Booksquawk interviews John Farman, writer of “Royal Descent”
Interview by Hereward L.M. Proops
Booksquawk: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be a comic book writer.
John Farman: I was approached by a friend of mine, David Braysher to script a comic he had already drawn, “Black Maria”, I was open to the idea and two months later I was holding a copy in my hand. I still remember the feeling of pride and excitement on looking at the book, From that moment I was hooked. So I guess I owe a big thanks to “Black Maria” and David for that.
Booksquawk: What is it about comic books / graphic novels that you like? Have you ever wanted to write for different forms e.g. screenplays or novels?
John Farman: Having worked in theatre, the differences between the stage and the comic page are fairly obvious. Ambiguity is often the playwright's best friend, my experiences of theatre centre around you building with dialogue driven characters, slowly revealing the plot; this is usually for a cast of 4-5 characters and it can be a very difficult thing to achieve. If you get it right it’s a wonderful feeling. With comics the process is collaborative, only you have far more people adding to the mix, including lighting, props, set design, sound effects, the director, and last but not least the actors themselves. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. With comics you are free to write as many characters and locations as you like (you can achieve this in theatre in a creative way, too) with the ability to show whatever you want, there are no budget constraints on your imagination on the comic panel. Pacing is much faster and can on occasion be less subtle than theatre; this includes use of weapons, explosions and multiple simultaneous running narratives, achievable in theatre but a lot less difficult to pull off on the comic page. Finally seeing the final printed work is always a special moment, with the theatre the memories of the various shows always fade, with comics they are there to re-read and reference as you wish. I would say I can see myself revisiting theatre, but comics in terms of writing and the actual reading/viewing experience are my first and true love.
Booksquawk: One of your earlier comics, “School of the Damned” opened on St. Kilda. “Royal Descent” is set on Mingulay. Is there any reason why you keep returning to the Outer Hebrides in your writing?
John Farman: For me the romantic elements of the islands have always appealed, as well as the sense of loneliness and isolation. These are perfect backdrops for my imagination to run wild. Also the actual natural beauty and isolation of the island lends itself perfectly to the various horrible acts of violence that populate my stories. Essentially nature is a hard, cold mistress, and this fits the tone of both books in my island trilogy. I have plans to write a “School of the Damned” annual focusing on the events of St Kilda in greater detail, so more Dracula and Van Helsing on the cards. The trilogy might be a wee while in coming as I have no idea how I’m going to top “Royal Descent”.
Booksquawk: “Royal Descent” doesn’t pull any punches and attracted the wrath of the Daily Mail… Has the newspaper’s reaction helped or hindered sales?
John Farman: To be honest it hasn’t hurt.
Booksquawk: “Royal Descent” is clearly influenced by “Battle Royale” but are there other works of fiction or film that have inspired you?
John Farman: The works of Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Dickens, Henrik Ibsen, John Carpenter, early David Cronenberg. Comic wise the 60’s works of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, the 80’s works of John Byrne, Walt Simonson and Jim Starlin. Of the Brits Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, John Wagner and Pat Mills are the main writers I’ve taken most inspiration from.
Booksquawk: Do you have a routine for writing?
John Farman: My routine is a simple one, I usually sit down around 11pm and play a game or two of chess, I find this gets me ready to write, it’s as simple as that. I usually write for around 4-5 hours, this might be plotting, scripting or re-writing/editing. I’ll usually think about the work for a wee while before I write, I see this as priming the ideas before I go in.
Booksquawk: The royal family are forced to fight to the death in “Royal Descent”. Who else would you like to strand on a remote island and force to engage in bloody hand-to-hand combat?
John Farman: I’m actually developing a sequel to “Royal Descent” called ‘A parliament of rooks’ where the surviving member from “Royal Descent” is forced into battle with disgraced politicians from the various parties, plenty of strong personalities here so I think both myself and the audience will have a lot of fun.
Booksquawk: Should the real House of Windsor find themselves in a similar situation, who would you put your money on to come out on top?
John Farman: I think either of the Princes, William or Harry would be a good bet.
Booksquawk: Have you got anything else in the pipeline?
John Farman: I have the sister book to “School of the Damned”, “Tales of the Damned” debuting in May and before that I hope to have my latest title “Purity Ring” out at the end of April. TOTD allows me to feature stand alone stories focusing on key members from the SOTD title. “Purity Ring” represents my first take on an ‘American’ voice and is structured around the middle America and tea party politics as well as a full frontal attack on the Purity Ring movement. I’ve been wanting to write a slasher piece for a while and the Purity Ring movement was for me an obvious choice. I’m also developing a graphic novel called Drumchapel based on my experiences of growing up in 70's/80’s Glasgow, lots of crazy, funny and dark stories to tell. I have two other projects I’m currently developing, ‘Slags’ a Kray-style character in a modern day facility recounting his exploits in the crime scene in the 60’s/70’s. Finally I’m working on a 9/11 story called “The Death of Innocence”, this story revolves around the ever growing list of deaths of first responders who attended the twin towers during the 9/11 attack. I will also be continuing to write the continuing adventures of the inhabitants of the “School of the Damned” with some big changes planned for that universe.
Read the review of Royal Descent here.