Four Questions: Allison Paige and Amber Noelle

Allison Paige and Amber Noelle are comic creators collaborating on a regency-era horror comic series called Whispering Ash. Ophelia is the first installment of this series, introducing us to the character of Ophelia Davenport, as well as the creepy world of Whispering Ash.

Ryan Troock: How did you come to work together on Whispering Ash?

Allison Paige: I’d been kicking around the idea of Sophie, Erich, and Wilhelm and the town they live in since highschool, but didn’t have a solid direction for the project and I didn’t really know how to tell a story. I had a few false starts, and decided to really make Whispering Ash happen in 2013, after taking a worldbuilding workshop taught by Claire Hummel and Colin Foran. That workshop was the kick in the ass I needed to stop thinking about projects and start making them.

One big hurdle in my way was that I’m not a very confident writer; however, my sister Amber had been helping me figure out the story since the beginning, and writing is her specialty. I asked her to collaborate with me to make Whispering Ash happen, and we’ve been working together on it ever since.

The world and characters of Whispering Ash has grown so much, in really interesting and dramatic ways, since Amber and I have been collaborating as co-creators. I’m so excited to share the stories of Whispering Ash with everyone!

Amber Noelle: As sisters, we basically grew up creating together. When we were kids we made up this story about our stuffed animals as a family of dogs. Over the years, we have had various comics published here and there in multiple formats and it’s been interesting seeing how we’ve grown and developed over time individually as well as what we create together. We have similar creative tastes in terms of the types of stories we like to tell and how we tell them.

When Allison asked me to help her flesh out and make a story out of Whispering Ash, I was very excited. I had been talking with her about the ideas and characters over the years, and she had a really good foundation for a story: basically family drama, gothic horror, and monsters with queer content.

Over the last while as we’ve continued developing as people we’ve been able to refine and push the story into a place where I’m really confident in where we’re going, and I’m excited for the stories we will tell about Whispering Ash.

Ryan Troock: How much overlap was there on the work you both did between the art and writing? Did you have many conversations during the writing/art processes about what was going on?

Allison Paige: Amber and I work really collaboratively together; we have lots of conversations through the entire process, and swap ideas constantly. We hash out the idea and arc of a story together, then Amber puts together the scripts with input from me. I thumbnail the pages, and revise with input from Amber and--basically we have our hands in each other’s work from start to finish. Amber does the words, I do the art, but we help and advise each other through the whole process. We also have a very supportive group of friends who give us valuable feedback and support (we couldn’t do it without you all)!

Amber Noelle: There is definitely a lot of overlap in terms of world building. We have had conversations about Whispering Ash and the characters in it for years, and we’re constantly trading and refining ideas about the world, character motivation and plot developments with each other and often with our comic creator friends. In terms of the actual work, Allison did the art and lettering and I did the script. We were making adjustments right up to the end with input from each other, and that really made for a better story. Each of us arrives at the story from different perspectives and I really value having that input from Allison as a co-creator.

Ryan Troock: In Ophelia, there is the page where she recites her poem Bear, and the art shifts in a wild way. Was this an idea that came about during the writing, or during the creation of the art?

Amber Noelle: Allison and I are both inspired by the work of Emily Carroll and at the time we were working on finalizing Ophelia, we had recently read Through the Woods. Carroll is a master of using words and visuals together, and leaving you with a sense of dread. I really wanted to create the sense of something sinister when I wrote the poem, while creating a sense of what was in store for the reader later on. Allison had the idea of the visual shift to support the words, and she really did that the whole way through with this project. She did a great job bringing my words to life and really creating that sense of dread and of something bigger.

Allison Paige: Emily Carroll’s work is so amazing and inspiring! Another inspiration for that page was Vampyr, a 1932 German–French horror film directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer. Amber and I watched it together, and I was struck by how it challenged the viewer’s perception of reality by using shadow and light.

Ryan Troock: In this comic, Ophelia is a writer and James owns a printing press – were these references to writing intentional?

Amber Noelle: You know, I’m not sure that the correlation between James and Ophelia was intentional, but we had solid story reasons for each character doing activities related to writing. One of the driving forces behind Ophelia is her story telling. It’s a skill she has used her entire life to get by, but it’s also something that brings her immense joy. You’ll be able to read more about James in our next instalment of the story, but it made sense for James to work his way up from nothing. Printing presses, journalism and politics have their correlations. It’s traditionally an industry where you could show up, work hard and advance. Also there are several contemporary examples of politicians who are former reporters, and it made sense in terms of where we wanted to take James’ character, who becomes mayor of Whispering Ash at Ophelia’s behest.

Allison Paige: It’s nice when things fall into place.

 You can find Allison Paige on twitter at @rabbitcourage and Amber Noelle at @ArtCrashAmber.  You can buy your own copy (PDF or Print) of Whispering Ash: Ophelia here, and you can learn more about Whispering Ash on their Tumblr.