Interview with Zachary Bonelli and Aubry Kae Andersen!

I am so happy to welcome author Zachary Bonelli  (founder of Fuzzy Hedgehog Press) and artist Aubry Kae Andersen (The AKArchy) to my blog today. They are running a Kickstarter campaign to raise the art buget for Insomniuma story that is as much about coping with loss, tragedy and adversity, as it is about finding purpose and meaning in a hostile and barely comprehensible dream world.

Nel Hanima goes to sleep in his Seattle apartment and awakens in the fantastically paradoxical City of Nowhere. Among the city’s bizarre inhabitants, Nel discovers three other humans—Giniip Pana, Rev Merveille, and Drogl Belgaer—each from their own alternate reality version of Seattle. Together, they learn that Nowhere is actually a dream, a whole universe conjured into existence by someone’s overactive nighttime imagination. But this begs the question—whose dream is it? And more importantly, how do they wake up?

Insomnium is expected to begin its release cycle on October 30 of this year. A final version, all twelve collected episodes in print and ebook formats, will become available on February 12, 2014. In order to make this schedule a reality, the Kickstarter campaign will have to reach its funding goals by the end of the day on July 7.

Okay, let’s get started on the questions! How did this collaboration come about?

Zachary: Aubry and I met in our science fiction writers’ meetup group. About a year ago, I described to her one of the scenes I wanted illustrated for Voyage. It was Kal and Rko’s kiss inside a forcefield bubble surrounded by lava. She drew it up on the spot, and I asked if she would be interested in working on the series.

Aubry: I’ve been working with Zachary on his Voyage serial project for nearly a year now, providing illustrations, cover art, and other random graphics, as well as editorial advice on the story.  When Zachary decided to take a break from Voyage and work on a fresh story, he approached me to provide illustrations.

How has it been to work together?

Zachary:  Great! I think that Aubry’s illustration style compliments my writing well. I tend to write about people being thrown into places that are weird, not only in that the normal social rules break down, but even the places and people themselves tend to be different and unique. Aubry’s signature style, the hand drawn faces, with cloth and other textures filling in the color digitally, fits this motif.

Aubry: Working with Zachary has been great.  Our ideas mesh together very well.  He has a fantastic imagination and I love bringing that to life.   I can’t really say there have been any challenges involved, either.  I couldn’t have asked for a better client, or a better friend.

How did you decide which scenes to illustrate?

Zachary: In the case of Voyage, it depends on the episode. Sometimes I have a scene that’s screaming out at me, begging me to be artistically realized, and I communicate that desire to Aubry. Other times, it won’t be as clear in my mind which scene should get illustrated, and we’ll both chat about it until we come up with something. Sometimes I’m useless and I just leave it up to Aubry entirely, based on the text of the story.

In the case of Insomnium, the illustrations will be for the covers. Insomnium’s City of Nowhere is divided up into wards, which each have a governor. And the episodes more or less contain one new ward and one new governor. Our plan is basically to match governors and wards to the covers for each ep. You can see the preliminary sketch for the ward of Earth Above Heaven Below and its governor, the Farseer, on the Kickstarter page, for example.

Aubry: For Voyage, I read all his episodes, then together we pick out the scene that would be most visually appealing and representative of the themes.   Zachary trusts me a lot to envision an illustration’s subject and composition, but I always present him with a sketch first, in case I miss a detail like correct clothing or hairstyles.  For Insomnium, this process will be much the same.

What have you learned during this project?

Zachary: I feel I’ve learned a lot about the drafting process. Voyage is this big, sprawling thing, that’s taken over a decade to finally get into a state where it feels “right.” Insomnium, on the other hand, is a much more tightly contained story, coming it at a total of twelve episodes, as opposed to Voyage’s seventy. Not to imply that Insomnium is superior. Voyage is just more “epic” in scope. Planning and writing Insomnium has taught me a lot about the structure and arcs of shorter serials.

