Friday Feature! Interview with Marvel Comics writer Al Ewing!

Al Ewing began writing short stories for 2000AD, he then worked on several other projects before moving on to his debut novel in 2007 – Pax Britannia: El Sombra. Currently Al is the lead writer for Marvel Comics’ ongoing series Loki: Agent of Asgard.

How did you get into writing?

I’ve been writing in one form or another since a very young age – once they stopped doing ‘creative writing’ exercises at school, I found other outlets for it – short plays, sketches, short stories and various other bits and pieces. I picked up the basics of comics scripting from a few places – there were samples floating around in things like annuals and Warren Ellis’s COME IN ALONE column – and during 2001 I sent off my first submission to 2000AD, which was accepted the following year. That was the first time I was ever paid for my writing, and it all snowballed from there – I gradually made more sales and got some assignments, and after ten years or so enough people were paying attention that I could get American work.

Do you prefer writing shorter stories or long arching narratives?

I tend to prefer short stories – usually my longer narratives are made up of shorter stories, with each issue or chapter being relatively complete in and of itself. I enjoy long-form narratives, but I prefer to have a rough idea of the ending in mind and then find my way to it organically in short jumps, rather than have the whole thing plotted out from the get-go. I usually have the big beats in mind, and let the rest come together naturally.

Any advice for writers wanting to get into the comics industry?

Don’t rely on being noticed. Don’t rely on anything, in fact.

Start small and finish what you start.

If there’s somewhere, like 2000AD, that accepts unsolicited submissions, read their guidelines carefully – don’t send in something badly spelled and wrongly formatted and expect them to look past it, because it’ll go straight in the bin without a word read.

Nobody owes you a second glance or even a first one.

If you can’t tell a story in a maximum of two pages – and I’m being generous – you’re not a writer, so learn to do that first.

Try not to bother working writers while you learn – writers aren’t editors, so the help they can offer is limited, and if you can’t develop a realistic sense of how good a piece is when you read it back, you’ll never amount to anything anyway.

Persevere, because you will be rejected many, many times.

On the bright side, what with the web and various self-publishing tools, it’s never been easier to write something, finish it, and get it drawn and self-published. Nothing is holding you back from getting something out there – even if not paid for – except yourself.

Do you think that, with the success of superhero movies over the past few years, the market for new characters has been harmed in any way?

I suppose audiences are more comfortable with characters they know, but that’s been the case for a long time – since before the recent superhero movie boom. Having a book with an entirely new character has always been a bit of a gamble, and to be honest I can’t think of the last one that really took off. I don’t know how Talon’s doing with DC – that’s probably the newest example.

What’s your creative process like? Do you need to be in a darkened room with a specific drink at hand? Or is it more social for you?

At this point, deadlines are very useful. If someone says ‘we need this in a X days’, it concentrates the mind wonderfully. Not that I’m not motivated before then, but I have a tendency to noodle a little in the early stages and having a clear goal-line in mind is a huge help.

Solitude is good for working, music is good – I find playing the same track over and over until it’s just a general mood that doesn’t impinge on your consciousness can help a lot. Caffeine is good, but I’m trying to cut back. The internet is great for easy research, but bad for keeping focused – distraction is only a click away. It can take a lot of willpower not to succumb, but again, if I’m up against a tricky deadline I find myself getting very focused.

Showers are good for working out thorny plot points. Without fail, there will be a part of any issue I get badly stuck on and have to walk away from – take a shower, walk to the post office, do the washing up. Usually the answer that comes to me is to remove something I was clinging to, which turns out to be the thing that was stopping me from finding the easy solution.

In your opinion, what is the best way for a new writer to get a publisher to read their work?

Get published elsewhere first. Which sounds like a Catch-22, but with the exception of that very first unsolicited submission, it’s how my career has worked. That’s why it’s so important to have places like 2000AD that accept unsolicited submissions – and why it’s so important to put your own stuff out as much as possible. Even if it doesn’t help, it can’t hurt. It’s practice.

At some point every writer will receive a rejection letter, what’s your coping mechanism for when that happens?

Look at what was wrong and try not to do it again. If there’s no indication of what was wrong, it’s a bad rejection letter. Either way, get back on the horse as soon as possible and start thinking up the next idea. A rejection letter is permission to send a new thing.

Do you think writers should constantly be publicising their own work? If so, how?

I think writers should, in the modern age, attempt to publicise themselves. I have no idea how to do it. Cultivating a cult of personality is one way, but that can trap you in a persona – I was “the weird writer” for a while, and it limited me. These days I enjoy being a virtual hermit, within reason. I try to be open and friendly, thank people when I can and answer any question I’m asked as politely and professionally as possible. But I like keeping my interactions relatively private and personal.

