'Airships drift and dart by above and below in an impossible city that is toweringly taller than it is wide. Magic prevents anyone from falling, unless you’re the one man in the world who is unaffected by magic. Steampunk gadgets, magical murder, castles of questionable location, grimy alleys with dark deals: Lunule has it all.'
- The Foldings (website)
All images in this interview are the property of Faye & Joann, they have been used with their kind permission.
After discovering the noisy dog next door is an really an accomplice of the Foldings Duo, grumbling about weather and figuring out the best way to fry eggs on a car, Haley attempts to find out the magic behind Faye's and Joann's creations.
J: We’ve already decided that we will be the silliest interview you ever do.
H: Yay! So I’ve been loving Foldings, I’m loving the characters and how, in so few pages, you’ve been able to introduce us to brilliant personalities and this world.
J: [to Faye] Yes! We’ve got her fooled!
F: You want to hear the elevator pitch? It used to be longer but now I just tell people: “It’s STEAMPUNK-MAGIC-GAY” and that seems to get people interested.
F: (To Joann) Did I tell you about the guy who keeps coming up to us at cons saying he wants to cosplay Jasper but [Jasper’s beauty] makes him so mad? And I’m like “I appreciate it.”
F: Last time, we had kids come up and say, “I didn’t know Foldings would be here!” It was so cute! People have been so lovely.
H: So fill us in on the context of what you do, what it is you create, for readers who don’t know.
F: We are trying to do a big multi-media project showcasing this world. So far we’ve done a short story and comic, but we’ve got other mini-comics in progress, we’ve got the website in progress, and we’re hoping to put web comics up on there. We’re hoping to do more kickstarters and produce print versions. We’d love to get more artists involved. Foldings is fun escapism and we are trying to make it super fricking inclusive because it’s for everyone who isn’t in the mainstream, which is most of us when you think about it...we have a tonne written and we just need to get it all out there. The next issue contains a lot of silly hats!
H: Tell me a little bit about yourselves. How do you each contribute to Foldings and what are your roles?
J: I am a very small monkey, I live in a zoo with my monkey friends–
F: You do the writing and there is a lot of it, and then sometimes we use some of it!
H: There is that line somewhere about if you give 1000 monkeys typewriters, eventually they will write Shakespeare.
J: YES! I am that 1000th monkey!
F: We always have trouble writing bios for things. I think ‘The 1000th Monkey’ is actually amazing. That’s a really short wonderful snippet.
J: Faye does some writing too, and we use ALL of that! She only has time to get out like 300 words a year, so they’re like gold dust.
F: The entire world is built on what you write because I write out only little bits.
J: But I always appeal to you for things like...I need a name, I need a plot, I need a good idea, I need something for someone to be doing in this scene. We came up with five plots at the beginning and I’m still working on those.
F: And they are really epic!
J: Oh my God, yeah, which is going to be good but if we have to do a COMIC version of them, Faye is probably going to die.
F: [laughs] It will work! So we both write in a way – she writes all of it and I write a bit of it sometimes.
J: Sometimes you don’t draw what I actually write and make up your own thing. And then I go back and change the words because the art is more fun!
H: So it’s just Faye who does the art?
J: Faye does the art. Sometimes I’ll give her opinions, and then she ignores them and does something better!
F: I need the opinions, though, in order to better ignore them.
H: What would you say are your processes? What allows you to do the writing/art? What materials do you use? What do you do, basically, what are the practical and physical sides of your creativeness? What spells and incantations!
J: Mostly I find I tend to write better if everyone else is asleep or out of the house.
F: What she tends to do is start writing late at night when she’s tired, and she writes three billion words and I wake up to a wall of text in Skype. I’ll wake up in the morning and you will have asked me 500 questions and I spend the first forty minutes of my day reading it.
J: Sometimes I’ll be like ‘where are you Faye, don’t you know you’re supposed to be a vending machine and I need you’. We need a bat-signal!
H: So we’ve decided Joann is the 1000th Monkey and Faye is a vending machine who needs a bat-signal, I think this is going well!
J: Sometimes I’ll send you snippets of text and sometimes I’m just talking non-stop trying to figure something out. Sometimes there are actual questions.
F: Sometimes by the time I read it you’ve solved it yourself. Other times, Joann’s come home from work and is really tired I’ll be like ‘here is everything I’ve drawn today’ [laughs].
