Andrew Weale would like you to dance when you read London Out Of Time. Ideally, that’s how it should be enjoyed. Weale’s latest book pioneers a new genre, the photo/graphic novel, where word and image are woven together like the Bayeux Tapestry. The author also talks to us about his other picture book and the “wild writing” that he advocates.

What is this new genre, photo/graphic novel? Is it a ‘novelisation of a photo essay’ or more than that?


Think of the Bayeux Tapestry, where word and image are seamlessly woven together. Or William Blake, where the poem is image, and image is poem. The two are inseparable, both parts of a perfect whole. A photo/graphic novel is the seamless weaving together of word and photograph. It’s a tapestry.

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The poem is image, and image is poem. Cover image of the photo/graphic novel, London Out Of Time. © Andrew Weale.

We enjoyed reading the Kindle version. There’s an Easter egg in the beginning of the novel. Is gamification an essential feature in a photo/graphic genre?

I love that you saw an Easter Egg at the beginning. It’s the sun being shattered into tiny pieces by a sinister supervillain called Waldorf Tiffany, but it does look like an Easter Egg that’s been smashed. And yes, this leads to a game. A deadly game, in which London is slowly dragged into the shadows. The only person who can save the city is Larry, a Shakespeare-loving drug addict. And how is he going to do that? You can see that I really love setting myself big challenges when I create my stories!

“When I write a story I read it aloud. This is how I connect to the rhythm of the story. That’s why I think the story could be danced.”

You won The Red House Children’s Book in 2013 with your book, Spooky Spooky House. It features “petrifying pop-ups and fearsome flaps”. Comparing this work to London Out Of Time, how does the “astonish me” element differ in print and digital formats? Is leading the reader down the garden path using print and digital objects harder than just using words?

Spooky Spooky House is a picture book. So is London Out Of Time, except it’s for adults. I learned as a children’s writer that each turn of the page has to offer the reader something new, surprising, shocking, funny. I’ve applied this to my photo/graphic novel, and it works just as well in digital format. With just one tap or swipe of the finger, the reader is presented with a new visual element that (I hope) delights and enchants.

“Each turn of the page has to offer the reader something new, surprising, shocking, funny.” Weale’s Spooky Spooky House won the The Red House Children’s Book in 2013. Photo source: Penguin Books

We see text and images juxtaposed in the story in genres such as comic books and children books – but we also see this in karaoke music videos. The whole point of the text is for us to vocalise it as part of that experience.

What kind of experience are we meant to have when we read your photo / graphic novel? Do we read the words silently, or do we recite it, like a Greek chorus? If I am to perform London Out Of Time in front of an audience, how would you like it done?

I am an actor and a singer, and I perform my stories and poems to children and adults. When I write a story I read it aloud. This is how I connect to the rhythm of the story. London Out Of Time has its own unique beat. That’s why I think the story could be danced. I have a choreographer friend who creates contemporary dance pieces with young people. I’d love to see her invent an innovative movement dimension to the words and pictures. So, when you read the book, wherever you are, in the tube, on the street, DANCE IT!

“When I wild write, I don’t stop, I don’t think, and I allow myself to go wherever my instinct takes me. I wrote the whole of my book like this.”

 

A photo/graphic novel is the seamless weaving together of word and photograph, just like the Bayeux Tapestry (source: Wikipedia). Below, a very modern retelling of the tapestry via Twitter by @PaniniCheapskates on the Tale of Gazza at Euro ’96.

You run a class for photographers called “writography”. You show them how to write stories to their photos. You teach them to “wild write”. Can you tell us a bit more about this – and why we need to wild write?

Everyone can write. My classes are about helping photographers to access the writer within and weave their words into their pictures. Just as photographers often ‘shoot from the hip’, take photos without thinking or pre-planning, ‘wild’ writing is about writing without inhibition. It’s writing from the hip. So, when I wild write, I don’t stop, I don’t think, and I allow myself to go wherever my instinct takes me. I wrote the whole of my book like this. If I’d sat down and planned the story, it would never have been as quirky or off the wall.

T. S. Eliot or William Carlos Williams?

Eliot. So many lines that I carry with me: April is the cruellest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.

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Reading London Out Of Time reminds us of T S Eliot’s Preludes and Rhapsody On A Windy Night.

Print, PDF or ebook?

I’m greedy, I’ll take two: print and ebook. The HdM (Hochschule der Medien) in Stuttgart are about to do a print version of London Out Of Time. They’ve got a state of the art printing press, and I can’t wait to hold the final book in my hands. It’s the smell of the freshly printed paper that always gets me. It’s an olfactory drug.

About London Out Of Time

About Andrew Weale

Andrew Weale is a prize-winning writer, a photographer and teacher.

 

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