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!


Feature: Interview – Alysha Kaye

Alysha KayeMeet Alysha Kaye, author of the newly released novel The Waiting Room, and the first writer to be interviewed on my blog!

Alysha was born in San Marcos, TX, where she also received her BA in Creative Writing from Texas State University. She worked in marketing for a brief and terrible cubicle-soul-sucking time until she was accepted into Teach for America and promptly moved to Oahu. She taught 7th grade English in Aiea for two years and also received her Masters in Education from University of Hawaii. She now teaches in Austin, TX and tries to squeeze in as much writing as possible between lesson planning. She dreamt about The Waiting Room once, and offhandedly wrote her boyfriend a love poem about waiting for him after death. Somehow, that became a novel.

I found out about her through another blogger here on wordpress (theowllady), and the cover and summary were enough for me to know that I needed to read her book. So, I purchased the kindle-version and after reading a mere third of the book I contacted Alysha about taking part in her blog tour promotion of the book. Today I hope to learn a bit more about how The Waiting Room came to be and what the experience of writing, publishing and promoting the novel has been like:

waitingroomcoverRT: Now, I absolutely loved The Waiting Room, but before we talk about the book itself I want to say that I also really like the cover – how did it come to be?
Alysha: Thank you! It was a very difficult decision for me because I’d always pictured a very simple “waiting” cover–perhaps just a chair in front of a window, etc. However, I had an amazing graphic designer through Expert Subjects and she sent me about 30 different concepts. I held a vote on WordPress and Facebook and the one you see was the clear winner.

RT: For me, two things in particular really stand out: first, all the various life-and-love stories we get a glimpse of throughout the book. Where did you get the inspiration for all of these personal destinies?
Alysha: A lot of them were adapted from short stories I’d written in the past. One in particular (the one set in Ewa, Hawaii) was published last year in the Hawaii Review, while I was teaching there. I definitely think a part of myself went into each of Jude and Nina’s lives- their love represents love that I’ve had, love that I wish I had, love that I’ve seen other people have… I find inspiration everywhere.

RT: Second, I really like that everything is so open to interpretation. There’s no single faith or world view that dominates and yet I found it to be very spiritual and philosophical – is that open-mindedness a part your own beliefs?
Alysha: I’m really glad you caught that- I definitely didn’t want any reader to think that I was secretly trying to push my own viewpoints. It’s open to interpretation because that’s exactly how I feel about faith and spirituality- open! I don’t think anyone should ignore the possibility of any religion or belief.

RT: You’ve said that The Waiting Room started out as a poem based on a dream – what made you turn it into a novel?
Alysha: I couldn’t get it out of my head! I thought about it all the time. The poem turned into what I thought would just be a short story. Then I just kept writing and writing and writing…that’s the trick I guess haha just don’t stop! I need to remember that for my next project…

RT: Was it a difficult decision to choose self-publishing?
Alysha: Not at all. I didn’t want to wait years for an agent or publisher to respond to a query letter! My novel had already been collecting dust for a few years, so I wanted to act fast. Self-publishing is amazing. You have complete creative control! However, now that it is out there, I may look into traditional publishing. It feels a bit like selling out though! I really like being an “indie author”…so we’ll see.

RT: Being an English teacher and a writer I’m guessing you have read quite a lot in your life – are there any authors in particular you would say have been a strong influence for this book, or your writing in general?
Alysha: I started writing this book immediately after I’d read The Time Traveler’s Wife. Such an amazing, heart-wrenching love story. I was so captivated by her writing. [RT: the author in question being Audrey Niffenegger]

RT: You’ve done a week of this blog tour now – what has this experience been like?
Alysha: It’s been so great! I love connecting with bloggers and fellow writers. The WordPress community has been so incredibly supportive. I definitely want to do more of this! 

RT: So now that the book is out and being promoted, what are your plans for the future?

Alysha: Well, unfortunately, I think I may need to hire a PR specialist. The marketing is hard work…and the only reason I’ve had time for it is because I have all summer off. So many next steps…PR, decide if I want to try and traditionally publish it, continue writing the next novel (I have about one chapter written so far)…

RT: Lastly, is there anything about this whole experience – writing the book, publishing it, promoting it and going on this blog tour – that turned out very different from what how you imagined it?
Alysha: The social media aspect of it has been VERY surprising. I honestly didn’t think creating a Twitter, for example, would help me sell my book haha it seems very futile. But it really has helped! Having the time to keep up with it, however, is proving to be the most difficult part! #overwhelmed 😉

There you have it Dear Reader! If you are at all into books about romance, philosophy and life after death I highly suggest you give this excellent novel a chance. For me, it has been one of the most pleasant reads of the year and I know I will return to it again and again.

The Waiting Room:

Summary – Jude and Nina are the epitome of that whole raw, unflinching love thing that most people are jealous of. That is, until Jude dies and wakes up in The Waiting Room, surrounded by other souls who are all waiting to pass over into their next life. But unlike those souls, Jude’s name is never called by the mysterious “receptionist”. He waits, watching Nina out of giant windows. He’s waiting for her. What is this place? How long will he wait? And what will happen when and if Nina does join him? The Waiting Room is a story of not just love, but of faith, predestination, and philosophy, friendship and self-actualization, of waiting.

Kindle version:
Print version:


Alysha Kaye on the web: