Crowdfunding Comics: Natasha Kennedy Talks the Cosmology of ‘Tempest’
by Malissa White
With lockdowns tightening around the country, we retreat from the momentary reprieve of exterior enjoyment for safety. The three-tiered universe philosophy of existence feels especially nascent now. With uncertainty and fear surrounding us, we draw on our higher senses of safety, security and growth, participate at safe distance with our realities, and uncover the shadow aspects of our realities. All of us, on numerous levels, navigate these worlds simultaneously, within our society, ourselves, and our communities.
Natasha Kennedy’s ‘Tempest’ hits at just the right time. Running on Kickstarter, ‘Tempest’ is a fantasy epic graphic novel ten years in the making. Balancing illustration and prose, we follow three characters in three realms as those worlds collide. With it comes darkness and a pivotal search for meaning through the unknown.
Kennedy operates as writer, illustrator, colorist and letterer. That work culminates in a complete 244 page full-color graphic novel for interested backers. I had the opportunity to interview Natasha Kennedy on her work. Check it out below!
Malissa White: Tempest is an epic fantasy spanning three different worlds. Can you share a little about the plot?
Natasha Kennedy: The world of ‘Tempest’ is inspired by an ancient belief in a three-tiered universe, where there are layers of existence—both physical and supernatural—above and below us. The story kicks off as these different layers all begin to collide. The story follows three main characters who come from these different planes of reality, each searching for meaning. One is a listless elf in a world too high and beautiful to imagine, one is a disillusioned millennial in a dark and cursed world, and another is the self-doubting prince of a kingdom unknown to the rest of the universe.
Each character finds themselves on a journey which takes them into the unknown; they each embark on adventures that are bigger than themselves.
Every character in ‘Tempest’ is like a thread in a great tapestry, painting a larger picture. All the while, there is darkness too great for anyone to overcome, and each storyline is touched by devastation that they could not escape. It is a story of the coming of age, the endless search for meaning, and the beauty that is to be found in broken people.
MW: What elements of the story are you most excited to share?
NK: There are so many ways to answer that question! Firstly, the characters! Each character has a distinct personality type, diverse background, unique struggle, and an important role to play. They are the most important element in this story—and they are deep and complex.
Secondly, I am excited to share this universe with my readers. It is so unique! I have spent hours studying ancient cosmology, and have had a blast building a fantasy world rooted more in an ancient understanding of the universe. Thirdly, I will say I am excited for the adventure aspect of this story. I love a good story, daring deeds and a bit of romance!
Lastly, I am just so excited to share my artwork. I put so much thought into character design, beautiful colors, and creative page design to make the reading-experience feel decadent.
MW: What drew you to the fantasy genre? What are some of your favorites (books, film, tv and comics)?
NK: What is not to love about the fantastical? Magic; realities too wonderful to be understood or fully explained; and an endless canvas for designing unique races and cultures. I love how fantasy gives the reader the experience of true adventure.
‘Tempest’ is designed to pull the reader out of our own world and change how we see reality so much that when we look back on our world it looks different. To me, life on Earth is a fantasy—we are just all too stuck in our momentary lives to fully see it. Fantasy sets humans free from their mental restraints and makes us feel and experience things we forgot were possible.
Some of my favourites? Well..
Phantastes, by George MacDonald, I read at the age of 17 while sitting on the roof of our old horse barn. It is the story of a man who turns 21 and is led into the Faerie world. In this world, he finds out what it truly means to be a man. It is beautiful, compelling and sad without being a tragedy. That book made me a fantasy writer.
Magnolia, a film by PT Anderson, I watched in Switzerland with some philosophical sparring buddies. This story followed several different characters in a sad interwoven tale, all culminating in one moment of raining frogs which changed every single person in a different way. Just watch it. It may not have elves or Faeries, but it is—in my opinion—a true fantasy.
Calvin and Hobbes, a comic by Bill Watterson, is a true fantasy; a child who sees his world so through the lens of his imagination that even we as the reader don’t know what’s real—and honestly don’t really care.
Other favourites include: The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, About Time, Merlin, The Space Trilogy, Children of Men, and Dante’s Divine Comedy.
MW: ‘Tempest’ is entirely your creation! What is it like being the artist, writer, colorist and publisher of your own graphic novel? How long have you worked on it?
NK: I really don’t know any other way! I have been drawing for as long as I can remember and grew up creating comics all the time with my sister. We lived in a fantasy world and every day worked hard on building our worlds and characters. That passion for story-telling never stopped. When I got married, my husband pushed me towards excellence in my art. I really strived to learn new skills like formatting, coloring (which was out of my comfort zone!), and web design. All these things made me feel like I could do all the work myself. After I published Reklas Abandon, I decided that I really could bring out my own comic books so I just went for it! What is it like to do all of it myself? It’s hard work.
I have worked on ‘Tempest’ for ten years. No, that is not an exaggeration. I remember when I was dating my husband in college, handing him the first volume of ‘Tempest’ and asking him to read it. Ten years later, I am actually publishing it. With an intensely complex story, I felt that I needed to make sure the plot was air-tight from beginning to end before I released the first volume. I expect there will be eight in all.
MW: What are you most excited to share with backers?
NK: I am definitely excited for the backers who choose some of the more unique packages. Clearly, I think the book is all they need to really experience the story, but I put in a few fun opportunities such as: custom artwork where I draw you as a fantasy character, naming a city or place after you, or even making you a character in Volume 2. I have done custom artwork like this in the past and it has always been a lot of fun.
MW: Who is your target audience? Is this suitable for a YA reader?
NK: My target audience is adults, but should be suitable for YA. There will be mature themes and possibly some of the philosophy could go over the heads of younger readers, but I am keeping it “clean” in terms of intense violence or nudity. The story can be quite dark, but again, safe for a YA reader.
Thank you, Natasha, for speaking with me! You can weather the ‘Tempest’ on Kickstarter!