At last, after weeks of scribbling, typing, retyping, sketching, revising, colouring, conferring, editing and nail biting, Raven is here. Has it been worth the wait? Oh yes.
Anya Jung and I were commissioned, what seems ages ago, by those wonderful people at Writing west Midlands to produce a comic strip as part of the Birmingham Literature Festival.
The initial idea was to produce a graphic novel over the space of the festival, a mere ten days. We quickly abandoned that idea. For Anya to draw the number of pages to make a graphic novel, to the high standard that she does, we would need at least a year and whilst it would be wonderful to have a year long festival there simply wasn’t the budget.
So, we decided to do a short story in comic book form, a mere seven pages long. Seven pages is not a lot, but I hope you will agree we’ve crammed quite a lot in and created a story with a punch, an incredibly strong look and a resonance that stays with you long after reading.
Raven started with a conversation between Anya and I as I drove us back to Kings Heath. We spoke about the power of art, the need for creativity and the loss of innocence, it all sounds a bit pompous, but that’s what we did.
I very quickly decided that I wanted to write a story about a woman returning to Birmingham after a long time away. I thought it would be something about childhood and creativity, about travelling home to rediscover something she’s long forgotten or has chosen to forget and it sort of is and it sort of isn’t.
I was shocked by the ending of my story. Not by the nature of it but by the fact that I never saw it coming. I don’t want to get all writers are mystics on you, because we’re not, but I won’t lie to you, I never planned for it to end that way.
I shared the story with Anya and to my great relief she loved it, phew!
I then set about translating my tale from a short story into a comic book script which was not as easy as I’d thought it would be, far from it. All that lovely description and atmosphere that I’d built up through the careful selection of words I had to let go of. and hand it over to the artist. Instead of describing the way the city looked from the rain spattered train carriage you just type: Frame 1, a train travels across a large viaduct that cuts through the city. Gripping stuff.
So, I had to rethink the way that I work and to rediscover the story I’d written by looking at what needs to be said that can’t be shown. Eventually the script came together and I handed it over to Anya.
Anya mocked up a rough layout of what the story would look like. She nervously handed over a hand drawn A5 booklet; she wasn’t best pleased with the work it contained, which was odd as the work was stunning. This is great! I thought, if this is what her rough stuff looks like we’re onto a winner and we were.
Over the ten days of the festival Anya was based in the wonderful Library of Birmingham. People were invited to stop and chat to her as she completed the pages and many of you did, we even had a Q and A session in the library entrance! During the course of completing the pages Anya made some alterations which meant I had to tweak bits of text here and there. We sent work back and forth and slowly it all came together.
This isn’t how comics are usually produced, it’s just the way we did it.
Anyway, enough yakking from me. Why don’t you click on this link and read Raven for yourself? When you’ve read it please pop back and let me know what you think of it.
p.s Here’s the first page of Raven. Click on it to read the full version.