Introduced by Peter Jackson, and illustrated by Weta Workshop’s Johnny Fraser Allen, the book tells the tale of a girl who falls in with traveling troupe of vice-stricken marionettes. Dark. We caught up with the author at Comic-Con, and talked puppets, artistic autonomy, the direct-to-fan effect, and what to expect from her upcoming role in Peter Jackson’s sequel to The Hobbit.
Evangeline Lilly’s Interview
The Squickerwonkers 9-page book preview
The Squickerwonkers cover art
A few words with Evangeline Lilly: on telling stories, changing narratives, and new media independence.
First things first. What’s a Squickerwonker?
The Squickerwonkers are a clan of traveling marionette puppets, each of whom suffer from their own vice. These vices result in the silly and tragic stories of The Squickerwonkers graphic storybook series.
What inspired you to write this book?
I first wrote The Squickerwonkers when I was fourteen. At that time, I completely idolized Dr. Seuss and could only dream of creating my own children’s storybooks. For the past 20 years, my mother has been pestering me to publish The Squickerwonkers. And when I met the folks at Weta Workshop in New Zealand, their collaborative, creative workplace inspired me to try.
How do you see technology changing storytelling? What are some of the opportunities artists now have, as a result of new media?
If it wasn’t for new media I would not have been able to create this book as you see it today. Myself, my illustrator, my designer and my editor had the unbelievable privilege of working on this book in a creative vacuum. Because we created it independently, we had no outside pressure pushing us to fit into a pre-existing box. I got to make the book I wanted to make because I was able to distribute it, if need be, myself. It is new media that makes that kind of artistic autonomy possible. It is very scary going out independently as an artist, but at least media has given us the opportunity to do so on an international platform.
We work with a lot of independent writers and filmmakers. In your experience, what’s the best way to build an audience for your brand, and your publishing projects?
That’s a tricky question for me to answer because I’m still in the process of learning. Online reach sometimes feels a little like a sacred quest that you need a shaman or a wizard to guide you on. Thankfully I have one such man, Aaron Ray, and he is the mastermind behind my efforts to build my Squicker-audience. All I know is that I want to be genuinely engaging my Squickerwonker fans. No smoke screens. Reach out to them and they will reach back.
You’ve spent the last week in San Diego at Comic-Con. AKA Fanboy Ground Zero. What role do fans play in your work?
Somehow 90% of the work I’ve ever done on screen makes its bed in the Fanboy universe. This wasn’t done intentionally, but now I feel like I have been sucked into the con-geek vortex…and it’s a pretty great place to have landed! I think that that is partly why I ended up creating a graphic children’s storybook series (graphic being the operative word). I wanted to create something that would impress even the most critical Comic-Con fan.
You’re starring in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, as an original character. There aren’t many people out there that have license to change the storyline on classics. What can we expect from the upcoming film?
Speaking as a massive Tolkien fan, I feel that Peter Jackson earned that right when he created The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. I trusted him implicitly going into this project and he hasn’t let me down: not as a actress, or as a fan. Tauriel, the elven character I play, is a true Sylvan elf and a very kick-ass warrior. She was a lot of fun to play and I hope that you’ll find her a lot of fun to watch.
Download a preview of The Squickerwonkers here.
Image credit: evangelinelilly.net, celebrityphotos.com