G. Willow Wilson interview

 height=(WoW JUN 08)

G. Willow Wilson is an author and essayist. Her first comic work, the graphic novel Cairo, was published last year by DC/Vertigo. This month, she re-teams with artist M.K. Perker for the Vertigo ongoing series, Air. Westfield's Roger Ash spoke with Willow to learn more about the book.

Westfield: What can you tell me about the genesis of the series, Air?

G. Willow Wilson: Air has an interesting origin story. Usually when I get ideas, it's sort of a long process. I'll pick up bits and pieces of different story ideas from my daily life. With Air, I was flying back to the U.S. from Cairo, and had a stopover in Amsterdam. For whatever reason, there was some kind of extra security measure in place, so the airline employees were doing mini interviews of people before they got onboard the plane. They got to me and I was in front of this young, sort of blonde, kind of mean looking, to be quite frank, stewardess who looked at my passport which was just full of these inflammatory visas from all sorts of different countries. She looked up at me and looked back at my passport and just launched in. I could tell that she was nervous. She was asking me all of these questions that were all sort of bizarre and irrelevant, like how long had I been married, why was I living in Africa, and that sort of stuff. The last question she asked me was "if you're married, why haven't you changed your maiden name?" It was so funny. I was sitting there thinking, "you've caught me. This is the terrorists' secret handshake. We don't change our maiden names. That's how you catch us." [laughter] It was funny because it was just a bizarre little experience. As I stood there patiently answering these questions, I thought "this would make a really good comic book if she was a lot more interesting and I was a lot more interesting. What if it really did look like I was a terrorist?" Air kind of spun out from that and got more and more surreal and ornate as I went along. It started in the real world, but now it's become something much more.

Westfield: What can you say about the book?

Wilson: The book is about a flight attendant with a fear of heights, who runs into a frequent flyer who may or may not be a terrorist, we're not sure. Because of this encounter, she gets drawn into this whole other side of the world of flight and air travel that we don't see. She has a run in with an interesting vigilante group that's trying to take the skies back from terrorism, and into all sorts of other very bizarre, surreal, interesting things. She has to find a country that doesn't exist on any maps. It's a story that, as I said before, starts out in the world we recognize and then departs from that. It looks at this form of travel that is still, to a lot of people, really magical and kind of wonderful but, at the same time, has been highly politicized because of what's going on in the world right now. It's taking a lot of those ideas and injecting all this fantasy and adventure into it.

Westfield: Aside from the flight attendant, Blythe, are there any other recurring characters in the book?

Wilson: There are. Blythe is really the one who drives the story, but she's got a good friend named Fletcher who's also a flight attendant who's kind of a Goth. She's roommates with this interesting old Indian lady named Mrs. Battacharya, who has her own unique story that unfolds slowly. There are a couple surprise characters that people will recognize, but that I can't really talk about right now. [laughter] It's a richly populated book. Because of that, the main character, Blythe, who starts out as an ordinary person, becomes extraordinary as the story goes on.

Westfield: You're working with M.K. Perker again, who you worked with on Cairo. How did he become involved?

Wilson: We're sort of, at this point, joined artistically at the hip. We work really well together. It's very easy for us to get to a place where we have a similar goal and a similar vision for whatever we're working on. Karen Berger at Vertigo suggested him. She said, "since you and M.K. worked together so well, why don't we keep going?" I was very excited about the idea and I told him and there was no hemming and hawing. He just said "great! Where are we going this time?" It's really nice to have that kind of real artistic partnership with someone. It's not just a job for either one of us. It's a real collaboration.

Westfield: Does he have any input into the stories?

Wilson: We try to stay out of each other's territory. He does have a lot of input into the story telling. If he thinks that the way that I've plotted out a scene on a page would work better if there were more panels, fewer panels, something different going on in the panels, then he says so and I give him full license to take it in whatever direction he wants. He does have the more technical artistic eye. In that sense, in terms of story telling, he has a lot of input. In terms of the story itself, I'm out there breaking the path myself.

Westfield: Are there any other projects you're working on that you'd like to mention?

Wilson: I'm working on something fun for the DCU that hasn't been announced yet, so I can't really talk about it. It'll be fun. [laughs] I wish I could say more, but that's all I'm authorized to say at this point. I'm also finishing a regular, mainstream non-fiction book for Grove Press called The Butterfly Mosque that will be out next year.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Wilson: I'm really excited to be writing a monthly comic book series. It's a lot of fun. I think the story will be really rewarding for people who have been reading Vertigo books over the years. I'm excited to see what people's reaction will be.

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