Hi! I’m damehelsing from The Drunk Duck Community and for today’s Sunday article I will be interviewing the lovely duo, Nic and Ben!!
So, Nic and Ben! Give us a little introduction!
Ben: well, my name is Ben, I'm the artist of Potato and Kraut, hosted on The Duck, of course, I do web development during the day and have more hobbies than I should, I live in Texas and I have a little girl, four cats, a dog and three chickens.
Nic: Dude, you have chickens now!? That's awesome!
Ben: yeah, we got three cluckers a few weeks ago. They. Are. Awesome.
Nic: Cool! Sorry I'll stay on topic! Hey there, my name is Nic, I too live in Texas, I'm a file clerk by day, a wannabe writer by night and a Zombie Slayer anytime. And I'm also the writer of Potato & Kraut.
Wow, what a household, Ben! I hear chickens are a joy though and that their eggs are best when it's freshly popped out! Also, Nic, I totally dig the Zombie Slayer, I'll make sure to add you to my Apocalypse Team!!
Nic: Excellent. I think I'd come in handy lol
Ben: Chickens are so much more fun than I thought they were going to be, like, each one has its own unique personality. Sorry, I know this isn't an interview about my chickens. But I could seriously make this whole interview about my chickens.
HEY chickens are great! We can talk about them any time, haha
I’ve never had the opportunity in working with a writer or an artist, what is it like for you two? Do you get along relatively well? Or do you also hit some bumps along the way?
Nic: We have a pretty good balance, in my opinion.
Ben:I would agree with that. When we get together, we leave all the weapons at home, so it's only our wits and our fists.
Nic: Don't forget the crazy grins as well lol
Ben: Seriously though, we have a great working relationship. We lived together for a couple years and Nic was the only roommate I've had, besides my wife, that I got along with lol
Nic: Yep, fun crazy times.
Ben: We each have a little influence over what the other produces, but in general I think we just roll with whatever each of us produce.
Nic: Working as a team can have its challenges. For instance, I can't project my thoughts and scenes into Ben's head so that he can see exactly what I'm describing. However, he has learned to translate my odd explanations and crude attempts for drawings and is thankfully able to sketch ‘em out. I’ve even sent a few videos of me reenacting some of the scenes for him to get a better idea of what I'm going for. That whole sequence of Tim regaining consciousness/stumbling around/crawling after the blast in No Man's land - Ben has about a 10 second video on his phone of me acting that out in my living room with my dogs (out of the shot) staring at me like I was bonkers! I heard it got a huge laugh from his daughter lol. Ben will also make suggestions here and there that actually end up working better than the original idea. That's another thing about collaborating with someone. You have to be willing to hear the other person out. Sure there are times where a particular scene is pretty much written in stone and you aren't willing to change it, and of course that's perfectly fine, but then there other times when someone suggests something that just makes it a bit more interesting and like I previously said, better than your original idea. I'm not saying that you have to always take someone else's advice all the time…but it doesn't hurt to give a listen :)
Ben: The pandemic has made it a little harder as we don't really get to have our in-person sketch sessions much anymore, we make do with video chats but it's been more difficult for the last year. I can't think of any time where we were really at odds about anything
Nic: Yeah, me neither.
Ben: But Nic has the story planned out quite a ways, so we're always talking about how we want scenes later on to play out, which I think helps keep our vision pretty in line.
I'm so glad you two have an awesome working relationship, I think this is why Potato and Kraut is such a smooth read!
Nic: Thank you!
Ben: That's all Nic's writing, she's had the shape of the entire story in her head from the beginning, which impresses the hell out of me.
Nic: Art is pretty essential to comics, too. And you're a great artist, Ben!
Nic is indeed a great writer, but it does take a great artist to make sure the layout is clear!
Ben: Thanks, I'm trying to keep up.
I think you're both doing amazing!
Ben: That's very kind, it's nice to hear that people like it
Nic: Yes, thank you for that!