That said, I think if I was doing a creator-owned book, I’d be much more pro-active about spreading the word far and wide.

Who is your favourite superhero and why? Has it changed because of who you’ve worked for?

When I was a kid, I liked the Hulk, because he was big and green and viscerally interesting, and then because I was the right age to appreciate the intricacies of Peter David’s run. I don’t think I have a favourite superhero these days – Morrison’s Batman came close, but once he left the character lost me. My favourites these days are probably the ones I’m working on – I have a huge attachment for Luke Cage and company. But then, that’s part of the job – you find yourself caring very strongly about the characters you write.

Any sneaky hints about your newest series, Loki: Agent of Asgard?

It’s a lot of fun! I’m enjoying seeing the reaction online to each new twist – and there are a lot of twists coming. Beyond that, I couldn’t possibly comment.

Friday Feature: Interview with Benjamin Goldsmith


benji goldsmith portrait

Benji Goldsmith is a writer of comics and resident comics expert at Travelling
Man in York. He runs sequential art workshops for school children, is a proud
member of York based writers group, and is currently working on a comic with artist Abz-J-Harding.
They plan to release the book in both web and print format later this year.
Benjamin was born in Coventry, England and raised in Cheshire. He originally
started out as a sound engineer and music producer, moving to the area of
Teesside in 2006 where he obtained a B.Sc. in Music Technology with frst-
class honours. 
 Since graduating University Benjamin has done everything from providing a
sound installation for The Old Truman Brewery at Brick Lane in London as part
of Free Range to producing his own electronic music (which has been aired on
BBC Radio) and more recently his work as a flm composer and sound designer
for a multi-award winning flm and animation company based in York called
Glass Cannon.
Benji’s creative focus has steadily shifted over the years towards another of his
greatest passions, comics. He now feeds all of his time, passion, energy and
creativity into writing.


Q Whats your work gonna be about?
A I’m currently writing the first book in a series of comics inspired by the representation of
Wolves throughout history, mythology and folklore. The story is routed in speculative fiction,
quite dystopian in tone and heavily conspiracy laden. It focuses on sociocultural factors and
explores themes such as industrialisation, social inequality, spirituality and identity.
Q How did you find the artist to work with?
A It was actually a case of serendipity. The artist I’m working with named Abigail J Harding is
a customer at the shop where I work in York called ‘Travelling Man’. That’s how we got to
know each other and also how I discovered her art. I was completely blown away by her
talent and immediately asked her to do a book with me.
Q Which authors inspire your writing?
A If we’re talking comics then Warren Ellis, Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka without a doubt. In
terms of prose I would have to say Philip K. Dick, H.P Lovecraft and likes of Kerouac. I have a
broad taste in reading.
Q When do you find time to write?
A I carry a notebook and a pen with me everywhere I go and tend to use my phone a lot for
note taking. I write at every spare minute I get, which is most evenings and whenever I have
time off from work. I have a strong work ethic and tend to give myself very little downtime.
Q How have you scheduled yourself?
A I set myself fairly rigid goals and objectives for every month and then every week. For
example with the book i’m currently writing; I aim to have the outline and structure for the first comic finished by the end of April and then scripting will be completed throughout May.
I’ll then break those sorts of things down into smaller milestones week by week to ensure I
keep on top of things.
Q Do you have anyone proofread for you as you go?
A I’m part of a writers group based in York comprised of friends who also write for comics. Through that group I’m able to gain valuable feedback and commentary on my writing, it’s like having a team of editors. I think a fresh perspective is always welcome and absolutely invaluable.
Q How have you gotten the connections in the industry that you do?
A I’m quite lucky because I work for a chain of independent comic shops which have strong
ties to the industry and association with things like ‘Thought Bubble Sequential Arts Festival’.
This undoubtedly affords me greater opportunities to network, make contacts and get advice
and guidance from people in the industry.
Q What other works have you been involved with?
A I’m a fresh face. I worked/studied as a sound engineer and produced electronic music for
years. My focus seems to have naturally gravitated towards writing over time. My fathers a
writer and a poet amongst other things, it could be his influence on a subconscious level
perhaps. It started off with a bit of work writing reviews for comics blogs and then I began
submitting pitches for short stories to comics anthologies; one of which was accepted recently and i’m about to begin scripting for. I’m basically working as hard as I can and throwing myself head first at the industry. The aim with the book i’m currently working on is to have a 6-page preview printed and ready to take to DICE (Dublin International Comics Expo) in late September, to publish the comic online shortly afterwards and then launch the comic in print around mid November at Thought Bubble.
Q Know of any good alternative literature events for people?
A I was hoping you guys could maybe tell me about one or two…as a writer trying to break into the comics industry it’s all about the conventions for me, but I’m always open to writing for different mediums and being involved in anything that might help me improve my writing skills.
Q Dogs or cats?
A Definitely cats, they’re naturally aloof, clean, tidy and good at taking care of themselves….a
bit like me 🙂

