Life Finds A Way: Green Thumb, Stephanie Cooke Interview

From over on Cloudscape Comics’ site where I recently did an interview to promote our upcoming anthology, Life Finds A Way:

This post is a part of a series of articles about Cloudscape’s Life Finds A Way anthology. Visit the landing page for more information on the project.


What’s your name?

Stephanie Cooke

What’s your artistic background?

I’m a writer who likes to dabble in art but mostly when it comes to drawing silly cartoons and pigeons. I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember – I didn’t pursue it as an option in school but came to it professionally as a news editor and critic for a popular film web site. My writing evolved and changed until I made my way to comics… finally.

What comics/comic creators inspired you to make comics?

It’s more like amalgamations of the stories I’ve read in comic form have made me want to try my hand at telling my own stories in the medium. It gives you an amazing opportunity to work alongside wonderful artists to tell a story in a medium that’s comprised of both written and visual components.

There are creators that I admire and I hope to someday be able to tell stories that bring joy like they do. Gigi DG’s Cucumber Quest, Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona, basically everything by Raina Telgemeier, Sam Bosma’s Fantasy Sports, Lorena Alvarez’s Nightlights series – they’re all creators and stories that I’m drawn to.

What about Life Finds a Way caught your imagination enough to submit a story?

I loved the concept of trying to think of a positive spin for the end of the world. Post-apocalyptic stories are all over the place in every medium, and every day we’re plagued with the fact that our real world is dying – so trying to think of ways to make things less dark was really appealing.

On our theme of hope, what did you find fun about creating stories within this framework? Furthermore were there any unexpected challenges?

I loved trying to build the world for my main character and help her find something to be excited about when everything is bleak and depressing.

Every story has its own unique challenges and for me, I decided that I wanted the story to be dialogue free. Trying to tell the story that I wanted to tell while not using narration or dialogue to assist was difficult – I didn’t know I’d be working with the wonderful Dom Astri before the script was done, so I was relying on the hope that I would be paired up with someone who had a strong style and could pull off the expressions and key moments in the story.

Part of the fun of Post-Apocalypse is the worldbuilding, how do you deal with the limitations of the short story format with that in mind?

I quite like writing short stories – I think it’s a fun challenge to find a way to bring readers into a world that feels already established and doesn’t require a lot of set-up. I think it’s a matter of figuring out what the readers absolutely need to know and what they can figure out on their own. Do I need a ton of exposition to explain what happened to the world? Or can I simply start by showing a devastated world in ruins and assume that within a book of post-apocalyptic stories, the reader will figure out what something bad has happened? For me, it’s trying to know what I can leave out to leave room for the story itself.

What’s your favorite post-apocalypse media, and why? (Games, Movies, Books, etc.)

Oh goshhhhhhhhhhh! I have a few things that I really love – in video games, the Fallout games for sure; specifically Fallout 3.

For books, it’s Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – it’s a book that I devoured while I was reading it, and it just stuck with me after I was done it. It actually has a similar kind of theme to it in that there’s a group of people who try to give hope to everyone left through a traveling theatre group.

I think the question was is there any one thing that you love but now that I’ve said a video game and book, I need to also share a movie. That’s how this works, right? Well, I don’t have a particularly original answer to this, it’s Mad Max: Fury Road. A beautifully ridiculous film that I never get sick of watching.

Clichés, our editors outlined some that we did not want in our stories in our narrative guide. What elements about post-apocalypse media do you think are over-done?

I can’t say that post-apocalyptic media is my go-to genre for anything. The world is pretty bleak so it’s not usually something that I tend to gravitate to. That being said, it’s not necessarily cliché but I’m sick of seeing women abused, sexually assaulted, and just mistreated in many post-apocalyptic things. There’s no quicker way to get me to tune out of something than to have gratuitous sexual assault in any media.

I guess that’s one of the reasons why I loved Mad Max: Fury Road. There are women who’ve been sexually assaulted and abused in it, but it’s never shown on screen. They rely on the intelligence of the audience to put two and two together when it comes to the abuse and it never gets heavily dwelled on and it’s essentially non-existent as a larger plot point.

Post-apocalyptic fiction can often be a reflection of anxieties that occur in contemporary society, does your piece reflect any societal anxiety that you can identify?

I think the world becoming a desolate wasteland is definitely something that gives me anxiety. I’m a big lover of nature so the idea of the plants, animals, and birds, not being around because of how we’ve treated the planet is upsetting.

Do you think you could survive a week in the wild with a knife, a poncho, and a fishing hook?

Weirdly enough, I really do. I’m a city girl these days, for sure, but I grew up in the country and spent my summers camping with my family, and at summer wilderness camps for weeks at a time. I’m not saying I’d want to or I’d like to but I think if I had to, I’d be a-okay.

Where do you look to find hope for humanity’s future?

I guess it comes down to our generation and the one immediately after us – how we vote, and how we react to the urgent things we need to address to save the planet, nature, and humanity will be vital in our survival.

Do you have any projects you’d like to plug? I have a couple cool projects coming up that I’m not allowed to talk about just yet but in the meantime, check out Creator Resource (www.creatorresource.com) which aims to help comic creators at any level better navigate the comics industry and create transparency to thrive and grow your career.


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