J: The funny thing is: you do that but I’ve never felt ‘oh God not this’. I’ve never felt that when you send me stuff. Every time, I think, ‘Is this something I’m going to get ideas off,’ and ‘is she doing a thing we’re working on or is this an entirely new thing?’ Like that Chinese drawing book you fell in love with, and it was this new art style and this complete finished thing. We both thought: you need to do something with this!
H: What about you Faye, what are your spells and incantations?
F: I have a fun thing going on that I’m trying to get better at, which is I’m very fast at drawing but not very fast at finishing anything ever. So I draw really fast, get lots of stuff, we get a lot of ideas and make progress, but then I take a very long time to complete it. I work digitally, which is wonderful because you can make it exactly like you want it and it has the Undo button, which is perfect. But it also means you can spend eight years thinking ‘you know what, this line isn’t quite right, it’s just not liney enough so I’m going to redo that 412 times’. I do remember one time, I was livestreaming and I drew the same hand about twenty times. After that, I just put the hands underneath the covers.
J: But that means you are drawing people in bed.
F: I was at the time [on the livestream]. Literally my thing is drawing couples having cute conversations in bed.
J: I want to be Faye’s librarian. I want to be the one in charge of keeping the museum of all of Faye’s works when she’s famous.
H: You are both going to be famous, you are a double act!
J: Mine will just take up less space, because mine is on disc or flash drives or whatever. Faye’s work will take more space because a lot of it is physical art, on paper.
F: We can just put them in a pile and get people to flick through them.
H: How did Foldings first come to be? How did you guys meet?
J: It’s Faye’s fault! We met on Tumblr. Faye messaged me and was this creepy person saying how much she liked my writing. So that was good. Then we switched to Skype. You called me once and said you would like to do a puzzle book, and it was a very business-like thing, and then that was it and we never did the book. And that was just a way of breaking the ice.
F: Foldings came about because I did a drawing and it was super crazy with lots of detail, which I don’t usually do, and you really loved that drawing.
J: You were going to be doing a modern-day setting and what came out was this fantasy version of the person that was just magnificent.
F: Yes, he became Micah. We didn’t have a name or anything at that point.
J: I still have files from when we were trying to figure out names for him. Jasper came almost immediately. Micah was a couple of months.
F: Everything came out of that drawing. Though everything now is a bit sillier than it was at the time. But that’s good, that’s how I like it.
J: No, I think it has just gotten bigger. I don’t think it has become more or less silly, honestly. I mean at some point–I think it happened almost independently, too–we both decided that the world was built straight upwards and that there wasn’t actually a lot of physical ground involved. I have no idea where that came from. We did start it on the ground and we still find references to ‘on the ground’ and we’re like: yup, that was early!
H: You use a lot of different languages I’ve noticed too.
J: We borrowed words from many different languages, Eastern Europe particularly. That is a goal in life for me, I want to confuse people who actually speak these languages. I wanted do it because everyone has done magic and spells in Latin, or French and German and all that Western European stuff, people have been there and done that. We wanted it to feel a little like everywhere, and not just ‘fantasy England.’ I just wanted us not to be ‘everybody else,’ really. I’m apparently an etymology nerd.
F: We both are definitely! We’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of hours arguing over the etymology of a word.
H: So what are you trying to achieve with Foldings? Telling a good story? Crazy world- building? Are you just having fun?
F: The Foldings is pure escapism. It is just meant to be a lot of fun. It is not meant to be stressful and we wanted to build a very cool world specifically for that. Plus we both work in so many different mediums and there are a lot of projects out there, we wanted a world that could fit into anything anybody was doing. So if someone was doing an art-book we could be like ‘hey, you want a story for that art-book? I got the perfect world!’ Usually there will be a theme and I’ll write a Foldings story to fit that theme.
H: It is quite adaptable and flexible, then?
F: Yes. Also I have a terrible attention span, so it is really nice that we can do some fluffy stories, then we can do a really scary one, and now we can put some characters over here. It is very suited to that. We are not telling one big long epic. We are telling lots of little stories, and I think because the world is very interesting, we can open windows to this place and always find something worth telling.
