Interview: Blotch on 'Nordguard: Across Thin Ice'
At this year's Anthrocon I was able to touch base for a few minutes with Blotch, the duo team of BlackTeagan and Kenket, and ask some questions about their latest release; Nordguard: Across Thin Ice, which debuted at AC ’11. (review)
Blotch is already famous in the fandom for their cover work on Kyell Gold’s books (Out of Position, Isolation Play) as well as winning multiple awards for their cover work on conbooks and for their first graphic novel, Dog’s Days of Summer, also available via Sofawolf Press.
Mad: Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. The first one I wanted to start off with was how did the collaboration between both you and Kenket begin?
Blotch: Well, we knew each other, we were friends and were both going to be house-sitting and dog-sitting for a friend. This dog is this crazy, crazy, crazy dog and we wanted to leave the house for awhile so we left it a soup-bone. And we we're like, “Oh that will keep it entertained for a half hour, while we go get something to eat, the dog will be fine.”
Well, we come back and the dog has eaten the entire couch, it was shredded and we we're like crap, well what do we do? Sooo, it’s “O my gosh, she’s gonna be home tonight in about an hour” and I was like, “Well I can sketch her something” and Ket was like, “I can paint it” and so we did that and it turned out really well. So yeah, that’s how we started working together.
Mad: That’s interesting, honestly I didn’t expect such a story behind it.
Mad: All right, well while it’s not unheard of in the furry fandom its worth noting. Despite both of you being female artists, you create predominantly male artwork; is there any reason for that?
BlackTeagan: Want to. [laughs] It’s like you know, I don’t really enjoy drawing things I don’t enjoy, so I don’t.
Mad: I was actually going to ask; back at your panel you mentioned how Pi is the main character, did you switch it? Was there a reason for this-
BlackTeagan: No, she was always the main character.
Mad: From the get-go? That was just what you thought of and it was the idea.
BlackTeagan: Yeah. The story is her story. The only reason that Nickel is on the promo poster is because he’s a striking character.
Mad: About the making of Nordguard, was it easier or harder than our previous short book, Dog’s Days?
BlackTeagan: Well, the method was a lot harder. Dog’s Days was…sort of a joke, to see if we could do comics. It wasn’t a very serious project so…
Kenket: Parts of Dog’s Days were harder, because we were doing it online so the time frame was very limited, plus we were writing the story as we went along so it was quite difficult sometimes…
Mad: Well you didn’t even know what way the story would go when you started the voting system.
BlackTeagan: Exactly, we didn’t know if people would vote. So mentally, it was a bit harder for those reasons, but overall I just think that there’s a lot more time and effort…
Kenket: Nordguard definitely took a lot longer and more effort, but the process was a bit calmer because we had time to think about it.
Mad: You had a plan.
Kenket: We had a plan, it was more methodical, more control than [laughs] than Dog’s Days.
Mad: Um, a question about Dog’s Days specifically; The surprise reaction about whether or not the sex scene would occur.
Mad: Well, you said that you were surprised when it was a unanimous, a near unanimous vote of no.
BlackTeagan: Well, every week, every week people had been voting for the option they thought would lead to sex. So we thought, well fine, we’ll just have it be very obvious these options lead to sex. And, you know, we were just surprised. It’s like, suddenly everyone changed their mind and just didn’t want sex.
Mad: Yeah, that’s what I assumed. I even told my boyfriend, “Oh that’s what’s going to happen” once I began reading the comic.
Kenket: We were very surprised and because that happened we decided, “Oh you know, these people really care about the characters and therefore we should do them justice and actually tell their story a bit better.”
Mad: You mentioned you’ve done work outside the fandom, could you go into that a bit?
BlackTeagan: Well, we mostly do stuff in the fandom now, but it’s like she’s been published by Cricket and other places. It’s just, as illustrators, you find a niche and you work at it and it’s where we really enjoy it so we’ll stay in the fandom now.
Mad: Yeah, you’ve won about 4 or 5 Ursa awards for your illustrated covers alone.
BlackTeagan: Oh yeah, a lot of Ursa’s.
Mad: Ten!? Yeah, a lot then. Anyway, Dog’s Days of Summer, it was the beach, Australia. Nordguard is darn near a polar opposite. Was there a reason for this? Were you tired of the sun?
BlackTeagan: No we just wanted to start with something that didn’t have a lot of architecture.
Mad: Oh, so the wilderness.
BlackTeagan: Yes, it's outdoors so it's easier.
Kenket: Fundamentally easier to paint than something set in downtown say in San Francisco or something. [laughs]
Mad: Was it easier to paint?
Kenket: Yes, it was much easier to paint then say something taking place in a city or a spaceship for instance. But at the same time, it was difficult, just as hard in its own way.
Mad: What was your favorite part of Nordguard? And really your worst? If there even was a specific moment.
BlackTeagan: Um, of the actual book or the making of it?
Mad: Well the process, was there a favorite page or moment your glad you got completed or done?
BlackTeagan/Kenket: [laughs] Well, the moment we sent it to the publisher! That was my favorite moment ever.
BlackTeagan: You know I just…it’s so much a labor of love that it’s like…a lot of the time it's pulling teeth but it’s something that you do because you really love to do it, so it’s really hard to find like a specific moment or part of the process or part of it because it’s just this big ball of…
Kenket: Yeah, oh my god.
BlackTeagan: Yeah, anxiety and work and this emotional attachment, it’s like-
Mad: Yeah, you said at your panel, you did research for a year, saved up a year beforehand to offset not working on other projects.
BlackTeagan: The research was probably the most fun part.
Mad: That’s a…I wouldn’t say gamble, but a really big investment for…
BlackTeagan: When you want to do something your passionate about it’s not, you know…it just seems worth the risk or worth the gamble so…
Mad: The last question, I think, I have for guys is have you ever had the worst con experience or ‘that’ fan?
BlackTeagan: I think everyone’s had someone like ‘that’ fan but it's on a whole most people are really nice.
Kenket: Cons are enjoyable.
BlackTeagan: Cons are really fun, you know I love just to meet the people and it's cool. You know there’s always the one person you remember and you think, “Wow, please go away.”
Kenket: In general the cons are awesome.
Mad: All right, well, Nordguard 1 is out; you said at your panel because you had to cut some material due to deadlines the second book is already somewhat started, do you expect it done anytime soon?
BlackTeagan: Well by the end of August we're gonna ramp up and start working on it again full time, see how far we get, and we’ll have a better sense of time tables then.
Mad: All right, I look forward to it.
BlackTeagan: Yeah, we're gonna be updating the blog with stuff.
Kenket: I’ll do livestreaming of new paintings of pages.
BlackTeagan: All the info and stuff will be up there.
Mad: Oh actually, really quick; the names BlackTeagan and Kenket, is there any significance to them?
BlackTeagan: Uh, no [laughs]
Kenket: Well, I got my name from a character in a book years ago when I was still in the MUCK, roleplaying, it was my character name and I kept it throughout the ages.
Mad: I thank you for your time; I look forward to the book.
BlackTeagan: I hope you enjoy it. It was nice to speak to you.
Mad: Thank you.
BlackTeagan: Thank you for being so patient.
Mad: No, it's no problem.
Kenket: We appreciate it.