BY JENNIFER M. CONTINO
Lora Innes began The Dreamer, her story of a teen transported back to the Revolutionary War era in her dreams, as a webcomic. Shortly after she put some of it online, it caught the eye of IDW Publishing and became a part of that imprint. The first six issues tell the story of the Battle of Long Island. Innes gave us a history lesson on the series and told us what makes this tale one for the ages.


THE PULSE: For our readers who might have missed our first interview and don't know a lot about it, what is The Dreamer?

LORA INNES:
The Dreamer is a webcomic that updates two pages every Friday and tells the story of Beatrice Whaley, a high school senior who starts having vivid, reoccurring dreams about the American Revolution.

THE PULSE: When we first talked about The Dreamer you said the writing part was the easy part. Why do you think this story came to you so effortlessly? I know then you also said you were a huge history fan, but what else made this story almost write itself?

LORA INNES:
As I was researching, I found a bunch of really great stories I wanted to tell. I’ve just been weaving them all together, and telling it with my own flavor. After I developed my characters’ voices and personalities it got pretty easy to think about how they would react in a situations that I put them in. Which usually winds up involving some sort of comedic element.


THE PULSE: You said you were considering the Revolutionary War and the Civil War as possible settings for The Dreamer, what made the Revolutionary War win out that battle?

LORA INNES:
The characters in the Revolutionary War are so idealistic- its one of the things I love about them. And they are visionaries; they actually set out to change the world. We live in a pretty cynical era where most people think they are destined to live out life as events unfold around them. And yet these guys were farmers, and newspaper printers and poor, traveling lawyers and they thought they could change the most powerful nation on the face of the planet… and they did.

The Civil War is a lot more popular and has a greater place in the American consciousness. Although admittedly David McCullough’s and Joseph Ellis’s recent books and the HBO John Adams’ miniseries seem to be bringing a resurgence of interest in the period of our country’s founding. I have noticed, though, that most of these recent works pertain more to the early government--seven years after the war’s end--then to the war itself. Personally, I’m more interested in guys like Sam Adams, Dr. Joseph Warren, John Hancock, Paul Revere and Patrick Henry--men who succeeded in changing the climate in America to one that was receptive of the idea of Independence.

And stories from the trenches have always interested me.


THE PULSE: When we first talked about Beatrice Whaley, I forgot to ask you if she had any friends or family she talked with about these dreams that took her from high school to being a spy in the Revolutionary War. Does she have any confidants she can talk with about this surreal experience?

LORA INNES:
In Issue # 4 she actually talks to Nathan Hale about it in one of her “dreams.” Strangely enough, he is the first person she confides in. She tried to talk to her friend Liz in Issue #2, but Liz “brings her back to reality” pretty quickly. The mini-series wraps up with Bea and her good friend Yvette having a heart-to-heart about the matter, but since we haven’t gotten to that point in the webcomic that’s all I’ll say about it for now.

THE PULSE: What do you view as some of the biggest challenges of making Beatrice competent and likable, even if she is in these insane situations?

LORA INNES:
I use humor a lot. I think that when Bea is saying or doing something that makes us laugh that we as readers are automatically endeared to her a little bit. I actually tend to use humor in my writing a lot without thinking about it. And those moments tend to be fan-favorites every time.

There’s something about her being oddly out of place in the dreams that makes her relatable, too. There is a scene in the beginning of Issue #4 with some ‘coarse talk’ (which is intentionally so mild it would get a PG rating). It makes Nathan Hale blush. Bea is so completely un-phased that it winds up being a really comical scene. And her reaction is what most of the readers’ reactions would be, so I think that she becomes identifiable, and thus likable, in moments like that.


THE PULSE: How much of your "daydreams" or "dream life" are you channeling in this story?


LORA INNES:
Most of what I write starts out as a daydream. There are some times when I sit down at my computer and know there is a scene I need to write and just make myself do it. But most of it begins with me musing to myself and then role-playing my characters responses. Then I play with the dialogue until it has a certain rhythm with punchy endings that would make good page breaks. (That’s become really important in writing a webcomic.) Only then do I usually write it down.

