Anna Bongiovanni: “I’m a little freaked by ‘Out of Hollow Water’”
In Water and in some of the short stories you have online, you deal with various elements of folklore and fables, i.e., the woods as a place where secrets are kept hidden, monsters that guard over innocent babes, witches, spells that need to be broken, etc. Do you find yourself naturally drawn to these elements and tropes?
Oh, sure, I feel very comfortable drawing and writing something that reads like folklore. I grew up reading fairy tales and later on thought a lot about Catholic saints and those can sometimes be like fairy tales in themselves. I like playing with fables, not only because they are familiar to many people, with layers of meaning already there, but they can easily be manipulated by whatever story I’m trying to tell. They are a safe place for me to explore and experiment.
Actually, a lot of your stories also seem to take place in the woods. What is it about that environment that attracts you?
To me, the woods are a blank slate. I don’t have to explain a time period, a town or city, a culture, or really how people got there. The woods are also a place of transition, of choosing to walk through something difficult and dangerous and emerge changed.
A lot of your stories also seem to deal with family relationships, between mothers and daughters, and sisters, and the sense of obligation and responsibility they share between each other. Is that accurate?
Sure is. Probably for a long time now, I’ve had a sense of overwhelming guilt, burdening loyalty, and a crushing responsibility when it comes to my family. I guess I also feel all those things in relation to myself as well. It’s complicated and it plays out in my comics.
I was interested with how you broke up the different stories with seemingly related sketches and photographs. What was the impetus behind that?
A lot of that had my editor, Raighne Hogan, behind it. He’s been familiar with my work for a long time so when I came to him with these three stories, he was really thoughtful and careful about composing them into a book. Most of those drawings were done as just stand-alone illustrations but he remembered them and wanted to add them into the book. It was also his idea to use (extreme) close-up scans of my face and hands to layer with the illustrations. I believe Raighne wanted to keep with the visceral and tender theme of the stories and made sure the whole book as an object felt cohesive.
I wanted to ask you about the shape and format of the book. For the most part you keep it to one square panel per page. Why?
There is something about the square shape that just feels really easy for me to work with. I felt it’s what the stories needed in Out Of Hollow Water: space, breathability, emphasis and time. Kind of how I felt while I was drawing it, one panel at a time, one page at a time, one day at a time.
I was taken with the way you portrayed movement in the book, particularly with the monster in the title story. Do you have an interest in animation?
I have never animated anything in my life! I can’t say I have a lot of interest in it, other than a fierce love for watching cartoons.