Happy Friday Farmhands!
Next week we’ll start serializing “BOOK 2” of Fishflies for paid subscribers, so this week I thought I would get into the genesis of Fishflies a little bit and let you look into my sketchbooks at the earliest character designs and drawings I did for it.
After finishing Mazebook and Sweet Tooth: The Return I was searching around for the next project I would both write and draw. All I had was one loose idea for a scene that I had been carrying around in my head for about two years. This idea was a scene at night, where a few teenage kids in a small town go to the convenience store on a summer night, and find it covered in fishflies. Then they dare one of the kids from their group to walk across the swarm of fishflies to get to the store.
Back in Essex County where I grew up, these fishflies would come every summer for a week or two and they would blanket streets and cover storefronts. It was disgusting, but also kind of amazing in a way.
From here I only had loose ideas about doing a crime based small town story. I knew there would be a robbery and a terrible shooting that would send shockwaves through the town.
I hadn’t really done a “crime” story before. I am a huge fan of Brubaker and Phillips and the incredible body of work they have been able to produce in the crime genre and I thought it would be fun to doing a crime book but filtered through my own style and aesthetic.
So I started working on the book and story in December ’20 and January ‘21 but it sort of stalled on me after the initial scene with the store and kids. I floundered for a bit and debated putting the idea aside for another day, but then I had a crazy idea about the fishflies swarming the man who robbed the store and how he would actually transform into a bug himself. It was a wild departure from the “crime” story I was looking to do, but it felt pretty exciting in new ways and I started playing around with this idea in my sketchbooks.
There was still one missing ingredient though and that turned out to be Franny. She sort of came fully formed. The idea of this lost, bullied outsider kid befriending and hiding the bug was what really got things going. It all started to flow from there and branch off in all sorts of directions (many of these new directions will be introduced in the coming “Book 2”).
Fishflies has continued to grow in scope since then. Those early ideas made up the first part of “Book 1” but the story has turned into something much bigger than I originally thought it would be. There are still elements of a crime story in here but now horror, magical realism, fantasy and even historical drama have worked their way into it.
I realize the first book was a bit of a slow burn into the world of Fishflies, but when it all starts to come together in Book 2 I think this pacing will really pay off. I’m excited for you all to read where it goes from here and for all the new characters and storylines coming. I’ll be taking a short break, but plan to pick back up early 2022 with BOOK 2 PART 1! In the meantime, do not fret, I do have some surprises in store until then, so stay tuned.
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As someone who lives almost dead center of the County, it was always interesting to travel to Tecumseh or Kingsville during the Fishfly season, now it's almost a county wide thing. At the height of their brief reign I'll even find the odd one on laundry hung on the line.