Comic Culture

FULL EPISODE

Meredith Finch

Host Terence Dollard talks to writer Meredith Finch. She discusses Wonder Woman, crowdfunding, and the Book of Ruth.

AIRED: December 14, 2020 | 0:26:46
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TRANSCRIPT

[upbeat music]

- Hello and welcome to Comic Culture.

I'm Terence Dollard,

a professor in the Department of Mass Communication

at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

My guest today is writer Meredith Finch.

Meredith, welcome to Comic Culture.

- Hi everybody, thanks for having me.

- Meredith you are a writer with a diverse portfolio.

You've written some I guess sci-fi horror books,

you've written super heroics

and you've written an adaptation of a biblical story.

So, I'm wondering as a writer,

how do you kinda jump between those genres

and still have a good story to tell?

- Ultimately, even though I've dabbled

in a bunch of different genres,

I think that what makes it easy is that the message

that I'm trying to communicate in the majority of my stories

remains pretty consistent,

and the themes that I'm exploring

remain fairly consistent.

So, from "Wonder Woman" to "Rose" to the "Book of Ruth",

there's this overarching idea of love

and exploring the idea of loving

and how it is reflected by a superhero,

by a young woman, by God.

And in all of those stories that

I think they're all my ways of exploring

my own experiences with love,

either with my children or with friends

or family or with God.

So, it hasn't been...

It's not as difficult as you might think

to go between genres when those are just,

they're parts of a costume.

The character itself or the essence of the story,

the structure of the story

is really, I think the most difficult part.

- It's interesting because we tend to think

of a movie as the events rather than the way the events

impact the lives of our characters.

So, when you're handed a character, like let's say,

Wonder Woman, who is an icon,

close to 80 years of publication history,

what can you bring to that character

that will let you find a story that's worth telling?

- I think one of the ways in which I benefit

from writing "Wonder Woman" is that

there haven't been a lot women

who've actually written that character.

So, it was fairly easy for me to look at her

and see everything that had happened to her,

cause I was coming on after Brian Azzarello's run.

And at that point he had made her...

She wasn't just Wonder Woman and a member

of the "Justice League", she was also the god of war

and her mother had been turned to clay.

So, she was the defacto queen of the Amazons.

And I just kept thinking about all these things

that she had in her play,

and how that was very reflective of my own life,

being a mom and a comic book writer,

and a wife, and a friend, and all of the different hats

I was wearing at the same time.

And how conflicted and torn I felt

not ever being able to give anyone aspect

of my life as much as I felt like I should.

So, it was very easy to then translate that

into our "Wonder Woman Run" and how she would feel.

Cause even a superhero there's a finite amount of time

she can't travel back and forth between time.

How does she juggle not being part

with the Justice League if something bad is happening?

Because she's on the must killer

dealing with a problem with the Amazon.

So, I feel very blessed and grateful that I got

to write that character when I did.

And at this point in my life that I was at,

because I felt like I was able to really add

something to her that not a lot of people had done.

Because sometimes she gets written a little,

not as multifaceted as I think I was able to do,

with what I was able to do with the character.

- It's true to,

I mean, character like Wonder Woman has been around,

like I say, close to 80 years.

I don't think we can look back

in the same way we can with Batman or Superman

where we can remember those iconic stories every year.

I mean, maybe we'll recall some George Perez run

or the one where she gives up her powers.

So, when you're taking that character

and you're able to put your stamp on her,

it's interesting because someone else

wasn't able to do that,

you were able to find a way to tell a compelling story

for the character and also add in those other elements.

So, when you have a character like Wonder Woman

and maybe the "Justice League" is needing her for something,

are you working with the editor to like...

This is the idea you have for the story

with the editor tells you,

Oh, we need to tie in with this other book.

And does that change the course

of how you're putting together your narrative?

- When we were doing "Wonder Woman"

we were fairly autonomous.

At the same time Peter Tomasi

was writing Wonder Woman, Superman story.

So, I talked to Peter but there wasn't a lot going on

that within the DC Universe that I had to reflect,

We had a fair amount of just do what you wanna do.

If I'd wanted to pull more of the DCU when I could have,

but again, I think they knew they were running

the new 52 only for 52 issues.

So, and then they were going back to the reface,

then they had "Rebirth".

So, because of that I think we had a lot more freedom

and autonomy to do what we wanted to do with the character

and within the universe than maybe some other writers

who'd written her at different times in her history.

- Now I do wanna talk about the "Book of Ruth"

because that's something that you've just come out with

and I found it to be a beautiful adaptation.

And I think I'd mentioned that I had started to read it

and I was planning on just,

I'm gonna read a couple of pages here and there,

and I found myself a few hours later,

an hour later rather at the end of the book.

