tove Jansen? Rita Angus? Or maybe Vivienne Westwood. Or am I meant to be choosing a fictional character? In that case I’ll go as Little My or Rachael in Bladerunner.

You can find Sarah online in the following places:
Instagram: @sarahelaing
Twitter: @sarahelaing
Blog/Website: sarahelaing.com

ComicFest 2019 – 5 minutes with Roger Langridge

ComicFest is back for 2019! On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 2 to 4 of May at the National Library there will be panels, talks and workshops all day long for comic-lovers of all ages. You can also pick up a free comic from us on May the 4th and celebrate Free Comic Book Day, courtesy of GRAPHIC! For full programme click here and follow our updates on our Facebook event.

 

Our star artist, directly from the UK in this edition of the ComicFest, is next on our “5 minutes with…” feature. Meet Roger Langridge, a New Zealand-born comics writer, artist and letterer who lives in the UK. Notable works include The Muppet Show Comic Book, Thor: The Mighty Avenger and his own self-published Fred The Clown, which was nominated for  Eisner, Harvey, Ignatz and Reuben awards. Roger Langridge appears at ComicFest with the support of Creative New Zealand.

 

Q: What first got you interested in comics?
A: I pretty much learned to read from Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck comics, which my mum used to buy for my brother and me to keep us quiet on long car journeys when we were very small. I had a sort of epiphany when I was around 6 or 7 years old, when our classroom art assignment was to draw a comic strip – most of the class drew three or four panels, but I covered both sides of the paper with these dense 16-panel comics. I’d found my thing.

Q: What is your average day like?
A: I tend to get up early – if I have a writing job to do I’ll put in an hour or two before the rest of the family wake up, otherwise I’ll catch up on paperwork and correspondence. Then I’ll have breakfast, get the kids off to school and start drawing – usually for the rest of the day, with a break for lunch and dinner. If I don’t have an urgent deadline I occasionally watch TV in the evening with my family, otherwise it’s back to the drawing board after dinner to make sure I hit the day’s target.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?
A: Currently juggling a couple of things: I’m doing a serialised graphic novel for IDW’s Full Bleed anthology featuring my Fred the Clown character – it’s called Arizona Daisy, and it’s a western of sorts, about the relationship between a man and his cow. I’m also working on another serial – it’s for the anthology Meanwhile, published by Soaring Penguin, with a rural New Zealand setting. It’s called Taniwha. I’m hoping to do some research for it while I’m in New Zealand. My pitch was “Hunt for the Wilder People meets Alice in Wonderland”, which should either give you some idea of the tone I’m striving for or else utterly confuse everyone.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?
A: Ideally I like to start before I’m properly awake, to kind of trick myself into getting something done before I’ve had time to realise that’s what I’m doing – there’s a flow established by the time I’ve caught up with myself enough to realise what’s going on.

Sometimes I’ll play instrumental music (jazz or classical, usually) when I start – it’s a way to help me focus and drown out any distractions. It has to be something without words, though. A human voice takes me right out of it.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?
A: I think my holy triumvirate would be E.C. Segar, Carl Barks and Kurtzman & Elder.

 Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?
A: From before I moved to the UK: I adored Barry Linton’s comics; I was so sorry to hear he’d passed away. I’ve followed Dylan Horrocks’ stuff since his university days. Karl Wills does some amazing work. Trace Hodgson’s comics need some sort of collection.

More recently: I like the bits I’ve seen from Ned Wenlock & Sarah Laing. Jared Lane’s stuff is very accomplished. Ant Sang is a world-class cartoonist. Ben Stenbeck gets better and better all the time. There’s always a ton of great work coming out of New Zealand, it definitely punches above its weight in terms of the talent it produces. I’m missing loads of people. I’m a bit out of the loop these days so I’m hoping to educate myself on who’s current or up-and-coming while I’m visiting.

Q: What is your dream comic project?
A: I’d really like to try my hand at a daily strip for a sustained period – some absurdist character-based thing with a Goon Show sort of feel to it. To do it well at my current rate of production it would totally have to be a full-time job, though, so either I need to find a way to draw a lot faster or find some way to get paid for it.

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!
A: I’ve been asked to do a workshop about using formal constraints as a creative instigator, so there’s that! Should be fun for people who want to get involved. I’ll try to keep it silly.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?
A: Maybe I could be the back end of Barney Google’s horse, Spark Plug?

You can find Roger online in the following places:
Twitter: @hotelfred
Blog/Website: hotelfred.com

ComicFest 2019 – 5 minutes with Sharon Murdoch

ComicFest is back for 2019! On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 2 to 4 of May at the National Library there will be panels, talks and workshops all day long for comic-lovers of all ages. You can also pick up a free comic from us on May the 4th and celebrate Free Comic Book Day, courtesy of GRAPHIC! For full programme click here and follow our updates on our Facebook event.

