Last year, in partnership with the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, downthetubes brought you a number of interviews with creators attending the event – and we’re delighted to be able to run a series in the run up to their eagerly anticipated 2015 event in October, continuing the series with an interview with graphic novelist Simon Grennan.
Simon Grennan recently completed a graphic adaptation of the novel John Caldigate, one of the later works of nineteenth century novelist Anthony Trollope, commissioned by the University of Leuven, Belgium. Titled Dispossession, the long-form graphic novel takes both Trollope’s writing style and his life and times as its subject, as well as his novel’s plot, with startling results. Dispossession is published by Jonathan Cape and, in French translation, by Les Impressions Nouvelles.
He’s also co-editor of a scholarly book that accompanies Dispossession. Transforming Trollope… which brings together 11 new commissioned chapters from international neo-Victorian, adaptation and comics scholars and is published by Leuven University Press, also this year.
downthetubes: What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?
Simon Grennan: I’m in Kendal to present my new graphic novel Dispossession – a novel of few words, which has just come out. It’s quite a radical adaptation of one of the later novels of the Victorian writer Anthony Trollope, featuring a very intense drawing style and a section in the Aboriginal Wiradjuri language – a first in comics, I think! It took me just over two years to research, plan and draw. By the time a new comic comes out, my memory of drawing it has usually faded a bit, so it’s like seeing the book for the first time as a reader. I like that.
downthetubes: Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?
Simon: Of course, Dispossession has just come out, so I’m gonna say that! You can get it at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, all good bookstores (as they say) and online – everywhere really. Jonathan Cape Graphic Novels publish it. In fact, it’s the most complex book I’ve drawn, so I’m proud of getting it together. I created the drawing style especially for the book (including a new font) and it’s quite unlike my past styles. That’s a risky thing to do, but I think it’s a success.
downthetubes: How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
Simon: I always underestimate just how long drawing takes, even though I’ve been drawing a long time. There are two reasons for that, I think: I have a categorical way of thinking, so I just think ‘drawing: Thursday’ or whatever (and it actually takes all week) or I just get lost in drawing, because I love it, and I look up from my drawing and it’s very late in the day. So I have to think: Simon, drawing takes a long time.
downthetubes: What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?
Simon: Oh, I get to think a lot about drawing and story-telling, every day. That’s great. I love getting into thinking about the mechanics of scene-setting – what’s shown and not shown, how the reader finds out what’s happening in the story, and thinking about different ways of drawing and how a style has an impact on the story. That’s the centre of my geek. Take a look at www.simongrennan.com
downthetubes: And the worst?
Simon: Oh, I get to think a lot about drawing and story-telling, every day. As above, but replacing ‘great’ with ‘terrible’ and ‘love’ with ‘loathe’. It’s the old love/hate relationship, when I’m in the zone.
downthetubes: What most distracts you from getting your work done?
Simon: Thinking about the next thing.
downthetubes: Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
Simon: I think there are more comics made now than ever, which is great. It’s maybe a surprising thing to say, ‘cause we tend to think of past times as golden, but there are more ways to make a comic and get it to someone else than there have been before. But that doesn’t mean more readers. So it feels like artists have to work more intensely and also work at creating not only their work, but an identity, a brand even.
downthetubes: Have you ever been to the Lake District before and if so what did you think of it? If you haven’t, what are you expecting?
Simon: I’ve been to Kendal before and made work in Ulverston. What to say about the Lakes?! More than Wordsworth. Top of the World.
downthetubes: Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?
Simon: Oh I’m terrified of meeting other artists, particularly those I admire. What if we don’t get on? What if they think I’m a jerk? And I suppose that I think I can ask questions or make proposals remotely, without meeting ‘em, to sort of test the water. At the moment, I’m a big fan of the drawings of Christophe Blain and Carlos Nine. I think their work gives readers problems and pushes at the boundaries of visual comprehensibility: I get vertigo!
downthetubes: How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?
Simon: The ‘Angoulême’ model of festival seems to manage to get creators, publishers, readers of all ages and interests and theorists together to experience all sorts of different types of thing. I’d say that the Lakes Festival is like that, and it can really spark great things. The ‘convention’ model less so, I think.
downthetubes: What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
Simon: Expand your story-worlds and think about who’s reading.
downthetubes: What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
Simon: There are too many to list! Let’s say Fumio Obata’s Just So Happens. It appears to be a fey, lyrical/gentle tale, but it’s much more than that. There’s some really masterful story-telling that plays with a lot of genres, accumulating a palpable sense of time and place.
downthetubes, Simon, thank you very much for your time and good luck with the new book and your new projects
Events at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015 featuring Simon Grennan:
Dispossession: Simon Grennan
Sunday 18th October 1.30-2.30 pm Comics Clock Tower Tickets £8
FIND OUT MORE AND BOOK TICKETS