[The following interview you are about to read is a promotional tool. At the present, I’m assembling a press kit for Sunnyville Stories Volume 3. A copy of this interview will be included for media outlets here in the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as other parts of North Dakota and Minnesota. Anyway, please enjoy.]
Q: Tell us about yourself, Mr. West. How about your background?
A: I was born and raised in New York City. From a young age, I loved to read and made regular visits to my local library. Probably one of the biggest boons for me was my parents getting cable television. The cable channels exposed me to animated films and specials from around the world; this further fueled my imagination. I also liked to draw and for all these years, I kept working at it.
Q: So now you’re living in North Dakota. How did you end up here?
A: I left New York City in late 2012 and lived in Greensboro, North Carolina where I had family. I worked down there as a freelancer. In spite of critical acclaim and some paying jobs, I couldn’t support myself. Ever since 2008, I had been hearing about North Dakota and how it had weathered the country’s economic woes. So I came out here because of the low unemployment and low cost of living.
Q: How are you enjoying North Dakota?
A: This is such a great state and I enjoy living in Fargo. The city is beautiful and it’s not too big or too small.
Q: Tell us more about Sunnyville Stories.
A: Sunnyville Stories is the saga that tells the story of Sunnyville, a remote village. This village is isolated from the outside world by vast forests and hefty mountain ranges. Time seems to stand still here. The inhabitants tend to dress traditionally – males wear hats, suits and ties while females wear skirts and dresses.
Q: How about the main characters? Describe them for us.
A: The protagonist of Sunnyville is a teenage anthropomorphic cat named Rusty while the deuteragonist is another cat named Sam. Rusty has just moved to Sunnyville with his family and finds it hard to adjust. This tiny town with its antique feel is an alien environment to him. Sam (which is short for “Samantha”) is a country girl who’s lived in Sunnyville all her life. She befriends Rusty and helps him adjust to his new home.
Q: What are the dynamics of their relationship?
A: These two are from different worlds and this mechanic will be something that fuels their friendship. What’s more is that Rusty and Sam work on the “wise guy and straight man” routine from classic comedy – Rusty says or does something funny while Sam is there to provide reaction.
Q: This sounds quite original. How did you create Sunnyville?
A: (laughs) Rusty and Sam were there from the start. I spent more time crafting the world before moving onto the other characters. The world needed to be crafted first.
Q: I was referring more to the idea. Where did you get the idea for Sunnyville?
A: A lot of Sunnyville was based on my own personal experiences. At the very end of the 1980s, I left New York City and moved down to a rural town in North Carolina about 25 miles north of Greensboro (where I ended up living years later). It was radically different. In New York City, I had just about everything I needed. There were no shortage of movie theaters nearby as well as grocery stores and clothing stores. In the rural South, we had to drive just about anywhere to get even the basic necessities of life. And it was only the bigger cities that had all the amenities that I was used to in New York.
Another inspiration for Sunnyville was an anime series from 1986 called Maple Town. I watched it many years ago (it ran in syndication and on Nickelodeon) and it just appealed to me. The look and feel of Sunnyville with the wardrobe of the residents were influenced by Maple Town.
Q: In viewing your work, we can see a distinct style. Who are your influences?
A: Newspaper comic strips hands down. They were the first comics that I ever read and that was back in an age where they were still relevant. Peanuts is probably the biggest influence for me followed by Garfield, the Family Circus and the Far Side.
Q: Do you read any comics nowadays?
A: Of course. I’ve been reading Dave Sim’s masterpiece Cerebus the Aardvark (Cerebus has cameoed in Sunnyville) as well as Bob Burden’s Flaming Carrot and Reid Fleming, World’s Toughest Milkman. Right now, I read My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic from IDW Publishing as I am a fan of the TV show. As for manga, One Piece is currently on my reading list.
Q: In this digital age, you still draw your comics and letter them by hand. Will you ever trade that process in for computer created comics?
A: Definitely not. I prefer working the old-fashioned way.
Q: PC or MAC?
A: No comment. (bursts out laughing)
Q: In conclusion, any words for our readers?
A: Yes. Be sure to check out Sunnyville. Be sure also to tell your local library and your local bookstore that you want Sunnyville.