In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Vanessa Shealy about the inspiration behind her projects, how theatre influences her approach to writing, her shared creative process in bringing stories to life, and more! READ THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in working [on COURI VINE] with co-creator Leah Lovise, as well as artist Liz Lathem and colorist Indigo Rael? In addition, what have been some of your creative influences?
VS: Leah and I grew up in Oklahoma City, and we’ve known each other since we were kids, so our long friendship makes collaborating feel natural. Leah has a career in Austin as an illustrator, graphic designer, motion graphic artist, and animator, and I’m in New York City. I had been working as an actor and a playwright, and I’d made a few films – but neither of us had ever worked on a comic book. Our process from the beginning has been highly collaborative. We spent almost a year tossing around ideas and details about the world of the book and the characters, and eventually the story. She’d send me some sketches, and I’d send her long chucks of descriptive text, and we’d talk about all of that. Leah is a good writer, and I was an art minor in college, so we both have a pretty good eye for what the other is doing.
Our work on the book has had to be in fits and starts, over almost five years. When we started, we assumed that we’d have the entire thing done in about a year or so. But we both have day jobs, plus each of us has two kids, so finding time to work on an indie project has taken a lot of time and discipline. We have to sneak in the work whenever we can. Bringing in more help with the art made it possible, and assistance from Indigo Rael on Books 1 & 2, as well as Liz Lathem, Dorothy Shaw, and Julia Zipporah on Book 4, was invaluable.
I think being a theatre practitioner for so many years (both onstage and off) gave me a leg up as a collaborator and made me a person who appreciates the insights and input of everyone. It takes a lot of practice to stop feeling like, “Oh, that just isn’t the way I would have done it,” and instead feel like, “Awesome! That isn’t the way I would’ve done it!”
As far as personal influences… some of my favorite graphic novels are Blankets, Roller Girl, Zita the Space Girl, Only Living Boy, and El Deafo. There are more, but those are the ones I’m thinking about right now. My main writing influences are playwrights like Carol Churchill and Timberlake Wertenbaker. That’s my background – theatre, and I’m never really far from those roots.