 Aubry: In our preliminary preparations for Insomnium, we’ve learned making a video of ourselves is hard.  We’re both fairly introverted people with weird senses of humor.  We’ve also been learning the nitty-gritty of publishing–the unglamorous stuff, really, like how to register a business, how to pay taxes, how to handle marketing, and so on.  Artistic endeavors like this are a lot more than just spewing your imagination onto computer screens and paper.

Aubry, What/Who influences your artwork?

My mother, Charlotte Warr Andersen, has always been a big influence on my artistic tendencies.  She’s a pictorial quilter, and you can really pick up a similar style in the art I make.  I just don’t have the patience to sew, so I piece together paper and fabrics using glue or Photoshop.

She and my father encouraged me to pursue my art, ever since I was a child.  It’s not a lucrative career choice, so anybody going into an artistic field really needs to find support like that.

Aubry, Who are some of your favorite artists?

My favorite contemporary artist is Yoshitaka Amano, a Japanese illustrator most famous for his depictions of Final Fantasy characters.  I played those video games while growing up, and was always wowed by his work in the instruction booklet and Nintendo Power Player’s Guide.  That was before the Internet was everywhere.

If we’re talking dead artists, my favorite is Francisco Goya.  He was before his time, I think, making very raw, expressionistic work during a time when art was more about hazy, romantic perfection.   

Zachary, What/Who influences your writing?

My favorite book of all time is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. You’ll see a lot of that influence in Insomnium. I’m also fond of Neal Gaiman and China Mieville. If a piece of writing has a really weird and creative high concept, I’m game. 

Zachary, Who are some of you favorite authors?

Besides the three mentioned above, I’m also fond of Ursula K Le Guin, Philip K Dick, and Neal Stephenson.

Finally what is your advice to aspiring authors and artists out there.

Zachary: I’ve lost a lot of time in my life, which I could have spent writing, to the false idea that I would never be “good enough.” If you have a story that just needs to be told, then write. Just write. Seriously, go write your story. Then write other stories. Then come back and write your first story again if you need to. Whatever you do, just keep writing. Don’t stop because of something as trivial as not meeting someone else’s expectations. Grow, live, learn, and write some more.

Aubry: A lot of people are pursuing the arts these days.  The people who succeed will be persistent and differentiate themselves from the crowd.  This comes easier if you truly love the make your art, if you need to express yourself in order to keep yourself happy.  There’s a reason so many artists and writers are perceived as a few cards short of a full deck.  Creativity often comes at the cost of normalcy.  People who lack the same creativity still enjoy creative things, yet they’ll often look down upon the everyday artist struggling who sacrifices their comfort for their art.  That type of person will call the artist or the writer lazy or crazy because they aren’t pursuing a more stable career.

Don’t listen to them.  Embrace your own weirdness.  Surround yourself with friends who will accept you in all your mad glory and support your goals.  Show naysayers to the door.

That’s great advice! Thanks for stopping by!  

Zachary Bonelli grew up in a small town in northern Illinois, west of Chicago. After graduating high school, he dual majored in English Literature and German Language at a small, Midwestern liberal arts college. After undergrad, he turned his eyes towards exploration, and spent many years in Japan, Thailand and Hawaii. Zack loves stories. He’s long been fascinated by video games as a storytelling medium, and loves exploring different cultures, discovering the different underlying stories that different groups of people tell themselves, the stories that define who they are and how they perceive the world. Nowadays, he lives with his partner near Seattle, Washington.

Aubry Kae Andersen is a freelance designer living in Seattle, WA.  Her business, the AKArchy (akarchy.com), does design work for web and print, as well as illustration.  She has a BFA in Studio Art from Westminster College of Utah, and currently serves on the Board of Directors for A/NT Gallery (antgallery.org), a non-profit artist’s collective where she shows her more traditional work.  In addition to all that, she’s working on her debut novel, Isaac the Fortunate, slated for release later this year.

If you’d like more information about the Insomnium Kickstarter campaign please go to: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/zacharybonelli/insomnium-a-serialized-science-fiction-novel

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/ZacharyBonelli/

Publisher Website: http://www.fuzzyhedgehogpress.com/

Blog: http://www.zacharybonelli.com/

 

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