An Interview with Story Editor Andy Koller
Andy Koller is a script/story editor and proofreader in the world of comics and graphic novels. He joins us to talk about his work, his trajectory, and his insights for those looking to take the plunge!
We will be interviewing people at all levels and in all roles (check out a previous interview here!). If you are a comic creator or know someone who may be a good fit, hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Please introduce yourself! Who you are, where you’re from, and what you do for a living/in the world of comics.
My name is Andy Koller. I'm 40 years old and live in Sheffield in the UK. I work in a couple of different universities as a study support tutor working with people with Specific Learning Differences, so Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Asperger's Syndrome, Dyscalculia, and so on. I work with people on their written assignments, planning and organisation skills, looking at techniques and strategies for them to become independent learners and unlocking their academic or creative potential. In the world of comics I am an editor and proofreader of scripts, synopses, treatments and so on. I look at everything from two-pagers, to full length one-shots, ongoing series, graphic novels and everything else! I mainly work with indie/DIY writers and crowd-funders to get their work up and running.
How did you get started? What got you into comics and, eventually, making them?
I am really new to the creator side of things. I've been reading and collecting comics most of my life, but have only felt confident enough in my abilities to contribute to other people's work since march this year - so yeah, really new! I've been wanting to do this for a while now, and for the longest time I've been trying to write stuff, but i was never satisfied with the results. I also had no idea where to go to get in touch with artists and letterers and all the other people involved in making comics, much less having the money to pay them to do so. I attended a Comic Con in Birmingham in England where I got talking to some of the indie writers and publishers (print and web), who put me onto Comic Collabs on Reddit - and the rest is history! I've got 10 years worth of experience in working with people on their various academic projects and with an MA in Scriptwriting and Editing, I felt I had something to offer people working on their own indie comics, who may not have anyone to bounce their work off. I quickly found that this is much more satisfying to me personally than trying to get my own ideas up and running.
What are some of the most rewarding parts of making your own works? What are some of the toughest parts?
The most rewarding part is working with people who are trying to get their work up and running. I'm amazed and delighted by the strength and the passion that people have for their projects. The simple fact is that writing is hard, and working with people who have very clear ideas about their stories, and are open to sharing their work with - lets be honest - a complete stranger they'll likely never meet, is something to be respected, which I try and convey in the work I do with them. In short, the whole process is rewarding for me (sorry if this sounds a bit mushy!!). The toughest part is trying to fit everyone in, to be honest. Since starting this earlier this year, I quickly realised I wanted to be a freelance comic and graphic novel proofreader and editor as a career. The obvious difficulty is that the people I work with are self-funders, so it wouldnt feel right for me to ask for payment from them! I've been offering my services for free to hone my skills and try and create a positive reputation, but there will have to come a time when I start charging if I want to make a career out of this, and I dont even know if that is something that will work, regardless of reputation.
What are some of your inspirations and favorite works?
Alan Moore (obviously!) - Jason Aaron (particularly Southern Bastards) - Jeff Lemire (Black Hammer, anyone?! also Gideon Falls) - did anyone read the recent “Normandy Gold” series from Hardcase Crime? Excellent stuff. Black Monday Murders too - really bold, big-ideas story telling. I love Dark Horse movie tie-in books, like the Aliens and Predator series, there's a couple of older Aliens and Predator graphic novels that would have made awesome films.
I utterly love comic books, and would happily, easily spend my whole monthly salary on them - I'm considering setting up a review section, or masterclass blog page on my wordpress site to deconstruct aspects of script work and storytelling in comic form (plus hopefully I can get some free comics!!). I'm pretty much a culture hog to be honest - anything from Freddie Krueger to Chekov! I'm aware that saying 'pretty much anything' is a bit of a cop-out, but it's true!
Any advice or tips you want to share with aspiring comic and graphic novel creators?
There are loads and loads of advice and hints and tips and ideas for writing and editing. Some are: Aim small to begin with, and practice the form on a couple of 2-4page scripts. Comics, like film and tv, are a visual medium, so consider the link between what is shown, and what is said in dialogue - a perfect example of this is instead of having a character say they are sad, why not just have them in a panel looking down, or sitting in the corner of the frame, or whatever, the link between the words and the images is vital. Try and find a neutral voice to give critiques on your work (eg me!) - so many people tell me that they're happy that someone has had the courage to take their work to bits, even if it will need a lot of work to rectify. People constantly tell me they find that more valuable than having a family member, friend or partner say it's really good - thats not very helpful, even if it does come from a supportive place.
This one might sound weird, but finish a script!! The rewriting/editing cant begin until the writing has ended, and as Paul Abbott (creator of Shameless and State of Play said 'writing is rewriting'). Even if you know it stinks, hold your nose and get through it!! There are loads more things to go into - on my wordpress site (details below) one of my aims is to start a weekly 'tips and techniques' blog-page, so that will be
Anything else you’d like to add?
Not at the moment, although I'm sure the second I send this I'll think of loads of things!! So I'll hang on to them until next time!
Where can we find you and your work?