An Edinburgh-born comic writer has delved into his childhood memories of life in the leafy area of Morningside in his new book.
Once Upon a Time in Morningside is the autobiographical story of comic writer Seán Michael Wilson.
The 45-year-old moved to Kumamoto in South Japan ten years ago and says his new home has many similarities that remind him of Scotland’s capital, including a beautiful castle.
But his idyllic childhood memories have never been far from his mind, and the comic writer felt like the time was right to make Edinburgh the subject of his latest book.
Sean has joined forces with illustrator Hanna Strömberg on the project and launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise £5000 to cover the costs of printing and production of the 120 page graphic novel.
Almost £1000 has been raised to date, with 21 days to go.
We spoke to Seán to find out more about the story and his Scottish inspirations.
How would you sum up Once Upon a Time in Morningside?
It’s a moving and sweet, sad, funny, silly and reflective, all at once.
There are 14 true stories in it, little adventures of childhood that happen to us all.
From swinging on the Tarzan rope, eating chips and drinking Irn-bru in the winter rain, getting involved in a fight, seeing a peacock in the woods, getting a tar stain on your jacket and worrying about how angry your mother would be.
Stories most people can relate to.
But there is also an element of magical realism in it as there is an adult ‘ghost Sean’ who floats in and out, observing the little scenes and giving my adult reflections on them.
How does the child Sean and adult Sean work together?
Well they never ‘meet’, though in one story the child Sean thinks he see a ghost type movement in the woods.
The adult Sean just watches each of the little scenes, as a kind of ghost then says something about them at the end of each scene to us, the reader.
What was it like to go reminisce over your childhood?
Plunging into such reminisces of your own life 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.
I intend to do more autobiographical books. The next one will probably be about my time as a student in Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities.
I still feel like that time is a bit too close to me, so I might leave that until a few years later.
But in the case of the Once Upon a Time in Morningside book, I enjoyed going into all those little scenes and feelings and people. It feels creative, feels like an achievement.
What locations will locals recognise within the book?
The book is 90% set in a small area of Morningside - Cluny Place, the Astley Ainslie grounds and Braid Avenue.
How did you work with the illustrator?
Basically, I write the plot for each scene and 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.
I pass that to the artist who does rough sketches based on the script. I then check those sketches and suggest any changes.
They go onto ink and make the finished art, adding the letters too, in the speech balloons then the whole thing is sent to the printer.
We have not finished the book yet, it’s about 80% done so far.
Why did you decide to launch a Kickstarter?
It’s a useful way for creators of various types to get funding for their good ideas.
The basic idea is that we can support and fund good ideas without having to go to big corporate companies or the government for funding.
In that way, it’s a radical idea and it has really caught on in the last four or five years.
You have to get to the full target, or you get nothing. So we really need to get to that full funding in order to be able to print the book.
How does this book differ to other work you have produced?
It’s my most personal book so far. It’s very dear to me and I’m dying to see it come out in a lovely hardback edition.
This is one of the reasons I work in comic books - it gives you a sense of purpose in your life to do good creative work. And the joy of seeing the finished book in your hands is a wonderful thing.
Top photo credit: Seán Michael Wilson and Hanna Strömberg