The Cult Den Interview about Roadtojove.com and quick update.
The Cult Den has now ended it’s run, and as the website, nor the interview is available through there, Aaron and David decided to host it here, on Studio Colrouphobia’s blog, for future reference.
The interview was done by Liam Salt, who has moved on to another site (which one, he wouldn’t divulge on just yet) and we are sure he will do just fine there.
Without further ado, here is the
Interview – David Sondered and Aaron Dembski-Bowden
“Hey guys! Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. Now, the first question is a kinda political one that I also asked of Patrick Freivald. I know these things can be a bit fraught, and there’s no hard feelings if you don’t want to answer… Anyway, here goes; Jedi, or Sith?
David Sondered: Sith. I’m too unbalanced for Jedi…
Aaron Dembski-Bowden: Jedi. Not that they were right (because they weren’t) but they were a dead interesting idea for a flawed, nuanced caste of a galactic society. They had tyrannical elements (like the ‘kidnapping’ of children) and their philosophies ran against natural human instinct, but that only made them more interesting. Perfect cultures are bori–
I just realised I was about to launch into a 3,000 word essay over a joke question.
tl;dr — Jedi. I like how well-intentioned but flawed they were.
Plus, green lightsabers are best.
DS: Coincidentally, I like how focused the Sith are/where, but with a mean streak.
While I’m more than happy to enter into a dissertation-length discourse on Jedi-Sith pros and cons, Aaron, we probably shouldn’t… So ice-breakers aside, care to tell us a little bit about yourselves and Road to Jove?
ADB: Um. My name’s Aaron, but various family members smugly introduce me as New York Times best-selling author Aaron Dembski-Bowden, which makes me cringe. I’ve written ten (ish?) novels for Warhammer 40,000, which I’ve loved ever since I was about 8. I’m working on some other stuff; Road to Jove is the first focused attempt to get some of my other ideas out into the world.
I like Marmite on toast. I collect Pez dispensers. I don’t like cats. I’m 50-50 on people who do like cats.
Road to Jove is a gestalt entity of a bajillion things that I love – like ancient world mythology – but on a meta-level (and yes, I feel like a tool even typing that) it’s primarily my love letter to Neil Gaiman, Stephen King’s ‘Dark Tower Series’, and the childhood epic ‘The Mysterious Cities of Gold’,
It was also a great excuse to work with David, whose work I’ve seen a bunch online over the years, and usually commented on with breathy, admiring swear words.
DS: So, I’m David Sondered.
Half of Studio Colrouphobia (which I run together with my wife) and the… visual aspect of Road to Jove. I make the illustrations for the comic, and I have been working as an illustrator for about ten years. The admiring swearwords where most likely coming from both ends of the canal at more or less simultaneous times, as I have been a fan of Aaron’s work since the First Heretic, which was the first Warhammer book I ever bought and read.
When Aaron first asked if I would even remotely have any interest in doing something together with him, I immediately said yes, without hesitation.
And I share Aarons dislike of cats, hence my family, of course, own one.. a magnificent beast called Khan… Just so we can call out “Khaaaaan!”. We balance it by calling our dog Balor… he has an evil eye and a mean odour…
Don’t all dogs have a mean odour? Ours smells like the back-end of a cow about 75% of the time…
DS: The cow died, crawled up our dogs backside, zombified and then died again… trust me.. there is a difference!
Ha! Fair enough! So, before I get completely sidetracked – what made you guys decide on a webcomic, as opposed to a more traditional publishing format?
ADB: I went into it specifically thinking “I want a webcomic…” since, well, I’ve kinda always wanted one – just like a million other writers, of course. It seemed like it’d be a simple affair, too.
How wrong we were. That innocent and wide-eyed optimism faded a little when I realised just how much work it was for both of us, considering we wanted it to be as good as we could make it.
DS: At the same time, the hard work has been very rewarding.
I really enjoy working together on this sort of thing. Just the conceptualisation of it all is an extremely rewarding process in terms of finding out what Aaron had as an idea, my spin on it, jumbling things around and coming out at something really worthwhile.
ADB: We’ve already had a few interesting and tempting offers to do it in a more traditional format (and a few of my writer/artist friends are yelling at us for giving it away for free, given the work that’s going into it), but we’re still trying to puzzle out where we stand on the whole deal.
I like the webcomic idea, though. It feels right.
DS: The fact that we also work very well on a personal level is a very rewarding part of it. But the webcomic format feels, to get back to that, very right indeed.
On paper, working on a comic sounds simple enough, but I imagine it can be quite testing? Has it presented many challenges?
DS: For me, personally, the greatest challenge has been the loss of detail.
