MOME Interview 1: Paul Hornschemeier

gg: Do you consider this to be the story of the child or the father? Or both equally?

ph: I would certainly say both. To me, it’s this strange letter from the boy to the father, more than anything. “This is me, now, looking back at the things that happened. Trying to take a look at these things. I understand where you were at that point now, I certainly don’t have any judgment against you for that.”

{mosimage}But ultimately, I suppose it’s really the story of the father, because the child is just this ghost drifting through, trying to affect things, but ultimately, because he’s 7 years old, not being able to grab ahold of anything and really affect it. In a way, his role as the narrator looking back is very accurate in that he really thinks he’s doing things like rescuing his father from the mental hospital when of course, his father has just signed himself out, and I think that’s how things are through the whole story.

gg: When I read it the first time, I didn’t realize what was coming, and I was somewhat startled when I realized what was about to happen at the end. A feeling of dread came over me. In a way, it was pretty audacious of you to have that grim, almost nihilistic ending. Was the rationale for that simply that the father just couldn’t handle the suffering, the emotional stress…

{product_snapshot:id=929,true,false,true,right}ph: Right. I think what I was trying to get at there is that sometimes people really are just lost and that sometimes they are not going to come back. I think it was certainly a little bit fictionalized as far as the way I think it might more typically happen, in that the father is a little bit more cognizant of his departure from reality. But ultimately, it’s about these events that have taken place, and he’s… It’s not just that there was grief and the mother died, but obviously there’s a very active role he took in some of the things that happened there, but I don’t want to give away anything in the book for people who haven’t read it. This certainly wasn’t anything about me saying, “Life is horrible and everyone should just go off themselves,” but ultimately saying that when somebody is basically gone to us already, physical death doesn’t really mean much. That was simply the case with the father. For me it seemed in that story, he’s already gone and Thomas doesn’t have a father anyway. That was obviously one of the difficulties he was struggling with.

gg: In the story in this volume of MOME, you’re depicting a woman who’s also struggling.

ph: Yes, different struggles, but everybody struggles.

gg: So struggling, maybe struggling with inner demons would be a leitmotif…

{mosimage}ph: Right, in fact to get back to the familial thing, which is one of the major things in this story in MOME. There’re sort of two ends to it. The main character, Amy Breis, has grown up in a single parent family, her mother is really the only parent that she has. She’s struggling with her relationship with her mother in that her mother is just a clerk at a retail store, and that’s all she’s ever been doing through the entirety of Amy’s life. And Amy’s finding herself in the same loop, just working at some place, punching in 9 to 5, or in today’s world, 8:30 to 5:30, and really disgusted by that, and trying to rebel against that, but doesn’t really know how to, because she doesn’t have any paradigm otherwise. So there’s that, and then simultaneously, she’s trying to figure out what’s going on with her romantic life in that with every person that she pursues or who pursues her, there’s at most a sexual connection and that’s it, and the only person she has any real, deeper connection with lives half a country away. It’s more struggles. But she does have sex at least once in the book, that’s already a vast improvement over the excitement of my previous books. [Groth laughs.]

gg: Progress.

ph: With an ice cream vendor, at that.

gg: Do you allow room for spontaneous creative inspiration while you’re putting the story together?

{mosimage}ph: Usually the technique that I’ve found that works the best is taking all these old scraps of paper and basically I just type them into to a word processor document, then I’ll start to write stuff in between scenes, I’ll start tacking stuff into scenes I’ve already written, and starting to flesh it out, and then I’ll actually end up with a pretty full script. But that’s going to go through three, four revisions, and even once I’ve actually got the script, I’ll start saying, “well, that doesn’t work as one page, that needs to be two, the pacing is all wrong,” so I’ll start hacking stuff up that way. Usually, once it gets to the finished script it’s fairly finalized but it would be completely irresponsible of me to not change at all. And often there’s something that you’ll type that feels right, and then you go to put in a panel, and it’s just “No, this is way too verbose,” or “This needs to be split over two panels,” or whatever, it’s something you have to be organic about, or you’re not going to be honest with the comic at all.