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Friday Interview with Helen Cadbury


Helen Cadbury was born in the Midlands and brought up in Birmingham and Oldham, Lancashire. She writes fiction, poetry and plays and is currently working on a sequel to To Catch a Rabbit. Currently she is a York based writer whose debut novel, To Catch a Rabbit, is joint winner of the Northern Crime Award and was launched by Moth Publishing , May 2013.

new cover

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

When I was five, I wanted to be a writer (although I couldn’t actually write), an actor or an ice cream man’s assistant. I enjoyed writing, once I got the hang of which way round the letters went, but got distracted by an acting career and didn’t really settle down to write until I was 40. I have never sold ice cream, so I have that to look forward too.

Would you say there are writers out there that everyone who wants to write should read?

I think anyone who writes should read good writers, in a range of genres. Occasionally read ‘bad’ writing, but not too often, as it will depress you that such a thing got published and may influence you in the wrong way. In crime, I would recommend Denise Mina, George Pelecanos, Mark Billingham or Louise Welsh for stylish prose, interesting characters and gripping plots.

What made you write a crime novel?

All the best stories are crime stories. Look at Red Riding Hood, for example. I started off trying to write what I thought was a literary novel, but once I began to pursue the idea of someone going missing, then the idea of a crime obviously presented itself.

What sort of research did you have to do to write /To Catch a Rabbit/?

I did most of the research towards the end of the writing process. When I had a full manuscript, I showed to a serving PCSO for feedback. I also went to a very interesting talk on forensics at the Harrogate Crime Festival, which led me to know what else to look for on the internet. I don’t do massive amounts of research but I did find a very useful YouTube video of a burning car, which was obviously more practical than trying it out myself.

What’s your creative process like? Do you need to be alone to write? Coffee shop maybe?

Agh! If only I had a routine or anything I could reliably call a process. I’m a bit nomadic actually, moving from the kitchen table, to my bed, to the library, depending on my mood. I find coffee shops are better for writing poetry, as I can get too distracted by what’s happening around me to stay in the world of a novel.

Was it a surprise to win the Northern Crime Award?

Yes. It was amazing. You hope for something, then it happens. The only other times I have felt quite so happy was finding out I was pregnant with my sons.

Do you think that writers, especially non-prize winners, need to be constantly going to signings and events to publicise their work?

I quite like public events, because I’m an extrovert, and I go quietly bonkers shut up indoors all the time, but some writers find them more difficult. I think it’s very hard to assess how worthwhile they are in terms of book sales, but I’m sure they help with word of mouth. If readers find it interesting to meet authors, then it is valuable. Social media may be more effective, but if you’re not doing any events, what are you talking about on social media? Where are the pictures to prove you exist?

How’s the sequel coming along?

The sequel is with my agent and making it’s way, I hope, towards publication, but it may still need a bit more work, we’ll see…

Do you have any advice for getting published? Such as important things to include in a query.

This is probably a whole different article in itself, but fiction writers need agents. Competitions or awards can really help you to get noticed and get an agent. If you’re writing directly to an agent, talk about the book. Like any exercise in selling, you need to show why it is unique and why they might want to represent your book. Consider small presses, they are more likely to publish an unagented writer.

What about more general advice for aspiring writers?

Writers write. And read other writers. And re-read what they write themselves, to get it right. You may not be able to keep up with all the films, TV series, parties that non-writers are into, especially if you are a fiction writer. It is very, very time consuming, but if you love it, you won’t care. Oh, and if you are not intending to be single for your entire life, fall in love with someone who loves you enough to put up with you being a writer. It will make you extremely anti-social and is very unlikely to make you rich.

Interview with Sam Glover, L.A. Film Fest award winning Producer.

Sam Glover, Producer.

Sam Glover is an innovative and enthusiastic MA Film Production graduate from York St John University, currently working on a part-time basis whilst starting up a media production business, Reverse Frame. A talented graphic designer and filmmaker with a passion for the performing arts, Sam produced the short film Persistence which swept the board at the LA Film Festival 2013.

Have you always wanted to be involved in Film?