I am used to more finished illustrations, to fit a larger format. In comic-form, a lot of the art has to be smaller, and consequently a lot of detail has to be dropped simply to be able to see what is going on in the panels…
Plus, I really like the setting we have arrived at. It really is our own thing, something new, and so I automatically have the urge to want to paint it all out. In a comic format this cannot always be done.
ADB: I admit, I cheated a little. I know a lot of comic writers, and Dan Abnett sent me some of his finished scripts, with annotations, to show me the ropes. So a lot of the problems I was expecting to have – like, say, brevity – were alleviated a little by seeing how it’s done professionally.
Truncating dialogue and description sounds like it’d be really hard for a novelist, but you have the huge boost of the visuals to do a lot of the storytelling alongside it.
Like David says, the hardest part is condensing the finished paintings into the panels. The loss of detail at times is pretty heartbreaking. We’re still learning exactly what makes a page work, as well. Sometimes the script has narrative beats at the end of every page, but fitting all of those panels onto a single illustrated update has been tricky. So there are rewrites, but not too many. We’re getting the hang of it. We hope.
We’ve got over a novel’s worth of notes right now, at about 150,000 words. We’ve only ‘argued’ over two things so far. The first was whether to ink it or paint it. The second was the shape of [DELETED NAME] the robot’s shins.
Now we’re friends again.
Friends in high places, eh? *takes notes for “how to succeed” at comics” article*…
Specifically for Aaron, has it been odd working on your own project, as opposed to working from an established IP such as GW’s?
ADB:It’s refreshing. I know that’s the most boring and obvious answer of all time, but it’s true. Working in IPs is a blessing and a curse. You have structure, and in the case of 40K it’s a setting that I’ve loved since I was a kid. I know it inside-out.
Working within the boundaries of an IP can be restrictive, though. That’s its strength as well as its weakness. As thrilling as it is to get to contribute to something you love, it’s also defined by specific boundaries – a lot of the things I like to read or would like to write about just don’t fit neatly into 40K, so I don’t touch them in my licensed work.
It’s an awesome change of pace to have no limits with The Road to Jove. I wouldn’t say either way is better; they’re two sides to the same coin. Sometimes it’s nice to be a hired gun for a cause you love. Sometimes it’s nice to create the cause yourself.
Have you found your love for, and experience of, the 40k universe cross-pollinating Road to Jove (so to speak)?
DS: It’s no secret that I love the background and visual aspect of Warhammer and 40k, but I think a lot of our thoughts with RtJ have gone to the extent of trying to not go towards 40k. People will draw these similarities regardless, because of who we are, but I think that we are moving quite far away from it.
ADB: I try to keep them separate, honestly. I’m aware of the potential for bleed-over, but that’s kind of the thing: 40K hits so many beats and claims so many narrative tropes within the huge sphere of its setting. Some things are just ubiquitous, like corrupted machinery or power armour, etc.
It’s not that any of it is unique to 40K, but a lot of modern sci-fi and fantasy tropes are so prominent in 40K that avoiding all of them would be impossible.
Basically, I just run with the story we want to tell, in the world we’re creating, and try to keep any 40K allusions out of it. Beyond the occasional similarities, I hope it comes across like chalk and cheese.
Aaron, by my reckoning that’s now books, comics, and a movie you’ve covered – any plans for a song as well to complete the set?
ADB: My singing literally tears the wings from the backs of angels. So… no.
Though I do sing ‘Sugar Rush’ with my 3-year-old about 800 times a day. I draw the line at ‘Let It Go’, though.
One for David – how do you go about your illustrations? Do you have a preferred method or style?
DS: When it comes to illustration in general or to the comic?
I tend to alter my method depending on what need be done.
For an illustration I generally do a somewhat tighter sketch, followed by lineart if the job demands it (it depends on which Art Director or who is commissioning it) and then I block in everything.
With Road to Jove I am a lot more loose with my panels.
I make really loose sketches, scribbles really. Things that make Aaron rip his hair from any place there still remains after seeing all my scribbles. After that I paint in the background.
For some of the things I have used a lot more reference. Mechanical things like pipes and so on, I tend to use a lot of reference to get the angles correct.
In terms of style, I am moving towards the style one can see among many of the amazing Chinese or East-Asian artists today. Ruan Jia, Fenghua Zhong, Min Yum. It can also be sen wiht some Western painters, to more or less of a degree: KD Stanton, Arnaud Pheu, The Black Frog.
This sort of painterly style is something I really enjoy, and it is starting to show in my art, specifically when it comes to Road to Jove.
But in essence, I am just trying to make it look good. I find that the grittiness works very well for The Road to Jove.
A related question from my editor – what’s an average day for Studio Colrouphobia?
