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Welcome to New Havelock: We Have a Sea Monster - An Interview with RICHARD FAIRGRAY

COMIC BOOK YETI: Richard, welcome to the Yeti Cave for another installment of Cryptid-Bits, our crowdfunding creator interview series. Your comic Shed is on Kickstarter until Thursday, September 29th. Can you tell CBY readers what Shed is all about?

RICHARD FAIRGRAY: In a broad sense it’s atmospheric horror about small town repression and the danger of trying to find an end to your story by seeking what other people tell you you should want.

In a more granular sense, it’s about Amber, a woman in her late twenties who has decided this is probably the time for her to settle down. She moves to New Havelock, a place she’d heard about her whole life, the place where her father had lived and run a junk shop with a cute name, a place with a pier and a sea monster. But when she gets there, it’s a town stuck in its own past, desperately clinging to what it used to be and looking to blame anything but itself for its decay.

Amber has to choose a side, between the controlling group of women all named derivations of Elizabeth or the bitter, perpetually smoking, Fran. It’s an unsettling ride and a lot of it centers around a ceramic fish with a dick printed on it.

CBY: What’s your comic creator origin story, meaning when did you first get into comics and what was it that made you want to create comics?

RF: I thought no one else was making them. I had never seen one other than on TV, so I thought if I did it then I’d become a millionaire by the time I was 8. I blackmailed my school librarian to get free photocopying and started self-publishing 8 to 16-page books that I’d sell at school events to parents who felt sorry for me. I wasn’t a millionaire, but I did have a robust Power Rangers collection (including Titanis, not to brag).

CBY: Shed is co-written by Lucy Campagnolo. How did you and Lucy start working together and what was the process like co-writing? How did you break up the story and who would handle which parts?

RF: Lucy and I have been friends for years and wrote the Cardboardia series together. We also had a podcast for a couple of years before I moved from New Zealand and time differences got in the way. On the rare occasions when I co-write I like it to be a total collaboration, with both of us talking through every line as we go. Occasionally one of us will get a burst of inspiration and start typing a sentence in a google doc and the other will sort of follow behind tweaking it before it's even finished. There is a children’s book that Amber reads (we’re big into layers of story in our work) which I wrote on my own from a synopsis we came up with together, but that was just because I have a lot of experience in that space and wanted to hit a very specific tone (in case we want to sell that later as a separate script).

CBY: Shed is published by Blue Fox Publishing, based out of Linlithgow, Scotland. How did Shed end up at Blue Fox Publishing and what has your experience been like with them as a publisher?

RF: During COVID I had a lot of extra time on my hands. I decided that my goal would be to make an extra 5 graphic novels before the first vaccine rolled out (my lockdown was basically like Principal Skinner trapped under newspapers). I managed to finish 3 and had this one and another half scripted. I had backed a book from Blue Fox on Kickstarter called Fishing Memories. It’s a sweet, surreal, sad and beautiful story and it immediately showed me that Blue Fox were the right type of publisher for, at the very least, one of these atmospheric, introspective COVID era books. I reached out to them, pitched it on a zoom call and the deal was done. They have been exceptional in every way.

CBY: Can you tell CBY readers about your choices regarding the colors in Shed. From the preview pages it appears sparing, but deliberate.

RF: Honestly, I was just experimenting on the first page and I really like the look of it. I’m always trying to find ways to make my work harder and a big focus recently has been about incorporating color more effectively to convey tone. All my books have kind of wildly different approaches when it comes to color. Maybe deep down I want a big omnibus printed one day and people will be able to tell at a glance which story they’ve flipped to.

CBY: What are some of your influences for Shed, whether that means other writers/artists or particular works?

RF: I’m terrible at knowing where my influences come from. I read a lot, I watch a lot and I miss even more. I can tell you that Halt and Catch Fire is like a master class in writing complicated friendships and Dr. Katz was the thing that taught me as a kid that it was okay to only be a little bit funny. Really this story came from pulling characters out of our feelings of isolation and resentment, both from COVID and the larger, more troubling world.

CBY: As a writer and artist, what’s your process when you have a story idea? Do you outline or start drafting a script? At what point do you begin drawing the panels?

RF: It varies book to book. With this one we had the outline and I drew each chapter as it was written, but with Black Sand Beach I don’t put pen to paper until the whole script is finished for each volume. With Haunted Hill I write 6 pages of dialogue in the morning and then draw a 6 page comic over the next two days, then repeat the process until a story is finished.

CBY: What are the comics, books, tv shows, and movies that you are currently enjoying?

RF: I’m working 20 hours a day because I have 3 books due by the end of the year, so I’m not watching anything new. I have go to favorites to play in the background while I draw. Bojack Horseman, Downtown, Home Movies, The West Wing, and embarrassingly One Tree Hill (I really like how much that town cares about high school basketball).

CBY: Tell me about any upcoming projects or friends’ projects that CBY readers should check out.

RF: There’s a book being announced next month that I’m really excited about. I’ve been sitting on the idea for over a decade and I’m finally getting to do it. I can’t say too much, but it’s a YA graphic novel about two boys falling in love through comic books that one of them is forbidden from ever looking at. So, stay tuned for that. The things by other people that I'm really excited for are mostly not announced, so I’m just going to say Unnamed David Avallone Project and Tess Fowler’s Memoir.

CBY: Where can you be found online?

RF: I’m the only Richard Fairgray, so if you see the name then it’s me. I’m tweeting things that are technically jokes whenever I have ink drying @richardfairgray, and I have about 2000 pages of comics on (including the first 12-issue series of Haunted Hill and all of Blastosaurus).

CBY: Thank you so much, Richard, and good luck with the rest of the campaign. I hope CBY readers check it out. There is a preview on the KS page. I will say I was hooked from the beginning when a character was looking for a Zardoz poster.

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