As far as I remember I have always had a passion for film. However I started in the theatre from a young age. I was trained from about 12 as a theatre actor, doing a number of things from Shakespeare to comedy. From there I got a real interest with the production side of entertainment and from then on in I have been focusing on film production.

What did your role in the filming process entail?

I had quite a few jobs on that production. Overall I was the associate producer and graphic designer. My jobs were assisting Sebastian with the conceptual side of developing the project. With regards to producing my job was focused on the pre production side of the project. In the graphic design side of production my responsibility was with the whole presentation of the project, from logos to posters but also within the development stage. My job then was making sure that the presentation of the project to prospective investors or colleges was the image that we wanted to present. They needed to understand the project before they read the treatment.

Any tips for others wanting to get involved in the industry?

 The tricky thing about getting into the industry is that with so much saturation of content a lot of the old ways of applying for work in this field are no longer an option. The best things I can say is if you want to work in this industry then you need to be in the right place at the right time. Places are always looking for new runners you just need to get yourself into a position to take those opportunities. If you want to be a content maker I suggest find a team you can trust and start making ideas. Everyone starts making their own projects somewhere and this isn’t a lonely industry. Get your friends and start shooting your own ideas. You can only get better.

 How was the film marketed?

The film was mainly marketed through social media channels and film festivals. The intent of the film was it to be recognised for festival distribution and eventually to be streamed online. Which you now can see on Vimeo.

What is your creative process? Are you inspired by your surroundings or music for instance?

I am a huge media nerd; most of my ideas are created from all the media I saturate. All ideas have to start somewhere and once I have an idea for a project I then ask a simple question, what is the foundation of the idea? What is it I want to say with this concept? No matter what else I think of in regards to a concept this is the question that makes or breaks the project.

 How long did the scripting process take?

For persistence the scripting process took a couple of months to develop but the research Sebastian did was rather intensive so he had a lot of material to perfect to storyline with.

How long did the overall project take?

Overall it took about 8-10 months to complete

 Do you think the awards the film won will help you in future endeavours?

Potentially yes, Sebastian and I are developing a few ideas and hopefully the awards Persistence won should be a good foot in the door to get some attention when the time comes.

Have you taken anything from the process and applied it to other projects?

Yes the major thing I have taken from that project is how much attention to detail and in depth research needed to create a project of that magnitude. This film really is a testament to the idea that films cannot be made in a bubble, they need a good reliable hardworking team to surround the project in order for you to get such a good quality product from it.

 What will your next big creative project be?

Currently I have just completed a proof of concept piece, Faust which is a short film written around the character of Dr Faustus asking the question what did he do next. We are currently developing that idea into a series concept. On the other side of the coin I am currently developing a web series with George Ellery called “Writers Room” a too many cooks comedy concept about the discussions between creative minds and putting the audience right in the middle of their collective imaginations.


November Round-Up

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSo it’s been a pretty exciting November. On the 7th we had a fabulous book launch with Nuala Casey and Matt Haig here at YSJ. Matt read from his latest novel, The Humans, and reminded us all why it’s great to be a human, from the point of view of an alien. Matt’s lively and moving writing is highly recommended. Nuala Casey, a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing here at YSJ, read from her debut novel, Soho 4 a. mNuala held the audience with her atmospheric and gritty prose, taking us through the shady streets of Soho. Nuala doesn’t wait around either, her next novel, Summer Lies Bleeding will be out next summer. Both writers responded to questions from the audience with generosity and refreshing honesty, and we all got an insight into the discipline and hard work necessary to become a successful writer.

Last week we were incredibly proud to see our first SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTUREScohort of joint honours Creative Writing students graduate in the grand York Minster. We were all dressed in our finery, struggling to balance our hats and comparing our gowns. JT Welsch definitely won that particular contest…



We know that all our students are going on to do great things, and are happy to have the pleasure of continuing to teach some on our MA.


Finally, novelist Barrie Sherwood gave a wonderful reading of his latest work, Sandia, yesterday evening. Barrie was a lecturer here at YSJ for five years and recently left to teach in Singapore. It was lovely to see him again, and lots of his previous students turned up to wish him well and thank him for being an inspirational teacher. Barrie’s new novel is remarkable, a work that shows a novelist at the height of his ability. I was bowled over by the control and power of the prose. I can’t wait to read the whole thing.


There are more exciting events coming next year, including a reading of Holophin by Luke Kennard, who will be joined by Tom Chivers of brilliant independent press Penned in the Margins. We are also welcoming an literary agent, and looking forward to the York Literature Festival, where we’ll get to see Germaine Greer, Nicholas Royle, Alison Moore, Emily Berry, Helen Mort, Rebecca Goss (to name only a few).