DS: The average day- it’s different between us, since I do this more on a full-time level and my partner in crime is only doing this part-time right now. But this is the general rundown:
I do research and concepts in the mornings, for about an hour or two. Then, generally, I sleep for two hours. The past months, a lot of conversations have happened early mornings with Aaron as well.
At noon I get up and start with the things that are on my list for the day. This will generally be sketching, rendering or finer details of jobs we have on the table currently.
Later in the afternoon, I will do a bit of paperwork, then more rendering.
In the evening my wife comes home and after dinners and family things, we tend to get to our studio “the Library” and work on on different projects we have. We also have studio meetings, where we set everything up and plan ahead.
I then typically work on up until 2-3am local time, after which I will sleep for about 3-4 hours.
Inbetween all of this, I add in Road to Jove, a bit of going to the gym. Need to keep fit, in mind and body.
Wow! That’s a pretty packed schedule, then!
DS: It varies from day to day, but yeah.
There are also frequent breaks. Without breaks my mind melts and my hands cramp up !
Makes sense. I can just about manage one terrible stick-person before giving up! One for both of you – what’s your creative process like? Are you organised and methodical, chaotic, or do you just have an idea and wing it?
DS:For me, it depends-
Some of the absolute best work I do comes from a very chaotic point of origin, where a random idea, or even a scribble, will turn into the best I have produced up until that point.
However, mostly, it is pretty organised and ordered. If I couldn’t keep things somewhat ordered there would be no way to work for Art Directors all over the world. There need be some structure, otherwise you aren’t reliable.
I do, however, keep scribbling at a very high amount. It is one of the best ways to get and keep ideas for future things.
I am also a very Audiovisual person- I need music or some other sound-distraction/inspiration to perform at my best.
Thinking up things to paint, conceptualising, doesnt crave music per se, but when rendering, I really need it.
ADB: We’ve got into the habit of me sending scripts a few weeks in advance, and discussing the long-term storyline and future way ahead of time. David’s keen on the idea of seeding in references to later events or locations as early as possible, so I’ve had to dial back on my usual chaotic approach to just diving in and hoping it comes out all right by the last page.
Working with someone else has done wonders for my organisational skills. When you’ve got someone depending on you for information, you can’t just crash out early and say “I’ll do it tomorrow.”
A few times a week David sends sketches over and I offer feedback, but my comments are usually pretty brief, and more often in the form of “What about if we do…?” rather than “Change this”.
DS: Oh yeah, the working together part has definately upped my organisational skills.
Since this happen outside of the studio-budget, and thus mean I have to do it on spare-time to be able to keep my working situation bareable, I really had to focus on making sure I have schedules for everything.
It usually doesn’t affect Aaron at all, but only side, it is very neat and tidy in terms of when and how I work on Road to Jove, and when I work on other things.
I think, also, the different backgrounds we have, when it comes to dealing with telling story, mean that we have previously worked in a particular fascion. I like to know everything, or as close as possible to everything, up front. That way, I can leave visual keys or hints in my work. Aaron quite early on had to take on my constant questions on where would the story move next, how does it look there, and so on.
At the same time, the way Aaron has built the story and the pace is very intuitive, and I find that sometimes, not knowing what will happend next actually make me evolve.
Interesting! So co-operating has to some extent tamed your collective chaotic natures? I also find it interesting that David, you need music or something to work to. Personally, if there’s any kind of distraction, I’ll end up not doing what I need. Do you work to background noise/TV as well, Aaron?
ADB: Stephen King calls it “closing the door”. I do the same thing- I spend way too much on nice headphones to close the door to the rest of the world, and hear nothing but music.
It’s even more important now there’s a tiny version of myself walking around the house all day, breaking all my Space Marines and singing about Spider-Man.
DS: In terms of music, there are some characters that will appear that really come straight out of how a certain piece of music made me feel at a certain point.
It is important to know that whilst I do all of the painting, we actually create the characters, visually, together. I throw ideas at Aaron, but we always discuss the ideas and evolve the characters and environments together.
What’s you favourite piece of work – or the piece that you’ve most enjoyed working on/writing – so far?
DS: Without a doubt it’s [NAME REMOVED], an antagonist that will pop up before the end of the Prologue. I am enjoying that immensely. Aron knows what I am talking about, but lets not skip a head too much.
Cryptic. I like it!
DS: It is very cryptic, mainly because I cant even describe what he/she/it is, but the process of getting the concepts out there is just.. magic.
ADB: Briefly, two answers to that.
I love the panels on Page 5, where you see the Soldier from the Robot’s perspective, looking down at her, and the Robot from the Soldier’s perspective, looking up at him. I really love that contrast.
But I also saw a sketch today of a fight scene coming towards the end of the prologue, where decapitations are involved, hot damn that’s a thing of brutal beauty.