Meet Sharon Murdoch, a political cartoonist with Stuff Media. Her cartoon series Munro, about an orange cat, also appears in Stuff’s daily newspapers. Murdoch won Canon Media Awards Cartoonist of the Year in 2016 and 2017, and Voyager Media Awards Cartoonist of the Year in 2018 (formerly the Canon Media Awards). Two collections of Sharon’s work have been published – one on her political work written by Dr Melinda Johnston, and another of her Munro cat cartoons, which came out in late 2018. Of political cartooning, Sharon says she can’t think of another job she would rather do. Even on a bad day.

Q: What first got you interested in comics?
A: After I finished Design School I lived with Trace Hodgson, who at the time was a political cartoonist for The Listener, so cartoons were a normal part of the day, and he had lots of comics around – mainly underground. Later I worked with a Xhosa Women’s Community Development group in South Africa, and we used comic strips as a way to communicate information about AIDS prevention and early childhood development. I also helped put together a kids paper for the Evening Post newspaper, called Presto. Gradually I started doing political stuff. And so it went…

Q: What is your average day like?
A: On days I have to do a political cartoon I turn on the radio as soon as I wake up and listen to RNZ and trawl through news sites. If I’m lucky my partner will bring me a cup of tea – which may be straight kindness, or may be because he likes the kitchen to himself. Our cats Munro and LaLuna usually clamp me to the bed, so it takes a bit of manouvering to extricate myself. I walk into town and have another cup of tea at a cafe while I read the newspaper, and rough out ideas. Then some more walking is usually involved while I try to sort out what the characters are saying. Most days I draw at my desk in the Stuff newsroom. It’s a great place to be, because there’s more tea, and I get to hear what’s happening about the place.

I usually work till around 6.30 or so, and then I walk home again. If I have other projects on, I try to do them on the weekends, or if I’m on a deadline I’ll work in the evening, but I find as I’ve gotten older working in the evening is more exhausting than it used to be, and also takes time away from being with my partner, my teenaged daughter, the two cats and the dog, Iris.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?
A: My regular political cartoons for Stuff newspapers and Stuff.co.nz. A book of my cat cartoons, Munro, came out late last year, and I’ve been drawing penguins for South Cider cider cans. At the moment I’m doing drawings for a book by Mike White about dogs.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?
A: Lots of tea. Lots of walking. A favourite dip pen handle that I got off Trademe – it’s quite old and has it’s own reservoir, and Hunt and Brause nibs. The sketchbooks I use are from Japan City. When I found out that Japan City was closing I went in and bought about 50 of them. I use one a month, so I figure when I run out of those sketchbooks my cartooning career will be over. If not before.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?
A: JJ Grandville, Lynda Barry, Edward Gorey, Edward Lear, Chris Blain, Mervyn Peake, Mathieu Sapin, Ben Shahn, Wanda G’ag, Kate Beaton.

Q: What is your dream comic project?
A: Something with animals.

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!
A: Excitement about drawing stories, whether that’s single panels or pages.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?
A: Dressing as myself is challenge enough.

You can follow Sharon on Twitter @domesticanimcal

ComicFest 2019 – 5 minutes with Jesse Barratt

ComicFest is back for 2019! On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 2 to 4 of May at the National Library there will be panels, talks and workshops all day long for comic-lovers of all ages. You can also pick up a free comic from us on May the 4th and celebrate Free Comic Book Day, courtesy of GRAPHIC! For full programme click here and follow our updates on our Facebook event.

 

Next on our special “5 minutes with…” feature we have Jesse Barratt. He is a Senior Artist at Weta Workshop’s gaming studio and was instrumental in shipping Weta Workshop’s first and multi-award nominated title Dr. Grordbort’s Invaders for the Magic Leap One. Jesse’s talents were used to develop the 3D aspect of Dr. Grordbort’s Invaders including the creation of spaces and objects, and increasing immersion within the world of Mixed Reality.
Jesse Barratt appears at ComicFest with the support of Weta.

 

Q: What first got you interested in comics?
A: Art, definitely the Art. my older brother, Brad, used to buy comics all the time – he’d buy half a dozen or so a fortnight so we had plenty in the house when I was young. Much to my mum’s worry, I would sit for hours at a time, pouring over the images in comics such as Hellraiser, Tales from the Crypt, Ironman, Wolverine and Hellboy.

Q: What is your average day like?
A: I wake up early and go to bed late so my days are long. Most days I work around the 10 hour mark. Once you add portfolio work and life’s other commitments, my sleep schedule is usually shortened to the 5-6 hour mark. Healthy eating and exercise becomes important to an artist at that point. Who knows what could happen otherwise – your hands might drop off!

