Will Scott Interviews Ravi Thornton and Friends
There are not a lot of pictures of Ravi, but she is very generous with her writing. If one is open to seeing what is not readily shown, Ravi’s presence, her essence appears between every line of prose.
When I read about her first graphic novel, The Tale of Brin & Bent and Minno Marylebone, published by Jonathan Cape, and saw snippets of the artwork by Andy Hixon, I reached out to her for an interview. Ravi got back to me immediately. However, she asked that her collaborators on the project, including musician Othon, be included in the interview. This request speaks volumes about her character.
Ravi is a bright light, a deep thinker and an imaginative individual. Please visit her site, buy her book, and welcome her to the world of comics.
Will Scott: Ravi, would you briefly tell our readers what your new graphic novel, The Tale of Brin & Bent and Minno Marylebone, is about.
Ravi Thornton: It’s the tale of two broken characters who find their mend in the form of a heavenly child. I hope that your readers enjoy it as such. It’s also a metaphor for the strange rationalisations that a damaged mind makes in order to survive a great pain. Perhaps some of your readers will feel the story in that way – and to those I send out my heartfelt embrace.
WS: The catalyst for the creation of this novel was a personal experience that affected you for a very long time. Would you mind telling our readers something about that experience? Why was it important for you to use this experience in your work? Was it cathartic?
RT: It was a long time ago –reciting the details is no longer necessary. Suffice to say that there was a perpetrator of whom I was a victim, and as a result of whose actions I suffered post-traumatic stress disorder for several years. It was during that time that I wrote the first version of The Tale of Brin & Bent and Minno Marylebone. Back then I supposed it was cathartic, but in fact it was a very skewed rationalisation of an event where I’d been so helpless I may as well have been a child. And rather than be swallowed whole by the despairing rage I was left with, my mind found a way to beautify it instead. It was a very dangerous mental state, and I’ve since overcome it. Creating the graphic novel of the story years later, with all of the professional, objective discipline required to manage the project – that has been the real catharsis for me.
WS: When we arranged to conduct this interview, Ravi requested that Andy Hixon and Othon participate. Ravi, is the opportunity for collaboration, as distinct from occasions for competition important to you personally and artistically?
RT: Absolutely. I’m perfectly happy and productive on my own, but man, do I love to collaborate. Something just starts ticking inside of me when I experience powerful talent in other creatives. And it can be any kind of creativity that moves me. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m driven to push my stories into so many media – music, dance, sequential art, pervasive games – because of the opportunities it gives me to work with such a myriad of amazing people. Some people say the best collaborations are full of passion and fight, but for me the best partnerships are built on respect, communication, shared vision and the willingness to learn from one another. I’ve just started work on a transmedia narrative conspiracy project, collaborating with a collective of incredible writers. We’re all very individual in our styles, but the world we’re building together is brilliant!
WS: Without trying to prejudice your response, would you say that there is a specific view of the world that we live in that underlies, or threads through, the types of stories you are most interested in telling?
RT: A view of people generally, or one of my own? Generally I think people’s views are almost always underpinned by the same need: to be understood and therefore to be truly loved. Personally I’m not sure I have a specifically directing view of the world in terms of my writing. Often my writing is dark because it reflects some dark experiences I have had, or that people close to me have had. But I also write the lightest, most gentle and tender of children’s books (though not under the name Ravi Thornton). I suppose the search for beauty whether in the darkness or the light, [for] exquisiteness and poetry in the language, is the common thread.
WS: For someone perusing your website and determined to judge a book by its cover, The Tale of Brin & Bent and Minno Marylebone looks rather disturbing. Yet, you address it as a love story of sorts. Are you a romantic at heart? Do you see love and suffering as inseparable?
RT: A romantic? Yes, perhaps, probably – though of the deep-hearted rather than the lightheaded kind. As for love and suffering being inseparable? No, not at all, though I used to see my creativity and my pain as inseparable, so perhaps that is the same thing. I thought I couldn’t have one without the other, but I learned I was wholly wrong about that, and that actually we are much more free to express ourselves when we let go of our pasts.
WS: Andy Hixon, how did you come to be associated with Ravi Thornton? What draws you to Ravi’s work?
Andy Hixon: HELLO CANADA! I think Ravi saw some of my work online and got in contact, I liked the story but it took me some time to truly understand it. The story was very close to Ravi personally, it has a lot of hidden levels to it.
WS: Your characters, Andy, are fascinating – they look like renderings of grotesque paper maché puppets. It strikes me that your work is technically complex. Would you mind explaining your work process to our readers?
AH: I would say that my work used to be more technically complex when I was solely using photography and sculpture; however rendering the work in this way is very time-consuming and laborious. I think there are something like one hundred sixty, or thereabouts, full colour illustrations in the book. So digital 3D rendering seemed like the most sensible option for me to complete the images. There is an awful lot of traditional media thrown into the mix as well.
WS: Music is an interesting addition to any piece of sequential art primarily because it’s a silent medium where it’s the reader that fills in the blanks. You’ve mentioned, Ravi, that you had only Othon in mind when you commissioned an accompaniment to your readings. I would like to ask you and Othon to tell our readers something about the close relationship between Othon’s music and your work?
Othon: When people ask me to collaborate, I usually react in three different ways: I become contemplative for a minute or so, thinking whether I should be part of the project or not; other times I say “no” immediately. In the case of Ravi, I almost jumped out of my seat and said “YESSSS!” I just knew that this collaboration would work because Ravi and I seemed to be tuned in to very similar frequencies creatively and on a human level, even if our backgrounds are totally different. Ravi’s enthusiasm and spark magnetized me instantly but once Ravi read me The Tale, I was enchanted by her forever after.
RT: Othon is one of my greatest inspirations. That search for beauty I mentioned? That exquisiteness and poetry? I find all of that in Othon. As such there’s an energy that flows from him – and the personification in his music – straight into me.
WS: Othon, you are a classically trained musician. Do you respond to a lyricism or rhythm in sequential art that inspire your music? Or is it more personal and direct relationship to Ravi’s creative energy from which you draw inspiration?
O: Though Ravi’s contagious enthusiasm has been a consistent and positive force throughout this collaboration, it has been the sheer beauty of her words, their delicate lyricism and exquisiteness that have been inspiring me the most. There is so much emotion, truthfulness and love in this novel that, for the duration of the writing process, I never felt short of inspiration.
WS: Lastly, and this question is for all, in a world littered with capes and costumes why should someone seek out The Tale of Brin & Bent and Minno Marylebone?
For that very reason. Here instead is open, honest nakedness.