2016 Snapshot: Jason Franks

Interview by David McDonald.

Jason Franks is the author of the novel Bloody Waters and the Sixsmiths graphic novels and the editor of the Kagemono horror anthology series. His work has been nominated for Aurealis and Ledger awards. He writes mostly about guitars, supervillains, and the devil, but sometimes he also writes about ninja.

You continue to find a great deal of success both as a prose writer, and with graphic novels. How easy is it moving between the two? Do you find that they influence one another?

I think you’ve overstate my successfulness there, but thank you.

It’s pretty easy to switch between writing prose and comics for me, although they are quite distinct skillsets. Story and character basics are the same, of course, but the storytelling is a very different experience. These days all it takes is for me to type PAGE 1 PANEL 1 and I’m in scripting mode.

My writing for comics does influence my prose, and vice versa. I’ve rewritten more than a couple of pieces in different media and it’s always rewarding just to look at how the storytelling mode you employ can change a story.

A frequent criticism of my prose from my writing workshop group (Supernova Writers) is that I micromanage the action, and this comes very much from writing comics, where you have to give the artist a clear idea of where all the characters are in the space.

I think of myself as a 50/50 prose and comics writer but this varies according to project maturity, opportunity and other factors. At the moment I’m writing more prose than comics, but that’s not by design.

This year saw a new addition to the Franks clan—congratulations! How does this influence you as an artist, whether in terms of time or the way you look at the world?

Thanks! It’s been a pretty incredible year or so!

I guess the big thing has indeed been time. As a writer with a full-time day job I’ve been trying to cram as much writing as I can into nights and weekends for most of my adult life, but now I have to put the little guy first—that’s been a definite hit to my productivity. I work mostly from home, in my new job, and that helps a lot, but I still feel like I’m being a bit selfish every time I shut the door and hope for an hour’s uninterrupted writing time.

Fatherhood has changed my outlook, too. I am suddenly interested in other people’s kids, which I never was before. (Of course I’m trying to cataloging the ways in which my spawn is superior to all other life, but sometimes those other kids are kind of cute.) I also have new anxieties around my boy’s health and livelihood. I don’t think any of that has come out in my work yet, but that’s because I’ve been working mostly on existing projects since he was born. We’ll see what happens when I start to set up some new work.

You bring a heap of different cultural perspectives to your work—you’ve lived in three countries! What are some of your influences, and how do they come into play?

I’m a native South African, but I’ve lived most of my life in Australia. I did a five year stint in the States, I commuted to Sweden for a year, and I’ve spent a lot of time in Japan in the last decade (my wife is Japanese). I set my stories in whichever locations feel appropriate and I choose protagonists from cultures that I think I understand well enough to represent with respect.

A couple of years ago that’s probably all I would have to say on this topic, but there’s another thing: I’m a Jew.

I have rarely made this explicit in my work. In the past, I never felt the need to tell people. I never thought it was relevant or interesting. But… I’ve never seen so much naked antisemitism in my lifetime as I’m seeing now. A lot of it is just braggarts on the internet, but some of it is coming from peers, from academia, and from mainstream politicians–on both sides of the political spectrum. I try not to get into arguments about it, but it’s really starting to get to me. I don’t know how long it will take to filter into my published work, but I expect that will be an ongoing theme.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

I’ve recently really enjoyed Gillian Polack’s work lately: Langue [dot] doc and her upcoming Wizardry of Jewish Women. Jason Fischer’s Everything is a Graveyard is just chock full of unpredictable, clever, silly, grim post-Apocalypse stories. I’ve really enjoyed the first two of Alan Baxter’s Alex Caine novels as well as  Devin Madsen’sBlood of Whisperers. Geoff Brown’s international SNAFU anthologies are excellent. and Simon Dewar’s Suspended in Dusk was also a full of terrific work. My too-read pile includes Robert Hood’s gorgeous Peripheral Visions collection, Paul Rasche’s bizarro Smudgy in Monsterland, Steve Dillon’s Refuge anthology, and Angela Slatter’s Vigil. I am very much looking forward to Kaaron Warren’s upcoming novel The Grief Hole.

Comics-wise there’s been a ton of good stuff. Dean Rankine’s Itty Bitty Bunnies in Rainbow Pixie Candyland  is a special magical kind of messed up. Christian Read and Michael Maier’s Karnak is terrific. It’s great to see Paul Bedford, Henry Pop and Tom Bonin coming back with the List II. Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott’s Black Magicke has bee superb. Tristan Jones is killing it on Aliens: Defiance with Brian Wood.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

Finally, an easy one! Roger Zelazny, no question. I’m certain that I’d be a quivering wreck if you put me next to Ursula Le Guin or Cormac McCarthy, but I feel like Roger would be funny enough to make conversation even with a starstruck fanboy, struggling to put together coherent sentences in a low oxygen environment.
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