At Weta Workshop, I usually start my day around 7:30am, make a nice coffee in the staff kitchen and begin reading my emails and talk to a few people. This helps me prioritize my workload for the day. Once I’ve got the utmost deadlines out the way, I get stuck into a day’s worth of development. On any given day, this could consist of modeling, texturing, etc. at Weta Workshop every day is varied and interesting.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?
A: Last year Weta Workshop released its first mixed reality game, Dr Grordbort’s Invaders set in the retro-science fiction universe of rayguns, rocket ships and deadly robot miscreants. This was also my first time working in mixed reality and it came with a host of new and exciting challenges. I certainly learnt a lot from the project. Now I continue to work within this inspiring new medium – it’s a little different from traditional comic book drawing and I relish the work.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?
A: I think the only tradition I have regarding helping me at work is to just really focus. People speak about “focus” like this mystical or difficult to obtain phantom. But I think that focus is more about building it over time. I usually just say to myself, Ok, from 9am to lunch I don’t get off this seat and I work. As creative people, I think we all get distracted easier than others. But by being prepared and organised you can really force yourself to shoot some goals.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?
A: Honestly? It’s the people around me. People like our Lead Artist, Stephen Lambert, our Game Director, Greg Broadmore, and the rest of the amazing team at Weta Workshop’s gaming division. These people inspire me on a daily basis.

Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?
A: Have to shout out to the best boss I’ve had and one of the most amazing artists on the planet, whether he thinks that or not, Greg Broadmore. Incredible. Check out his stuff.

Q: What is your dream comic project?
A: I’d actually love to work in a style like Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. Something dark and gritty, terrifying and beautiful.

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!
A: I’ll be giving attendees at ComicFest a look into the weird world of an artist’s mind. I’ll be showing and discussing how we analyse imagery and extract the information we use to recreate or spark inspiration. Using the world of Dr.Grordbort’s and Greg’s comic book work I’ll introduce the audience to principles such as line, color, form and more.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?
A: My go to is John Bender from the Breakfast Club because I can rock a denim jacket. But for comic fest it’s a tie between Jareth the Goblin King from Labyrinth or a yellow banana.

You can find Jesse online at jetty218.artstation.com

ComicFest 2019 – 5 minutes with Ant Sang

ComicFest is back for 2019! On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 2 to 4 of May at the National Library there will be panels, talks and workshops all day long for comic-lovers of all ages. You can also pick up a free comic from us on May the 4th and celebrate Free Comic Book Day, courtesy of GRAPHIC! For full programme click here and follow our updates on our Facebook event.

 

Next up on our special “5 minutes with…” series is Ant Sang. He is the author of celebrated graphic novels The Dharma Punks, Shaolin Burning, and co-author of Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas. Ant was the designer for the animated television show bro’Town. When not writing and drawing, he teaches ‘Comics and Graphic Novels’ at Manukau Institute of Technology. Ant Sang appears at ComicFest with the support of Penguin Books.

 

Q: What first got you interested in comics?
A: My childhood was filled with comics and I’ve loved them for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved the way a comic can magically transport a reader to an imaginary world.

Q: What is your average day like?
A: My days vary a lot. When I’m working on a big project like a graphic novel, I’ll spend long hours writing or drawing all day (and often into the late night). I juggle this with freelance work; book illustrations, storyboards for television commercials etc. Twice a week, I teach comics at Manukau Institute of Technology, as part of the Creative Arts programme.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?
A: The most recent comics project I’ve completed is the graphic novel Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas, which was a collaboration with author Michael Bennett. It’s a wild sci-fi, time-travel, dystopian future story.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?
A: I usually get into the mood by choosing music to listen to while I work. I might listen to the same song a couple of times to get myself into the right mood for the scene or artwork I’m going to work on.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?
A: I’ve had so many influences at different stages of my life. When I was a kid I’d spend hours copying Asterix and Disney drawings. As a teenager I was a huge Frank Frazetta fan. More recently I love the brush work of Paul Pope; the detail, energy and speed lines of James Harren; and also the storytelling of manga comics from classics like Akira to more contemporary stuff like Goodnight Punpun. Independent and alternative comics are a big influence on me also, in terms of subject matter and creating personal stories which have emotional impact; artists like Chester Brown, Dan Clowes, and Julie Doucett really float my boat.

Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?
A: There’s too many to mention aren’t there. Off the top of my head Dylan Horrocks, Tim Kidd, Karl Wills, Sarah Laing, Indira Neville, Ross Murray, Ben Stenbeck and the late (and great) Barry Linton and Martin Emond.

Q: What is your dream comic project?
A: I think my dream comic project is always the next comic I’m thinking up. I’m super excited about my next idea, which is far from fully-formed. I’m exploring the idea of doing a wild, no-holds-barred, web-comic. I want to do a short comic (maybe 60 pages, I’m calling it a ‘graphic novella’) – a simple story with an emphasis not so much on plot but on the experience itself.

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!
A: At MIT I’ve been teaching a way to learn (and make) comics using individual panels, which was inspired by the way Chester Brown makes his comics. I’m keen to show this method in my workshop.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?
A: I can’t imagine ever doing cosplay lol.

