Kristine Chester, Fanboy Comics Senior Contributor: First off, thank you all for the opportunity to speak with you today! Chris, why don't you start us off by telling us a bit about Seven Stones?
C.E.L. Welsh: Thank you Kristine and Fanboy Comics for having us! The Seven Stones project is all about telling stories in The Wrecked Earth, the meteor storm-plagued, post-apocalyptic world of CLUTCH, my first novel. The initial idea was to bring on creators to make seven short comic tales, but a lot of the writers who wanted to be part of the project weren’t comic book writers. I figured I could have them write short stories and I could convert them to comic book scripts, and then it hit me – why not share those short stories, too?
As for the anthology’s theme: seven tales of surviving the Wrecked Earth, each featuring a meteorite and its impact on the characters of the story, thus the title Seven Stones.
KC: Seven Stones features seven writers and seven artists working together on the project. Chris, how did you go about assembling this amazing group? Writers and artists, what drew you to this project?
CW: Connections! Some artists and writers I’d worked with (either directly or indirectly) in my time with Campfire Comics or DC’s Zuda, or befriended on Twitter, and some came across CLUTCH when I was running that Kickstarter (to raise funds for the cover art) and showed interest in the world and story, so I reached out to them about the Seven Stones project. I was (and am!) a huge fan of the Outland Collective, and struck up a conversation with founder Jeremy Mohler. That turned out to be genius on my part, as when I mentioned Seven Stones he suggested he could help. His network is several levels above mine, and between his Outland Entertainment group and my Rockfall Books, we’ve managed to pull together a fantastic team.
Jeremy Mohler: Chris actually approached us about an entirely separate project and we started talking about his Wrecked Earth IP, which my partner (and wife), Emily Hall, and I both found really interesting. We both love post-apocalyptic settings and Chris’ project had an interesting spin. So we started talking about how we could get involved and found ourselves quickly in a position where we were handling art and project management (which I specialize in) and editing (which Emily specializes in). Of course we had to contribute a story as well!
William Meikle: Chris pitched me the concept, and ideas immediately started to run in my head so I knew very early on that I wanted to get on board. That, and the chance to see a story in comic form was too good to turn down.
Craig Terlson: Chris and I met on Twitter and starting swapping stories and reading each other’s work. I loved the way he could tell a story, the whole propulsive narrative thing. When he asked if I wanted to be a part of Seven Stones, at first I hesitated, since it was stepping out my style comfort zone. But after I said yes, and then had such a helluva lot of fun working in the world he’d created, well, let’s just say I was pretty damn pleased that I’d said yes.
Scott Colby: After reading CLUTCH, I was hooked immediately. There's a ton of different stories you can tell in that sort of broken world, and Chris's novel proved that he understood just how dangerous and interesting such a setting could be. It's the kind of world you can really play with, which is the sort of thing I like.
Kelly Williams: I first started talking to Chris on Twitter I think. We had talked about maybe working on something in this universe. When he was getting the CLUTCH novel together the cover artist had something come up or whatever and couldn't finish the colors. I came on and did the color work on the covers and during that time we started talking about this project more and he sent me a rough outline for the story he was thinking about. I loved it, I love the setting and there are some interesting characters. So, I'm in.
Nicolas Giacondido: I am a part of the Outland Collective, so my involvement came as an offer from Jeremy Mohler, which sounded very interesting and exciting, as is the norm with his proposals. Yet, when he told me more about the project and I got an inside look into the world behind Seven Stones, I was completely hooked! I've always been a fan of post-apocalyptic settings and it suits my style and skills like no other genre. But that said, this is no ordinary end-of-the-world setting; it's got a very particular vibrance and originality I hope I can add to when I illustrate my share of the story.
KC: Now Seven Stones consists of both a story anthology and a graphic novel. How closely were these products made together? What was the process like writing a story to be adapted into a comic and what was the process like adapting someone else's story into a comic? How was this process different from working on your typical anthology or graphic novel?
CW: I’ll talk a bit about the overall process and let others expound. The flow: a writer pitches an idea and then submits the short story. I and Emily Hall (one of the writer and also our Editor) do the editing duties and then convert the story to a comic script. Jeremy, in his role as Art Director, signs off of the script and then manages assigning the artist and overseeing the production of the comic. And of course the artist then works his magic.
