Another guest interview by Stephen Leotti, which originally appeared on his FB page. This time, he interviews Kate Slinger, awesome artist and creator of the webcomic West, who recently drew this fan art of Rick! Enjoy!
S: Well, why don’t you go ahead and tell me a little about yourself. Your background, current job, city, and anything else relevant.
K: Okey dokey. I’m twenty four and I live in the North West of England in a tiny hamlet in the countryside called Wincham. I work for a historic department store as their merchandising manager/sales supervisor and studied archaeological science at Sheffield University.
S: Oh cool. Are you English or did you move there?
K: Very English I’m afraid.
S: Awesome. I get to read everything you say in an accent.
K: Please do, I’m sure it sounds very posh.
S: Rah-ther. Haha.
K: Getting a kick out of that, are you?
S: You have no idea. Anywho… So what is your comic about for people who don’t know?
K: It’s a story about a bloke called Jed who seems to think he has life very well figured out, only to discover through the course of the comic that he doesn’t and that the world he thought he knew is actually very confusing. He meets many people on his journeys through the West and through them he learns a lot about himself, like things he needed that he never thought he did, and things he wants that he thought he would. Never thought he would, I mean. It’s a funny story, and serious at times.
S: If you had began with “come and listen to my story bout a man named Jed” I’d have been so happy. I don’t know if that joke translates.
K: Hahaha. ‘Let me tell ye a tale of a man called Jed…with an oar for an arm and a lamp for a head…’
S: Wonderful! So where did the inspiration come from?
K: Nowhere. I literally drew this picture one day and then thought…I should write a story about this. So I did.
S: That’s totally how I am.
K: And we’re clearly the best.
S: My entire first comic came from a drawing of angry cat. Crazy.
K: It always begins with cats. My first comic did too.
S: Is art something you’ve always dabbled in? I must say, you’re a good drawer. It makes me angry.
K: Oh dear.
S: Well, envious anyway.
K: It’s alright, you can be angry. Angry is good. Use it.
S: I hate, therefore I am.
K: We understand each other then. Anyway… I’ve always dabbled in art, but never seriously. I didn’t study it, just did it when things sprang to mind.
S: Well you have talent for sure.
K: Thank you, that’s very kind. While at university I did a series of really s****y short comics that went down alright.
S: Let’s say you got hugely popular, would you take it up full time?
K: I don’t know. I don’t know if relying on art would make it more of a burden than a joy.
S: It can be painful, I can tell you.
K: Are you very critical of yourself?
K: I suppose we all are, right?
S: But, anyway, so how do approach the making of comic? Do you write a script? Or just start drawing and see what happens.
K: I have the story in my head. It’s not written anywhere and only two people I know have heard the whole thing out loud. After they did, they both got very cross and told me to write it down. So of course I haven’t. I just know where things are going and draw pages one by one on the fly.
S: Ever fear of writing yourself into a corner?
K: For the past few years I’ve had a kind of umbrella world or universe that’s been a kind of sand pit for me to test my plotting skills in. I wrote myself into a million corners doing that so the thought of doing it now with West isn’t very scary. Not saying I won’t, but even if I do it’s not the end of the world.
S: I gotcha. I admire people who are brave enough for that. I’m over here clinging to my word processor.
K: Improv helps a lot with that.
S: Have you done improv?
K: Not stand up improv in person, but improvisational writing. Like roleplaying. Take a chat room like this, one facebook or google docs or anywhere, and sit down with another writer and write one paragraph after the other, taking turns each time. Follow each other’s queues and take the story in different directions without communicating your ideas. See where things go. Doing that helped me loosen up and not worry so much about where things are going. Me and a friend of mine actually do this a few times a week with a long-term story we have. It’s at last 500k words long by now and has been added to for over a year.
S: I’ve done that before. We came up with a lot of really immature ideas though.
S: But yeah, having other people to bounce stuff off of is good.
K: Yeah. I also found letting another person take control and move things to places I never thought of/didn’t want to go helped me actually let go of control myself. That was my trouble. I needed complete control over my writing.
S: Being a control freak is rarely a good thing, I find.
K: Definitely. Especially in pursuit of perfection.
Nothing is perfect. West isn’t. But that’s what gives it character.
S: I think it’s very charming.
K: Thank you. AND if I do encounter a massive plot hole at least you’ll remember it for that.