You can find Ant online at
Instagram: @antasang_art
Blog/Website:  www.antsang.co.nz/

5 minutes with Michel Mulipola — from ComicFest 2019

Edited 07/21: Michel Mulipola is back for ComicFest 2021! Have a read of our 2019 interview with Michel ahead of this year’s ComicFest — coming up Saturday 21 August at the National Library in Thorndon.



Next on our “5 minutes with..” is Michel Mulipola. He is a self taught comic book artist from Auckland, New Zealand. Michel has been immersed in the world of comic books from the tender age of five and has wanted to draw comic books from that moment on. He has also done work for BOOM! Studios’ line of WWE comics, various anthologies and is currently working on the U.S comic book, Headlocked: The Last Territory.

Q: What first got you interested in comics?
A: I fell in love with comics before I started school. I stumbed across my Uncle’s collection and instantly fell in love with the bright colours and bold characters.

Q: What is your average day like?
A: My average day is usually spent drawing comics, answering e-mails, scolling through social media and playing video games. Some days, you could find me at Arkham City Comics in Auckland or visiting schools as part of Duffy Books in Homes’ Role Model program.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?
A: I’ve recently finished up a comic book for the NZ School Journals which should be in schools later this year and am currently working through the next volume of the Headlocked graphic novel series.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?
A: I don’t have any traditions or rituals. I kind of play the day by ear and go with the flow.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?
A: I don’t really have ONE person who is the biggest influence for me. The medium of comic books itself is the inspiration. In terms of artists, as a kid growing up in the 80s and 90s, I can’t go past Jim Lee’s X-Men run as an influence on my art.

Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?
A: Funnily enough, Roger Langridge and Dylan Horrocks are some of my favourite NZ comic creators. I also will have to say Toby Morris and Ant Sang are very good friends of mine and Ben Stenbeck’s work is always freakin’ awesome!

Q: What is your dream comic project?
A: I’ve had an opportunity to do short dream projects with BOOM! Studios’ WWE comics, drawing some of my favourite wrestlers. I would love to be able to illustrate a Green Lantern comic sometime as he is my all time favourite superhero.

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!
A: I’m excited to share my story as a Polynesian comic book artist. And maybe I’ll show off some art too…

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?
A: As someone who constantly dresses up in tights and beats people up, I am no stranger to cosplay.
I have cosplayed as Spider-Gwen, Star-Lord, Green Lantern, Bane and the Green Power Ranger in the past. As for now, I would love to cosplay as Thanos. I’ve got the Infinity Gauntlet, I just need to paint my skin purple and grow a scrotum chin.

You can find Michel online in the following places:
Instagram: @bloodysamoanart
Twitter: @bloodysamoan
Blog/Website: bloodysamoan.com

5 minutes with Kay O’Neill — from ComicFest 2019

Edited 07/21: Kay O’Neill is back for ComicFest 2021! Have a read of our 2019 interview with Kay ahead of this year’s ComicFest — coming up Saturday 21 August at the National Library in Thorndon.


Next in our “5 minutes with..” series we have Kay O’Neill. Kay is an Eisner, Harvey and McDuffie-winning illustrator and graphic novelist from New Zealand. They are the author of Princess Princess Ever After, The Tea Dragon Society, and Aquicorn Cove, all from Oni Press. They mostly make gentle fantasy stories for younger readers, and are very interested in tea, creatures, things that grow, and the magic of everyday life. Kay O’Neill appears at ComicFest with the support of the New Zealand Book Council.

Q: What first got you interested in comics?
A: I was fortunate to have dial-up internet early enough to be deep into the neopets.com craze as a kid, and a big part of that was the rich creative community that formed around the virtual pet-raising game. The in-game weekly digital newspaper featured both ongoing storylines and one-off gag comics, and really got me started viewing comics as a natural way of expressing stories and characters from a young age.

Q: What is your average day like?
A: I’m a full time freelance illustrator at the moment, so it’s really important to me to have structured days with clear down time. Mornings give me good energy, so I try to get up at around 7.30 and have a solid, uninterrupted morning of work until lunch. Then I take a few hours off to make food, go for a walk, do yoga, or get coffee with friends. After that I either continue working on a different project, or do some studies or research depending on how much energy I have left. Evenings are a work-free zone! I love to cook, and relax with reading, podcasts or TV.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?
A: I’ve recently wrapped up a couple of graphic novels for Oni Press- one is the second book in the Tea Dragon series, which is due out in September, and the other is yet to be announced but was for much younger readers, which was a ton of fun! I also took a few months off at the end of last year to decompress and spend some time experimenting and growing my skills in a new direction.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?
A: I live by the Pomodoro technique- working for 25 minutes, then taking a break for 5. I notice a huge difference in my focus, productivity, and mental and physical health when I get up to stretch, drink water, and bother my cat frequently.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?
A: At the moment, I’m looking for a lot of inspiration and motivation outside of the art world. I love hearing stories of older people who have lived active, engaged and meaningful lives through their daily activities, connection with nature, and community.

Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?
A: New Zealand webcomic authors are making incredible things at the moment! Rachel Smythe, Jem Yoshioka, Chelsey Furedi and Kale de Wild just to name a few.

Q: What is your dream comic project?
A: I’m very lucky in that I’ve already pretty much made it- The Tea Dragon series is exactly what I wanted it to be, with so much wonderful support from my publisher and readers. I’ve never needed to compromise anything, and it’s full of the elements and themes I love most. That said, I’d love to work on something collaborative in future!

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!
A: I’m really excited to design some dragons with our younger attendees! Kids always come up with such wonderful ideas, and it’s really fun to be able to bring them to life with them.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?
A: Howl from the Ghibli movie version of Howl’s Moving Castle.

You can find Kay online in the following places:
Twitter

5 minutes with Giselle Clarkson — from ComicFest 2019

Edited 07/21: Giselle Clarkson is back for ComicFest 2021! Have a read of our 2019 interview with Giselle ahead of this year’s ComicFest — coming up Saturday 21 August at the National Library in Thorndon.


We caught up with Giselle Clarkson, a Wellington-based freelance illustrator and cartoonist who is also interested in rock-pooling, foraging, and doing crosswords. She has a monthly comic about children’s books being published by NZ website The Sapling, covering topics that range from why John Burningham is responsible for the millennial avocado crisis to a review of species that are named after fictional characters. She also makes comics about science and conservation issues for scientists, a zoo, and the NZ School Journal.

Q: What first got you interested in comics?
A: When I was a kid I loved Tintin, The Far Side and books by Raymond Briggs, but it wasn’t until I was at university and discovered webcomics that I realised how broad and accessible the medium was. Discovering stuff like Hark! A Vagrant, Hyperbole and a Half and xkcd gave me the idea that I could do it too.

Q: What is your average day like?
A: I work full-time as an illustrator/cartoonist and my studio is at home, so there are a lot of pyjamas and cats involved. I try to keep pretty regular 9-5 hours because most of my clients are in offices, but the best part is never having to set an alarm clock. I think my job is only about 40% drawing, the rest is emailing. So much emailing.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?
A: Last year I worked with the Tawaki Project to condense their scientific paper on the extraordinary feeding habits of tawaki penguins into a short comic for sharing on social media. It was better recieved than we could have hoped for, and even retweeted by Diana Gabaldon of all people! It was super exciting to see how comics can work effectively as a science communication medium.

I also make a monthly comic for The Sapling (a NZ site for adults about children’s literature). Sometimes I review new picture books or write biographies of authors and illustrators, or share weird and cool facts I find out about classic kid’s books.

 

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?
A: The pink character from Alex Norris’ comic strips (the ones that always end with “oh no.”)

You can find Giselle online in the following places:
Twitter: @giselledraws
Facebook: GiselleDraws
Blog/Website: www.giselledraws.com

ComicFest 2019 – 5 minutes with Ross Murray

ComicFest is back for 2019! On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 2 to 4 of May at the National Library there will be panels, talks and workshops all day long for comic-lovers of all ages. You can also pick up a free comic from us on May the 4th and celebrate Free Comic Book Day, courtesy of GRAPHIC! For full programme click here and follow our updates on our Facebook event.

First up on the blog we have an interview with Ross Murray, an illustrator and comics maker from the Bay of Plenty. His comics ‘Strange Tales From Summer Bay’ and ’Star Wars 90210’ have appeared in VICE and his first graphic novel, ‘Rufus Marigold’, was published in 2019. See more of his work at www.rossmurray.com
Ross Murray appears at ComicFest with the support of the New Zealand Cartoon Archive

 

Q: What first got you interested in comics?
A: Growing up in rural New Zealand in the 1980s, the number of comics that were widely available was very small. Of those, Asterix made the biggest impression. There was something simple and utopian about that small Gaulish village that I still dream of today. I was also an avid reader of the Woman’s Weekly and for awhile they excerpted Star Wars comics within. They had a pink border and I still remember the crushing disappointment I felt when they stopped printing them.