Awesome! Finally then, some quick-fire questions. Feel free to answer with as much brevity or verbosity as you please;
Tea, or coffee?
ADB: Coffee, then tea.
DS: Paul Bonner, Wayne England, Rubens.
ADB: Robin Hobb, Bernard Cornwell, and Stephen King. I don’t write like any of them, but they all have elements that I love and learn from.
DS: Hah, cool, I like Robin Hobb as well, I didn’t know she was an influence of yours!
ADB: (She’s my favourite author. Look at how little we talk about anything except work. That’s dedication.)
True, single-minded focus, clearly!
Classic Rock, or Heavy Metal?
ADB: Melodic Death Metal. But not normal Death Metal. Never that.
I didn’t even realise there was a distinction…
ADB: (Don’t start another 3,000-word essay, man…)
DS: Ooh, difficult. I like both really, but if I have to choose, Metal.
Ranging from Sabbath, through Zeppelin, Maiden and onto System of a Down; Slipknot… I like most things, until it get a bit too …screamy. I like to be able to understand the lyrics, that’s about where I draw the line really.
Movie, or Book?
DS: Book. I enjoy movies, I like to get the visuals, but book always win. My own imagination is so much more wondrous and scary than any movie ever can be.
In the case of I am Legend: book.
In the case of Interview with the Vampire: movie.
In the cases of Watchmen and The Shawshank Redemption: both.
In the case of 300: neither.
Eisenhorn or Ravenor?
DS:Eisenhorn, but only because I (shame) haven’t read anything of Ravenor at all yet. I’ve read very little Eisenhorn too, but still..
ADB: Ravenor. By miles. And I’ve had this talk with Dan a bunch of times, too. Eisenhorn gets a lot of the breaks and one-liners, but Ravenor really, honestly struggles, and I dig that. Everyone loves Eisenhorn, and the reader gets to intimately see how “right” he is from his perspective, despite how breathtakingly wrong he really is in terms of the setting. I think, in contrast, that can make Ravenor incorrectly come across as less interesting or less informed.
Ravenor works harder, suffers more, and struggles to keep his warband together. Eisenhorn gets it all on a plate.
When Patience Kys and Kara Swole show up on Ravenor’s side in ‘Pariah’, instead of Eisenhorn’s, I immediately called Dan and hissed “Yesssssssss!” down the phone at him.
David, that’s not too shameful, if only because you’ve got so much awesome to look forward to.
Aaron, I love that answer, even though I disagree, and would like to add that if you’re ever short of monies, I’m always on the lookout for an inside man to help me ambush Dan Abnett and keep him in a “Misery” style situation, churning out new Inquisitor books for me. I promise there’s only a 40% chance I’ll betray you into a similar situation…
ADB: I like those odds…
And finally, Sci-fi, or Fantasy?
ADB: Fantasy on weekdays, sci-fi on weekends. Or vice versa. Either way, I’d like to see more of both on TV. And more daring examples of both genres, rather than the played-safe versions we get now.
DS: I like mixing things up. In fact, a lot of the visuals in Road to Jove are about that. I mix sci-fi with things like stone, cast-iron and wood. I love that.
So yeah. both.
Awesome! Well, that’s all the questions I had, but if you think of anything you’d like to add, it’ll be a few days before it goes up, so feel free to message me with them.
And once again, massive thanks guys! Both for the answers, which were pretty uniformly great, and for all the fantastic work!
ADB: Awesome. Thanks again, dude.
DS: Indeed, looking forward to it!
Aaron Dembski-Bowden is a New York Times bestselling author, and lives in Ireland. His works for The Black Library include The First Heretic, The Talon of Horus, and the Night Lords trilogy.
David Sondered is lead artist at Studio Colrouphobia, and has produced work for Fantasy Flight Games, Catalyst Game Labs, and Prodos Games.
Image from Roadtojove.com
Originally posted on TheCultDen.com
GENERAL ROADTOJOVE.COM THINGS
We are quite overwhelmed with the response we have gotten so far. We are closing in on the end of the prologue, after which there will be a break before the release of the first Chapter. The first chapter will be released a little faster than the prologue, and we are looking into options to bring it even faster. So bookmark the page is you haven’t already.
In case you hadnt already, go over and read aaron’s latest tidbits about the road to jove right here: RTJ FAQ: Acronyms ahoy!
GENERAL STUDIO COLROUPHOBIA THINGS
There are a few exciting NDA’s in he pipeline. and hopefully the items are published soon so we can showcase some goodies.
And for those of you who sponsor us through Patreon: The first Empyrean Champion is bound to be released the coming days: Oberon, king of the forests, is incoming.
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