Creator Interview: Kieran Thompson

It has been a while since our last interview but this month we have one with Kieran Thompson, the creator of This Is The Worst Idea You've Ever Had! (shortened to "TWIYEH!") and Crypts and Cantrips. For this interview though, we're focusing on TWIYEH! and we hope you enjoy!

First off, tell us a bit about yourself as an artist and comic creator.

My name is Kieran Thompson, but I go by Kytri most places on the internet. I’m a gay trans man and live in Raleigh, North Carolina.

I started my first webcomic in 2003, when I was about a year out of high school and I’ve been doing webcomics for most of the time since then. Most of the comics I’ve done have been long form fantasy stories.

Tell us what TWIYEH! is about. What inspired the comic and what made you ultimately pursue the idea?

TWIYEH! is an urban fantasy comic about a group of friends living in an unusually magical small town. It’s sort of about the weirdness of being a young adult living in your economically depressed hometown and also sometimes there are monsters.

It wasn’t inspired by any one thing, it was more a confluence of what was going on at the time. I was living in Danville, Virginia, which is technically a city and not technically my hometown. I grew up in the next county over. I was living in an apartment with my brother and working for minimum wage at a dry cleaners. I’d just canceled my first webcomic without finishing it because no one was reading it and I realized no one ever would. Basically things weren’t going great.

The City of River’s Crossing is largely based on Danville, plus some elements of other places I’ve lived while I was in college and after. The characters are mostly modern day AU versions of characters from that canceled comic and some from a Team Fortress 2 fancomic I’d done in the interim. The TF2 comic did pretty well, but I really always preferred making original fiction. I wanted to make something new that people might actually read, so I wrote about something similar to my own life at the time.

There are several different supernatural creatures in TWIYEH!, which are your favorite to work with and research?

They’re all pretty fun. I probably put the most work into the nai’ka, since they’re the only fantasy creature in the setting that aren’t based on any preexisting fantasy creature. I really enjoy world building and figuring out how they might function and their culture is a lot of fun. I’m going to miss working with them.

I think of the more traditional creatures, the faeries are the most interesting to work with. Everything else in the setting has very strict rules governing what it can do and how it can look. I decided early on that I wanted all the supernatural elements to have a science-fictiony explanation. Magic in this world is a new field of science, and everything supposedly has a physical explanation. The faeries kind of break those rules. They’re my outlet for getting to draw things that are really weird or scary or spectacular and I don’t have to worry about how it works.

TWIYEH! just recently ended and that's a pretty big deal, how are you feeling about it? What plans do you have for yourself after its conclusion?

Nervous! I really hope people will like the ending, and I hope they will come back to read my other stuff. I had always planned for the comic to end eventually. There’s so many other stories I want to write and things I want to make, and I don’t want to comic to become stagnant because I’ve lost interest but kept it going past it’s expiration date.

I remember, early on in TWIYEH’s run I ran into another artist from my hometown on social media. He did a gag-a-day newspaper style strip, and I’d first seen it when I was about 8 years old because he was in a couple of small local newspapers. An adult at the local library showed it to me as something to aspire to. Some 20 years later I bumped into him on the internet and he’d added some digital colors but otherwise his comic had not changed at all. I never want too look back on more than a decade’s worth of work and feel like I haven’t grown at all.

I’m working on a little epilogue thing in RPG maker now. It’s proving to be a lot more complicated than I expected, and I don’t know if it’ll be good enough to release publicly. It might end up as a patreon only thing. I’ve been interested in games as a storytelling method for a while, and at least it should be good as practice. Otherwise I’ve got a couple half finished comics I want to go back to and I have a newer webcomic called Crypts and Cantrips that I’ll continue.

What is your history with making webcomics and what advice would you give to others involved in webcomics? Those starting out and those that have already begun.

As I mentioned earlier I started my first webcomic in 2003 and things are extremely different now than they were then. Things are different now than they even were in 2010 when TWIYEH started.

I don’t know how much my advice is worth, I have a lot of experience, but it’s born more out of stubbornness than success. I think the best advice I can give is to make something you’d want to make even if no one ever saw it. For me at least, building an audience is the hardest part of comics, and there's a real chance that no one else will care, so you have to make sure that you care.

The other big thing I would say is to just start working on your comic if you haven’t yet. I’ve met a lot of people who wait to work on their story, citing not being good enough at drawing or some other skill. You’re good enough now, and even if you’re not poorly made art is better than art that doesn’t exist.

Now that the comic is over, can you tell us some secrets and dropped plot points that you had over the course of writing the comic? (And maybe why they were dropped)

Oh, that’s an interesting question. TWIYEH had a basic framework from the start but otherwise a lot of it was written more or less on the fly. A lot of stuff got cut or changed as it went along. Most of them were types of monsters I wanted to put in, or worldbuilding things that were in the world but just never got mentioned. For example I wanted more classic movie monsters originally. I had preliminary plans for things like mummies, and something like a Frankenstein’s Monster, and maybe some giant insects. There were a lot of things I could have come up with interesting twists on, I think. That sort of thing tended to get dropped simply because there was already so much going on in the comic.

Other things that tended to get cut were things like little jokes or bits of dialogue I’d planned too far ahead and when I got to the points they’d go in the overall mood of the scene was wrong or there were other, more important things to put into a scene.

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