So, Nic, on the topic of having the story all shaped out, has there ever been a moment where you actually didn't want to tell Ben anything immediately to kind of give a surprise?
Nic: Not really. I laid out the story for Ben so that he could understand the general tone and where I was going with it. I want him to understand the characters, and their choices, as much as I do. If that makes any sense lol. Man, I hope that doesn't sound pretentious XD
Nic, that doesn't sound pretentious at all, I think it's really important to keep everything on the table for your artist, co-writer, whatever your team consists of for a clear vision and understanding of the story and its characters.
And Ben, has there ever been a moment where Nic revealed something about the story and you were shocked? Not necessarily a bad thing, but you just weren't expecting it?
Ben: We've always talked about the story as a whole thing, so I think I know all the major story beats that are going to occur, part of that, I think, is the way the story jumps around in time and it's important to keep things consistent in order for it to make sense at the end, although, the way the individual chapters play out does change from time to time, like the chapter with Imy and Ada, the storm and the seashells was originally supposed to be very different. So, the individual chapters sometimes play out a bit differently than we first expected, but overall, the story continues on the same course.
That’s a really good point, since there are time jumps, you would definitely need to have most if not all, important cards on the table.
Nic, Potato and Kraut is honestly, a very sweet story that is also, in a way… intense and I think plenty of the readers can agree that if it’s not an emotional ride yet – it’s definitely going to be one! What inspired you to write this story, Nic?
Nic: There were a few things. Music was one of them. Like many people there are times where I imagine various scenes while listening to music and in this case an artist by the name of Goldmund was definitely responsible for planting the seed for Potato & Kraut. Three of his albums to be specific - 'All Will Prosper', 'Malady of Elegance' and 'Sometimes'. I highly recommend them! Anyway, one day I was working on various house/yard projects (mostly yard projects) and as I was listening to these particular albums I just kept imagining scenes of a young girl toiling away in the fields, realizing that she excels in things that were perceived as more masculine traits at the time, being thrust into a strange land and not only coming to terms with it but falling in love with it, as well as the people who reside there - in more ways than one. As I continued to work throughout the day those images just kinda grew into the story that you see now.
Random fact about me: Linear movement helps create linear thought. If I'm moving and being productive, that's when most of my ideas come to me. Does anybody experience that kind of, for lack of a better term, productive trance thinking?
Anyway, another inspiration was that I just wanted to read a semi sweet, semi dark period piece involving lesbians. That story wasn't available so I decided that I would go ahead and write it. I love history. I love period pieces. And I also love lesbians :D So why not write my own dang story? lol I get that it's not necessarily historically accurate, save for a few extraordinary exceptions that have taken place in history, but it's ok because Ben and I are not presenting it as such. Plus I know it's something that my past gay teen self would have loved to have read but couldn't because there was next to nothing when it came to positive gay content in the late 90s/early 2000s. At the time there were very few films and books that had gay main characters and even less without them ending with suicide, being committed to an asylum or some other horrific tragedy. I understand why those stories exist but those shouldn't be the ONLY ones that do, ya know? So in a way my inspiration for this story is the same thing that inspires ALL my story ideas - I write what I want to read.
I'm sure most writers/creators can relate :)
Oh, absolutely. Everything that I write or draw is really because this is what I want to see. As for moving and thinking, that is something I can definitely relate to, normally when I’m working out or doing chores a lot of big my comic moments, whether it’s an action packed scene or just strong story-driven dialogue, actually comes to me then.
also yes I too love lesbians so I approve of this haha.
Ben, did you have a style in mind when you went forward to illustrate Potato and Kraut or did you just go with the flow and what felt natural to you and the story?
Ben: when Nic was describing the story to me, I was reminded a bit of the Tin Tin comics that I had read when I was really young, I didn't want it to be exactly like that but I wanted it to be closer in feel to that than something like a Marvel/DC type look and an anime look really didn't feel right either.
