Every year, in the countdown to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, we bring you a series of interviews with guests at the event. This “Festival Focus” for 2018 is Yomi Ayeni, an award winning Transmedia creator, producer, filmmaker, and storyteller, who will be co-ordinating a very special steampunk project at LICAF this October – he’s even roped in The Simpsons director David Silverman!
His current project – Clockwork Watch – is a retro-futurist Steampunk / Victoriana story told across graphic novels, interactive theatre, online and film. The project has so far spawned three tangential threads, immersive live events, exhibitions at the Royal Observatory, Scottsdale Civic Library (Arizona), National Maritime Museum, The Asylum in Lincoln, and a fictional online newspaper.
He is one of a few writers engaged in bringing a multicultural slant to the Steampunk genre, by exploring Victoriana outside Great Britain. Clockwork Watch is a collaboration of talents, including Corey Brotherson (editor / adapting writer, also a guest of the Festival), and artists Jennie Gyllblad and Megan Bradbury.
Yomi lectures Transmedia Storytelling at the Royal College of Arts, and believes mapping stories to everyday life creates experiences that bring audiences closer to the heart of a narrative. He has developed several reality TV formats, including Global E-Missions (ITV), winner of the 2002 Broadcast Award for “Best Use of New Media”.
His 2009 project “Breathe” was one of the first interactive participatory stories to explore how an ongoing narrative offered the audience a chance to become characters in a film, and help solve a fictional murder mystery. He is currently writing a sequel, which he hopes to produce in 2019/2020.
Yomi worked as a Broadcast Journalist in the BBC newsroom, was an active part of the Burning Man Festival media team, and is a founding member of the European Burning Man Regional event, ‘Nowhere’ (Spain). He owned and produced music on the seminal drum and bass label Tone Def Records.
Yomi lives in London, loves cooking, street art, travelling and making music.
Yomi, what are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?
Yomi: Currently working on Clockwork Watch: Sins Of My Father, which will be published in 2019.
Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?
Yomi: Most proud of the Clockwork Watch series – all eight books, so far. It’s a labour of love that we’ve been working on for the past nine years. They are available from Page 45, Orbital Comics, our online store, and Comixology.
How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
Yomi: I usually start with a list which is compiled while in the bath. Being immersed in hot water helps the creative process. The list follows me all day, and often goes to bed with me at night.
What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?
Yomi: Being able to expand on ideas and dreams makes this job worthwhile. Not many people have the privilege of making dreams and ideas come true.
And the worst?
Yomi: Being told that you work isn’t good enough – or commercially viable, when you know there’s an audience for it.
What most distracts you from getting your work done?
Yomi: Life is the most distracting. I have weaned myself off TV, Facebook, and other distractions, but life always gets in the way.
Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
Yomi: It seems to be a lot harder these days. We started out self-publishing so we could see if there was interest in our story. The publishing houses are a mystery to me, as they cast the net wide, and hardly ever pick up things from up and coming artists. I’ve seen so many friends bash their heads against the publisher glass ceiling.
The task is not to be disheartened, people were reading good stories before the current monopoly existed. Find your niche and research your audience.
Have you ever been to the Lake District before and if so what did you think of it?
Yomi: I’m slightly ashamed to admit that my only experience has been to Kendal for LICAF. It’s always a rush, and being a creator means very little downtime. There may be some time to explore this year thought.
Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?
Yomi: Warren Ellis, and I’d love to unpack my thoughts about Transmetropolitan.
How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?
Yomi: Festivals are a great platform to present work, connect with readers, and fellow creators. It’s one of the best places to see what else is out there, and find collaborators.
What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
Yomi: The best advice is focus on your story, don’t be distracted, and don’t let people put you off course.
What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
Yomi: Right now, I am embedded in Brian Wood’s DMZ, which is available via Amazon / Comixology, and all good independent comic stores.
Yomi, thank you very much for your time. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Clockwork Watch takes over Kendal next month!
• The Lakes International Comic Art Festival will be back in Kendal 12th – 14th October 2018. Tickets for the Festival are on sale now from: www.comicartfestival.com
• All the Clockwork Watch books are available through the Clockwork Watch online shop and select comic shops such as Page Forty Five