JM: Honestly, the short stories themselves weren’t actually written specifically to be converted to scripts. The writers are basically doing their own thing, being creative, and we are taking each of the short stories and using them as a base for the scripts. I think it’s important to not compromise the creative integrity of a story by trying to tailor it into something it’s not – if that makes sense. A short prose story shouldn’t be designed to be converted into a script – the script will obviously be based on the original short story, but both should stand on their own. You’ll need to talk to Chris and Emily more about how they adapted the short stories into scripts.
In terms of how the artists are involved – generally, we will hand over the completed short stories and the scripts for the artists to translate into short comics. But we aim to give the artists the freedom they might need to be creative and come up with some cool stuff. While we’re handing them scripts that are finished, nothing is set in stone until the whole thing is done and complete and we’re all open to different interpretations of what’s written. Maybe they see something at a slightly different angle than the script states or they want to lay out the page differently for better storytelling – we’re definitely open to creative feedback from the artists. I like to think this is more of a collaboration between creatives.
WM: My mind works visually anyway—I've been told my writing runs in people's heads like movies—so it wasn't a big stretch for me. I like to think I have a way with set-pieces that translates pretty well to the comic format.
CT: I was aware of the graphic novel project, but I didn’t let it steer the writing. Though, I am usually quite a visual writer (a product of being a major movie fan, and actually being an illustrator myself), so I am hoping I’ve given the artists lots to work with. I was also aware that the story had to move, no lingering deep thoughts, better to just grab a sword and get at it.
SC: It's been awhile since I last had to write within such a set structure. I found myself trying to be as efficient as I could, to include all the themes and ideas whirling around in my brain as succinctly as possible without losing a lot of detail or trying to do too much. It was definitely a fun challenge.
KW: I don't think it's been too much different, at least not from my perspective. The biggest difference for me is probably the level of management and involvement. Usually when I work on an anthology I either find out what the theme is or I'm given a script and then I draw it, turn it in and there isn't much back and forth. Chris and Jeremy stay pretty involved. It's nice to have that.
NG: As an artist, I didn't have much involvement in the writing and planning process and, personally, I much prefer it to be that way. I've always worked better when I was handed a full-fledged, well thought out script I can be marveled at when I read it for the first time. It's that same awe what will bring up images in my head and I'll hopefully translate onto paper later. If I can transmit the excitement and vertigo I got from the experience of reading a tale into drawn panels, then I've done my job well.
KC: What's so special about these seven meteorites?
CW: Everything and nothing. The Wrecked Earth is under constant threat of meteor strikes –part of daily life, such as it is—and so meteorites as a thing are not very special at all. However, one of the few rules for the stories was that a meteorite has an impact on the lives of the characters– so in that way the space rocks are very special, indeed.
That was kind of a cheat answer, sorry.
KC: What hints can you drop us about what the sort of tales we're likely to see in these books? Will Clutch make an appearance?
CW: The type of stories is one of the things that excited me so much about this project from the very beginning. I was handing over the keys to six writers other than myself to create in The Wrecked Earth, and I wanted them to tell whatever story they were inspired to. There were rules and guidelines of course – you need to know the rules to play a game – but outside of that, total freedom. A few examples: a story of wish fulfillment gone wrong, a tale that feels like the dark fairy tales of the Sidhe, one that reminds me of Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil (in tone), a turn-the-tables on the bad guys tale – and yes, my own contribution features a young Clutch in a setting that (hopefully) will offer up a few chills and thrills akin to the old Conan comics.
WM: I had a thought about what would happen to zoo animals in the event of an apocalypse and it would let go—so that's what my story is about. A zoo-keeper, trying to keep his flock alive in the face of a world that no longer cares and a bunch of bad guys looking for fresh meat.
KC: Seven Stones is going to be running a Kickstarter soon. What can readers expect to see for some of the pledge levels?
CW: Backers who just want the short stories can get the digital anthology for $5, fans of the comics can get the digital graphic novel (plus the anthology) for $10, or go for both in a printed omnibus that has the short stories AND the comics (plus bonus content) for $35! Higher levels include the omnibus plus items like posters, being drawn into the book, some seriously awesome art from our team – and perhaps the most unique offering, one of only seven real meteorite necklaces!
KC: What are some of the project's stretch goals?