Q: What is your average day like?
A: I arrive at my studio at about 9am after dropping my kids at school. Usually I’ll start with any emailing I need to do, then waste some time on the internet before I start work. To ensure the aforementioned children don’t starve, this will usually involve some form of commercial project – stuff for advertising, publishing, packaging, whatever. In between these jobs or during them when I’m waiting to hear back from clients is when I make comics and personal work. I usually work until 4:30-5pmish but I often end up doing a little more after everyone else has gone to bed, squinting at my laptop until late in the evening and making valuable ground on my path to complete blindness.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?
A: This year saw the launch of the collected and extended edition of ‘Rufus Marigold’, published by Earth’s End. ‘Rufus’ was originally a webcomic I made in 2016 but I received a grant from Creative New Zealand last year to expand it into a book. The launch in February doubled as an opening for an exhibition of book-related artwork so I spent time over summer working on material for that which included drawings, paintings and screenprints. It was a lot of work but a really fun experience. I even came close to breaking even which feels like an epic victory.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?
A: I usually start with choosing something to listen to while I work. Depending on the task at hand, it’ll either be some kind of music or a podcast. I’m helplessly addicted to American political podcasts. The age of Trump is so distressing and I find some comfort in listening to reports on the resistance and to the sound of the gears of justice grinding ever closer to everyone responsible for that big orange stain. But often it just makes me feel even more depressed. I make myself a plunger of coffee at 10:30am on the dot. I’ll take some kind of break at about 1pm and either walk up Mauao (Mount Maunganui) or go for a swim. Sometimes both. But never at once.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?
A: Other artists telling deeply personal stories. Those who use their art to share something vital about themselves. David Foster Wallace, David Bowie, David Lynch. Basically, people named David.

Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?
A: There are way too many to name but here are a few: Karl Wills, Dylan Horrocks, Sarah Laing, Ant Sang, Mat Tait, Alex Cara, Zoë Colling, Theo McDonald, the late great Barry Linton, Anthony Ellison, Toby Morris, Rachel Smythe, Jem Yoshioka, Ned Wenlock, Ralphi, the awesome Team 3000 Press. Aotearoa has so many wonderful creators.

Q: What is your dream comic project?
A: Perhaps a one-man anthology? Something with extremely wide parameters and space for experimentation across different genres and different types of storytelling. Artistically I like to work across a range of styles too so something like this seems like it would be fun.

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!
A: I guess I’m excited about sharing ‘Rufus Marigold’. In the book, Rufus feels conflicting impulses about sharing his own art and I do too! But every creator knows the thrill of showing something you’ve made to others so I’m hoping that thrill will prevail over wanting to hide in a corner!

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?
A: Rusty Brown.

You can find Ross online in the following places:
Instagram: @rossmurrayillustration
Blog/Website: www.rossmurray.com

Wellington Author Interview: Jess Richards

“Dying faces are the colour of soiled linen. It’s the eyes which shine, as if the world around the person who is dying has brightened itself, so it’s fully seen and felt and known.”

So begins City of Circles, the third novel by acclaimed Wellington author Jess Richards. Richards’ work has been described as “brilliantly peculiar” and “a cornucopia of secrets and surprises”, with her debut novel Snake Ropes being nominated for the Costa First Novel Award, the Scottish Book Awards and the Green Carnation Prize. City of Circles tells the story of orphaned circus performer Danu as she negotiates grief, love and the mystery at the heart the fantastical city of Matryoshka . . .

Your work has been compared to Angela Carter and Erin Morgenstern, both of whom use circuses as key elements in their work. What do you think it is about circuses that continue to appeal to readers and writers?

Circuses have great potential to be made magical in fiction, because of their potential to appeal to all the senses, and also their rich history and traditions. They’re archetypal places of wildness and strangeness – performance and storytelling, which speak to our very human need for wonder. This is so often lacking in the ‘real world’ – as adults, we often lose sight of our desire for magic and strangeness. Within stories, we can find a parallel world to disappear into, between mundane daily rituals, tasks and chores. The people within circuses can be strange in so many ways – from the bearded lady to the cartwheeling clown, from the strong man to the contortionist. These slightly off-kilter people can be unique and intriguing characters to read and write about. The ordinary, distorted. The usual, made strange.

In Snake Ropes, the world of the story has been described as intentionally minimal in order to create the feeling of an “insular society”. How did creating Matryoshka and the world within City of Circles differ to this?

After writing Snake Ropes, which was set on a remote island, my second novel, Cooking with Bones began with two sisters fleeing a futuristic city (called Paradon) who quickly found their way to a strange and remote village. So both of my first two novels were mainly set in insular locations which had their own rules, folklore, mythology and sense of community. In City of Circles, I wanted to invent a magical city which also had all of these things, but on a larger scale. I used more description for the city, as it was such a unique and remarkable place, full of strange characters and places. Even the houses had their own unique ‘atmospheres’ and the house that Danu squats in has its own narrative voice. It was great fun to consider what kind of character a house could be – as cities are crammed full of buildings as well as people I came to see the buildings and the city itself as having their own personalities. As well as being part of the setting in that they were interesting things for the main characters to look at and explore, they also became part of the story.

As someone who has lived in several different places and recently moved to Wellington, how has your own experience with cities and identity compared to Danu’s?

