Last year I contacted several artists and writers who had started their own web comic in the hopes of finding great tips to develop my own. I realized I might not be the only one who would benefit from these questions, so I asked for permission to upload their interviews on my blog. I have had some life events occur since then (excuses, excuses), so I’m only uploading these interviews now, but I hope you enjoy them!
First is Ursula Vernon, writer of web comic Digger. Digger is a beautiful black and white web comic about a wombat who finds herself in an Alice in Wonderland situation, traveling down a tunnel into a strange world. With the help of a cast of strange characters, she struggles to find her way back home. The comic has won many awards, including the Web Cartoonists’ Choice Awards in the categories of Outstanding Black and White Art (2005, 2006), and, in 2012, it received the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story.
Ursula was kind enough to answer some of my questions about her comic, and I hope that her experiences may grant you some insight and motivation for your own projects.
- How did the concept of Digger begin, and why did you decide to make it a web comic?
Well, I was literally trying to draw a character one day and couldn’t think of anything and the TV was on and at that moment a wombat took a chunk out of Steve Irwin’s leg. I made it a webcomic because at the time I had no idea what to do with it—the notion of doing a real print comic seemed ridiculously far-fetched, and I could just put the pages up on-line and have people read it!
2. What’s your writing process like, and do you have a personal routine that helps facilitate your writing ?
The local coffee shop (where I am typing this now!) is a great boon. I go there four days a week, write a thousand words, suck down coffee. I also play Dungeons & Dragons once a week and get a lot of art done during sessions!
- I think it’s very inspiring that you actually didn’t go to art school, because there are those of us, like me who stumbled into art later than most. Can you talk about the difficulty of deciding to pursue writing and art, and what were you doing, or considering, before you set out on this path?
Ah…hmm. I don’t know if I can talk about the difficulty because I don’t have anything to compare it to. Alternate Universe Ursula who kept a job as an insurance claim reviewer isn’t talking to me!
There was about a five year stretch after college where I would get up at 4:30 AM, go to my day job, come home at 3, sleep for two hours, work on art for about six hours, and then to sleep by midnight. That’s the sort of thing you can only do in your twenties. It was grim. And there was a lot of terror when I went full-time at art, because I had no safety net at all (never do this) and it was all down to me and my productivity to keep the lights on. That’s the really hard part, I think—the lack of safety.
- Do you have any favorite artists/writers who have personally inspired you?
For artists, James Christiansen, John Jude Palencar, Mucha, most recently Kawase Hasui. For writers…lord. Robin McKinley, Diane Duane, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Janet Kagan…
- As a woman and a creator have you found any difficulties trying to pursue and compete in a career in art and writing?
Oh, I’m sure sometime or other I lost a gig because there was a male name on the other guy’s letterhead. But I’ve been very lucky in that my loved ones have always been incredibly supportive of my work. Part of that is probably that my mother and stepfather are artists, my first husband’s mother was an artist, so there was never any question of it being a worthwhile career choice. And my current husband met me when I was already a full-time creator, so this is my JOB.
- Do you prefer cats or dogs? (I’m sure this question is somehow important)
I prefer dogs, but I mostly keep cats. Dogs are better people, but cats are easier to integrate into a household!
- How difficult was it to begin this project, and what are some of the suggestions you would give an independent artist/writer who wishes to create their own content?
It was surprisingly easy, mostly because I didn’t think of it as “I am starting an 8-year 700+ page project!” If I’d thought that, I would have hidden under the covers! But I was just fooling around with an idea and then people liked it and then it just kept going and suddenly I was a few hundred pages in and just had to keep plowing forward. Beginning was easy. It was the middle bit that was hard!
- Digger has won numerous awards, including the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story in 2012. How exciting has it been to receive recognition for what you love doing?
It has been pretty awesome. Although I was pretty relieved to get an award recently for a short story—I was a little afraid that I was only good for 8-year long MegaProjects, so having something I spent two days on get recognized was a great relief!
- Are you working on anything new now?
Constantly! I’m a children’s book author these days, and I also self-publish novels for adults under the pen-name T. Kingfisher.
- Finally, where can we read and/or buy Digger and find out more about how to support your work?
Digger is online at diggercomic.com and you can buy print volumes through Amazon or Sofawolf Press at sofawolf.com . My website’s at redwombatstudio.com and my T. Kingfisher novels are at tkingfisher.com!