Interview: Tom and Nimue Brown

Dear Reader, when it rains it pours! 

Last week saw the release of a new urban fantasy series, and this week sees a new edition of one of the most interesting comics I’ve come across – Hopeless, Maine by husband-and-wife creator team Tom and Nimue Brown – sees the light of day, released by Sloth Comics.

Now, what is Hopeless, Maine you may wonder? Well, I will do a full feature later in the week, when it’s been released, so for now I’ll just give you a little teaser:

Hopeless, Maine is more than just a name: it is a place (an island, to be exact), a graphic novel series, a wealth of stories (told as well as hinted at); it’s a mythology of it’s own, even. Tom and Nimue have created a wonderful world – one which I myself have really only begun to explore – rich with myth and mystery. Nimue’s writing is really brought to life by Tom’s gorgeous artwork, and together they create a very unique style which really fits the story they are telling. Hopeless, Maine is a creation that stands solid in it’s own right, and the feeling I get from it reminds me of those first forays into the fantastical worlds of people like Ursula Le Guinn, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and most recently Joe Hill. Yes, it’s that good!

In preparation for the launch I had the honour of doing a mini-interview  with its creators, Tom and Nimue Brown:

Hopeless, Maine began its life as a webcomic – what were the principal reasons for bringing it to book form?

Tom: It was meant to be printed comics from the beginning, really. We just got impatient waiting for a publisher, mostly, and wanted to get the story out there. First, we started the Hopeless, Vendetta, which was a weekly “newspaper” from the island. This was a lot of fun and we had people coming and roleplaying island residents of their own creation in the comments section. Then, we launched the webcomic with The Blind Fisherman going up all at once and then pages weekly. It helped keep us going, and improved morale, greatly because people were commenting and theorising about the story and waiting for pages. Having the webcomic succeed as it did actually helped us land our first publisher, so it is a thing that I would recommend to people starting out in comics. Webcomics also has a great and vibrant community, and i’m glad we didn’t miss out on being a part of that.

Every creative team has their own unique approach to the work, so what’s the dynamic between the two of you? How does a typical project start, grow and develop?

Nimue: There’s an ongoing process of passing things back and forth, and bouncing things off each other. So, we don’t have a specific system, we talk about things, we wave ideas at each other. A lot of the best ideas come when we aren’t deliberately looking for them – when we’re out walking, particularly. We try not to spend too much in-bed time talking about work, but early on that happened more than it should have done. We both tend to get excited about /obsessive over whatever we’re working on, so the bigger issue is often holding boundaries so the projects don’t totally take over our lives! A big part of what makes us work as a creative team is that we are both excited about each other’s work, excited to see what the other one does with an idea or where it goes, so we throw things at each other in a really unstructured way and just let it happen. It’s a very fertile way of working, but it depends on high levels of trust and being on the same wavelength, and always being willing to let go of things to accomodate the other person’s vision when they’ve got the better idea.

Tom, you don’t ink your artwork – which gives it a unique, almost visceral style that I really admire – how has that changed the way you approach colouring?

Tom: Yes, i’ve fallen away from ink as a way of finishing art. I did the first two page spread for Personal Demons in rendered pencil and have not looked back, since. For colouring, well, in the early years of Hopeless, Maine I just used a very limited palette and saved the saturated colours for magic and emphasis. Brightly coloured pages would not have suited the story. All of this was done in digitally. Later i discovered that textures gave an organic and aged quality to the art. For Book two (Inheritance) we were living on a narrowboat with limited electricity so I used watered down acrylic transparently over the pencils to save on computer colouring time. From book four and onwards (and on the cover art for The Gathering) Nimue is doing the colours with posh coloured pencils over the roughs and i’m doing the finished rendering on top. (This is resulting in the best looking art so far, I think!)

Finally, who would you say are your greatest inspirations?

Nimue: Shared inspirations – Hayao Miyazaki, Clive Barker, Ursula Le Guinn, Margaret Atwood, Robert Holdstock, and many others. We’ve got a lot of enthusiasms in common, I think that’s part of why we’re so much on the same wavelength. It’s not just famous people – we are part of a fantastic circle of creative folk locally, and in the wider world through the internet, and they inspire us and keep us going, and we hope we do the same for them. Landscape and big skies are always a source of inspiration for us, we go dancing and bat watching, and we play music together and all sorts of things. We’re always looking for things that lift, engage, inspire us that we can share and immerse ourselves in. Both of us find being exposed to other people’s creativity – whether that’s on deviantart, or a story telling session, some else’s book, or a gig… that feeds us, and it makes us both want to keep doing the things.

Thank you Nimue and Tom, for taking the time to answer my questions.

There you have it, Dear Reader – I will post again as soon as Hopeless, Maine – The Gathering is available. The book is a re-release combining part one and two (Personal Demons and Inheritance, respectively) along with some new material and – for the first time in print, I believe – The Blind Fisherman. I can’t wait!

personal_demons_1_2_coloured_by_copperage-d9g2w05

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