When I’d just started to write City of Circles, I left my home of 18 years, and decided to remain voluntarily homeless for a period of time. During the next two years I couldn’t settle anywhere, so I looked after other people’s homes and pets, even their holiday cottages, which were sometimes in isolated rural places and sometimes in villages, towns, and cities. I slept in many different beds and was quite envious of Danu owning her own mattress, even though the caravan it was in kept moving on. All the places I lived in or visited found their way into City of Circles, as aspects of the places the circus travelled through, and several cities (London, Chicago, Wellington to name only a few) added to the descriptions of the different areas and revolving circles within Matryoshka, the city she eventually remains in. When Danu fell in love with Matryoshka, she experienced it almost as a living and breathing place, filled with enchanting scents and intriguing secrets. While I was exploring many different ‘homes’ I deeply wished to find somewhere which called me to it. Somewhere to love. As it happens, it was a person, not a city, I fell in love with, and that’s how I came to move to Wellington. I followed my heart to a person, while Danu followed her heart to a city.

Several reviews have praised your treatment of grief in City of Circles. How did you approach this theme?

My father died suddenly while I was writing City of Circles, and just three months after his death, I came to New Zealand. Experiencing grief so far away from anyone who knew him was an isolating experience. When we’re not with people who also knew the person who died, because no one is talking about them, there are no new memories to be had. All I could do, while grieving at such a great distance was to pour my grief into this novel. To give it to Danu, as it was too hard a thing to carry alone. As Danu’s parents had died right at the beginning of the novel, I wrote about her grief at the same time as I experienced my own. The physical pain of grief is something that few people talk about, so I gave aspects of this to Danu. I had her describe watching someone die, which is also something that few people talk about. She ties her mother’s locket like a choker around her throat, and trusses her ankles with her father’s bootlaces. The pain, to her, is a constant reminder of the strength of her love, and the strength of her loss. When she finally faces her grief, she does so from a high rooftop, throwing lily petals into the sky, and letting the wind carry them away. She’s trying desperately to part with her sorrow, and let it fly from her. But the truth of grief is that it never goes away. We each have to find our ways of living alongside it. And that is what Danu does as well. Learning to live beside grief takes time and courage. Others are also affected by it, which we see in Morrie, a charismatic hunchback who is in love with Danu, though she can’t reciprocate.

You were recently involved in an event at the Post-Apocalyptic Book Club in London. How did this go, and how do you see your work in terms of the genre of dystopian and speculative fiction?

It was a lovely event – with a great chairperson who had prepared excellent questions about City of Circles in advance. She got me to talk about more things than I’d realised I could. The audience were also great – really interested in the process of ‘world building’ and inventing an imaginary city. I tend not to think too much about genre when I write – to me, the main thing is the characters, and their story, and the world they are in being believable. That said, speculative fiction is a broad term which spans a variety of genres such as fantasy, sci-fi, young adult fiction and literary fiction. To me, what speculative fiction means is that the author has been ‘speculating.’ Asking… what if? And then answering their question in the form of a story. What if… there was an undiscovered island off the edge of a map? (This was the question behind Snake Ropes.) What if… an old woman was several people, and not just one? (One of the questions within Cooking with Bones.) And what if… a city was built which was made out of revolving circles, like a clockwork toy… and what if… a grieving woman thought she was alone in the world, and then discovered she had a double… In terms of dystopias – they’re far more interesting to write about than utopias, because I don’t believe that utopias exist. I also like writing amoral characters, who are neither completely good nor totally bad, but somewhere ambiguous in between. Darkness is, to me, much more interesting than light.

NaNoWriMo wrap-up for 2017

Did you know that during NaNoWriMo this year Wellington City Libraries hosted a Come Write In, where writers could gather each weekend to work on their goal of 50,000 words? Below we have some profiles of these future authors, and if you’d like to join them next year, just sign up to NaNoWriMo. Thanks so much to everyone who came along!

Gabrielle

Story: A woman running from her past finds a key hidden behind a picture frame in a hotel room, but what does it unlock?

How have you found NaNoWriMo this year? This year has been a challenge. I got 3,000 words into the novel I was planning to write, then got frustrated with the story, and started a new story from scratch. I may not finish this year, but I’m happy with the plot of the new novel.

Will you do NaNoWriMo again next year? Absolutely. I’ll try to not end up moving house and jobs next November, and see if that means I have more energy to write.

Leon

Story: Liz is a newspaper reporter who gets in over her head when she investigates a sunken ship and gets involved with a group of musicians and their ambitions.

How have you found NaNoWriMo this year? It’s flowed well. It’s been very social, which is nice.

Will you do NaNoWriMo again next year? Yes. I might use a similar process of making a plan and then abandoning it, but we’ll see closer to the time.

Jack

Story: American Idol but there are robotic scorpions and the world is a capitalist hellscape.

How have you found NaNoWriMo this year? I really love the Wellington writing group (I’ve written in the Dunedin and Christchurch groups for NaNo as well and those are great too). Writing with a bunch of other writers around is fantastic for creativity if not for productivity.

