Back in 2011 (holy hell, has it been that long??) I was a fledging author with a book deal and a burning urge to explore the world of writing for comics/graphic novels. But I knew it was a tough field and I hadn’t ever really considered how I would go about it.
Enter Irma ‘Aimo’ Ahmed. Aimo was what you might call a BNF (Big Name Fan) in the world of BioWare fan art (particularly Dragon Age/Mass Effect) and I had been a huge fan of her work for a very long time. I reached out to her on a whim, knowing that I absolutely wanted to work with her in some fashion, but we had never met each other, or even connected online, which makes it a bit difficult.
In the meantime, my first book had just been published (A Brush of Darkness), so I sent her an inquiry about doing some custom sketch card art for my series and hired her to do just that. (Said cards are currently framed in my upstairs hallway and I smile every time I see them.)
From there, I asked if she might be interested in a collaboration of sorts, split the profit and see what we could do. By a stroke of luck, she agreed, and we started brainstorming. In the meantime, we wanted to make sure we could actually work together – after all, we still hadn’t actually met, and she lived half-way around the world from me. (And we did manage to meet up in 2015, and again in 2019 – but we keep up in almost daily contact via LINE.) We started a mini series of illustrated fan fiction where I wrote *her* characters and she conjured up some lovely vignettes to go with the prose, posted on Tumblr and a few private ones just for fun.
Based on that, we decided to write a short comic. A one-shot. Something small, to see if I could write a script that she could capture with her art.
10 years later…
*insert hysterical laughter here*
Yeah, so, it turned out the small story erupted into a huge story and here we are, somewhere in our 5th arc and counting. (And really, this is no small feat. Collaborations can be touchy at the best of times – the fact that we’re still here and creating is something of a miracle, and one I’m grateful for.)
So what is Fox & Willow all about? Well, when we were playing around ideas and concepts, we thought fairy tales would be a fun thing to work with. After all, there are so many out there, and on the surface they often don’t give female characters as much agency as we might want. At the time, I was more interested in possibly exploring Asian folklore – but Aimo is from Malaysia and was all about the European tales that I grew up with.
In the end, we compromised with Asian characters placed into the backdrop of European fairy tale settings. Essentially, we follow the adventures of Willow, a runaway princess and Gideon, a fox-spirit/kitsune who has had a curse placed upon him in the form of a collar that cannot be removed. The longer it remains around his neck, the more he loses himself, eventually dooming him to become nothing more than a fox, even as Willow has to come to grips with her own past and what it is she really wants.
Although each volume of Fox & Willow is a separate, stand-alone fairy tale, the overall arc of redemption and finding out who they are and what they mean to each other is a constant theme throughout. The volumes include references to Twa’ Sisters, The Little Mermaid, Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood and currently the Snow Queen, exploring a number of potential concepts. (What if The Little Mermaid actually *does* kill the prince? What if the tower is an erupting volcano in Rapunzel? What if Red Riding Hood is in a poly relationship with the woodcutter and a shape-changing wolf?)
There is something intrinsic about fairy tales that touches people. The possibilities to change them up are endless –and old as they are, somehow references to them are still a deep part of the modern society hive mind. (Case in point – Aimo sent me a slew of limited edition Hello Kitty fairy tale plushies that were Malaysian specials from her local McDonald’s – the Snow White, I would have expected. The Singing Bone, I would not – but now I have a Singing Bone Hello Kitty plush, and It. Is. Amazing.)
Fox & Willow has been a long work in process and a labor of love – over ten years now, of two pages a week, all for free, with the occasional hiatus. The world has changed so much in the last decade, but we’re still here and we’re still writing this fairy tale. Now we’re getting a chance to bring these tales into physical hardcopy thanks to Outland Entertainment and KickStarter, and we look forward to continuing to do so.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Allison is the author of the Urban Fantasy Abby Sinclair series, the steampunk IronHeart Chronicles series and also the writer for the webcomic Fox & Willow. She likes LEGOS, elves, LEGO elves…and bacon.
To learn more about Allison, go to https://www.heartofthedreaming.com/.