Edinburgh Comic Arts Festival

In Conversation with Isabel Greenberg

December 8th, 2016 by Lenka Murova | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on In Conversation with Isabel Greenberg
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I was dazzled by Isabel Greenberg, a London-based graphic novel writer and illustrator on Saturday, 26th of November, when I dragged along my two long-suffering friends to the Comics Art Festival in Edinburgh.

I am just going to come out and say it straight off, I had no clue who she was before the talk. All I knew came from the bit of research I had done while looking at the various events that were on. Isabel sounded interesting and I liked what I saw from the Google image search results on her work. So even though I didn’t know of her existence before the talk, I was absolutely smitten with her, both professionally and as a person by the end of it.

Isabel talked to us about her debut graphic novel The Encyclopedia of the Early Earth and then her recent release, The One Hundred Nights of Hero that came out this September. She was charming and very down to earth, talking about her beginnings as a graphic designer and illustrator, the struggle of getting her work out there and noticed by someone. Isabel freely admitted that if she had not won the Graphic Short Story Prize she would not be here now, talking to us about her second novel.

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The inspiration for her novels often comes from folk tales and ballads. Isabel said that she finds them so inspiring because the characters in them are often like blank slates, the themes are universal and this provides her with plenty of space to create her own stories. The One Hundred Nights of Hero is a collection of stories inspired by old folk ballads about women being wronged in some way. When asked about how she finds new inspiration, Isabel prompted us not to get stuck in what she calls the ‘second-hand viewing trap’. We all get caught up in looking at others’ works and comparing ourselves to them, losing our voice in the process of trying to measure up to others. This is why she said she goes out of her house to explore different places like museums, historical sites or just goes on a walk in a forest. ‘Go out and see stuff, not just on google images.’

She did not hold back, talking to us about her mishaps and missteps during her career. While admitting that she has learned a lot from the process of making her debut work, she advised us not to start off drawing/writing the parts that you are excited to do first, because you really should know what actually happens in the story first. Another advice was related to self-publishing — you should not get lured in by the fact that a print run of 1000 copies is only £50 more expensive than the one for 500 copies. Isabel had to throw out 500 copies of her work because she simply got bored of having to sell them.

This point connects to the one she kept coming back to the whole time: do this work because you love it. ‘Even if you can break even on your print run, but you can’t break even on your time.’ Isabel has proven that writing and illustrating a graphic novel is hard work, which is worth it only if you truly believe in your story and are passionate about it.

You can find more about Isabel on her twitter and her website.

by Lenka Murova