Will you do NaNoWriMo again next year? I do NaNo every year (this is my 8th).

Fiona

Story: The cheesiest romance novel you could possibly imagine – with all the traps!

How have you found NaNoWriMo this year? I’ve been so busy there’s no way I’m going to make 50K! But the meetups have been great and it’s a great group this year. I’ve still got more words than I started with!

Will you do NaNoWriMo again next year? Hopefully! And I’ll make sure November is less busy so I can write more words.

Quillbert the Literary Hedgehog

Story: My protagonist is a hedgehog vigilante called ‘The Urchin.’ He is trying to bring down two rival criminal organisations – the Owls and the Foxes – who bring death to the streets and corruption to parliament.

How have you found NaNoWriMo this year? Exhilarating and exhausting. Without the support of your peers, it is easy to burn out in the first week. Like a hedgepig caught in a bonfire.

Will you do NaNoWriMo again next year? I shall. Next year I shall write my memoirs. This is technically referred to as being a “NaNoWriMo Rebel” as it will not be a novel. I embrace the title.

Tim’s NaNoWriMo Tips

Starting your first NaNoWriMo can be a daunting experience, but never fear! Our resident NaNoWriMo veteran Tim will give you the low-down on what to expect during your thirty day writing epic – including tips and tricks to help you through those more challenging times at the keyboard!

Did you do much planning before your first NaNoWriMo?

The planning I did on my first NaNoWriMo really made things difficult because I had a story I wanted to tell – and when it wasn’t working I just stopped. This was failed attempt #1. The trick is to remember the goal of this challenge: to hit the word count. What I learned from that experience was the planning caused me to have an additional goal which got in the way of the first. If you are able to get away with writing a complete novel you’ve had planned out in one month – good oh! But it seems like everybody I talk to who has tried the challenge learned to loosen up on the planning and allow the story to carry its own momentum.

What were your thoughts after your first day’s writing? How did this change throughout the month?

Every year I try NaNoWriMo I feel very disheartened after my first day. It’s like going for a jog for the first time in ages. It sucks! But the trick is not minding that it sucks. That’s why the whole online community is so great. There are subreddits and hashtags you can latch onto and remember you aren’t alone. In recent years, NaNoWriMo has become rather big on YouTube – so you can actually *see* you aren’t alone too! Real life face-to-face meet ups organized by communities – like the group that meets up in the Central library – are a really good way to get accountable. It wasn’t until after my second attempt at the challenge that I realized I couldn’t write this many words while alone on my laptop in my bed after a full day’s work. It was too tempting to just watch a TV show instead.

Did the intensity of NaNoWriMo help or change your writing in unexpected ways?

The intensity of NaNoWriMo forced me to shed a lot of silly stylistic rituals and habits I’d picked up from years of trying to be a ‘serious writer’. There are days when you just want to blab the words out onto your text editor and go to sleep. Or get on with your day. This is a Good Thing. Because when you stop being so self-conscious with your writing it’s always way better. I think there is a weird doubt we all have that if each sentence isn’t clever then readers will think we aren’t worth reading. But this is a fallacy. Just write.

Do you have any tips or tricks for getting through those harder moments?

Gripe! Gripe to your friends and to your flatmates and to your partner and to your pet. This way, everyone can know how interesting and creative you are for attempting to write a novel in a month. I also sincerely recommend showers. Just go stand in the shower and give yourself a pep talk. Pump some beats. Yeah, you got this. You are a writer. The novel might end up a bit shabby but by gosh you are actually writing!

How did it feel to complete 50,000 words?

I don’t know. I’ve never completed 50,000 words. I think it probably feels like sending off a university assignment when you close all the tabs of research. Or maybe it feels like when your bus has all green lights in the morning and you actually get to work on time. Or perhaps like a cool lemon lime bitters with like one ice in it and you’re part of the first wave of humans exploring intergalactic space. Who knows! Some do.

What happened to the non-writing areas of your life during NaNoWriMo, and do you have any advice in regards to this?

To be honest, if you aren’t a very organized person you are going to fail NaNoWriMo. Most likely. Because unless you already have up to an hour of every day carved out for ‘creative activities’ then something will suffer. And it would be great if it was your mindless internet browsing time but let’s be honest – that usually isn’t what is sacrificed. Just remember to shower. Also, it should be noted that having the free time to do NaNoWriMo is quite a privilege. Many people in New Zealand and the rest of the world DO NOT have a spare second to do something so silly and awesome.

What happened to your NaNoWriMo writing after November?

Nothing. I always hide mine. They are so embarrassing! This is something I obviously need to work out in therapy. But if you want a good time, check out Twitter for silly first lines of NaNoWriMo novels. So when you are writing your great November Novel, just remember: that’s your bar. That’s your company. Now get out there and take a jump!