Interview With Hope Larson And Rebecca Mock, KNIFE’S EDGE And COMPASS SOUTH Team
Compass South and Knife’s Edge deliver swashbuckling pirates, strange creatures in far off places, and familial bonds. The two books chronicle the adventures of twins Cleo and Alex. Their father disappears, leaving them homeless. After surviving on the streets, they decide to seek their fortune by impersonating twin heirs. Things don’t go according to plan, however, especially when a pirate and a former gang leader come after the twins. Cleo and Alex have to survive while separated, reunite, and learn to live with each other. A rogue wants their compass and knife, trinkets their mother left the twins. When the twins find out why, they engage in an ocean-spanning race.
Rebecca Mock and Hope Larson have collaborated on the two books, to deliver the story they wanted to read as children. Rebecca does freelance illustration and has an ongoing comic The Old Woman. Hope has published Salamander Dream, a graphic novel about a changing friendship between a girl and an amphibian, and is currently writing Batgirl for DC Comics. They decided to give an interview to Book Riot about their newest release.
In an interview for Compass Edge, Hope mentions wanting to create an accessible book for reluctant readers. For both of you, what makes a book accessible, in terms of art and writing?
Hope: For me, a book is accessible when it’s exciting, fun, and gripping, with clear action. It’s a book that kids wantto read, not one they feel they should read. Not to discount the merits of art, but it’s much more important to me that my work be entertaining, because that’s what hooks readers and gets them coming back. I was actually a late reader myself, and I’m pretty sure what finally got me reading was my desire for more stories. Once I started, I was unstoppable.
Rebecca: I’ve always been more drawn to books that have strong character relationships. A character who doesn’t engage with their environment or other characters, or a story that’s written as though completely inside one character’s point of view, is perfectly fine–but I love a team of characters working together. A story becomes engaging when cause and effect create a situation you didn’t expect. I love being surprised by the direction a story takes. In comics, we have the power to create a more immersive and inviting world, to transport the reader completely and allow them to connect with the characters, even if reading the dialogue is tricky–they can follow the story through context clues, which helps not only build reading skills but visual literacy, such an important skill in our age.
Compass South talks about sibling relationships and loyalty, while Knife’s Edge discusses parenthood, what people will do for love, and gender roles. In the book, what did you want to explore within these themes of parenthood, especially as the twins learn they were adopted?
Hope: I believe that one’s “real” family is the family one chooses, not necessarily the family one is born into. I love my family, for example, but I’ve spent most of my life living far away from home, and the relationships I’ve built with my friends are just as important. At the same time, although I’m not adopted myself, I think the desire to understand one’s roots, where one comes from, is a relatable one. It can be an important part of understanding oneself.
Rebecca: For me, having brought all these wonderful characters to life, I became invested in showing how much they cared for each other. I wanted to show how the crew of the Almira is a family, how all of Cleo and Alex’s mentors and friends are family, how each of these people has their own feelings and relationship to each other, and how that all comes together in the end. Even the “villains” have people they care for, don’t they?
Cleo has a very different character arc from her brother, in that she has to struggle with being placed back in the girl role again. What was it like, writing about her change in roles?
Hope: Unfortunately, it was not a stretch to write those segments. All women hear a lot of “no,” even in 2017. It was cathartic for me, writing her arc.
Rebecca: Cleo’s journey really hit close to home for me. I wanted to draw her story for myself at her age–a girl coming into her teens wanting, desperately, to be seen as a whole person rather than categorized as one gender. Drawing Cleo was really cathartic. I think kids at this age can inherently sense the hypocrisy of assigning social roles to gender, right at that age before they become numb to it. I want to see more characters in stories face the challenge of building their identity for themselves and become stronger for it, rather than by giving in to expectations.