Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

An interview with Sebastien Ringuette

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Sebastien Ringuette's Zeppie comic from the Boiled Cat website

Sebastien Ringuette is a multi-talented artist and writer. His comics and art appears many places some of which are The Aversion Bureau and the interactive website for my novel, Boiled Cat, where he took the minor character of the band’s cat and gave him a story of his own. When I hired Sebastien to do the comics for my website my instructions were – do whatever you want. The comic story that he came up with still makes me double up with laughter and explains a few of the unexplained events in the novel.

He’s young, brilliant, and someone well worth watching as he grows into one of our country’s foremost comic creators. I give you:

An interview with Sebastien Ringuette

How old are you right now?

I’m twenty-one, which is a perfect age for what I do because I can still allow myself to be vague regarding how much time I have until my work should be supporting me.

When did you first become interested in creating comics?

I have no specific recollection, but my parents were reading copies of Calvin and Hobbes to me since before I even have conscious memories. Before I could draw well enough on my own I would take tracing paper and copy my favourite strips, re-writing the text and making my own jokes. As well, almost every bit of art I can find from my early years is somehow either specifically inside of, or directly related to comic panels.

What kinds of things do you write besides comics?

I've written, with varying degrees of success, numerous blog posts and articles for my websites over the years, but primarily I've only ever written comics. I almost exclusively enjoy writing humour, so comedic comic adventures suit that very well. I have written a few short stories to go along with the comics that I've written, extra content in my books and the like. When I was in elementary school I wrote short stories all the time, my mother made me, but I grew out of that format once I discovered what comics were all about.

I am, though, setting some plans down to perhaps start working on a short novel or two in the next couple years. I have many half-baked ideas, and sometimes I like the feeling of writing without having to spend hours drawing something to accompany it. Over the years I feel like I've developed a slightly larger love of writing than of art.

Who or what were your biggest influences?

Initially Bill Watterson was the biggest and only reason I knew what comics were, when I was younger I dabbled into The Far Side and Dilbert and other such syndicated comic strips as well. In high school, when I decided that I would be doing webcomics, and also discovering that they even exist, the largest influence then and now is still Penny Arcade by Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins. Since then I've discovered an endless world of creator-controlled content on the web. Some of my favourite artists and writers are Kris Straub, Anthony Clark, KC Green, Tolkien, and George R R Martin as well.

My own mother’s (A.R. Jones) art and writing did play a large part when I was first getting started in life, I’ll certainly be in trouble if I don’t mention that. Also my dad, he’s a pretty hilarious guy, I’ve (genetically) stolen a lot of his humour.

What were some of your first creations?

When I was young I used to draw all the time, almost more frequently than even now. I would always be drawing monsters, combinations of different animals, things inspired by all the video games I was devouring at the time, and comics. I remember a rather long-winded stretch of stapled together comic books depicting humourous and often brutal deaths for stick figures. I used to call them “Stick Death” comics, because I was also immensely creative at all times during this period.

Where did you learn to write and draw?

This is an interesting question, because I suppose I've mostly taught myself! My mother is both a talented writer and artist, she showed me the ropes of art when I was very little, but beyond that we never truly had ‘lessons’ or even would I show her my pictures, asking for critique (though she would sometimes give it regardless). I took only one art class, ever, in grade 7 as I was starting Junior high and It was so terrible that I not only never took another art class again, but I consider it the death of my interest in art that lasted four years until I took up cartooning again on a whim in grade 11 and went from there.

Similarly, with writing, I've not accepted any legitimate instruction. My mum used to make me write short stories constantly when I was young, and all of my learning came from that, I often remember her advice when writing today. But beyond elementary school I didn't write a single thing until I took up web-cartooning up at age 16.

In all honesty I think that I have one strength, and it is that I can look at my own work objectively and see if it truly is crap. Then I look at what others have done better where I have failed, and emulate those techniques until my own work looks better. To speak for the times when I wasn't quite this self-aware though, I was simply too over-confident and bolstered by supportive friends to know that I was doing anything wrong.

Although you are just at the very start of your career, what has been some of you biggest highlights?

Publishing my first book was an enormous rush, and since then I've created posters for use on short films and web series, all as a result of just putting myself and my work out there. Appearing at the Calgary Expo every year has been each year’s highlight.

Where do you see your work going from here?

Ever since my appearance at the Calgary Expo in 2013, there have been a surprising amount of project offers from people I would have not expected. Right now I’m finding a way to balance my own work and working with others. I expect to be the author of a real book, several more comic collections and maybe the artist on a game or two before I’m done! I just want to create, all the time, in every different way.

Hell, I’d even really like to try acting one day.

Where can people see your work?

My website, The Aversion Bureau is the hub of all of my work currently. Everything in the past worth seeing and everything in the future worth paying attention will filter through there! It is not currently an updating web comic but there is plenty of content on the site to satiate readers, I believe.

Will you be making any appearances in near future where people can meet you?

Yes I will! I will be making my third appearance at The Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo this coming April 2014. Come and see me in the webcomics section! I’ll be selling books and t-shirts and generally being friendly to strangers.

Do you have any advice for other young creators?

Yes, a few things, firstly you don’t HAVE to draw every day (like everyone says), you don’t have to make creation a chore. Find the circumstances you enjoy creating under, that inspire you, and create that way. Personally I LOVE schedules and order and time tables, so I make myself work for goals, goals with deadlines, and I show my work to people whenever I can to make sure there’s somebody who will be let down if I don’t finish my work. But that’s not for everyone. Create when you feel comfortable doing so and it will turn out better. If you want to be ‘the best´ then you will want to work every day anyway.

Lastly, it is perfectly fine to work in a specific way, or to change your own style to suit or entertain a friend or audience. The most beautiful thing about creating is the effect it can have on other people, so don’t be afraid to make something just because you think someone else will like it, sometimes that’s the only reason we want to create in the first place.

Similarly, your work doesn't have to be FOR anyone either, it only matters how you wish to create and why.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Kim Firmston

Kim Firmston is a writer and creative writing instructor in Calgary. Her teen novels Schizo and Hook Up were Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Bet Selections. Her short story "Life Before War" was shortlisted for the 2008 CBC Literary Awards. Her most recent novel for teens is Touch, about a teenage hacker with a troubled family life.

Go to Kim Firmston’s Author Page