Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Spirits At Tea Time - Interview with Gaby of Whimsy and Noir

Everyone loves a good webcomic, including myself, and my friend Gaby of Whimsy and Noir just so happens to write and illustrate an extremely cute and spooky one!  Spirits At Tea Time introduces us to a very friendly ghost named Misty that isn't quite ready to leave the world of the living.

The newest installment releases today and I had a chance to ask its creator a few questions about her creative process and what we can expect.

Dez: What made you choose to create a webcomic?  Any tips/advice for other artists that might be considering this route?

Gaby: I love drawing and creating characters and stories, so a webcomic seemed like the perfect way to blend the two together. It's just something I'd been wanting to try my hand at for the longest time, after really getting into comics a couple of years ago. And in researching how they are put together: so many of the comics and the artists I most admire do the work digitally, and so I figured, "it's now or never". I bought a graphics tablet and haven't looked back since. Writing itself is not my strongest point, (and also takes more time for me), so instead of writing a novel, drawing this story idea I had in my head and releasing it in bits and pieces at a time seemed the way to go. I'm still very new at this whole thing and learning as I go, so I don't know what kind of advice I really have to give other than "go for it!"  One thing I've come to realize is that there's really no 'wrong' or 'right' way to do this webcomic-creating thing, it's just a matter of finding what works for you. It doesn't *have* to be drawn out digitally.. it doesn't even have to be drawn that well! Like all things, it's something that takes practice and evolves over time. It's fun to see yourself improve as you go forward, so if you have an idea but are too scared that you aren't "good enough" for it, (like I was/sometimes still am), don't let that hold you back and just try it! There are so many resources and places out there where you can get started and upload your work. Just have fun!

D: The ghost in your story, Misty, seems pretty sweet and friendly.  Is there anything about her past human life that you can give us a peek into?

G: Misty is the sweetest! To be honest, (at this point in time), her back story is as much a mystery to me as it is to you guys, (the readers)! If we go back into the Prologue, we had that whole scene with Misty getting scolded by the older ghost-lady about how she's not supposed to actually interact with the living. Like most ghosts in other stories we are familiar with, Misty has 'unfinished business' down here on Earth. What that business is, however, she doesn't know. It's sort of her mission to figure it out herself, so that she can cease being a ghost and 'cross over'.  But she currently can't actually remember anything about  when she was alive, (not even her real name), and she certainly isn't in a rush to find out!

She is a lonely, restless spirit, and still technically a young girl who left this world too soon.. and she still wants to live. She loves being around people and wants to help and be everyone's friend.

Like I said, I myself am not sure how this part of the story will all play out yet. I have ideas, but I want Misty to have some fun adventures before she gets down to business.

D: Do you personally identify with any of your characters or are they all much different from yourself?  I'm pretty sure I already know the answer but I'd like to hear your thoughts.

G: It's so funny that you're asking this, because lately I've been getting some serious "Teenage Me" vibes when writing/drawing out the character of Melissa. And it's been completely unintentional!  Outwardly, she definitely reminds me of me at her age: I was totally that punk rock/emo/Hot Topic kid in high school, and I really wish I had good enough photos to show you.. I was super influenced by the emo and goth musicians in the bands I was into at the time, (AFI, My Chemical Romance, Avenged Sevenfold, to name a few),coming up with similar outfits like they wore, or how I used to dye my hair pitch black. And I did have this awesome AFI hoodie that I loved, (but that ended up stolen and I never saw it again!).

Also, I don't know how clear it is yet from the little interaction we've had with her so far, but it will become apparent in Chapter Two just how moody of a teen Melissa can be. I'd like to say that I wasn't like that at all.. but I definitely had my moments! (sometimes still do..) Other than that, though, I can't say that I was gutsy enough to skip school to go and have a one on one seance with a Ouija board in an alley behind a haunted tea shop. Melissa is definitely more of a badass than I'll ever be!

D: I love how Spirits At Tea Time really embraces your overall dark whimsical aesthetic.  In developing your original artistic style, are there any specific inspirations that you feel definitely shaped your vibe?

G: Thanks, I'm glad that my spookiness is apparent! And, yes, it's why I chose to go with the name "Whimsy and Noir" for my brand/aesthetic. Light but dark, cute and spooky. Honestly, it's been a part of me since I can remember. Even as a small child, I always loved scary stories and Halloween and dreamed of being a cool goth-chick ever since the third grade! Like all goth-inclined folk, a huge inspiration is Tim Burton. All of his movies have his signature imagination clearly in them, and I love losing myself in his worlds. As far as story-telling and art go, Neil Gaiman is one of my biggest idols. He started with his Sandman comics, and now writes the most amazing novels and children's books, and all with a distinct 'spooky' feel to them. My favorites of his are 'Coraline' and 'The Graveyard Book' - these are meant for children, but at their core deal with things that most people would deem frightening and dark, but he manages to make them magical and whimsical. So I'm definitely trying to take that route with Spirits at Tea Time. It's a ghost story, but I don't want it to be considered 'creepy' or put people off. Whimsy and Noir: my whole THING is essentially about finding that balance between light and dark.

I also mentioned the band My Chemical Romance in the last question, and in a way they've been a huge influence in my overall artistic creativity as well: the lead singer, Gerard Way, would come up with these huge concept stories behind each album, like in "Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge" there's the tragic story of two dead lovers, with the guy more or less making a deal with the devil so he can try to bring his girl back to life. Or "The Black Parade" has the concept of death itself showing up to a young boy as a parade because it was his happiest memory. Just the way Gerard used his wild imagination to create entire worlds and feelings for each of his band's albums gave them so much more meaning and wonder. And they were *dark* stories, but still so relatable, in a weird way. Also, Gerard is a comics-creator, himself, so he's kind of a kindred spirit in that sense! I've admired him and his work since I was a teen, and he still influences and inspires me a ton. 

D: What can we expect to see in the newest installment of Spirits At Tea Time?   Got any teasers for us?

G: For chapter two, I wanted to sort of rewind the whole story just a little bit, and have it concentrate more on Melissa. All we know of her so far is that she was trying to make contact with the spirit world, and asking about a guy named "Martin Spencer".. so who is this guy? And why does Melissa want to find him? And how did she even know to go to that particular area of town with a Ouija board to ask? So we're going to get to know this girl and her back story, and it's going to lead up to other things!

D: This last question is actually going to be two and, obviously, I MUST ask them.  What is your favorite tea?  What's your favorite ghost story?

G: Oh, I'm so bad at choosing 'favorite' anything! But okay: for tea? I LOVE tea! I start each morning with a cup of chamomile, with a bit of honey and lemon juice. I also really love peppermint tea, or soothing lemon balm. A friend once gave me this dreamy lavender flavored tea, and I once bought this blend from a British goods store that I absolutely loved: it was made with rose petals, and turned the water a dark crimson! And as weird as it sounds, I love all those fruit-combo ones that come in the boxes at the grocery store. Peach and mango, or raspberry flavored tea! So long answer short: my favorite kinds of tea are flowery and fruity ones!

Favorite ghost story? Well, this isn't really a ghost 'story', but Edgar Allan Poe's poem "Annabel Lee" changed my life when I first discovered it as a teen: about a guy who is so in love with a girl that even after she dies, he still sees her everywhere and  in everything and only makes his love for her grow deeper. And in more recent times, I became obsessed with Cat Winters' novels "In the Shadow of Blackbirds" and "The Uninvited" - they blew my mind! 

You can get caught up on Spirits At Tea Time HERE and be sure to follow Gaby on Twitter & IG for more behind-the-scenes!

Thanks for reading!

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