Aeronautica – an ongoing creative process

England. Planet Earth. A galaxy far too close for comfort. Five-year-old Mark goes to watch Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace with his dad and brother. Dad falls asleep over the next two hours of forced dialogue, stiff acting and clunky visuals. Five-year-old Mark is enraptured and pledges to write his own chronicles of heroes fighting with big glowsticks.

A lot’s changed since then. I’ve come to realise the flaws of Star Wars Episode I. There’s a two-hour video of it on YouTube. I’ve come to realise you can’t blatantly rip-off world-renowned space operas. Nice try though, five-year-old Mark. But some things don’t change, and I’ve never been able to enjoy a creative, exciting and original piece of media without longing to create something similar myself. It’s the insatiable itch of the creative, the guilt that you can’t fully enjoy TV, books and video games until you’ve contributed something yourself. It’s why I studied Creative Writing for three years, and it’s why, right now, I’m sat in bed on a cold November night, writing this. It’s been a hectic year of ups and downs, writer’s block and mid-20s angst. I haven’t even touched Aeronautica since January. But I’m not at University anymore, I’m in a real world with a real job. This is where so many creatives fall down; you’re desperately trying to balance a full-time job and commute with a social life, the hangovers that come with it, family time, hobbies, downtime, sleep… and then there’s your creative project.

I’ll admit, I have the attention span of a goldfish sometimes, I’m currently battling with Facebook and YouTube as I write this. NaNoWriMo was a mixed bag of guilt, success, relief and frustration for me, but one thing that did work so well for me on Aeronautica was collaborating with another creative – freelance graphic artist, muffin enthusiast, and long-time partner in crime, Jonny Mustapha. Having someone else with you is fantastic; not only as an invested critique and someone to bounce ideas around with, but also as a motivator – there were times when Jonny had to be the voice of reason; tell me to forego the night out and finish the next scene of Aeronautica and get an early night. I hated him or about 10 minutes, but he was the motivator I needed to uphold my end of the bargain.

Because that’s been the best part of Aeronautica; it’s been a collaborative process that has allowed Jonny and I to combine our greatest talents and hobbies into something dynamic and new. I’d never read a graphic novel until Jonny approached me; and while I hope that lack of experience doesn’t show up in my scripts, it did open me up to a new way of writing, focussing heavily on character, dialogue, and visual impact. As a writer, I also had the added bonus of having an incredible, imaginative world already created for me by Jonny, with stunning landscapes and vehicles to get inspired by. It’s been fantastic to plonk a bunch of characters into this unorthodox metropolis and see what happens. 

It hasn’t been easy – we’ve both had careers and a range of other important commitments, but this has been the catalyst that got me back into creative writing after an 18-month slump. But it hasn’t been without its hitches; we essentially had to scrap everything we had in May 2017 because we’d been naive, tried rushing something out to show a professional, and been burned alive. Jonny had to learn anatomy drawing all over again. I even had to learn how to create a freakin’ font! (anyone who knows me understands that my IT skills are basically non-existent). We realised that the idea we had was far too big, and we needed time to introduce characters, concepts and motivations, making our first 30 page volume shrink from a first chapter, to a prologue, to half a prologue.

But that’s the story of a creative process, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Green Day had been around for 8 years until they hit mainstream success on Dookie. I’m not saying we’re gonna hit those heights, but hey, we’ve put over a year’s work into this thing and we’ve loved it, we’ve heard some good things about it and we genuinely think we’ve stumbled onto a concept that’s something special; something that at the very least, deserves to be read.

So that’s the purpose of this blog, to welcome you into the world we’ve created, and celebrate the characters, details, artwork and story-telling that has gone into our graphic novel. Watch this space for new content every week, and we hope the next few months shape a whole new chapter of development for Aeronautica. Hopefully it’s a better start to a sci-fi saga than The Phantom Menace was (sorry five-year-old me).