An Interview with Garen Ewing
by Metaphrog for the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2013
As the original blog for this interview is no longer available it is now hosted here, though it can also be accessed via the Internet Archive.
Garen Ewing will be taking Book Festival audiences on an adventure with Julius Chancer on Sunday 25 August, 2013.
Is Julius Chancer your alter ego?
Is Julius Chancer your alter ego?
Not consciously, but now you've made me think about it, then yes, I think he probably is. Of course, he's far braver and cleverer than I am, but I definitely give him my basic outlook.
Did you read Tintin as a child? Are there any other writers or artists that influenced your work?
Every year, from about the age of 6, my mum would buy me either an Asterix album or a Tintin album for Christmas. They were my favourite comics and have remained so. Through Tintin I discovered some of the other European comic masters, such as Edgar P. Jacobs and Roger Leloup - and it was these kinds of books, and many others in the same vein, that helped to inspire the adventures of Julius Chancer. Another big chunk of inspiration comes from the classic adventure writers, such as Jules Verne, Rider Haggard and Arthur Conan Doyle.
A lot of research went into making The Rainbow Orchid, with great attention to detail, and the story is set in the 1920s. How did you go about creating the characters, their names and the world of the story?
The 1920s setting started with my love of silent films, but it's a fascinating period anyway because it seems to have one foot in the Victorian era (a world of exploration and derring-do) and one foot in the modern age (with cars and aircraft available). There's also an extra layer to the backdrop with the recent Great War, as well as the distant rumblings of the next one.
The characters were great fun to create, especially the bad ones! Urkaz Grope's name came about because I love the name Uriah Heep (from Charles Dickens' 'David Copperfield') and wanted my own version. Evelyn Crow, a reader favourite, originally appeared in an older comic I wrote where she was called Evelyn Saxon, but Crow seemed to fit both her character and appearance better.
Have you developed a degree of expertise in subjects like botany and history from your work? Or is it the other way around?
It's a mish-mash of both. Some of the story was informed by things I already have some knowledge of, so little snippets of Victorian military history, or putting some of my own family history into the character's background (for instance, Julius's Gallipoli war experience). Most of it I researched and learnt about for the first time - orchids, the Kalasha people, snow leopards, the Natural History Museum, 1920 Indian trains … a lot of stuff!
You started the book in 1997 and there is also a shorter Julius Chancer story in The Pheonix: is this a lifelong project? Are there more adventures in the pipeline?
Yes, I sort of gave up the idea of doing commercial comics, as a pen for hire, because I wanted to do something I totally enjoyed. I didn't really expect it to get published. I have since turned down some very tempting offers so I can continue with Julius Chancer. I have two more full-length books planned, and then we'll see!
On 25th of August you can also join Garen at Comic Consequences and the Amnesty International Imprisoned Writers Event.