1. Tell me about yourself. What is it you do for a living?
Thanks so much for allowing me the opportunity to discuss ANANKE with you, especially after our Kickstarter success! As you may or may not know from my Kickstarter, my name is Natalie Raffaele of Raffish Press and I am the creator/writer of the ANANKE Graphic Novel Series. Having worked in the NYC film business for nearly 8 years under various production and post production supervisor roles, I’m ready to bring that experience and professionalism of film storytelling to the graphic novel medium! I’m eager to blend the artistic expression of cinema to science fiction with a medium I’ve loved since I was a little girl…comics, manga and sequential art!
2. How did you get into graphic novels?
Graduating with one of my majors in Film, I immediately understood the benefits of storyboarding ideas. That was also heavily influenced by my love for Japanese manga. I view comics and graphic novels as an essential medium for sequential art. It’s the first step in creating any visual idea, and plays an essential role in film. So when you understand my professional background, it’s easy to see how telling ANANKE through sequential art is not so surprising. I have a very specific vision for ANANKE and I felt it was appropriate and natural to make it into a graphic novel.
3. What is your project about?
ANANKE is a science fiction in every sense of the word. It takes place in the not so distant future where man has finally created A.I., Artificial Intelligence and is virtually indistinguishable from a human being. These robotic wonders are called ConneXions.
Created by Latimer Industries on Earth, the ConneXion Series is the most advanced and innovative robotic line to date because of one feature: crystal technology. But despite this staggering achievement, the Company is not satisfied. They push the limits of what is possible. They need more from their creation. A ConneXion cannot merely exist. It must have a function.
They assign five ConneXions to exclusively lead the Latimer funded space expedition to ANANKE, the dwarf planet hidden near the Asteroid Belt. The mission will determine if habitability is possible for human life. I normally would stop the description there, as I’m quite secretive when it comes to revealing key plot points. I don’t like to reveal too much, and I want my readers to make the discoveries I’ve planted on their own! It’s a much more fulfilling read that way. But if I could give just a little bit more away, I’ll say this; our ConneXions discover something on this planet that changes the course of their programmed lives, along with the inhabitants of Earth. It continues to haunt our characters in Volumes I,II, & III, and they’re forced to come to grips with what this discovery is and how it motivates all of our characters throughout the entire series.
4. Who were your inspirations? How did you get the idea for the project?
ANANKE was really an amalgamation of all my childhood loves: science, ancient history, space, robots, manga and anime. They came to the surface in my twenties and I found myself getting lost in all those subjects I was fascinated with years ago. I wrote my first scene for ANANKE in 2011, and it wasn’t even for the Prologue! It was for what will now be in Volume I of the ANANKE Series. During these past five years, I became particularly fascinated with our ancient cultures, Eastern philosophies, and this really intriguing phenomenon on the rise, merging science and spiritualty. We’re at a time right now, where science is beginning to justify concepts in spirituality that were once leaps of faith, if you will. Every day, we’re being inundated with more and more scientific data that supports these claims. To give you a quick example, I define spirituality as a connectedness with something, if not everything. If we were to take the scientific route, there’s the concept of quantum entanglement, which explains that entangled particles remain connected despite the distance. So if one action is performed on one particle, it affects the other in the same manner. This is absolutely incredible, and yet it’s part of the science canon. When you go quantum, things start to get really weird and interesting. Imagine if the spirituality of the ancient past, recycled by the religions of today, actually do have some validity and can be explained by science? I believe something like that really changes you as a person, and I wanted to create a story that focuses on this idea as an undertone.
I’m also fascinated by the mysteries shrouded in our ancient past, especially Ancient Egypt and its structures, like the Pyramids of Giza or the Sphinx. We have one group of Egyptologists with a plausible theory of how and when they were built, and then we have other anthropologists and geologists who infer even greater claims about the history of the Ancient Egyptians and the basis of their knowledge. If I were to go into the specifics of this, we’d be here for hours, but it plays a role in ANANKE, especially in the ensuing Volumes. There are distinct visual motifs in ANANKE inspired by the Art Deco period of the 1920s. Ancient Egyptian Art heavily influenced Art Deco because of the unearthing of Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb. In ANANKE, this unique nod to retro futurism is reborn by the connections our characters make with Ancient Egypt. The future meets the past in a perfect circle.
Lastly, there are creative works that have definitely influenced the visuals and tone of ANANKE. Blade Runner is my favorite film by far. But other film works include Alien, the works of David Lynch (like Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway, & Twin Peaks), and more recently; Under The Skin. I also really liked The Neon Demon by Nicholas Refn. For comics, I have to say I lean more towards the Japanese interpretation with manga. My favorite manga is Yukito Kishiro’s Battle Angel Alita from the 90s! The connecting theme with all of these mediums is a very dystopian present/future shrouded in mysteries for the audience to slowly unravel. This approach is what I take with me as I develop the ANANKE Graphic Novel Series.
5. Did your original idea go through changes?
I always had a very specific vision for the kind of story I wanted to tell. I spent a good chunk of the last five years researching the themes of my novel, so even before I put pen to paper, the literary choices I made were informed ones.
