Scots writer hoping to kickstart Morningside comic

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A SCOTS comic book writer has taken a trip down memory lane with his latest book, an autobiographical account of his childhood in Edinburgh.

Seán Michael Wilson was brought up in Morningside, and emigrated to Kumamoto in Japan ten years ago, and has had more than a dozen books published by a variety of American, UK and Japanese firms.

Sean Michael Wilson. Picture: Contributed

Sean Michael Wilson. Picture: Contributed

Citing Grant Morrison, Eddie Campbell, Harvey Pekar and Alan Moore among his influences, Sean has won awards for his writing, including a ‘Best Independent Graphic Novel’ award in 2005 for his collection Beautiful Things and a prize in the Stan Lee schools award for his version of Sweeney Todd in 2013.

His graphic novel take on A Christmas Carol was named in the Sunday Times’ ten best books list in 2008 and he has received a number of grants from the English arts council and the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation in support of his Japan-related publications.

But his next book, titled Once Upon a Time in Morningsid and illustrated by Swedish artist Hanna Stromberg, is an autobiographical look back at his childhood in the Edinburgh suburb made famous by Aileen Paterson’s Maisie.

“Once Upon a Time in Morningside is an autobiographical book about ‘time’ and ‘loss’. It’s about the sense of loss that we often feel when thinking back to our childhood time,” Sean told The Scotsman.

“It’s mostly quite charming, cute and even funny. It’s not an autobiography about some terrible time such as war, or coping with a debilitating disease or living in a dictatorship.

“All the small triumphs and adventures, laughter and sadness that fill the lives of most children - Once Upon a Time in Morningside is about all that stuff,” he added.

He continued: “My aim was to have a poetic, funny, moving look at scenes from my own childhood and to capture some of that, in creative form. In that way the sense of loss of childhood can be made a bit easier to deal with - maybe.”

Sean has written a number of books, and reckons Once Upon a Time in Morningside to be his 19th or 20th, and is hoping that a Kickstarter campaign can help the UK-based publishers out.

“It’s a small UK publisher doing the book, so they need help to raise the printing cost for the book,” he explains.

“That is what the Kickstarter campaign is about - with the help of the pledgers then Shane - the publisher - can afford the printing costs to make this book come alive.”

Sean is attempting to raise £5000 by January 3, 2015 and has so far raised just over £1300.

The idea behind the fundraiser is that people pledge an amount of money which they then pay if the Kickstarter is successful.

Speaking about the creation of the book, and particularly delving into his past, Sean added: “Plunging into the past can be scary, it’s not always good memories.

“That is why I started with my childhood, which is now far enough away to have some emotional distance from. But actually I enjoyed Once Upon a Time in Morningside.

“The book has a lot of cute scenes in it, funny bits, and a lot of very nice artwork by Hanna. It’s a joy to make something creative out of your past, to mine that stuff and come up with artistic gold.

Sean is working with illustrator Hanna Stromberg, who is based in Malmo, and explained how the creative process works.

He said: “What I do is write the script and then work with artists to make the book come alive.

“I come up with the ideas, then I write the plot for the book, and map out each scene.

“I then write a detailed script, which describes what happens to who, where, what the feeling is, the purpose of that panel and that page, and the words that they say or the narration words in caption boxes.

“The artist then uses that as their guide - they do rough sketches first. I then check these and suggest any changes.

“The artist goes on to ink and make the finished art, adding the words too. Then the whole thing is sent to the printer and after about another six months we have a lovely finished book in our hands.”

Although it’s not quite finished yet - Sean reckons Once Upon a Time in Morningside is ‘about 80 per cent done’ - he is considering revisiting his past for his next books.

“I intend to do more autobiographical books; the next one will probably be about my time as a student in Glasgow and then later at Edinburgh University. We’ll see.”

Once Upon a Time in Morningside is scheduled to be published early in 2015. Follow the links below for more information on the Kickstarter, and on Sean himself.

The Kickstarter site is here for those who want to find out more or pledge a donation >>>

Sean’s personal website can be visited here >>>