Before we get into that story,

which is very interesting and compelling.

I'm just wondering how do you structure your day?

Because I obviously was unable to be disciplined

and only read a few pages.

I know that being home during the pandemic,

trying to find the time to do work is difficult.

There's always something that kinda comes up

and keeps you from focusing.

So, you're working from home.

How do you kinda balance the schedule

to make sure that you are able to get everything done

and still have time to do everything else?

- Right.

It's actually virtually impossible

for me to work at home during the pandemic.

Just because the kids are home all the time

and anybody who's written anything

I think if you...

From a science report to an essay for your English class,

you need a certain amount of quiet and uninterrupted time

to be able to just organize your thoughts and sit down.

So, I had some writing I had to do earlier this summer

and I ended up going out to my parents' place

cause they live about 10 minutes away

and they're up at their cottage in Northern Ontario.

So, I had some peace and quiet for two days,

which give me the time to sort of

get into that writing mindset,

do the research

and the introspection that I needed to do,

and then, that was the first day,

and then the second day was actually productive writing.

So, it's certainly been a challenge.

I'm lucky, I don't really need

to get a lot of writing work done right now.

I'm Sort of gearing up mentally

once the kids go back to school to get back

and start working on some new projects.

- Now, with the "Book of Ruth",

this was a project that you crowdfunded

to get copies into people's hands

and now people can go to their local comic shop

or on Amazon perhaps, and in order a copy of this,

but this is a whole different skillset

then coming up with a great idea and writing it down.

So, how do you sort of,

I don't know if it's a learning curve or what,

for you to figure out the effective ways to crowdsource

and then go through all the steps of publication?

- Had a lot of help from just people I know

within the community who've previously crowdsourced,

and I could asked questions of them.

And I mean, there's a certain amount of research

you just have to do on your own.

Go on Kickstarter,

look at the kind of tiers that people are offering,

the kind of rewards people are offering,

and then figure out how you can structure

your own tiers and rewards.

I think ultimately for me certainly,

the hardest part of Kickstarter has been the fulfillment.

Because the original goal prior to the pandemic

was that Colin and I would both fly to Tennessee

on one weekend and while he was doing all those sketches,

I would do all the mailing and label preparation

and organization.

And then, 90% of the books would get shipped out

that weekend.

Then COVID-19 hit and the hardcovers weren't being printed,

and then the borders were closed and here we are,

almost end of August

and I still haven't been able to go

and see the books in person beyond the copies

that have been mailed to me for David to do sketches in,

or for me to give to.

But a few copies that I have been able to give my parents

and my sister cause of course they supported

the Kickstarter too.

So I guess, kick-starting in a pandemic, not ideal,

or fulfillment in a pandemic, not ideal.

But I would certainly do the Kickstarter again.

I think the lesson that I learned from it is

even though it seemed like it would be easier

to send everything to the States being in Canada

from a shipping cost of shipping point of view.

I would never do that again,

just in the chance that I wouldn't be able to do this, no.

Again, I've been very blessed

that I have a beautiful young woman,

who's helping me do all the fulfillment

and she's been fantastic and I owe her huge debt.

And also all the people who supported the Kickstarter

have been incredibly patient and understanding

of the challenges we've had

trying to get the rewards fulfilled.

So, it was fabulous, I loved it, but, Oh my goodness.

- It is amazing when life throws a curve

in this case a global pandemic that kind of takes us

out of our normal routine.

I was gonna say I was a very proud

to be one of the supporters for the Kickstarter campaign.

And one of the things that I noticed about this campaign

was that you were very good at communicating

what was happening.

Folks, there's this part there's that part just be patient.

So this is another thing that you have to add to your day.

So, when it comes to this new secondary

part of your job that you're doing,

how often are you thinking yourself

I really I've got to get something to these folks

so that they know we're on top of everything.

- Every single day right now.

I'm like,

I really [indistinct] cause I just found out.

I'm sitting here thinking, I haven't had time yet today.

But I'm thinking I need to get another update out

because books that I thought had shipped

for additional sketches and remarks,

didn't get shipped when I thought they got shipped.

So, now they're a month behind.

And I think people are expecting stuff

and they're not getting stuff.

So, it's always on my mind,

it's always something that I'm thinking about.

And I wish that we could have fulfilled

the Kickstarter in a much more timely manner,

but the goal was ultimately the people

would have their books before they hit the comic bookstore.

I don't know that's necessarily gonna happen

for some of the people who in the higher tiers

that required a signature.

Not a signature but like a remark or an artist sketch.

- It's funny too because I'd selected

the Lee Weeks variant cover.