Nic: Especially since it takes place in early 20thcentury Ireland lol
I definitely can't picture Potato and Kraut as a manga lol
Ben: But I didn't really try and emulate Tin Tin, I went and looked up a few images to remind myself of it, but then kind of let the comic move its own direction. I found an artist who made a couple books that are a lot like Potato and Kraut, Eric Heuvel, and, I watched this movie, April and The Extraordinary World. I also look to Evan Dahn, another artistic inspiration for my line art and coloring. I kind of try to keep those things in mind as I draw.
I will say I feel like it's worked out great, like I said, it's a sweet story but still very intense and I feel like the artwork matches it perfectly. Almost like a storybook feel but a comic that's for a mature audience.
Nic: Yep, exactly what we're going for. :)
Ben: thanks, I'm working constantly to try and bump my art skills. I hadn't drawn anything for about 10 years before I started work on the comic and it's been slow going trying to recover some of those lost skills.
Oh wow, 10 years is definitely a long time but I think you're doing great!! I noticed great improvement as I read along!
Ben: Thanks so much. I feel a lot of pressure to try and do this story justice. Not from Nic, just from myself
You're welcome! And aw, I feel that, I think every artist just felt that haha, we put so much pressure on ourselves because we want the best for the project we’re working on.
Out of curiosity, have both of you studied for this project? Such as the clothes, the architecture, maybe even how certain characters speak? Or are you learning as you go along?
Nic: Some information I already knew from previous books and documentaries I've read/watched in the past. But most of it is a lot of research and study as we go along with each chapter. Especially when depicting the slang of the time, as well as fashion and all-around environment.
Ben: I am incredibly fortunate to have Nic be able to handle most of the research for me, she's sent me a boatload of reference material, although I do find myself having to look up weird stuff as I'm drawing like when I realized that ballpoint pens didn't exist then. Or when I had to look up classroom interiors from that time and being surprised at the similarities to today's classrooms. I find fashion to be hard, it's easy enough to find everyday clothes from that time period but I have a hard time finding what fashionable clothes looked like in Ireland at the time.
Nic: We do a lot of research and we may not be 100% accurate every time, but we remind ourselves that this isn't a documentary, this is a fictional story. :)
Ben: Yes, we've had to have that conversation with ourselves a bunch of times. :)
I wish more readers and creators thought like that! A lot of people are so easy to say something isn't accurate and sometimes the ones really saying it is ourselves, but it's important to remind ourselves that it's a fictional story, we are definitely allowed to add or remove as we please!
Ben: I keep expecting someone to call us out on it, but it hasn't happened yet, generally speaking the community on The Duck is just really supportive.
Nic: Yes, I've been pleased with how kind people are. If there's any criticism, it's always been constructive. Shout out to Bravo! He's a reader that always has some interesting historic detail to add :)
That's awesome! The Duck really is a great place!! I'm so glad both of you have found it supportive there!!
When fleshing out the characters, both from a writer’s standpoint and an artist’s standpoint, what was the process like? Did you know the characters, their personality and their looks? Or did you want to roll with it and leave some wiggle room for future changes?
Nic: From the beginning I had a pretty solid idea of what I wanted each character to be like. That being said, there were several drafts written afterwards (as writers tend to do) and with each one, some of the qualities and traits of each character was either be minimized or magnified along the way lol
Ben: I think most of the main characters were solidified pretty early on. Nic had sent me reference photos and music pieces for all the big players. The time hopping nature of the story doesn't lend itself to being loose with the characters appearance. I have a master file where a lot of the characters were charted out at their various ages, which I did before starting the comic.
Well, I love all the characters! Especially Tim. Tim is just a big sweet heart, haha
Ben: you know, Tim is one of my favorite characters too.
