Please welcome Rebecca Goldfield as today’s Wednesday’s Guest. She is the author of The Captive of Friendly Cove, the graphic novel I reviewed on Sunday, and she is here answering a few interview questions. We can all share some donuts while we get acquainted with Rebecca.
Hello Rebecca. So nice to have you here for a visit.
Your background is in documentary films. Tell us how you transitioned to graphic novels and what aspects of these two forms of storytelling are similar.
I live part-time in Washington, D.C. and had met several of the local comics artists who formed the DC Conspiracy, a comics collective, including the contributors to Captive of Friendly Cove. As a documentary writer/producer, I was intrigued by the idea of a visual narrative told in book form. The process of making a documentary and a graphic novel are actually incredibly similar. In each medium, the image is the dominant element; you want to be sure the words enhance but never duplicate the image. In each you have a rich array of tools available to tell your story: character, conflict, plot, images, color, interior thoughts, dialogue, narrative, and sound. But of course films play out in time and books in physical space.
What inspired you to tell John Jewitt’s story in a graphic novel?
In reading both the journal and the narrative, there was tremendous time spent describing John’s world; what a house looked like; and how the people fished, made a canoe, or built a house. I thought we could convey much of that descriptive material through the art, which freed me up to focus on the action, drama, characters, and actual story as I envisioned it. I was also interested in trying to write a young adult graphic novel, and had been keeping an eye out for a sympathetic young protagonist who faced tremendous odds and had to overcome them in order to survive. John Jewitt was the perfect candidate for just such a story.
What are the benefits of telling stories through pictures?
I think graphic novels and nonfiction comics can reach reluctant readers in a way no other can, by captivating the visual imagination. They can be an amazing tool for learning and engagement that cannot be found in any other medium. When we connect ideas and lessons to a visual picture, we reach the brain on two separate levels. In our increasingly visual culture, I think the graphic novel will be a great way to connect to students efficiently and effectively.
What captivated you about this story? What distinguishes it from other tales of English encounters with Native Americans?
I was captivated by this captive (couldn’t help myself!). The story had all the elements of a great tale: a sympathetic central character with a desperate desire for something, who faces nearly insurmountable challenges both in his physical environment and between the people who inhabit it. Captive is, at its heart, a coming-of-age tale. John is an untested young man in a tremendously challenging situation, and the stakes are nothing short of his survival.
What do you want readers to take away from the Mowachaht culture depictedin the book?
First, that this was an ancient, rich, and an incredibly successful culture, exquisitely adapted to its environment. We can all learn to respect the environment as they did. There was also tremendous kindness and generosity in their culture, as well as misunderstanding and conflict. To John, what happened to the Boston was a “massacre.” To the people there, it was at least in part a reaction to the many transgressions of the white explorers and traders. Despite this, John was treated with respect and was integrated into the tribe.
Captive seems very concerned with the idea of identity and home. John is torn at the end of the book about leaving Maquinna and his new life in Friendly Cove. Why do you think that the real John left?
My feeling is that John always wanted to go back home and never fully adapted to his new life, despite Maquinna’s generous efforts to bring him into the culture. Over time he fell apart physically and mentally. John was an outsider of the lowest rank, a slave, albeit a cherished one. Despite this, he was able to form human attachments, bonds, and a family. He connected with the people he found so foreign and different. Living in a polarized society ourselves, I think we all do well to try to understand the essential humanity we share and strive to not demonize the “other.” We inhabit a small planet with limited resources and a very brief sliver of time we call our life.
You can find out more about the book and the creative team at the Fulcrom Publishing website.