I'm a huge fan of Lee's work

and it was just a great way for me to put together

an interesting book that I thought would be a great read

with an interesting cover.

So, when you're dealing with the other people

who are not part of this project,

how difficult is it, how easy is it for you

to reach out and say,

"Hey, Lee, would you be interested in a cover?"

Or any of the other folks who were involved

in some of this other variant work?

- I was very mindful of the people that I approached

for this project.

So for example, we know Jason quite well,

and Jason is local.

So, it was very easy to have him over for dinner

and talk to him and say,

"Hey, would you mind doing this?"

Billy Tucci and Lee I know through comic book conventions

and we're good friends.

And so I was able to just approach

both of them at a convention and say,

"This what I'm doing, would you be interested?"

And I gave both of them the script.

So, they knew exactly what it was

that they were putting their artwork on,

because I think especially when you're doing books

about faith or faith based characters,

people wanna know that the project

that they're putting their art work on or their name to,

is a respectful reflection of their own beliefs.

And I didn't want to approach anybody

without them having the opportunity to read the script,

know what the R word was gonna look like

and what the story was going to be,

so that they could be comfortable

with what they're putting their name and their artwork on.

Cause it's a bit of a,

there's an understanding of somebody

with a Kickstarter book like this,

you're supporting that Kickstarter with your artwork,

so, you're giving it your approval.

- And it's interesting too,

because the approach that you've taken

with the "Book of Ruth" is unique.

I mean, you're taking a story from the Bible

and you are adapting it for a contemporary audience,

and you're also setting it in,

I guess, it would be sort of

the early part of the 19 hundreds, the Great Depression...

- The Dust Bowl, Great Depression-era yes.

- So, how do you kind of look at one story

and then convert it into the story that you wanna tell

and still have it be true to both visions?

- For me, it was certainly just taking time

to dive into the story of Ruth.

And understand the nuances of that story,

the idea of that the whole point of the four chapters

and the story is that she's moving Naomi.

Cause the story is really,

even though it's called the Book of Ruth,

this story is Naomi's story.

How Naomi comes from a place of plenty

to a place of poverty, back to a place of plenty

back to a place of poverty.

And then it's ultimately Ruth and Boaz

who restore that plentifulness for her.

And when I thought about doing that story,

I didn't want to say I was divinely inspired,

but it just made so much sense

when I think about history.

Where is a time in history that people can relate to

where a similar thing occurred

and instantly I thought about the Depression

because people were...

It was such dramatic change when that stock market crashed

and people lost everything.

People were, families were broken apart,

people committed suicide,

like it was just short

of what we're going through right now.

It's hard to think of a time in American history

that hit America more in its heart,

because it wasn't a war in a far away country.

It was happening right here at home

and it was dramatically impacting everybody.

So, it just made a lot of sense to me to do that.

And it worked out that just before the Depression,

Texas had had the Dust Bowl and that was a time that again,

a lot of people suffered and lost a lot of things.

So,

I did a lot of praying for that book and I like to think

that maybe there was some inspiration to help me work that

into a way that made sense.

And I felt like it came together very seamlessly for me.

And throughout the whole process

I did consult back and forth with my priest.

And just to make sure that the changes I was making

were still in line with the important parts

of the story itself.

Like the covering of Ruth by Boaz with his coat

in the original story he covered her with a blanket

and she sits at his feet,

like couldn't really do that.

Does it make sense from a 19 hundreds point of view?

So, but the important part of that was the covering,

him placing that covering over top of her.

So, ways that I could tweak the story,

bring it into a slightly more modern world.

Significantly more modern context

and still have those important aspects,

that were significant to the original narratives.

- It's interesting too because I think you found a way

to connect the reader to the story in a way

that perhaps wouldn't be quite as clear

without it being sort of in this contemporary setting,

even though it's I guess

almost a hundred years back from our times.

And one of the things that's really striking about the book

is that it's done in black and white or in shades of gray.

And I'm wondering, is this something

that you always envisioned in your mind,

or is this something that your artistic partner

was coming up with?

- When I first thought about doing the book,

I thought it was gonna be in color.

And my original plan had been actually

to do the first chapter in black and white,

and then slowly add color to the book

so that the last chapter would be in full color,

just to show this transition.

But I loved Colin's black and white artwork so much

that ultimately what I did was,

as we were going through I just felt like

there's one place in the story...

[coughing] Excuse me.

Where I could really add a little color

and have it much more meaningful and also hint at

what this line is the beginning of.

And so that's why we did the red scarf,

and that was the only point of red in the story.

- It's interesting too,

because I guess if we look back at films

and newsreels from that time, easy for me to say.

It's all stark black and white images

because obviously we weren't quite

at the point of color film yet.

