Project: Get Known! I AM HEXED
I AM HEXED jumped out at me from my Instagram and Kickstarter feeds as a book I wanted sooner rather than later. After quick discussions with editor James Emmett, I was put in contact with writer Kirsten Thompson. In the short time frame between our interactions, their Kickstarter status went from launched to fully funded. Get to know - I AM HEXED writer Kirsten Thompson!
Mikey P: How do you describe I Am Hexed to inquiring minds?
Kirsten: It’s a magical mystery thriller - that centers on the adventures and struggles of three queer witches who are trying to get to the bottom of a political conspiracy that ties into anti-witch sentiment swirling around D.C. and the country. And there’s an accidentally carnivorous plant too.
Mikey P: Beyond that awesome premise, there also seems to be a few developed characters and past relationships which have been interwoven into the main story. I’m intrigued to see how interactions between these characters work...
Kirsten: Yes, all of these women, Charlie (Charlotte) Helm, Jaya Rai, and Florence Briar know each other in some capacity. Jaya and Charlie were girlfriends a few years ago and broke up due to events that are touched on in this arc, but which I hope to explore further in future stories. Because there’s a lot going on with these women and the reasons both for them falling in love and why they broke up. Jaya and Florence know each other fairly well, and that’s not delved into much in this arc, but Jaya does a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff as a witch, and so she often needs some herbal and scientific expertise - Florence is that expert.
Mikey P: Part of what I loved so much about growing up with the X-Men was underneath the layers of powers, costumes, etc, it was a platform to discuss social issues regarding discrimination. I AM HEXED seems more upfront about it’s message…
Kirsten: I think that most of us recognized that about the X-Men growing up, and that was a comfort to a lot of minorities, but now those conversations are evolving and we can be more upfront about these issues. I AM HEXED is a world where there is a lot of anti-witch legislation, and this is based on fear and a desire to control and discriminate against people who are different - something that is pretty well documented both historically and in current events.
Mikey P: I think when people try to cater to a broad general audience, they tend to keep politics and religion out of their works. I AM HEXED seems to make both of those topics the driver of the story. What gave you the courage to emote your values with this comic?
Kirsten: Not talking about issues doesn’t solve them, and for too long people have tried to be ‘nice’ about politics or other subjects that make people uncomfortable. This doesn’t help anyone except people who favor hateful policies and so, considering the political circumstances of today in the United States and the world as a whole I wanted to be upfront about the kind of things we face and that it can be hard or unpleasant to face them, but that we can, have to do so and that this is ultimately a hopeful and empowering thing.
Mikey P: Are the aspects about both the political process and history of witchcraft more factual or curated by your own imagination?
Kirsten: There are some aspects of the history of this world that are based in actual events, but the majority is based on my own imagination. The magic is a system which I envision as being far more inclusive than some others, with the mechanics and traditions having evolved from the witches who survived the burning times and so forth, and often were hidden - much is not known by the public, and still more is kept secret.
Mikey P: Did you at least get to invent any spells?
Kirsten: Oh yes, the design of the magical glyphs was a collaboration between myself and Christianne Gillenardo-Goudreau - we went back and forth on symbols, how they tie in with intent, and the way that the spells are cast is based on a system that I came up with as well.
Mikey P: What was the hardest part for you in getting this comic made?
Kirsten: I think that with comics, the time they can take to produce can be challenging for creators, and not being able to talk about them while they’re in production at certain phases - that was difficult. I called this the ‘witch book’ for the longest time and couldn’t say much else, but now I can finally talk about it and I’m thrilled to be able to share all the hard work myself and the rest of the team have been doing.
Mikey P: Working with an editor is not commonly found in the indie scene. How much benefit did James Emmett bring to your process?
Kirsten: James was invaluable in being another set of eyes on things like plot arc, making sure all the threads that needed to be tied up were by the end and asking questions at the right point - all of which were very helpful.
Mikey P: How did you go about assembling your creative team of artist Chistianne Gillenardo-Gourdreau and letterer Taylor Esposito?
Kirsten: Taylor and I have known each other for a few years and worked together previously - so we actually chat a lot about wips and I shared the drafts with him. When he said he’d like to work on it, I of course took him up on the offer, and he has done such an amazing job with all the lettering. Christianne’s work was something I had followed, and James put us in touch and her work on the book is phenomenal.
Kirsten: I segment out time for different projects and switch between things as needed to keep the momentum going if something isn’t clicking.
Mikey P: Who are the creators or what comics inspired you to create your own?
Kirsten: Too many to mention, honestly, I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and reading comics almost as long, so I always knew I would like to make my own. I enjoy the work of Kieron Gillen, Mike Carey, Gail Simone, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Kate Leth, and Marguerite Bennett, to name just a few.
Mikey P: What’s the comic dream you hope to achieve one day?
Kirsten: I simply want to keep creating comics - I have a couple other comic minis completed and am working on another series at the moment. In general, I write stories filled with women and queer people, so that’s who will be taking the center stage in things I work on - in all sorts of genres and hopefully breaking new ground and doing away with some stereotypes.
Mikey P: What other passions propel you in life?
Kirsten: I come from a linguistics background and also adore history, so I’m always learning about different points in history and often that leads to new projects. In short, my TBR pile is towering, full of potentially obscure topics and I will talk your ear off about these things if given the opportunity.
Mikey P: Who are your favorite witches of all time?
Kirsten: Some of my favorite witches - because there are a lot are: Maleficent, Jadis, Professor McGonagall, Hermione Granger, Sabrina Spellman, Bonnie Bennett, Morgan le Fay, and Circe.
Mikey P: If you were a witch (apologies for assuming you are not), what sort of spell would you find yourself casting the most?
Kirsten: As a matter of fact I am a witch - tarot cards, kitchen garden and passion for brewing things included - there are plenty of useful spells, and also lots of good things you can make. I create balms, perfumes and other items for friends and grow plants for cooking and protection - such as sage, etc.
Mikey P: What advice do you have to the unknowns out there?
Kirsten: I think that being passionate about your projects is key, also being prepared to work hard and realize that it can take time to get something off the ground. Additionally, being courteous to other comics creators should be a given, but always treat people with respect - and don’t ask them to work for free - everyone should be paid for their efforts.
Thanks so much for speaking with me Kirsten!
I Am Hexed Kickstarter is still live and I urge you to check it out!
Follow Kirsten and I Am Hexed and watch their rise!