Jon Eastman is the talented writer behind 13 Legends and Murder & Midnight. Jon’s passion for writing graphic novels is evident in all of his projects. With several items in the works and a Kickstarter, Jon took time out of his busy schedule to talk to FangirlNation.com about what he’s working on now
FGN: Could you give a brief description of the work for those unaware of Murder and Midnight?
Jon Eastman: Murder & Midnight is the story of Raith, a man who wants nothing more than to forget his past and live out his life in peace. He flees the war-torn mainland and travels as far as any ship can take him – to a distant island at the edge of the world, his only companions his two black birds. It’s not known who Raith is, how he came by the strange symbol burned into his hand, what affliction causes him to constantly sip a flask of an unknown elixir, or how it is he’s able to communicate with his pets with a mere thought… but one thing’s for certain, he’s been damaged in every way a man can be: mind, body and soul.
For a time, it seems like his luck has changed, and Raith finds a home with a farmer and his young niece. But when the medicine that eases Raith’s waking nightmares runs low, he must find the key ingredient or face the demons that threaten to drive him to madness. And all the while, unknown to him, the past he so desperately wanted to escape is headed his way…
FGN: What were your inspirations for Murder and Midnight? How long have you been working on the story? Is the story personal to you?
Jon Eastman: I’ve never had a story come about the way Murder & Midnight did. It actually started as a dream – very detached and surreal – of a dying man on a snowy cliff with a huge city burning in the distance. I’ve used bits of dreams in writing before, but I’ve never taken one verbatim and explored and expanded it until it became a character and story. In that way, it’s a very unique project for me. I’m usually pretty focused on story structure and high concept ideas, so discovering what the plot might be from a few clues in an opening scene was a new approach for me. And I like it!
I’ve been working on Murder & Midnight, in some form or another, since… *looks at date on earliest file in folder*… May, 2010. It honestly feels longer though.
It’s a personal story in that I feel as though I really know these characters as people now, and, of course there are elements within the story that are personal, but hopefully not to a self indulgent degree. We all have our inner struggles and demons, and I think anyone can find a little of themself in a damaged character like Raith.
FGN: What is the significance behind the title Murder and Midnight? On whom did you base the main character, Raith?
Jon Eastman: Well, since you learn this in the opening pages, I guess it’s not a spoiler… Murder and Midnight are the names of Raith’s two birds, a small crow and a large raven. I didn’t base Raith on anyone specifically. There’s a little bit of a cowboy drifter feel to him, so I guess I took some cues from old gritty Westerns – but only in tone as opposed to setting.
FGN: Who is your favorite character to write?
Jon Eastman: I like Loach a lot. He’s a toady, sniveling, conniving and cowardly little man who’s utterly obsessed with treasure. Very fun to write.
Raith is the most challenging because he’s so unknowable – at least at first. It was hard to get him to come across the way I wanted. There’s so much subtlety. David [Ward] has had the challenge of conveying small moments that reveal his character visually. Raith is a man of few words.
FGN: You have an MFA in screenwriting. What are your favorite screenplays? Do you have anything else in the works at the moment?
Jon Eastman: Let’s see, favorite screenplays – I love Unforgiven by David Peoples, lots of Shane Black’s scripts are fun reads (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) there are actually lots… Truth be told though, after reading so many screenplays in the past, I rarely do these days (well, not for pleasure). I’m much more likely to be writing one than reading these days.
Yes! I have lots on my plate. Aside from Murder & Midnight, I also have a graphic novel series called 13 Legends, a dieselpunk-y alternate-history Arthurian myths mashup done in an HBO miniseries style. (serialized for free on http://13legends.com )
There’s also a webcomic project that I’ve work on with my brother for years that is this close to going into production. And I’m also developing a film script with some really talented (and patient) creative executives at a production company.
FGN: How did you and artist David Ward come to work together?
Jon Eastman: It’s been a few years now, but if memory serves me, I found David through conceptart.org. The storytelling skills shown in his sample work were so strong that he stood out from many of the other artists to me. At first, I’d been headed in a more traditional comics direction stylistically, but, talking it through with trusted friends, I was brought around to see how David’s unique style was really a match for the tone of the writing.
FGN: You, David Ward and Letterer Kelly Eastman currently have a Kickstarter Campaign. Why did you use Kickstarter to fund your collection? Why now?
Jon Eastman: I did a Kickstarter for the first book of 13 Legends in 2012 and it was a great experience – very rewarding. And the book turned out excellent. But the one thing I learned was that going to Kickstarter before the art was (at least mostly) done is really stressful. Backers have to wait a long time. So the reason why we’re going to Kickstarter now is because the artwork for book one is 95% done.
And why Kickstarter at all? While I have nothing against traditional publishing, I just don’t see the money to fund the trilogy there. Maybe others would disagree – and perhaps for good reason – but I just can’t make that math work. Anyone who wants to tell me different, please do! Would love to hear it. The other aspect is that we get to do the exact book we want, from start to finish. That’s hard to beat.
FGN: Currently the story is available on http://murdermidnight.com/ . Do you plan to continue the story after this first collection is printed?
Jon Eastman: We’ve been releasing a page per week for the last 18 months or so, and hope to continue to do so. Currently our plan is to move on to book two after the Kickstarter. We really want to see this story through. Hopefully, the readers will like it enough to help us make it commercially viable. It’s great to have critical acclaim, and encouraging notes from readers really do keep the morale up, but we also need money to produce the books!
FGN: You currently live and work in San Francisco. Do you find inspiration in the city itself?
Jon Eastman: There are few places on the planet like San Francisco. It’s such a great place to live. As a creative person, it would be impossible to be here and not have the city influence you and your work. It’s also great that there are lots of other artists in every field, everywhere you look. I try not to take it for granted.
FGN: Where can our readers follow your current exploits? Where is the best place for them to get involved should they wish to help with Murder & Midnight?
Jon Eastman: To help Murder & Midnight you can get a gorgeous hardcover book by backing us on Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/82329076/murder-and-midnight-book-1
Sharing the project on social media would be a huge help too. It’s so hard to break through the noise these days.
To keep up with my various exploits you can follow me on Twitter: @joneastman2