Thursday, 22 October 2009

Running in the Family: A mini interview with Leah Moore and John Reppion

As a new/struggling writer, I'm always intrigued to learn how the big names go about their trade. So, I contacted one of the comic-book industries best known duos--Leah Moore and John Reppion--to ask them.

PLM: I think I'm right in saying you only had a Tesla Strong short in Terrific Tales to your names when you both decided to pack in your day jobs and start writing your first Wild Girl mini-series for Wldstorm. What made you go for it in such a big way? That must have required serious cahoonas!

Leah: I had done a Solomon story for Terrific Tales #5, and a Paul Saveen story for Tom Strong #19 so I only had 16 pages of comic under my belt at that point… Yes, looking back it does seem slightly premature to pack in the day job and go for comics all the way. Our rationale was that with both of us working different hours at our part time day jobs, there wouldn’t end up being much time where we were both together, and we wouldn’t get much work done that way. We were really new to the whole process and we were still really cautious at all the different stages of writing the issues, so they took ages to write. If we hadn’t given up our jobs I doubt we’d have got all 6 issues of Wild Girl even written!
The other factor is that the dollar to pound exchange rate was pretty good back then, and Wildstorm page rates are pretty good anyway, so the money from doing an issue of Wild Girl seemed like plenty to live on at that point, compared to our part time wages anyway. Then the pound went into freefall and we had to learn to write faster, which can only be a good thing, and now we are faster, and the rate is pretty much what it was in Wild Girl days, so all worked out okay in the end. Scary looking back on it though!

PLM: I'm intrigued by the dynamic of co-writing with your partner. I know a lot of couples who can't agree on what to have for tea, never mind what to put into something like Albion or The Whispering Gallery. Do you have many "artistic differences", and, if so, how do you get around them? Do you ever have those uncomfortable "going to bed in silence" moments?

John: We do disagree about work sometimes but really it’s just like the other things you mentioned – eating or going shopping or whatever. We spend about 99% of our lives together and, naturally, we don’t always agree on everything but, for the most part, it’s never anything so huge that we actually end up not speaking to each other. We completely fell into co-writing – it was just a natural thing – so we don’t have any rules or special methods or protocols. We just do it. I don’t think we’ve ever disagreed in terms of a story because we’re both on a very similar wavelength. Most of our disagreements come from a frustration that we’re not able to communicate telepathically.

PLM: It's great to see a pair or writers like yourselves--who are crafting an increasingly respectable resume--taking the time to write for small press anthologies like Accent UK's Monsters and Predators, and to attend not just the big conventions like BIC and Thought Bubble, but small ones like Manchester. What is it that makes you keep in touch with the grass-roots of the industry?

Leah: Well the first thing is always the opportunity to meet and work with new people, and to get involved in interesting projects. I think a lot of people use these criteria but only apply them to paying gigs, but we have always enjoyed putting together small stories for people or going to small events just because it's fun. The people you talk to at a small event are no less likely to figure in your later career than the people you meet at larger events, and to be honest you are more likely to meet people who are relatively unknown in the wider industry and grab a chance to work with them on a little unpaid project before they get scooped up by a big publisher to go and be famous! The short stories we do always let us have a break from the big series we are working on the rest of the time, so they let us relax and stretch different muscles than normal, and it's no bad thing to have a portfolio of different stories in different genres to be able to point people at. We have done some really quirky stories for Accent UK that we would never have had the chance to write otherwise, and now they exist, and people can see what we do when we aren’t under a contract, or being paid to fulfil a brief.

PLM: I imagine working on your own characters is a lot easier than working with established characters like Dracula, the Doctor, Archie and the like. Do you feel any pressure from things like fan expectation and these characters' inherent baggage?

John: There’s definitely pressure and a weight of responsibility when writing a character like Doctor Who but at the same time there’s this vast pre-defined universe that you’re able to draw upon which sort of make things easier. If you’re writing an original character you have to establish everything and you have to try to hook the reader in – keep them interested and wanting to learn more – at the same time as telling your story. I think the most fun we have is when we’re allowed to expand an existing universe like we have with Holmes because you get the best of both: you can nod and wink at all these past cases and characters but, at the same time, you can re-define certain aspects. To be honest though, we always have fun whatever we’re writing – the most important thing is always to find the aspect of the project which interests you the most and concentrate on that. Certainly you want to please fans of Dracula or The Darkness or whatever but you’ve got to be enjoying it yourself as well. People can really tell if you’re not.

PLM: Thank you to you both. I look forward to seeing you at Thought Bubble!

For more information on Leah and John, please visit their website...and marvel at John's marvellous moustache!

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