After completing her first independently-published collection of short science-fiction stories in 2014 (The Journey & Other Short Stories) and
a science fiction novel about the possible consequences of gene therapy (The Methuselah Paradox) in 2016 under her own imprint, Neon Sky Books, Elaine wrote a short story titled ‘Minding Mama’. Originally intended as a completion entry, it didn’t
meet the word count, so Elaine planned to put it in her next short story collection. Reviewing it a few months later, she realised it would be a great story to tell in a more visual medium and started looking for a concept artist and storyboard artist to help
turn it into a short animated feature. This evolved into the premise for an ongoing comic book series with concept art provided by Amanda Fullwood and illustrations by Dan Schaefer, who also story-boarded the live-action trailer featuring Kate Davies-Speak
and David Learner. Elaine is proud to be an author member of the Alliances of Independent Authors (ALli).
The Alliance of Independent Authors
Elaine, what can you tell us about your inspiration for the story of ‘Minding Mama’ and what is it about?
The original inspiration came
from the theme of a short story competition about ecotones – where two very different types of environment/landscape meet. I had in mind a future Earth where something had devastated life to the point where humanity was living underground. That quickly
evolved into an Earth so badly damaged by decades of intense solar radiation bombardment (solar flares) - without the protection of the ozone layer, UV rays would reach the surface and have terrible consequences for animal and vegetable life, including humans.
The original short story didn’t quite meet the required word-count for entry into the competition, and in any case had strayed slightly from the theme, so I thought to keep it for my next short-story collection. Once I’d decided to tell the
story in a more visual way - a short, animated feature which evolved into a graphic novel/comic book series - I added to the story.
Basically, it is about a young mother wanting to save her baby son from almost certain starvation as their hydroponics
plants breaks down. She suspects that UV levels might have dropped over the years (having seen lights in the sky, evidence - she believes- that someone is out and about on the surface- but lacking the technology and equipment to be certain, she takes a huge
risk by setting out on a journey to find other survivors. But there are confusing memories from her past and a question over her parents, too - she wants to find out what happened to her them, since no-one in her community seems to know (or be willing to tell
her). So she has good reasons for not wanting to stay in the only home she’s ever known, the biggest being that she desperately wants to save her son.
How did you go about casting Kate Davies-Speak and David Learner as
Mama and Cyril in the trailer?
Mama is a strong, feisty character who quickly takes charge and, by cannibalizing one of the defunct FarmBots, repairs Cyril and also removes his inhibitor circuit – so he can
leave the Dome and help her to find other communities. I knew we needed an actor who had a talent for that kind of strong female character. I happened to see Kate’s profile on Twitter and looked up her show-reel. It might even have been that I saw it
on one of the ‘Show Reel Share Days’ Kate runs. I realised she would be perfect and got in touch. Luckily for us, Kate was available and agreed to be our Mama!
Kate Davies-Speak as Mama
I had first met David Learner back in 1980/81 when I ran ZZ9, an appreciation society for The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He came all the way to a small fan gathering at a church
hall in my home town of Aldershot, and made a great impression on everyone there, being so kind and very engaging. So, when it came to finding a voice for Cyril, I knew David would be perfect, and he agreed. My only regret is that Cyril didn’t have more
dialogue in the trailer. Still, there’s always trailer number 2 for the next issue…!
Trailers for books (and comics) are still quite a rarity – most publications don’t have them, particularly live-action...
Why did you choose to take time out from writing new material to focus on an aspect of marketing which no-one really knows for sure is effective in driving sales?
David Learner as Marvin - photo courtesy of KJD1980
I had made a book trailer for ‘The Methuselah Paradox’
a couple of years ago, using actors to stage a few key scenes for the three main characters, and had a lot of fun doing it! So when Dan Schaefer suggested making a live-action trailer which he would direct via story board, to promote the comic and act as a
crowdfunding pitch, I knew it could work really well. I think anything which draws attention and (hopefully!) engages a potential reader is worth doing. I’m very proud of what we achieved on a tiny budget – everyone (Amanda, Dan, Sue, Matthew,
the actors and everyone who helped on the day of the shoot) has worked hard to get this trailer made, and I’m really pleased with the result.
The Methuselah Paradox - art by Catherine Archer-Wills
How difficult was (and is) it to crowdfund this kind of creative endeavor?
It’s not a walk in
the park! It takes belief in your product and determination, and a willingness to learn from your mistakes. There is so much advice out there now to help creators to run an effective campaign, but at the end of the day it is still a bit of a lottery, I think
– if you can get your product noticed, if you pitch the rewards and the goal just right, if it is different enough to other similar products to catch the eye of readers… there are lots of variables. I’ve used several different platforms
– Patreon, GoFundMe and now Kickstarter. I’m still learning! If we’re not successful this time, it won’t stop there. I’ll go back to basics and rebuild the campaign, maybe have smaller goals and finance the first issue page by
page. It’s something of a passion project!
What are your hopes for ‘Minding Mama’?
Initially, I hope that we get to produce many issues continuing and eventually concluding Mama’s story! It has the
potential to go anywhere, I think –knowing the story as I do, and where it’s headed, I’m convinced it would make a good animated or even live-action feature, with the potential to introduce other characters as Mama and Cyril travel through
the devastated landscape.
Are you working on anything else that you can tell us about?
Well, there is a second collection of short stories in the pipeline, hopefully that will be published next year, and I have a couple
more full-length novels, one of which is a follow-up to ‘The Methuselah Paradox’. I’m also helping a friend launch his childrens' bedtime story book series, and helping another friend edit her first eBook for re-release in print. Oh, and
I’m contributing to an anthology being put together by another friend. It’s science-fiction but I can’t say any more than that... I’ve always got several things ‘on the go’!