Interview with Grayhaven Apprentice Sam Read

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After declaring my support for Sam Read in the top 9  of then Grayhaven Apprentice contest, I managed to grab a quick interview with him to discuss the process so far.

Tell me a bit about yourself, how did you get into comics? What made you want to create them?
I first started reading comics at age 8.  Back then I’d seen Tim Burton’s ‘Batman’ on telly and this stirred a desire to read the character in the comics, so I got hold of Detective #651 which kick-started my enduring obsession with both the medium and the character of Batman in particular.  Though I’d had read and enjoyed books such as TinTin and Asterix prior to that point I don’t think I’d really sought out graphic fiction.  But from that point on I was a certified comic fan, and asides from the odd gap here-and-there I’ve been reading comics and graphic novels ever since.
It was a chance encounter that first launched my current ambition to create comics.  Back in February 2012 when I was living in Glasgow a friend who knew of my interest in comics mentioned they had heard of a group of writers who focused on graphic fiction, and offered to pass on my email.  Via that referral I ended up attending a Glasgow League of Writers (GLoW for short – see their blog here: http://www.glasgowleagueofwriters.com/) session, where I met a great bunch of gal and guys who really inspired me to take my 20 years of reading comics and apply that to making my own.  Seeing the drive and creativity that the members of GLoW had, coupled with the encouragement offered even to my awful nascent efforts, I can safely say it was GLoW who are to blame for all this!
How did you find out about the contest?
I’m lucky enough to have a short, 8-page sci-fi story (a collaboration with the brilliant Garry Mac, who’s work you can check out here – garrymac.daportfolio.com) being released as part of a Grayhaven anthology later on this year, and so I keep up-to-date with news from their site (http://www.grayhavencomics.comand found out about the competition that way.  Knowing the calibre of the judges and Grayhaven as a publisher, and considering how much I felt I could learn about myself from taking part it really was a a great opportunity.  
 
I’d also recommend anyone with aspirations to get involved in creating comics to check out and pay close attention to Grayhaven Comics; over the last several years they’ve given literally hundreds of aspiring creators a first shot at getting published, and editor-in-chief Andrew Goletz was rightfully recognised for just some of his great work last weekend at the Philadelphia Geek Awards, winning Comic Creator of the Year.  Plus, next year you too could be part of this very process; but if you do so prepare for no sleep and a TONNE of emails!
 
What made you want to enter?
As mentioned above, Grayhaven have a set of experienced and knowledgeable judges at the helm of the process, all of whom work regularly on their publications, so having the opportunity to have them look over my work and give their thoughts and opinions on it was something I was very excited about.  Additionally I jumped at the chance to work with other creators, to share and learn from their experiences, and I can certainly say I’ve already gained a mass of new knowledge and several new friends during the process.
I’m also keen on pushing myself outside of my comfort zone when it comes to both the creative and other aspects of writing as a profession, so felt that taking part would challenge me in ways I hadn’t possibly considered, and I can certainty confirm it has done that!  I’m quite open about my ambition to at some stage be able to call writing for comics as my job rather than my hobby, so it was only logical to put myself out there and stress test myself in this competition.
How do you find out about the challenges and judges comments?
All those taking part are part of several email groups, so most of the information is passed between the judges/teams/team members that way.  However, post-challenge each week our work is placed up on the main Grayhaven site for everyone to see, along with the judges comments and boardrooms, so it really puts the pressure on, and makes you want to deliver the most professional and polished piece of work possible, because once it is submitted both it and any criticism is out there from the whole world wide web to see!
How have you worked with your team (skype, email)?
Due to the difference in time zones (we current have three, but previously had four) we do most of the project work via the aforementioned group emails, and having some experience working on comic projects with people from across the world, this doesn’t feel all that unusual.  Plus, I don’t really sleep much, so quite often end up ‘sharing’ a timezone with my colleagues across in the states anyway!
What has been your favourite challenge so far?
I really enjoyed the opening challenge, where all the contestants had to generate a ‘Ultimate All-Star’ range of titles for either Marvel or DC, pitching the four core books and overall concept.  I’d be a liar if I didn’t do this pretty much constantly in my head anyway!  It was a shock to have so much work to do the first week, but I think everyone who handed in a completed project really went to town.  On a personal note, I felt I was able to flex my creative muscles early doors and show the type of stories I’m interested in and would like to tell, but it was great to see all the other brilliant ideas my fellow contestants came up with too.
It must also be said that I had a great time on the first group task, where we had to produce a cross-over event-style story with a selection of wildly different characters; the team and all the hard work that was thrown at the project was phenomenal, and it was great fun.
What has been the hardest challenge for you so far?
I think it would have to be this current task focused on promotion and marketing; it has really taken me out of my comfort zone.  Though I’m not a shy person, having to put yourself out there and ask people to help has been tough, and also pretty humbling, especially seeing how many people have got on board.  I’ve also learnt an absolute tonne from my team-mates, each of whom has been working their socks off to get us as many twitter followers, facebook likes, press and sales as possible, and really feel the great work we’ve done together on the first two tasks has helped up tackle this new challenge well.  The proof is in the point however, and it’ll be tomorrow (Weds 21 August) that we’ll finally find out if all our efforts have paid off!
Who do you think is your biggest competition?
I don’t really know.  I feel very fortunate that Jeremy Thomas, Mary Sheridan, Nathan Kenkel and I have all been working together on the same team over the last three tasks, as each and everyone of them is excellent, both in terms of their application to the tasks and creativity.  So I guess once it gets down to the crunch I’m dreading finally having to face off against a bunch of creators I’ve come to both admire and respect.  But I think that the biggest competitor you’re always fighting against when trying to make comics, in or out of a situation like the Apprentice, is probably time; the fact it always seems to be in short supply is the hardest hurdle to overcome!
Thank you and good luck Sam.  Watch this space for further news on Sam Read’s progress in the Grayhaven Apprentice Contest.
Reporter: Amy

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