This goes without saying, but after a first draft is written, you will have to go through revisions. I view the first draft as a way of getting those idea out. I write as if I’m reciting my stream of consciousness, so it might not make sense at first or be grammatically perfect, but the idea EXISTS (which is the most important thing.) For me, that’s the most enjoyable part of creating. The revisions are the most painstaking because now you have to perfect what you’ve written and make sense of it all. I’ve actually coined a personal phrase for it; “The writing is the thought, But the revision is the work of art.” There’s only one first draft, but there will always be several revisions.
6. How many people are working on it with you?
When I first began writing ANANKE, it was well, just me! But when I finished my first draft of ANANKE: The Prologue, that’s when I started building my team. I worked with story editors Matt Pavone and Vito Ramos to fine tine the work, and sought specific concept artists for the visual elements. Nick Machado, an architect by day, worked with me to design the spacecraft and interiors of ANANKE, and Noelle Raffaele, worked on the initial characters designs and early plot visuals. Aaron Parks was the final piece to the puzzle! Aaron is my Illustrator for ANANKE: The Prologue and he works closely with me to interpret my screenplay and visual ideas to paper, cell by cell. It’s a very meticulous process, that can take weeks to get just right, but it’s incredibly rewarding.
7. What is unique about your story. What do you think the project says that hasn’t been said before with other graphic novels?
I’ve been researching for this graphic novel series since 2011, so I’ve taken the time to research the topics I’m passionate about and how to effectively implement them in my story. Topics I researched exclusively are electromagnetism, cymatics, and piezoelectric crystals. You’ll see that crystals, for example, take center stage visually and I did this for a reason. While we may love crystals and stones for their natural beauty, they play a pivotal role in old and new technologies. Crystals have been used in radio technologies, computers, LCD screens, solar panels, and that’s just a few of their applications. These technologies alone have changed and will continue to change our lives in the future. Now, imagine if we took it one step further and implemented crystals in A.I. technology? That’s the type of ‘forward thinking influenced by current sciences’ method I’m trying to illustrate in my work!
Also, using piezoelectric crystals for the internal mechanism of A.I. was important for me because it introduces other disciplines like sacred geometry and cymatics to the reader. Cymatics reveal strange and beautiful symmetry in nature through the frequency of sound or vibrations. As different and unique as crystals are from each other, so too are the A.I. (ConneXions) that are comprised of them! There are carefully chosen and crafted crystals to fit the functions and personality of each A.I. Relating cymatics, to cyrstals, to A.I. is definitely something we don’t see in science fiction comics today, at least not to my knowledge.
8. Why kickstarter…Did you try other ways of building support? Also How did you decide on a target goal of 20,000?
For the first book, I always intended to take the Kickstarter route. I wanted the freedom to create a work in my own vision, with the help of a handpicked team who understood what I’m trying to accomplish. Kickstarter has a dedicated crowdfunding community and I really wanted ANANKE to be a part of it! Social platforms like Facebook and Instagram have been instrumental in reaching out to unknowns and getting their feedback of the work. I also promoted ANANKE at New York ComicCon and Fort Hamilton ComicCon, the first ever-comic con in Brooklyn! The response to this project has been truly incredible! I’m so grateful to my dedicated fan base who stuck with me on this very long journey! And there’s still much more to come!
For the Kickstarter budget, the $20,000 was a carefully considered goal that covers a range of objectives. The most important one was funding the completion and distribution of ANANKE: The Prologue. This will be roughly 100 pages of detailed drawings and texts that will include penciling, inking, coloring and professional lettering. It also covers fees, book and prize shipment costs, and Kickstarter prizes!
For those who missed the Kickstarter, no worries! You can visit our website at www.anankegraphicnovel.com and send us your information in our contact box! We will keep your information in our mailing list and e-mail you when the book (and other prizes) are available in our PAYPAL store!
9. What were your biggest obstacles along the way?
Every creative endeavor has its fair share of challenges, but for me, the biggest enemy is time! ANANKE has truly been a labor of love because I’ve been juggling this dream project with the responsibilities of my day-to-day production work. Finding the time to research or write in the evenings after a full day of production can be trying, and there are days when you want to throw in the towel for the night and not do anything! But life never does give you that convenient schedule when it comes to your passion projects. You have to discipline yourself and keep to your personal schedules. If you stick with it, you’ll be able to manage your time most effectively and even increase your productivity!
10. How did you stay motivated?
I touched upon this in your last question, but one of the best ways to stay motivated in a big project like this is to devise a schedule and work through it day by day. It requires an incredible amount of discipline, which is something you also have to develop. For me, creativity is more than just a stretch of the mind; it’s a stretch of the body as well. It’s a physiological experience. I link my mental acuity to my physical fitness. I do my very best to have a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, and exercise regularly. When you condition your body in a workout, there are moments when you just can’t do another “sit-up”, but your mental fortitude pushes you to the limit, and somehow, you break through and do more. That physical tenacity definitely bleeds over to my writing and I continue to push myself in the creative arena. When you can physically see how your determination affects the progress of a work out, it’s easier to apply that same mentality in all other aspects of life.
And of course, the other big motivation for me is my personal inspiration catalog! I talked about those specific inspirations in Question 4. It’s truly a gift to have the works of Alien or Twin Peaks, for example, in existence because every time I watch it, I’m just so impressed by the work that it makes me want to create something that evokes a similar response. Just as these cult classics motivate me to be a better storyteller, I want to create something that motivates others. It’s really a cyclical relationship of giving and receiving!