Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of your comic book series, Andraste! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the premise of the series?
R. Honor Vincent: Thank you so much! Andraste is set in 1st century Britannia, during the second invasion of Rome. The series follows Boudicca and her family as her rebellion against Rome becomes inevitable, but we also get time with some legionaries from Carthage and Hispania, Druids, and beings from the Celtic Otherworld who have their own plans for everyone involved.
If you aren’t familiar with Boudicca, she was a leader of a tribe in southeastern Britannia. During her time the Romans had a system of client-king agreements that helped them slowly incorporate territory and people into the Roman empire with minimal bloodshed: the existing leaders would be allowed to rule (so long as they paid taxes) until the end of their lives, when their kingdom would be willed to the emperor. When the Iceni agreed to this, they had two leaders: Boudicca and her husband Prasutagus. The Celts had a long tradition of women being leaders; the Romans did not. So, when Prasutagus died the Romans saw the Iceni kingdom and wealth as theirs by right, and the they Boudicca had a different idea, and raised an army of tens of thousands of people after the Romans tried to wrest control of her kingdom away from her.
BD: How would you describe your creative process in bringing this story to life, and what (or who) were some of your creative influences in terms of the characters and tone?
RHV: I read a lot of history books when I decided to write this comic! The only written history we have from this time period is from the Romans, and they were pretty biased, to say the least. Some of these stories were written decades after thy happened, by people who were using them to propagandize other wars. I owe a lot to Mary Beard, Guy de la Bédoyère, Pamela D. Toler, Philip Matyszak, Peter Berresford Ellis, and a bunch of other folks who have written histories of Rome, Roman Britain, the Celts, and woman warriors throughout history.
Reading history was so generative: I started with a rough outline of Boudicca’s life and what I imagine could have happened to her daughters, but as I read more and more I learned so many weird things about history and mythology that became parts of the book. They’re actually to thank for some of the more lighthearted parts: war and colonialism are heavy topics, but I didn’t want the book to be grim, or to read like a textbook. After all, when we start the series these people are living their lives, with all their hopes and dreams intact. For example, geese were popular mascots for legions because of how unbelievably aggressive they are. You wouldn’t look at a goose and go “Ah yes, a creature of war and destruction, let’s put that on the banner!” but it’s such a good detail.
Some of my favorite comics, and ones I re-read frequently while writing, are Head Lopper, The Wicked + The Divine, Sara, Greek Street, and Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing. Moore and Ennis in particular are writers I try to read often to stay sharp, especially if I’m also reading lots of non-comic stuff for research.
But the book and the characters really live when I start getting pages from Abel, and at every step after that – when I get the colored pages from DC and the lettered pages from Micah – they sing a little louder.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Andraste's story will connect with and impact readers?
RHV: For me, Andraste is a way to fill in the blanks of a story that’s deeply affected me. Boudicca and her daughters (in my book, Aithne and Gwyn; they’re not named by the Romans) were not only conquered, and their way of life was largely wiped out. Looking to the Celts I see an ancient culture that was closer to ours than to their contemporaries in terms of gender roles, which was so striking. Putting myself in their shoes, I absolutely would have lost it and attempted to raise an army, too, had Rome marched in and told me I suddenly had no right to lead, and needed to pay them for the privilege.
All of this made me wonder, too: What was lost to time and memory due to the dominance of Rome over the Celts and the other people they colonized? There was certainly value to the Roman system of government and citizenship and sanitation and trade and so on – that’s why they maintained such an empire. But not everyone involved came out ahead, and few people who lived at that time had their stories told accurately. And that system still echoes on through today. So it’s important to me to talk about these women and these people, especially because they ultimately lost the war.
It’s also important to me to show three very different approaches to participating in conflict, from their perspectives. Women warriors and leaders in the ancient world are often pictured as outliers or exceptions to the rule – theirs is not a dominant perspective – but in the Celts we have a people for whom women in leadership was normal, and the clash between that worldview and that of the Romans isn’t one I’ve seen before, and is one I really wanted to write.
BD: You will soon be launching a Kickstarter campaign for the collected edition of the series’ first story arc. When can readers anticipate the launch of the campaign, and what are some of the cool backer rewards that you’ll have in store?
RHV: Yes! We launched on Monday, and I’m excited to report that we funded in five hours and are now on to our stretch goals! We have digital and physical copies of the book available, as well as a package of a physical book, a sword magnet, a sticker set, and a poster print of our #1 variant cover. We also have a pledge level where you can get a bronze or silver torc – i.e. the necklaces that the Celts wore. They’re made by Crafty Celts, who did the jewelry for Vikings. We also have a pledge for a commission from series artist Abel Cicero that’s still available.
We’re now working towards our first stretch goal, which is $5,000 – if we reach it, every backer who got a physical book will get poster prints of all three variant covers.
I have some surprise updates up my sleeve, too!
The campaign is running through November 1st, and I’m planning to do a giveaway to a lucky backer soon, so if you haven’t yet backed the campaign, it’s a great time to do it.
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
RHV: Nope, Andraste is my main focus right now so far as comics go. I’m working on the scripts for the rest of the series and working with the team to complete the artwork on Issue 3.
I also write poetry and short fiction, and have a few pieces I’m excited about set to be published this fall – you can see those here.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Andraste?
RHV: Check out my website and sign up for my newsletter! You can read Issue 1 at ComiXology, if you’d like to check it out before grabbing Volume 1.