THE PULSE: I know a lot of people who imagined being heroes or being in the distant past, escaping from a boring reality now .... Is this your Walter Mitty type tale come to life?

LORA INNES:
Actually I found out that my imagination was jump started after The Dreamer’s conception and not before it. I had stopped doing any sort of creative art for myself a long time ago as a result of the commercial illustration work that I did. But after starting The Dreamer I felt like a part of me that I remembered from being a kid came back. Which is a lot of fun. I sort of feel like me again.


THE PULSE: You were publishing this as a webcomic, how did IDW enter the picture? What made them a good fit for the goals you had with this series?

LORA INNES:
My buddy Beau Smith pointed The Dreamer out to IDW president Ted Adams as a project he might be interested in. I got an email from Ted asking me to tell him more about The Dreamer; he had gone to my website, read some of it, and was interested. I sent him a letter with my goals for the project, where I’m headed with it, my stats from online, why I think IDW might be interested in it, etc. He wrote me back and asked when would be a good time to talk on the phone.

I think IDW is a good fit for The Dreamer, because they have a reputation as being a company that promotes independent creator’s work. Another key ingredient to the whole thing was that IDW actually encouraged me to continue The Dreamer online, which has become really important to my readers. (Another publisher had talked to me prior to IDW, but they wanted me to take it offline.) IDW puts out high quality comic books and especially graphic novels so I am really excited to see the graphic novel in print next summer. I think it’s going to be beautiful.



THE PULSE: Since you began working on this project have readers or others sent you more things to check out and read about the Revolutionary War? I know there are a lot of fans of that era, I'd imagine your book would be of quite an interest to those history buffs ....

LORA INNES:
Absolutely! I get invited to events all over the country, all the time. And I wish I could attend even half of them. But it’s so fun to meet people with a common interest and passion for our country’s inception. I have had several people send me photos of the Benedict Arnold’s nameless boot memorial at Saratoga. As well, re-enactors send me photos of events they attend for my photo reference collection. People send me book recommendations, news articles, internet links—it’s just a lot of fun.

THE PULSE: What are the challenges of making that period feel authentic? I know we have a lot of history about the time, but it's not like you can just phone up a relative and say, "tell me again that story about when you met George Washington," like you might be able to do with someone who was in World War II or later conflicts ...

LORA INNES:
You might not be able to phone a relative but you can phone a re-enactor. And they are almost just as good.


I think one of the hardest parts is taking a period which usually feels stiff, old-fashioned, and un-relatable and telling a story in a way where it actually feels fresh, relatable, and revolutionary. I have tried to do that by using stories that deal with themes we can still relate to today like love, loss, family and vengeance. I also have intentionally modernized the language quite a bit, just so readers aren’t taken out of the scene because a stiffness in the dialogue. I know that’s not 100% historically accurate but it’s more important for me to have the reader feel the scene rather than just be presented with the facts. There are also a lot surviving letters, first hand accounts, diaries and newspaper articles that I can draw from.

THE PULSE: What have you enjoyed the most about being able to work on this project? I know you felt like you were kind of floundering with some of your other art assignments ... it must be incredibly freeing to tell the story you've dreamed of ...

LORA INNES:
That is the most fun. I get to tell a story that’s really important to me and share it with the whole world—with people who are actually invested in my characters. To tell a story that people are addicted to is precious beyond words. Probably my favorite part of the project is that it’s a webcomic, which brings a real community aspect to the whole thing. The project doesn’t just belong to me any more. Which certainly keeps me motivated! After the hundredth “Dreamer Friday is now my favorite day of the week” fan letter, you tend to try to take your deadlines seriously.



THE PULSE: Since you began working on this, have you had the opportunity to work on other comic projects as well? What other projects are you working on?

LORA INNES:
In the spring, Vertigo put out a new Harvey Pekar American Splendor series and I illustrated a story called “Joy Moves Ahead” in issue 2. Other than that, The Dreamer takes up all of my time. And all of the new responsibilities that come with taking it to print have filled up my schedule even more. So right it's all The Dreamer, all the time, but I haven’t minded too much yet.



PULSE readers can learn more about The Dreamer here:
http://www.thedreamercomic.com