J: I started doing–and possibly Faye has torn her hair out several times over it–longer writing with it and putting it up on Archive Of Our Own [AO3]. That was supposed to be a sandbox area where we could test out the world, and we set it 10 years earlier than the present day stuff (that we wanted to do big stories with and have a lot more plans for). I wanted it to be the early days of how characters meet and how this golden age we wanted to write about kind of started. Later on, if we did get stuff wrong in the world, then we could say ‘oh but that was 10 years ago and isn’t necessarily true in the present-day stories’. I’ve always had that in mind as something to cover our asses, as a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card. There aren’t many chapters of it, but I’ve still got 2 or 3 that are in the process of being finished and I’m always a little bit ahead with that. Then I’ll check in with Faye and see if she has some brilliant idea to get me out of writing a scene that I didn’t want to write.
F: If you aren’t enjoying writing it, it won’t be fun reading. That’s my logic I think it should be fun! I’ve got a little thing on my desk that says: Let It Be Fun.
J: Oh but there have been times when we have struggled through a thing and it turned out okay.
H: I suppose it’s about figuring out what is worth the struggle and what isn’t.
F: I think when you are coming up with it, it should be fun, and if that wasn’t fun then it wasn’t worth doing.
J: No, that’s not true! I have sweated blood over something stupid and Faye comes along and says ‘YAY I LOVE THIS BIT’ and I’m like ‘oh my God, it worked’.
F: Usually it’s little throwaway lines that I like, and think, ‘this is great!’
J: I’m okay with that, because you win some, you lose some. I’m just always glad that something worked.
F: The last comic we did was pretty fun.
H: So where did the decision to have half of the issue comic and half of it mostly prose? You are already laughing so I’m interested to hear why you have those two parts!
F: Well, I know comics better, so I’ve always written comics rather than stories, so the comic part ended up being more me. The world is also quite complicated, and we wanted to tell so much more, and comics take a fucking long time to draw! So we did half comic, half prose, because then if you want more of the characters or the world, you have that option.
J: I mean, okay, I think the original idea for that first comic was yours, and then I wrote a script. I don’t remember ever finishing it.
F: I think it was a snippet and I thought that it was a cool snippet, we decided to use it, and then it turned into a comic.
J: I think you came up with the story somehow, I think I came up with the initial scene.
F: I think you wrote it and then I wrote more of it!
H: I love how no one really remembers.
J: But I know how I start. I’ll start a scene and I’ll have a great bit of dialogue in mind, and then I realise, oh shit, something has to happen. You can’t just have the banter and be done.
F: I think this next one is going to be great because we both sat down and figured out what stories and formats we wanted to use, then went away and worked independently, then came back together.
J: I think the second one is also going to be better because they are more interlinked and intertwined. They relate to each other more directly. The first two... yeah, they related, but this one is one story in two flavours, without being the same story at all! [laughs]
H: That sounds like a riddle!
J: We are doing the same day, but from two different characters’ points of view.
H: Ah, that makes more sense!
F: We’d love to get a bit more money together and possibly get more artists on board, and get loads more of these stories out. We Kickstarted the first book, so we might do something like that. The problem with Kickstarters is that it’s better suited to print runs and merchandising, but if you are Kickstarting to get it made in the first place that is a really long time scale and they could be waiting two years. People would get impatient and want their money back, which is fair. You also have to survive while you make something, which is tricky.
H: So how do you promote your work? Who does the social networking?
J: Faye. Faye. Faye. Faye.
F: Well, you do the Tumblr. I’ve given you the keys to the Tumblr. We do have a Twitter we haven’t used yet, too.
J: If we speed up we’d have more use for some of these things, because it’s hard to just go ‘Hey...Foldings!’
F: We were remaking the website, but our web-designer quit on us—because he got a really good job, which is perfectly understandable!
J: Faye did a lot of conventions and therefore she had a much wider audience for the Kickstarter. She was flinging leaflets around the entire United Kingdom and Ireland and everything! Whereas I only had a few people in the US, because I’m in East Tumbleweed, and travelling in the US is such a time-sink. So we’re trying to get me up on the social media side of it. Right now I’m just trying to get a regular schedule, for me.
H: So how much research goes into your work?
J: On her side: fuck tonnes.
F: Not too much, because it’s all made up nonsense, so we try –
J: No, you research on the visuals, you’ve done research on things like ships and the insides of ships, and towns that are built differently. You’ve put some in the back of the first issue. My stuff is all bullshit. I never do any research. We are going to do joint research on one particular story together, because neither of us are doctors.
F: I think the problem with research with this kind of thing is that it locks you in quite badly. Joann did a lot of research on engines for one story and got really stuck. You need to be able to have no fucking clue so you can insert a totally made-up version that you feel could maybe work.