CW: The biggest focus on stretch goals is to put more money in the creator’s pockets, so there are a couple of times that will ‘level up’. We are talking with a number of the creators about other stretch goal options, so stay tuned for some exciting ideas there!
KC: As creators fleshing out a post-apocalypse world I have to ask, what's the most important item to have in order to survive in The Wrecked Earth?
CW: I’m going to have to back my man Clutch and go with a wicked, steel-handled, double-headed battle axe with a shotgun in the haft.
CW: Can I change my answer?
CT: Sawed off shotguns are good, but even better is a glowing meteorite that gives you super-human strength.
SC: I think The Wrecked Earth is the kind of setting where resource advantages mean very little. I'd argue that the most important thing to have in this setting is a steel backbone. If you're braver and tougher than your opponent, you'll find a way to come out on top.
KW: I gotta go with Chris and say an axe probably isn't a bad starting point. Probably a good pair of boots too. Oh, and hooch!
NG: Always look up. In this story, there's a ceaseless rain of meteorites reminding the survivors just how dangerous and wild the world has become and how aware and on their feet they have to be if they want to keep surviving. And, as Chris so wisely said, a shotgun isn't a bad idea either.
KC: When can readers expect the Kickstarter to launch, where can they go for more Seven Stones news, and what other projects are people working on and where can readers go to check those out?
CW: Look for the Kickstarter to launch August 1st – and remember, there are some early-bird reward levels, so get in there early! Readers can visit www.sevenstonesanthology.com to sign up for a reminder for the launch (and related news) and read more about the writers, artists, story and art! Outside of working on SUNDER, the sequel to CLUTCH, my life is Seven Stones all the time. However I know all these wonderful people are working on a variety of amazing things – team?
JM: Outside of Seven Stones, which is priority right now, Outland Entertainment is working on a variety of different projects, several original graphic novel properties, ITHACA and BLEEDBACK to mention a few. We have some other stuff lined up for down the road as well, but we’re not quite ready to announce those just yet. You can find more information about what we’re doing over at www.outlandentertainment.com.
WM: Deep breath first and...
First up in August 2013 will be a new horror novel, The Hole, and a new novella in Jan 2014, Broken Sigil coming from DarkFuse (with two more novels and two more novellas to write for them as part of a six-book contract). Before the end of 2013 I have a weird Sherlock Holmes collection coming in limited edition hardcover and paperback from a new US imprint. There are new shiny paperback editions of the 2nd and 3rd Midnight Eye books coming (both from Seven Realms in the USA) and all three books will also appear in Portuguese language editions in Brazil. At some point soon I'll have a weird Western novel, The Ravine and a Sci-Fi novella, The Plasm coming from Dark Regions Press.
There's also a big beasties collection, BERSERKER and other Cryptids, coming from FRINGEWORKS in the UK which will see my short Vikings versus Yeti novel in print for the first time alongside stories featuring more yeti, the Loch Ness Monster, the Mothman and the Auld Grey Man of the Cairngorms.
I'm working on a new novel, a Scottish noir horror set in Edinburgh—going back to my roots.
All details on my site at www.williammeikle.com.
CT: My novel Correction Line, a neo-noir slipstream road book (that’s a mouthful) is available at Amazon, as is my new collection of short stories, Ethical Aspects of Animal Husbandry. I shout about fiction at my blog, www.woofreakinhoo.squarespace.com – and you can bet I’ll be shouting about Seven Stones.
SC: If you like your urban fantasy with a wicked sense of humor, check out my novel, SHOTGUN, available now on Amazon.com (www.amazon.com/Shotgun-ebook/dp/B006N9R7SA).
KW: I'm finishing up the historical fiction horror graphic novel, THE CABINET, with Christian Sager as we speak. Hoping to have that available in the next couple months. I'm also working on the METAPHASE graphic novel with Chip Reece. It features a story about a super hero who's son is born with Down Syndrome and the journey they go on. It's based on Chip's personal experience as the father of a son with Down Syndrome. The preview is available for free on Comixology from Alterna Comics (and has been doing quite well!). www.comixology.com/search?search=metaphase
I'm also working on various comic anthologies and a video game project at the moment as well. You can keep up with me at www.treebeerdstuff.com and www.facebook.com/KellyWilliamsComics.