Nic: Thank you. We very much love him too. Even though it may not show from how we treat him lol
He's like that big lug that you can poke a bit and he just takes it with a grain of salt because he's such a lovable guy, I think! Also, I totally imagine that he'd be very dreamy and a great gentleman. Don't mind me, having a little crush here. fans self
Nic: Just a big ole ginger lug who cares for his friends. What's not to love?
Ben: I love how he's both comic relief and has a lot of depth of character.
Aw yes ;-; I really can't wait to learn more about him and the future of Ada and Imy!
Which by the way, during this project, what are the biggest struggles you both faced, either with each other or alone and what has been some of your greatest accomplishments?
Nic: Struggle - Imposter syndrome, for sure. Reminding myself that it's ok that I've never written on a professional level or written a comic before. Or that most of my writing consists of silly ideas/scenes that I scribble down in a notebook and don't dare share with the rest of the world lol That doesn't make me a fraud. It doesn't mean that I can't call myself a writer. I'll admit, I've been working on not cringing slightly in shame if some generous folks refer to me as a writer, or when I admit that I'm a writer of a comic. After all, they're right. I AM a writer. Never said I was a good one but dammit I'm still a writer nonetheless lol
Accomplishments - every single time we get a page up. the fact that we're making this happen at all.
Ben: True story. For me, time is the great enemy, and it's become much worse during the pandemic, it takes about 12-16 hours a page, depending on the complexity and it's just hard to find that time in the week.
As far as greatest accomplishments, we crossed the 100-page mark pretty recently. I've got all the files set up to be able to work as a print book and we're hoping to be able to do a print run of the book at some point.
Nic: We both have full time jobs. Ben has a family to take care of. I have a family of dogs I'm trying to put through college. We're busy people!
Ben: Lol, yeah, you would think that the pandemic would have made it easier but I actually got most of my drawing done commuting to and from work and over my lunch breaks, I'd head out on the weekend and grab a couple hours at a coffee shop too but that's all gone and making that time happen is just so hard right now.
Nic: Ben isn't paid to do this. It's a labor of love for both of us. And I love that we're actually making this story happen rather than just keeping it my head and saying “one day I'll get to making that comic….”
Ben: Yeah, it feels really good to be creating something that's out there and being read by folks. That's a huge driving factor.
Nic: I think everyone on the Duck should acknowledge the fact that they're awesome for putting their work out there and sticking to it.
Aw, I love that you two are happy with the fact that you're getting your story out there and enjoying it while you do! And yes! WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT FOR THE DUCKLINGS READING!
Okay, so for the last question, do you think you two might want to create more stories after Potato & Kraut is done? And if so, do you think you'll be posting them on The Duck? ;););) <3
Ben: Lol, yes.
I love this! Instant confirmation!
Ben: We’ve already talked about our next story, but we’re trying to get through P&K first.
Nic: Yeah, it’ll take a while but we’ll get it done and go on to the next one!
Ben: I have another writer friend who always talks about how it's really hard to finish off projects because when you're slogging through a story, you'll get a shiny new idea and it's more fun to run off and start something new than finish something old, but I think we're both very committed to seeing this one through to the end.
Ben: There are some upcoming scenes I'm very excited about and I know we have some readers that are interested in us returning to the war. There will be some great scenes coming up for everyone, I think.
I know I definitely can't wait to see more Potato & Kraut! I'm checking it every Saturday and Sunday for new pages!!
Thank you Nic and Ben for agreeing to do this interview! It has truly been a pleasure interviewing you both and getting to know the writer and artist behind the wonderful story that is Potato & Kraut! <3
Ben: Thank you so much, this has been a really good time :)
Nic: Thank you so much for reading our comic and for this honor of interviewing us :)
Hey, it's been my pleasure, seriously!! <3
Hey Ducklings, interested in reading Potato and Kraut? Just click the image below and dive into an emotional story with LGBTQ romance, characters that feel so real you could touch, war, history and more!
damehelsing at 12:00AM, May 9, 2021
©2011 WOWIO, Inc. All Rights Reserved Google+