Maria Kouloubaritsi (MK) & Andreas Michaelides (AM)
Hometown/Location: Maroussi, Greece
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
AM: Well, as it turns out, in the roundabout way that life seems to prefer,the whole point with me is storytelling. From a very young age, my father read me Alexander Dumas and Jules Verne, my mother told me stories of her family from Asia Minor and a host of grandparents and uncles made this tapestry of tales all the richer (from both Asia Minor and Cyprus). Then came the books I read myself, as well as the comic books and Role Playing Games (RPGs) – yet all these sources did not have all the stories I would have wanted to read and so, somewhere along the way, I concluded that the only way to read these stories was to write them myself.
Do you recall how your interest in drawing originated?
MK: Ever since I was a little girl (actually, for as long as I can remember) I loved stories. For me, drawing was a way to tell those stories; and It came to me way more naturally than writing.
AM: Funny story here, since I cannot draw to save my own life; when I was around 11 or 12, I used to find a quiet spot during our vacation in the island of Chios and try to mimic the artwork inside my comic books. Then, one day, a friend came along and asked if he could join me. I said “Of course” and as soon as he picked up a pencil, it became painfully clear that there was a chasm between our innate skills. A few years later I gave up on the idea.
In what ways do you feel comic books are important to the world of creative writing?
MK: They are the combination of two incredible arts – the means to tell a story with the beauty of both words and pictures.
AM: Comic books take writing one step closer to its origins – oral storytelling. It may sound weird, but the two actually share the fundamental common element of creating a succession of images to immerse the reader / listener in. You know the popular saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Turns out, it can be the other way around, since there is absolutely nothing that can compare to the imagery created in the mind’s eye by fertile imagination. It’s a delicate balance and the maintaining of it helps both the writer and the artist to hone their skills and present what is inside their heads with the best possible clarity.
Who has influenced your art/drawing/illustrating the most and in what ways do you bring that to your work?
MK: Well, there are many but I remember – the first time I read a comic book and said to myself “I want to do this too”, was when I read Michael Turner’s Fathom. His art is always going to be inside my mind and heart.
AM: Though I cannot draw, having immersed myself in visual and gamer culture provides me with a guide for what I would like the combination of art and words to look like. I would say that for our comic book, Botch!, chief inspirations would be John Kovalic, Phil Foglio and Aaron Williams.
What books have most influenced your life most?
MK:The Hobbit was my first love. The Silmarillion, The Fionavar Tapestry, as well as the Dragonlance series had the most impact on me.
AM: I like to say that each decision creates forks in one’s path of life. Each time, you continue along one fork, while your other selves take other forks, in different universes. I have come to believe that perhaps the first, most important fork was created when I took The Hobbit in my 9-year-old hands. It was a Greek translation of 1978 from my father’s bookcase. The Andreas talking to you here read the book. In another universe, another Andreas looked a bit at the dragon on the cover and then left it alone. Along the way, I discovered my heroes in people such as J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, H.P. Lovecraft and Phil Brucato. Brucato was and still is one of the driving forces behind White Wolf’s RPG, Mage: The Ascension, a game that brought radical changes to my perception of storytelling.
Do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice that you would like to share with us?
MK: I can never remember quotes but I have this to share… Never be afraid to dream and make your dreams grand – they cost nothing and the keep the soul young.
AM: “Everything that happens to us, after its moment is past, is just a story – no more, no less”. Though I am not entirely sure, I might have made that one up.
Do you have any advice for other writers and artists?
MK: Never give up …EVER!
AM: It might sound tedious and it’s been said by greater men than I, but once more can’t hurt. Writing is a muscle, so you need to exercise it regularly without going to far, lest you damage it. You have your writer’s blocks and your burn-outs and it’s all part of the process. Don’t let it get you down. Also, make sure you always carry a pen and notebook. Inspiration and breakthroughs come at the most peculiar moments.
What have you taken away from collaborating with each other? In what ways do you feel art and writing interact with each other?
MK: None of this would have happened, had Andreas not been there in the first place… Apart from the technical stuff which he takes care of ALONE, he is also a great writer who inspires me and gives me courage, even though he forgets to save some for himself sometimes. I think we complement each other in knowledge and our way of thinking. We are very similar in the ways that are important and galaxies apart in the things we need to explore.
AM: I think Maria’s enthusiasm and friendship is getting the better of her when she talks about this project. ;) I will agree that, for any collaboration to be fruitful, things and people must click at a specific moment in time. It’s really hard to find someone who understands what’s in your head and can translate it into pictures – even harder to be willing to sweat over it in order to get the best possible result. Maria is such a person, although sometimes she worries too much, but that’s OK – I’m cold-blooded enough for the both of us. I think the most important thing is we’re on the same page and so when one stumbles, the other is there to pick them up.
Can you tell us a little background or anything special on the piece you composed?
MK: We were out one day, drinking coffee (well, Coca Cola for me, as always :P ) and we started talking… We agreed we needed to make a comic book centered around a theme we both like and know… “Well”, I said, “RPGs are the thing. You’ve been playing ever since you were 14 and I’ve been playing at least once a week for the past 8 years or so… I can’t believe we hadn’t thought about it before…!” We thought it was a good idea and we started off with much vigour.
AM: Yes, I think that sums it up. Maybe a week after, we meet again and she already has the character sketches, while I have started forming the rudiments of our plot and humour. Originally, I was taking notes during our RPG sessions, writing down funny lines from ourselves or our fellow players, then trying some associations to see where they would take us. Our approach ended up being a little different and I regret that couple of jokes won’t make it into the comic, such as when our friend Anthony (which sounds like Adònis in Greek) brought over doughnuts and we started calling him Adoughnuts. It doesn’t really translate into English (or, at the very least, it’s not that funny), but it brings a smirk to my face.
Work sample from BOTCH! #2: The Paladin – Part 2
To read more from Maria and Andreas please visit:
Name: Maria Kouloubaritsi
Facebook: Kururu Alienfrog
Name: Andreas Michaelides
Facebook: Speed Grapher
WordPress: http://andymichaelides.wordpress.com (my Greek blog)
http://otakulens.wordpress.com (my Japanese Visual Culture blog)
Book Links (detective story anthologies in which I have participated:
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