It's been a hot minute since we last chatted with Nick Potter. The former Utah artist and screenprinter has
moved around with his awesome wife Erin and their kids to new places, but his artwork continues to thrive in new areas on the other side of the country. Earlier this month, Potter released his debut novel, New Animals
, filled with quirky stories and illustrations that capture a non-conforming way of storytelling and artistic expression. Today, we briefly chat with Potter about what he's been up to, his book and what he's got planned down the line. (All pictures provided courtesy of Potter.
Nick Francis Potter
Gavin: Hey Nick, first off, how have things been since we last chatted?
My goodness, a lot has happened. It’s been what? Five or six years? Since then, we moved to Providence, Rhode Island for a couple of years while I attended Brown for my MFA. We also had our second son while there. Currently, we are living in Columbia, Mo., where I’m working on finishing up my Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing at the University of Missouri. It’s been wild and busy and fun and terrifying few years, to be sure.
How have your latest zines and comics been working out lately, and what have you been working on in that area?
Inasmuch as I’ve had time to make them, absolutely. Last year I self-published a few different mini-comics, including the first couple issues of Some Horns
, which I’m also serializing online at Hobart
. I also put out two self-contained stories, Conrad’s Inevitable Death,
and Irregular Limbs
. I should mention that none of them would exist without the dedicated help and expertise of my wife, Erin. We ended up taking them to the Toronto Comics Arts Festival and Small Press Expo in Maryland, which was a lot of fun. I’m hoping to make some more soon, but “soon” feels pretty abstract right now.
How did the idea come about for you to write a book?
They idea evolved slowly, I guess. I had been writing for a while before I ever really considered trying to get published. While I have always enjoyed writing, I’ve been pretty self-conscious about the quality, and so it wasn’t until I’d been accepted to Brown’s MFA program that I thought it might be a real possibility. From there, I’ve just been writing compiling a lot of different stories, and after a certain amount of time, I realized I had something resembling a book.
What was the process of creating the stories that are collected in the book?
The process varied widely from story to story. As I think is apparent when you flip through the collection, I ended up experimenting with a lot of different formal techniques while writing, including standard prose, comics, and some stories which contain prose, comics
and stand-alone images. Because of that, some of the stories happened quickly, in a kind of burst of creative energy that I finished within a week or two,
while others came together over a much longer period of time. “Oops, Isaac,” the longest and most formally ambitious story of the bunch, I began as a monologue
I wrote in a playwriting class at the University of Utah, and went through an enormous amount of changes over a period of 10 years before it became what it is now.
What were your thoughts behind the designs for the sketches throughout each story?
Regarding the drawings and comics, I really tried to draw each in a style unique to the story in which they appear. So while I think you can definitely see a similarity in terms of style from one story to the next, I definitely made an effort to stylize the illustrations as a means of reflecting tone and authorship. For instance, the illustrations in “Herbert 2b Makes a Mess of the Locals” are a lot more chaotic and representative of the authorial voice than the drawings in “Paul’s Tomb,” which have a more playful, detached absurdity, consistent with the tone of the third person narrator.
The book has a very clever tone, but also feels steeped in dark humor. Was that pre-planned, or simply how the stories played out?
As a collection, no, that wasn’t pre-planned, though I think it’s one of the things that really unifies the collection. I actually have some anxiety about it, because, for a lot of people who know me, it come as something of a surprise, all these really dark and violent stories. I think it’s startled
my mom in particular. She’s been reading the book and calling to ask me questions about it—which is amazing, she’s been really supportive and I love her so much for putting effort into my book—but she is really not the kind of person who subscribes to the kind of fiction I’m writing, and I think there’s been this kind of humorous, lovely discomfort in talking together about these uniformly dark, often disturbing stories.
Do you have any plans for a follow-up yet, or mainly watching to see how New Animals does?
I’m working on quite a few different projects right now, perhaps too many. And all of which are presently on the back-burner, as I’m right in the thick of the most demanding part of my Ph.D. program. But hopefully, in the next year or two, I’ll be able to finish a couple of them. Until then I’ll be hunkering down writing academic essays.
What can we expect from you over the rest of 2016?
Not a whole lot, unfortunately, at least not with regard to my own creative work. I am excited, however, about starting as the comics editor of the online literary journal, Drunken Boat
, which is an amazing journal that I’ve really respected for a long time. We will be starting our new comics section this fall, and we already have an amazing group of artists contributing to the issue, so you’ll want to keep an eye out for that.