J: I don’t regret the research on that, because it did give me at least the confidence to know how to bullshit it. If we had gone with the other version I first came out with that was fifteen times as long, that would have been a cool story too, but it wouldn’t have been the short exciting version. it would have been more of a novel-length version.
F: Foldings is just researched enough so it could work but if you look closer, it’s ridiculous.
J: The best stuff that I’ve done that Faye has liked the most is the stuff where I’ve gone ‘oh shit this is a magical world I should just work something magical into this scene’. So... mushrooms on metal! The underground glow-in-the-dark garden! The ship that shot straight up into the air!
F: Hopping rocks!
J: Yeah, just the random shit when I realize I have to work something magic in and it’s a background thing that has nothing to do with the plot.
F: I think with the visuals you have to do more research because they need to look more like a thing. If you made it all up you would be there forever. So research is often a shortcut for drawing. You find out some fun stuff as well!
J: The rule is really that you do all your research and you only use 10% of it. You only do the other part of it because you need to know which 10% you need.
F: Just need to find the fun bits! I always fall down rabbit holes in research. When I was researching the rickety buildings, I found out that in China they don’t have extension laws, so people build these really crazy extensions on their buildings. I just spent two hours looking at people’s really mental, crazy-dangerous extensions.
J: You found some really weird architecture pictures, you’ve found some excellent junk shop pictures. We start going ‘we’ll use that’.
H: You go like ‘this is our hoard of random interesting stuff’.
J: And that is the research stuff, that doesn’t even cover the stuff you’ve drawn!
H: What would you say is your most favourite character you’ve created? And you can have different answers here. If you had to go to dinner with one of them, who would you go with?
J: Ah I don’t know. Two leap to mind. Tom and Amy. It isn’t quite like choosing between your children. I’d love to go to dinner with Micah or Jasper. I wouldn’t eat anywhere near Tom, but I would watch the fuck out of him and he’d be fun to talk to.
F: Who would you go party with?
J: Aaron. Actually, I don’t know, that could be scary as hell. I would want to go out with Jasper for some things. But I don’t feel he has the same kind of depth as, say, Micah does.
F: You could just get Micah to get to do magic tricks and talk to you about rocks.
[A conversion starts about what the characters would be like fly-fishing]
F: Most of these guys are going to be in the next comic.
H: Who is your favourite artist/author?
J: Terry Pratchett.
F: Terry Pratchett.
H: I’m not surprised!
F: We didn’t actually know for ages that we both liked him. We both just turned to each other and went ‘Do you like Discworld?’
H: What do you like about him?
F: We’re such huge ludicrous fans. Joann used to help out at the Discworld conventions here in the UK. I love the world-building. I think he does the best and I love that you can jump in and out. That’s what we want to try with Foldings, we’ve built something complete that feels like it keeps going after you’ve put the book down.
H: So what couldn’t you do without? In order to create Foldings what do you have to have? For me, its my tea stash.
J: Nudity. As reference material!
F: I have this playlist of absolute bangers that changes all the time. It’s just loud crazy club music all the time because it gets you pumped but it doesn’t distract you.
J: She will also work well if someone is reading to her, or with a book on tape.
F: I used to get Joann to read fan fiction to me!
J: I also read some Foldings stuff to, you, didn’t I?
F: You did, then we’d get side-tracked as usual.
J: I can’t work with music on and I’ve never understood people who can do that. I can’t multi-task well, I can’t listen to music and create at the same time. I would love to have my brain work at multiple levels at once. How I usually describe it to people is: you watch the movie in your head and take notes. I’m not thinking on that many levels and the only other level I think is ‘What does Faye least expect?’ and do that.
F: We do that to each other. You write things that you just know I’ll flip my lid over.
H: Is there anything you want to say about indie vs. mainstream?
J: It would be so nice to have the money from going mainstream, but I don’t think it’s a good fit. Faye has been doing conventions and actually been one-on-one with people, and that’s so rewarding. But if it’s in a comic on a shelf somewhere, you aren’t going to pick up something that you know nothing about.
H: I really loved the fact that you have four protagonists that are all paired up in same-sex relationships. I love that. It is really refreshing to see it. I’ve actually seen a lot of it in the comics I bought at MCM! There is a lot more freedom and flexibility to do what you want. Was that an informed decision or just who the characters were?