INTERVIEW: Paddy Lynch on the Stone Hewn Sky and The Summer Subscription

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2014 ended on a high for me, Irish comic-wise, with the arrival of the final book in Cardboard Press 2014 Summer Subscription in the post. The book in question, was by one of my favourite creators Paddy Lynch. I decided to ask Paddy about the subscription and his creative contribution to it, Stone Hewn Sky

The book came out as part of the “Cardboard Press Summer 2014 Subscription”. What was the thinking behind that idea?

The basic idea was to try and get some good comics by independent Irish artists coming out on a monthly basis. Obviously no one creator is going to put out a monthly alternative style comic book, it just wouldn’t pay the bills, but with a model like this you can give the customer a decent, curated, nicely designed and printed regular injection of indie comics from Ireland.

I wish I could claim the idea of using a subscription model to get a variety of indie books out there, but really I was just emulating something that has been a success in the stateside indie scene (and beyond) for a couple of years now. It’s something I participated in myself with the likes of Retrofit Comics, Oily Comics and Uncivilized Books (three of my favourite publishers). As a punter I absolutely loved getting a monthly package/envelope coming through the post and figured it was a good time to give it a go for some irish creators!

How did you decide which creators/books to include?

Really it came down to people whose work I enjoy and wanted to share with others.

For this particular series, I looked to people who’s work I had previously seen or enjoyed on the web and who weren’t likely to publish a printed version themselves. Maeve and Gus particularly aren’t the types who enjoy selling their stuff from behind tables at conventions, so I was more than happy to produce and sell these books on their behalf. Luckily everyone who I approached was very happy for Cardboard Press to look after the printed edition. I was proud, however, to convince Gus to make a rare public appearance at the Dublin Zine Fair back in August!
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I really liked Ken Mahon’s Storm Chasers (mainly due to the science fiction aspect). All the books were of a high standard creatively. Do you have a particular favourite or is it hard for you to single one out?

Ohh it’s very hard. I love each of the books for very different reasons. Kens breezy storytelling, dialogue and cartooning is just fantastic, Maeves work is so very thoughtful and understated but if I was pushed maybe I’d single out Pictorial Histories of Leider as my favourite.
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I think Gus’s work taps into something very primal and deeply felt that only gives up it’s secrets on multiple readings. It’s not always easy to read but at the same time his sequential storytelling can be incredibly smart and rewards a close reading. I’d been a fan for years and was delighted to collect those stories in the one comic.

Ask me on another day tough and I may give you a completely different answer!
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Is the subscription something that you hope to do again?

I’m wary of saying too much before I’ve confirmed anything, but yes I think it’s a great model and I’d love to build on last year’s run.

Moving on to Stone Hewn Sky, how do you go about starting a project like that? I’m assuming it is different for you as you’re in control of all aspects of the book to a large extent.

Much more nerve wracking to be sure!

The main difference, with other peoples work, is that I’ve already decided that it’s worth publishing so I can concentrate on the design, any editing that may be needed and the technical production of the book. I quite like that aspect to publishing. With my own work it’s much more personal and there are all those attendant worries about whether a reader will actually get and enjoy it. It puts you on the spot and I forever second guess my decisions!
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That said, the creation of the work itself is great. Usually I have the ideas for the story swimming around in my head for a good while before I actually get to write and draw it. For Stone Hewn Sky there was a draft written and about 8 pages completed of the story where the main character was a lot younger and the background setting much more fantasy-like. I kind of wrote myself into a corner though – it was going down the direction of being too fanciful and contrived. The final version is a lot more open ended. There are a lot of elements I deliberately left unexplained (in fact I cut out a huge amount of ‘voice-over’ style narration quite late in the process). I’d like to return to the story and continue it at some stage.

Your books always have something to say about life and the world around us. Is that something that you deliberately set out to do or does it come out of the story you are trying to tell?

I guess it’s about 50/50. Usually the stories are sparked by a specific idea which I try to stay true to on some level but I follow the story where it leads. For example the original spark for Stone Hewn Sky was an article I read about the mood enhancing affects of different colours of light.

I definitely think it’s important to say something with a piece of art. There’s so much meaningless noise out there in the world the last thing I want to do is add to that. Maybe it’s some sort of weird, latent subconscious Catholic guilt, but I think if I’m going to be part of a process that cuts down trees for paper or consumes electricity to host images on a computer, I hope what I’ve done communicates something of worth (or at least tries to).
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I enjoyed the science fiction aspect of Stone Hewn Sky. What are some of your sci-fi influences?

I’m all over the map with this one, I love writers like Iain Banks, Arthur C Clarke, Philip K Dick, Kurt Vonnegut, JG Ballard. I love how sci fi often reflects the contemporary fears and issues of a time in an indirect way.

Anything else you’d like to say about the book?

When I was describing the comic to people, I kept saying ‘it’s a bit like JG Ballard meets Kafka, in space!’. I doubt of I lived up to any of these giants, but there are definitely hints in there that would give you a clue as to what the book is like. I think it’s a step outside my comfort zone both story and art wise and I’m very happy with the result.
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I’m also super proud of all the work Ken, Maeve and Gus have put into their comics. I think the scene here is growing from strength to strength and it’s important to highlight how diverse the work can actually be. So I really hope people check out at least one or two of them!