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This week I catch up with Amelia Cole and the Unknown World co-writers D.J. Kirkbride and Adam P. Knave, who were part of the first round of Monkeybrain Comics creative releases on July 2. With Issue 2 poised to launch Aug. 7, it struck me as a good time to interview Kirkbride and Knave. Here’s the official nutshell description of the series: “Amelia Cole lives in two worlds — literally. One runs on magic, the other built on technology. When the barriers between those worlds start to break down, Amelia and her aunt Dani must take extreme action.” Before you read the interview, I must stress there is some spoiler info connected to Dani in this interview, so please do not read the interview if you have yet to pick up the first issue. My thanks to the co-writers for their time.
Tim O’Shea: Whom approached who, did the Amelia Cole team seek out Monkeybrain or vice versa?
Adam P. Knave: We’ve known [Monkeybrain Comics’] Chris [Roberson] and Allison [Baker] for a while now and so we kept in touch, you know, the way people do. So when we started Amelia Cole (originally we were thinking of doing it as a web comic) we sent them the first issue just to kind of go “Hey, this is what we’re working on.” no higher purpose, just friends sharing creative endeavors with friends.
D.J. Kirkbride: Yeah, Chris and Allison are good peoples, and we were curious as to what they thought of our book. We’re fans of Chris’s writing, too, so we were a little nervous. Well, I was. Adam’s nerves, like his beard, are made of steel.
Knave: And then one day we got an email explaining the whole Monkeybrain thing and asking if we were interested. So Amelia herself sought them out, except none of us knew it at the time.
Kirkbride: Ooh, that sounds magical.
There are no editors listed on the credit page–did you all edit yourselves or what?
Knave: We did. Right or wrong, and honestly, a bit wrong, we did. But D.J. and I are both editors, and we pass scripts back and forth and look at them from editing and writing stand points. Our two sets of eyes has worked so far.
Kirkbride: Like Adam said, we’re both editors, and we’ve edited each other’s solo stuff on occasion, so we are telling ourselves this is kind of like that. The truth is, though, that editing your own writing is pretty tough, so…
Knave: When you find horrible mistakes or think “These fools should’ve hired an editor!” — well, you may be right.
Not to be fanboy here (or give too much away), but in terms of supporting cast is the first issue the last we see of Aunt Dani?
Knave: Just because it seems like someone has left a story, it doesn’t mean you’ll never see them again.
Kirkbride: Dani’s Amelia’s only family, so you can be sure she’s in her thoughts constantly. She goes through some tough stuff in the first issue, but that was the toughest. We’re pretty tough on Amelia. What is wrong with us? She’s a good person.
Knave: We have thought of ways to have Dani in the book without cheating or going back on any creative choices. The question is: Will we? The answer is: Wait and see.
Who came up with the headphones trick to avoid hearing the persuasion demon?
Knave: I think I came up with the Demon originally.
Kirkbride: You did indeed, because I remember reading the words “Persuasion Demon” and thinking that it sounded super-cool.
Knave: Yeah, and then you added the headphones. I know it was D.J. who added the “Am I yelling?” line, which is my favorite line in issue 1, oddly enough, if only because I do that myself, every time. So it gave me a cleaner sense of how Amelia thinks. It’s the little things.
Your first issue reveals a great deal of information in a limited number of pages. How hard was it to not overload the pages with information, but still make the tale detail rich (and engaging enough)?
Knave: Originally we were going to do 22 pages, and mostly future issues will be 22 pages not 28. But we had enough ground to cover here we went to 28 pages to give us a chance to actually get it done. We also went through a lot of revisions and tweaks right up to the end, working to make everything understandable and clean and still exciting.
Kirkbride: Putting extra pages in first issues is always fun. Nice little “try us out” bonus.
I love hearing about the advantages of tackling a story in full color (versus black and white). Was it essential to the creative team that this tale be told in full color?
Knave: I don’t think we ever discussed doing the book in Black and White. With the magic going on, it would make it much harder to realize. And with color we can add clues and little bits of business, and we already have…
Kirkbride: Careful of spoilers, Adam! But, yeah, color is important to this book, and [series artist] Nick [Brokenshire] is doing a great job — some subtle things that add to the book. Some books are great in black and white, but this one just needed color.
In an industry/storytelling medium lacking strong female leads, how good does it feel to be delivering just that?
Knave: Oh, it’s fun! We talked about that going in, that we were creating a female lead of normal proportions who also wore real clothes, and the three of us were all so happy to do it and so very sad that it might be something of note to do.
Kirkbride: Some of my favorite people, the most influential and inspiring people in my life happen to be female, so having our capable and heroic lead be a lady felt completely natural.
What do you most enjoy about harnessing the power of digital distribution?
Knave: No two month, double-press-cycle stuff to deal with. We go “Hey this will be out soon!” and people go “Yay!” and buy it. Instant gratification is addictive.
Kirkbride: Yeah, getting feedback so quickly has been great. Also, the little surprise comiXology pulled on us, releasing the MonkeyBrain books a couple days early, was genius and so much fun. Those types of shenanigans are a perk.
What’s the appeal of delving into magic in your storytelling?
Knave: When D.J. and I talk plots over on the phone we both get to say “Maaaaaaagic!” as well as quote Arressted Development. GOB is the Merlin in our universe. No, of course he isn’t. Maybe.
Kirkbride: Dude, stop talking about volume 2! But, yeah, magic is cool. Also, we introduce that there is a world of magic but also one of science, our world, so we have fun comparing and contrasting them in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.
What are we not discussing that I neglected to ask?
Kirkbride: You’ve covered a lot, and we appreciate you reading the book and asking us such interesting questions. I guess one thing we should mention is that issue 2 will hit comiXology on Aug. 7, and we’re all really excited, because each issue is stronger than the last. If you dug issue 1, definitely check out 2. If you weren’t completely sold on Issue 1, give 2 a chance to win you over.