Interview: Lilli Carre Pt. 1 [of 3]

Categories:  Interviews


For a book so invested in the poetry of sound, The Lagoon seems somehow quiet. Siren songs and metronomes and the whooshing of wind fill the its pages, but the book’s important moments, more often than not, seem to exist in the spaces in between, those quiet panels when its cacophonies have been temporarily extinguished.

It’s fitting then, in a sense, that when I first approach the book’s author, Lilli Carre, about doing an interview, she was a bit hesitant. She soon admitted that she had never actually done one via phone, and while I finally convinced her to give it a shot, I largely expected that, like The Lagoon, Carre would keep many of her answers to herself.

As it turns out, however, for all of her fears of coming across as muddled, Carre had plenty to say with regards to her methods and works, from The Lagoon to its predecessor Woodsman Pete, to the more sporadic work she’s done in the field of animation.

Are you on a regular 9 to 5 work schedule?

No. I have a really weird, open schedule.

What do you tend to do during the day?

These days I’m kind of indulging a bit. I’m working on my own stuff at the moment. I work two to three days at a movie rental place here as a clerk. And the rest of the time I work on illustration, comics, and that sort of thing. But I might have to switch to a more regular schedule soon.

Part of me misses working retail. Do you enjoy that process at all, or is it more just something that you have to do for money?

Well, I do enjoy it. for one because I just enjoy weird movies and I love being around creepy customers. It’s a social environment to counter all of the time spent alone, staring at paper. I think it actually keeps me kind of sane. I think I need a kind of structure like that, outside the realm of the things I make myself do for myself. It’s necessary for me, I think.

Do you make a mental catalog of the sort of weirdos who come through the door?

Well, maybe that’s too harsh to call them all “weirdos.” There are random people who do pop in and out, and I do think that movies draw a kind of interesting crowd, but I wouldn’t say I catalog it too much. I just enjoy it.

Was this ability to work two or three days a week afforded to you by having had back to back books out on Fantagraphics and Top Shelf?

Uh, no. That really has nothing to do with it. It’s really most the random illustration jobs that I get. And it’s just kind of living cheaply in general. It is kind of an indulgence to not work a 9 to 5 job. Which, I might do that again, sometime soon. I need to finish some things I’m working on now. I think I kind of like that, too, on occasion, so there isn’t so much pressure on working on stuff independently, in terms of making money and lifestyle. I think that just to relieve that pressure would be nice.

What percentage of the stuff that you work on during the day is illustration and what percent is comics?

It really depends on if I have work lined up or not. If I’m not getting any illustration work, then I’ll just work on comics for the whole day.

Do you always have a comics project waiting, if you don’t have other work lined up?

Yeah, kind of. I don’t know how that worked out, but yeah. There’s always some sort of long-term project boiling up. I’m really excited now that I’m in the Mome anthology, because then it’s a sort of a constant venue that I have for my work. So it’s exciting for me to now think about that.

Is that the deal with Mome? Whenever you have new stuff it will appear in the new issue?

I believe so. I’m actually not totally sure because I’m going to be in the next one for the first time. My understanding of it is that, once you’re in it, you’re allowed to contribute to each issue, quarterly. I’m not sure if they accept everything or everything or how that works. But, regardless of that, it’s just sort of a great motivation to make more short stories, basically.

So your work for the new Mome is a one-off?

It was 32 pages—the story was actually for something else, actually, that then got cancelled. That was pretty heartbreaking, actually [laughs]. So I was just sitting on this full-color story and I didn’t really know how to put it out, and then it ended up that it could be included in Mome. That was really exciting to me.

Was The Lagoon your first long-form piece?

Um, well, I kind of think of Woodsman Pete as being one continuous story. I think of that as being my first long-form story, even though it’s sort of broken up into vignettes. I think the bits and pieces all connect in a way that sort of makes it all one piece. But I guess, yeah, more distinctly, as one united story, The Lagoon is the longest thing I’ve done and my first “official” long story.

Was Woodsman Pete broken up that way because it was issued as minis?

Yeah. I was submitting them to the school paper. And as I was thinking of it more as a book after putting out the second mini comic, I started thinking about them as a whole and including the Paul Bunyan character and tying the stories together.

So working on a long-form piece is really something you’ve been interested in for as long as you’ve been doing comics?

Yeah, it’s exciting. I still don’t know know how to do it well [laughs].

In the literary sense, The Lagoon reads like a short story. Do you think of it that way, at all?

Yeah, somewhere between a poem and a short story, I’d say. Certainly not like a novel. It’s weird comparing comics to books, in terms of novels and short stories, because what defines “short?” you can read a comic so quickly, and so much of The Lagoon is this sort of ambient feeling and sound. I don’t know if that makes it long or short or what. But the content is definitely that of a short story and it kind of resolves itself more as a poem.

The use of sound in the story was an interesting choice, particularly given that it was created using a silent medium. Is it hard to rely so heavily on sound in a comic book?

I wasn’t pulling my hair. It was fun. I liked playing around with it as a visual, throughout the story and trying to figure out ways to visualize it. I really wanted to create a certain sound, and I felt like sound was the way to do that.  I had to spell it out, but when you’re reading a book, you really hear it in your head. I really wanted to create that kind of space. I don’t know if it worked for other people, but when I read those sounds, with the pacing from panel to panel, I feel like it created a mood that I really wanted.

[Continued in Part Two]

–Brian Heater

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2 Comments to “Interview: Lilli Carre Pt. 1 [of 3]”

  1. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Jan. 22, 2009: Game over on the current model
  2. The Daily Cross Hatch » Interview: Lilli Carre Pt. 2 [of 3]