S: I’ve actually read this one, as opposed to most other comics I’ve interviewed.
K: Is that because it’s 17 pages long?
S: Partly… But even that wouldn’t make me read something that looked bad.
K: Do you find it hard to get past bad art in comics?
S: Yes. Do you?
K: Sometimes. It depends how bad it is. There’s stuff that’s impossible to even figure out and stuff that’s just charming, like you say.
Perhaps not technically correct or even that attractive but nice in its own way.
S: Yeah, I mean, there’s bad stylistically, and bad as in you don’t know what you’re doing. Bad stylistically is like The Simpsons.
K: We’ve had this discussion before, haven’t we? You may have brought it up on Webcomic Underdogs and I might have chimed in.
S: I don’t know if we did or not. Was it that post where I was remarking on if bad art can exist?
K: That’s the one.
S: That was fun.
K: It was, and interesting. Me and my boyfriend then had our own very long discussion about it.
S: Until the recent one with the cracked article that was the most epic debate I’ve had on facebook.
K: I don’t think I’ve seen that one yet. Probably for the best.
S: It was the one about female super heroes and boobs…
It eventually went into 50 Shades of Grey.
K: Oh Christ.
S: Yeah… It’s evil. I’ve written like five posts on it. It’s kind of fascinating.
K: 50 shades?
S: Yeah. Swing by my page sometime. It’s a magical mystery tour.
K: Well s***, now I’ll have to.
S: Anyway, bringing it back. What comics, films, shows, books, or other media inspire you and influence your work?
K: Comics, not many. I’m a big fan of Evan Dahm, though. His stuff is great. I don’t watch many shows so I don’t have much to offer there…Maybe GoT? Films would be LOTR, anything by Studio Ghibli, and probably tons of others I can’t remember off the top of my head. Books would be anything by Ursula Le Guin and many other general fantasy books like Harry Potter, LOTR, His Dark Materials. I’m really very bad at remembering things that actually inspire me– usually it’s people and places more than anything.
S: Ok, what are some people and places?
K: People I know, mostly. My family, my friends. I live quite a private life but I try and observe them where I can. My boyfriend is a metal guitarist so you can imagine why long hair and beards are frequent features in my art.
Places– anywhere me and my boyfriend have been. We camp a lot and walk everywhere. Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Whitby, The Lakes. Which is probably why my characters are so hardy too.
It’s all very predictable really.
S: It is a pretty macho character filled story, so far.
K: Jed’s ‘seen some s***’ as the boyfriend put it once. Which makes it even more hilarious where the story is going.
S: I like the fact that the characters can be that way without being to unrealistically buff, like lots of superhero comics. It feels very grounded in reality.
K: I’m glad you feel that way. I’m not very good with high fantasy. Other races are problematic for me, like elves and orcs and things.
Not because I don’t like them, but I find human problems interesting enough just as they are.
S: Yeah, you have to REALLY like world building to get into that. Which I’m not either.
K: Yeah, it’s a lot of effort…And when you agonize over details like we do it’s not very productive either.
S: It’s the Tolkein approach. Write every detail even if it doesn’t matter.
K: Jesus, yeah…I love Tolkein, but s***, where did he find the time to do all that? And keep track of it too??
S: He enjoyed it I guess.
K: I wonder what his wife made of it.
S: I don’t know.
K: I’m really bad if I get in the zone. The house could fall down and I wouldn’t even know.
S: I know what you mean. Laundry is the enemy.
K: *** that laundry.
S: I wouldn’t even eat if it weren’t for… biology.
K: Me either. I often forget to eat at all. Boyfriend does not approve.
S: That’s a good question, how do you find time to balance school, work, family, friends, and comic making?
K: It’s not easy. A typical day is to get up, go to work, do the day, come home and then start work on the comic. A comic page takes two evenings, generally (8 hours) and if I get one of them finished by Tuesday night (my day off) I then have one or two evenings to write, see family, go eat with friends, do jobs, then get back on with the second weekly comic page when I can.
Honestly, I don’t see my friends as much as I used to, but we’re all getting older and busier and that’s nothing to do with me. We do what we can when we can. I don’t get lonely.
S: Yeah, it’s important to live life and not be stuck on the drawing board all the day. Not that I do that, but I’m aware of the idea.
K: Yep. I really need to get the balance back.
S: Thanks for your time.
K: Sure thing, and thanks for the interview, you gave me some good stuff to think about.