Interviews with readers and creators

13

Feb 2015

Creator Spotlight: Olivia Wylie

Posted by / in Spotlight Interviews / 1 comment

This spotlight of Olivia Wylie first appeared on guest interviewer Stephen Leotti’s FB page.  Olivia produces the webcomic Parmeshen.

ParmeshenBanner

Alright, my next interview is with Olivia Wylie. You can follow her comic Parmeshen on Facebook too.

S: Okay, why don’t we start with a short intro/bio. Where you live, job, education, whatever else you want.

O: Sure. I’m a horticulturist living on the awesomely Bohemian Capitol Hill of Denver, where you can rub shoulders with artists of all types. One of my co-writers, Emily Singer, also lives in this lovely town, while our third member of the trio lives even further West.

S: So, are you the artist as well as writer?

O: And yes, I’m the illustrator for Parmeshen. I wouldn’t call myself a writer at all; I just play with stories. In our trio Emily is the real writer; she created Atla originally and designed its parameters. Tori and I just got lucky when Emily decided to let us play in her world

S: Ah, Collaboration is always a useful thing.

That pretty much answers my next question: which would be how did you come up with the idea? And what exactly IS Parmeshen, for people who don’t know.

O: Oh yes. Some of our strongest storylines come of the three of us sitting around on Skype chat bouncing ideas off each other. It’s one of the aspects of this project that I really love.

The project got its start as a collaborative storytelling game (play by post rpg). Emily had created the world and invited people to play in it, and we’d begun a very strong story. Now, I think in pictures, and the images in the story got so fixed in my mind that one day I just couldn’t help but ask ‘hey, can I draw this?’ That was the seed.

As for what Parmeshen is, it’s a tale set in an alternate earth concurrent with our 1890’s.The storylines explore the issues of cultural integrity and tolerance. In time it will delve into human psychology and explore how cultures perceive outsiders in their midst.

S: That seems incredibly ambitious.

So, is it based around a single character? Or is it more like the world is the star and we follow different stories that take place there?

O: Sometimes it feels that way, but we tell the story through interpersonal relationships, which helps it become more real and less professorial. The words ‘racial bias’ don’t mean much, but the main character getting kicked out of the city library for ‘loitering’ based on her race really hits home.

The story, at least the first book, revolves around two main characters; Baxt Parmeshengro and Arik Bijo. These characters balance each other in personality and circumstance; Baxt the outsider and Arik who knows the system, Baxt passionate where Arik is thoughtful, Baxt wary where Arik is curious. The wary friendship built between them and the interplay of their cultures will provide the backbone of the story, and that bond will echo through all the stories to come. As of yet we’re really just beginning, but we have a LOT of the plot ready and waiting.

S: That’s a perfect primer. Great.

How does the process of adapting the comic go? Is there a script? Outline? Or do you just start drawing with a general idea?

O: I’d say the original story we wrote is the ‘script’, my main challenge is taking the stuff we wrote and putting in all the details we didn’t worry about, because we weren’t writing at that time for readers. This I do by trying out various scene ideas and storyboards, showing them to Emily for edits and advice, then getting a proper line drawing done and showing it to her a last time before I flat and shade. It seems to work well, between the two of us we manage to cover most of the gaps. It’s nice to have a general story thrust all laid out ahead of me, but there’s steady work taking what we dreamed up and making sure it’s sensible. Some of the things we wrote are also a challenge to convey in pictures, and when that happens I research, scribble, research again and then try something and show it to Emily, usually with the comment ‘tell me this is at least semi-coherent.’

For me the written story acts a lot like a script; I have a story, now I just have to tell it in pictures. I grew up with a lot of storytelling, so I’m pretty used to taking a story and running with it.

…Annnnd poetic reasons aside, we three girls talked about it once and agreed we were too lazy.

S: It does have a very classic literature/mythology type of feel to it. What stories do you enjoy and feel like had an influence on how you approach your own storytelling?

O: Probably the old Irish, Menominee and English folk stories I grew up with and the mythology I read, as well as all the urban fantasy; Charles DeLint especially. Emily has a strong background in Norse mythology, the mechanisms of writing and its conventions, and Tori brings an adventurous streak with her love of the stories in video games and heroic myths.

S: Awesome.

O: It does create a well rounded story, which is great. Often I wish I drew faster so I could get to all the exciting scenes we’ve written already!

S: I can definitely sympathize with that.

O: Most irritating thing in the world isn’t it?

S: I often wish I could just get it done to move on to the next adventure.

O: YES!

S: I know it’s kind of too late, but have you considered just doing an illustrated novel? It seems like it would lend itself well to what you’re trying to create. So, why choose the difficult medium of comics specifically?

O: I suppose because I love to draw, and I like the culture of indie comics. I also feel that these kind of stories, stories that make us think about our cultural mores, need to be told in ALL genres. Stories like Habibi, The Rabbi’s Cat, and Hues need to be there for people who might not pick up a ‘traditional’ book.

S: That’s very true. I read far more comics than real books.

What comics are you into right now?

O: Heh, Emily is Much better at keeping up on reading than I am, but I read Saga, Sandman, Good Neighbors, K and P and Tripping Over You.

S: All good ones.

What’s the hardest thing about keeping up a webcomic? And how do you stay inspired to continue with it?

O: Finding time to draw is definitely the hardest thing, inspiration is never an issue; it’s getting creative time squeezed in.

S: Fair enough.

O: Don’t tell my boss but I’ve been known to take long lunch hours to get some drawing in ;0

S: You’re secrets safe with me. I hope he doesn’t read that though…

I can edit it out if needed.

O: I think I’m safe; she asked me if I was doing ‘this comic thing’ for a newspaper somewhere…snicker.

S: Yeah, okay.

Well I think that’s about good. Any closing thoughts?

O: Nope, only thanks for the interest!

S: No problem. Have a good night!

O: You too.