Kate-mia White Explores the Shadows of ‘A Dark Forest’ [Back Pages]
Leeds-based cartoonist Kate-mia White has been working on a fairytale, a hand-crafted comic set into seven fantastical parts. A Dark Forest is the story of Elizabeth, a young woman who lives with her family in a small house in a tiny village. However, Elizabeth starts to wonder why everyone around her is acting so strangely, and it turns out that her sister, Grace, has a bit of a secret --- and everybody else in the village is suspicious.
Now running a Kickstarter for the third issue of the series, White takes elements of folk tradition, myth, and dark fantasy and blends them into a unique, wonderful narrative. Completely hand-made --- every issue is hand-bound --- the sheer level of craft on display with this project is absolutely amazing. A Dark Forest is illustrated in keen detail, with a slowly unravelling narrative that feels like a fresh take on the classic fairytale. Back Pages spoke to White to learn more.
ComicsAlliance: What’s the basic premise of A Dark Forest?
Katie-mia White: A Dark Forest is a story concerning two sisters, their childhood, and disturbing tales, set in an old mysterious forest. Elizabeth and her sister Grace live in a big old house on the edge of Blackwood village. It's set in a time when people were more suspicious of people and believed in spells and witchcraft. Elizabeth just wants to have a normal peaceful life.
However, since Grace came into the family under unusual circumstances, Elizabeth can't escape the strange events that are happening. When the town's villagers get suspicious, Elizabeth must do everything in her power to protect her family.
CA: What was it about this story that made you want to tell it?
KW: It was a mixture of things. I wanted to tell a modern fairy tale for adults, a story that seemed familiar but reimagined in crisp detailed illustration. I really wanted to engage the reader and lead them into a strange Gothic world through the illustrations. Also I really like the characters and wanted to illustrate their story and relationships with each other.
CA: When and how did you first begin making the series, as a writer and as an artist?
KW: About a year ago. I was really influenced by Gothic novels like The Bell Jar, The Crucible and House on a Haunted Hill. I thought I would just love to do Gothic material like this!
I then started imagining different places in these books and started doing illustrations, but with my own characters in the images. It was really fun imagining my own characters, and from there I would like to imagine my own story with these new characters I had created.
CA: There's a huge amount of detail to each panel, each page. How do you approach the blank page, as an artist? Where do you start, how do you build up a comic?
KW: I have an initial idea in my head, like a scene in the woods or kitchen, and start to scribble ideas of where the characters are going to be in the picture. From there I try to get the perspective right, and then start to scribble again until patterns begin to emerge. From this point I then build up the image. Finally, I start to draw over the pencil, sketching in ink, starting from the characters, then the detail of the background, like flowers and the woods.
CA: Have you always been interested in folk tales, fairytales, and the like? What's most appealing for you about adding to the genre, making your own fables for people to read?
KW: Yes I’ve always loved folk tales and fairy tales I think they are just timeless. Even though some of them are so old, the themes are so human and relevant today. What I think I can add to the genre is my Gothic-influenced, detailed illustration. I think the illustration makes storytelling new, fresh and exciting!
CA: How do you balance the darkness that creeps through your comic? Or is that even a consideration to you, that you need to hold back on the darker aspects of the story?
KW: I like to have a creepy underlying feeling to the story, so yeah it’s fairly dark! The story has smaller tales within the overall narrative. Within one of these tales I try to build up the horror until the very end, just like traditional fairy tales used to do.
CA: A hugely notable aspect of the project is the sheer amount of craft you put into it. You hand draw the comic, and also hand-bind it. How long does it take you to put the whole thing together? Is it important to you that there's this hand-made, unique element to A Dark Forest?
KW: To put the whole thing together from start to finish I would say... it takes maybe two months. I have managed to speed up the process more and more with practice, although it still takes a lot of time! I think the hand bound look just adds to the whole feel of the story and the world in which it’s set.
CA: Why take this to Kickstarter?
KW: Kickstarter is a great way to contact your audience all over the world. I was initially worried, as I hadn’t done anything like this before. It seems that people like Kickstarter, as you can find interesting and exciting new projects and ideas on there. I created this story and just hoped it would start to reach people and that it could be enjoyed!
CA: What stage are you at with this project? How much have you already completed?
KW: I am just putting the finishing touches onto the third issue, then will be arranging for it to be printed. I am planning on doing seven issues. There’s an overall story arc that I’ve written, but it takes a lot of time to do the drawings!
CA: If you achieve your goal, what’s your estimated delivery on the final comic?
KW: Issue #3 should be delivered around three weeks after the Kickstarter funding has ended. I am hoping to complete all seven issues by next summer!
A Dark Forest will run on Kickstarter until 9th September 2016, and has already met the funding goal of £500. To find out more, head to the crowdfunding page!