Hannah Berry And Gareth Brookes, Stripped


Gary Gray, our Senior Scottish Correspondent, writes;

For the final talk on the Saturday night at the Edinburgh International Book Festival we had what was probably the funniest most surreal talk of the entire weekend with Gareth Brookes and Hannah Berry being interviewed by David Bishop (he got everywhere all weekend).

Earlier in the day Bishop had chaired a relatively straightforward talk with Robbie Morrison and Jim Murray about their action led graphic novel, but here we were in much stranger darker territory. We could have kind of expected that we were heading for strange places with the billing for the event describing the books as modern gothic graphic novels. Which is a bit of a surprise when it comes to Hannah Berry, who is so the total opposite, she's such a nice, happy, warm and shy person. More on that note we eventually get to the talk she did with Neil Gaiman. And although I say she's still shy she's a million times more confident than she was when she launched her first graphic novel Brighten and Brulightly at the Book Festival three years ago. She was extremely nervous then, but now she's revelling in talking about her book.

But we didn't have far to look for someone to take the shy awkward author role, as Gareth Brookes easily was that and a whole lot more. It is fair to say that we were a long way from the mainstream at this talk. And that's no bad thing with the Book Festival doing a fantastic job of programming in graphic novels of ALL types.

Brookes was there to discuss his debut graphic novel The Black Project that is set in the English suburbs of the 90's and centring on Richard who creates 'girls' out of household objects. But that's only the starting point…as his hobby starts to take off his real life relationships deteriorate, oh and the art is made from lino cuts. Brookes started off by discussing his route into comics, where he did fine art at college and took any number of dead end jobs while he made comics, all the time his co-workers wondering who this weird art student guy was alongside van drivers. Naturally, as is always the case struggling to get published, eventually deciding at 26 to pack it all in and go off travelling. And is inevitable, the instant he set off he got the book deal with Myriad to create The Black Project.

Brookes is strangely endearing, describing himself as coming from the Norman Bates end of things, and his desire to want to create something far out. I haven't read the book yet (my pile of books from the festival is massive), but from just a one minute flick through of the book it's safe to say he really has created something a long way from anything you've seen before. He then revealed the book took a massive 4 ½ years to make, to which he said it was maybe not a good idea to create the book out of linocuts. Probably the slowest possible way of making a comic imaginable! Or even to embroider the book, which he said he was inspired to do by Scottish comics collective Team Girl.

And this is where the talk really got surreal with fireworks going off nineteen to the dozen outside which made Brookes sound as if he was off on his own Colonel Kurtz mission when he was discussing things such as bringing back Deirdre's photo stories with zombies. I'm looking at my notes and I've scribbled MOST SURREAL TALK, and I can't stress just how surreal it was. In fact between laughing so much at the droll chat and unable to hear what was going on for a lot of the time I can't remember much more of the stories. I do remember something along lines of Iron Man 3 being the rape of humanity.

Bishop then deftly, with a slightly raised eyebrow (ok, totally arched by this point) turned the discussion to Hannah Berry who revealed she had been working on her latest graphic novel Adamtine for 3 years. And while writing the script before starting the artwork she wished she had realised how much of a pain it would be to drawing trains for 2 and a bit years! And who can blame here. She's now worried that trainspotters websites will be after her for nicking engine and carriage references from their websites! Hannah Berry said she was currently collaborating on 5 projects and also a new GN for Jonathan Cape. She said she wanted to do a funny book after doing two really dark projects. I'm willing to bet it won't be set on a train either! It'll be a socio political satire about a pop star, think Zoolander meets The Thick of It.

Brookes ended the talk by revealing his next book will either be a sci fi tale or a darker one set in the suburbs. I'm willing to bet it'll be the latter.

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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