And I think because your use of color is so laser focused,

it does really grab the eye that way.

Another thing that struck me was

a lot of of the locations seemed correct.

And I'm wondering if this is something

that you were going back

and doing copious amounts of research,

or Colin's doing the research on to make it correct,

I mean fashion, the way the cars look,

everything along those lines.

So, I'm wondering artistically yes,

I need to get a reference photo

to drive the car the right way.

But are you looking at the news of the day

to try and make a reference that would be correct?

- I did look back in terms of finding places.

So, because Ruth is in Bethlehem in the old Testament,

I wanted to see is there a place

that in America named Bethlehem

where I could put this story

and have it be an accurate reflection

of what I'm trying to do.

And it worked out that there is in fact, a Bethlehem, Texas.

So, and that Texas was part of the Dust Bowl.

And I was,

again, sometimes I think things work out

the way they're meant to.

In terms of the fashion and the cars and the settings

I give all of the credit to Colin for that.

I give him a setting and then I'm a firm believer

that you hire the very best people for the job

and then you get out of their way

because you hired them to do the job.

And Colin is diligent

to the extreme about wanting things to be authentic

and reflective of everything.

And so, he put an incredible amount of effort and research

into making sure that that book really

was reflective of the times.

And he would send me just,

and I included a few of them in the book,

sketches of characters and fashions,

like, "What about this for Ruth's dress or Naomi's dress?"

And so, I had a lot of different options to choose from,

the only one that I would say like

that I had any kind of input would on

the dress that Naomi had made for Ruth out of her own dress.

That one, I had something more specific,

so I gave him some examples

of what I wanted it to look like.

- Well, I see we have about three minutes left

in our conversation.

I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that you are married

to David Finch who is another comics professional.

I'm just wondering, is it difficult...

You're both, I guess sort of in the freelance community.

First off you're working from home,

I'm assuming he's working from home as well.

Staying out of each other's way when you've got deadlines

but also making sure that there's always a job

on the horizon.

So, how do you kind of work that out?

- Yeah, we're very much have delineated our workspaces.

So, he works in the basement and I work upstairs.

And we've tried him working upstairs

and we've tried him working on the main floor,

he likes the basement and being as far away

from the front door as possible.

So, that works out really well.

And because when I met David,

he was already in the industry and I was not,

it was very easy to just give him his workday.

Like he would get up with us and the kids in the morning,

we would have breakfast, the kids would go to school

and then we might go for a walk or to the gym,

and then he goes to work.

The one thing about both of us working from home

in the creative industry is that

holidays don't exist the way that they would

for a person who works a nine to five job.

You don't ever take a one week vacation

or a week off for Christmas.

I can't remember a Christmas

where Dave hasn't gone down to work

because he had deadlines,

or I think we've taken one vacation in the 15 years

we've been together where he didn't bring work with him.

Because work for him it's not just about the deadline,

but it's also a release of things that he puts.

And that's one of the things that somebody

who works in the creative field,

part of what you're doing is expressing your stresses

and your joys and your experiences in your life

as part of your work.

It's part of the way in which you externalize

the feelings that you might otherwise hold internally

and the other people might just deal with internally.

So, we've been able to find a really great balance

and I tried to help him when I can.

Scanning pages, answering emails,

he is always my very first editor.

Nobody sees anything I've written

before David has a chance to go through it

and say yes or no.

So, I feel very blessed that we work together

as well as we do and we compliment each other

as well as we do.

Our strengths and our weaknesses are very well balanced.

- Well, Meredith they're telling me

that we have indeed run out of time.

I'd like to thank you so much for taking time

out of your busy day to talk with me today.

I'd like to thank you at home for watching Comic Culture.

We will see you again soon.

[upbeat music]

- [Announcer] Comic culture is a production

of the department of mass communication

at the university of North Carolina at Pembroke.

[upbeat music]

- My grandparents and my parents taught me and my siblings

at a very early age,

that we did not have to travel outside of Robeson County

to get a great education.

And they were right.

- Academics was a really big topic, it was always pushed,

it was always encouraged to continue to advance ourselves.

- UNC-P is in my blood with my family,

strong family ties there.

And it will always be a part of who I am,

and it's just a very inviting campus.

- The classes are small enough

that it's not a huge job for me from high school to college.

It was a nice kind of transition into that university thing.

- The staff and employees were very welcoming

and I think that's essential,

when you're transitioning from living at home

with your parents and everything

being very straight forward to go on a college

where you had a lot of independence.

- Having responsibilities that I didn't have before,

before I was in school.

Kind of set me up to being the professional

and the adult I am today.

What do you wanna do? How do you wanna get there?

UNC Pembroke is where you should start at immediately.

[soft guitar music]

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