INTERVIEW: STEPHEN COFFEY ON THE SOCIETY FOR THE REMARKABLE SUICIDE
Stephen Coffey has recently started posting his work, including The Society, online for people to read for free. Being a fan of the somewhat controversial series, I decided to ask him about the book, posting it online and the future of the series.
I love the title (it made me pick up the book) but it was very outlandish. Were you worried that people might judge the book solely on the title?
Yes, I really was, but the because the storyline was about suicide, and would show suicides in some graphic detail, I had to make sure that people knew what the book was before it was released. At a low point during the production, and after a good few people giving out and making threats about the book I said sarcastically to someone that I was going to call the book ‘Kittens, Kittens, Kittens’ but the subject matter of the book deserved to be placed right there on the front cover.
I really enjoyed the text pieces. Speaking from experience, you really got the feelings right. Were they tough to write?
No. For some reason they just flowed, I find that when I’m writing text and not comic panels that it just flows better for me. I did have to create a character and place myself into their world, after that I could write easily.
What made you decide to do the text pieces?
I wanted the characters that were in the graphic part of the story to be more than 2D characters without having a massive bill for artist pages. If I didn’t write the text pieces the whole book would have been over 200 pages, and probably still in production.
You got a few artists to do “remarkable suicides”. How did that come about? Were they all your ideas?
No, none of the individual pieces came from my mind, and there were a few that I couldn’t add in, Barry McGowan did one that involved some copyright characters that was really good, but because of the copyright issues it couldn’t be used. They all came about by people that supported the idea of the book, before a panel of the story was drawn, and I was going to create a book of just remarkable suicides, but was so burnt out by the end of the whole process that I just shelved the project.
I saw Joe Senior as somewhat of a sympathetic villain type. Suicide destroyed his life. Was that something you were going for?
Yes, he’s not a bad man, his constant mindset is one of helping, of being that father that walked in to find his son dead by suicide. The loneliness and hurt that bore into his soul that day, the idea that his son was just a statistic now. The Society offers a way that the deaths were more than just numbers, they were so much more. Joe Senior is all about the love, the wanting to help, that it overpowers every other decision.
I think the book is about two people finding each other when they are at their lowest ebb and that there is a positive way out of depression as opposed The Society’s way. Would you agree?
Yes. It’s about love. It’s about support. It’s about a conversation that we can have with someone about it. But what I wanted to show more than anything was that living another day, just one more hour, minute, or second, can bring something that will take that decision to end your life away from you.
The ending leaves room for more stories. Have you thought about revisiting the characters?
Yes, and I’ve handed that over to someone else. Society 2 will happen.
You’ve started posting the story online. I hope you don’t mind me saying but the art looks much sharper. You’ve added colour too. Anything you’d like to say about the changes or the process?
The colour was always there, but printing in black and white is so much cheaper, when you are a self publisher that is all that counts. There are no changes, it’s the art that Cormac Hughes and Robert Carey sent in, as they sent it in.
You’re also doing this with other books. People seem to be finding digital outlets and the web as a good way to get their books out there.
I’m placing Society, Velvet, and a few other things online, it’s about building the readership, but also what is the point of being a storyteller if you can’t reach the biggest audience. With Society, the story is online because it’s the easiest way to get a story that people should read out to the public. I’ve come to a conclusion that if I can, if it’s my choice alone, that I’ll just post stories online for anyone to read, if they want to support the book they can buy the book on Amazon, or Dublin City Comics, or Forbidden Planet Dublin.
What else should we expect from you in 2014?
Actually I’m taking a break from creating, just for health reasons. Friends are going to be helping put things out that are already done, but I’m resting and taking things at my pace.