An Interview with Kari McElroy on Cafe Macabre

kari“I spend my days drawing pictures and telling lies. Could it get any better?”

Kari McElroy is an Indianapolis-based writer and artist. She has two ridiculous and hilarious dogs, travels the world, and produces the weekly webcomic “Regarding Dandelions.” This lady is spectacularly talented and a powerhouse contribution to this collection!

(She didn’t write this bio)

  • How long have you been writing?

I’ve been telling stories for as long as I can remember. When I was in third grade, I wrote a 13-page horror story which was basically Crime & Punishment-length for a 9 year old. Or that’s what it felt like. My life’s work at 9.

  • Tell me about the piece you contributed to this collection. What inspired it?

My story is about a woman in an emotionally abusive relationship who finds dark escape in her sleeping mind. That said, my inspiration is going to sound TERRIBLE: my partner partially inspired this one. Bear with me. He didn’t inspire the husband character – he has the liveliest sleep life I’ve ever witnessed. I’ve seen him wander around, play on his phone, have conversations – everything. The man is a sleeping marvel. At times, though, the stuff he sleep-chatters about is downright terrifying. Spending years witnessing this sort of separate sleep life with no waking awareness definitely played into the inspiration for this story.

  • Did you “pants” your way through your story, or did you have an outline/plan in mind?

Oh gosh, I’m an outliner. My tangents are many and sprawling. I have to keep thatkari5 nonsense in check.

  • Where do you come up with ideas for your stories? What inspired the story you wrote for this collection?

My ideas come from all over the place. It just depends. It can be someone I see at a restaurant that I make up a story about or something that happens in my life that grows into some grand fiction. Anything. I think that’s part of being a writer: we can lie about anything. It just depends how far the lie goes.

  • Do you have any rituals or quirks when you’re writing?

I pace CONSTANTLY, which makes it really hard to sit and knock a piece out. I’ll be writing and get really good momentum and suddenly have to fly out of my chair and race circles around the house. Movement is good for thought, but it’s not ideal when you need to be writing down your thoughts.

  • What was the first thing you ever wrote?

Ever? I used to make up newspapers, drawing little photos and captions and making up sensational stories, usually about how my uncle was an alien. I can now confirm he’s not an alien. That was fake news.

  • What are you working on right now that has you excited?

Is it cliched to say Café Macabre? Because this is definitely one of my tops. But I’ve also been working on revamping a comic I’ve been working on for a few years along with a couple little hush-hush plans I’m tending to. It’s hard for me not to get excited about work. I spend my days drawing pictures and telling lies. Could it get any better?

  • What is your favorite book, author, or genre?

Ohhhhhhhhhh hell. This is an impossible question. I love Raw Shark Texts by Stephen Hall, and House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. They’re both dark and creative and play with text on the page in phenomenal ways. I also recently read and loved Where’d You Go Bernadette? By Maria Semple. I love masters of their craft in whatever form that takes: creative formatting, vivid characters, manipulation of words, etc. I love reading someone being amazing at whatever they’re amazing at.

  • What song would you play as the soundtrack to the piece you wrote for this collection, and why?

Kneejerk reaction: Sleepwalker by The Kinks. Too on the nose?

  • What advice would you give to new writers?
  1. Whatever it takes, write. Write the thing. Don’t get caught up in too many details in the beginning: just get it out. You can always overhaul it later.
  2. Don’t try to be the next Whoever-Famous-Writer. That’s a recipe for disaster. They’re already them and I’m sure they’re great and would probably be awesome to have a beer with, but you’re YOU and that’s what should be cultivated.

kari4

  • How long have you been creating artistic pieces?

Art has always been part of my life. I was raised by a painter and a woodworker – I didn’t stand a chance. It was like being adopted by Bob Ross and Ron Swanson.

  • Tell me about the piece you’ve contributed to this collection. I love to hear about the process.

This one stressed me out a little bit. Most of my artistic energy is spent on graphic novel work, but I didn’t want this to feel cartoony in any way. I spent a lot of time looking through the art from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Remember those books? They scared the hell out of me when I was a kid (and maybe a little now? Are we being that honest?). I don’t have the skill set to emulate the work – I still don’t know how the artist does it – but I tried to get that creepy vibe in my mind as I went forward with my piece.

  • What’s the most challenging thing you’ve worked on, and what made it so?

kari7

My comic series, Regarding Dandelions, constantly challenges me. It’s less so as the years have gone on and I’ve worn a comfy groove into the ground, but the beginning was rocky for a very long time, and it still throws me a challenge every once in a while. I didn’t know nearly enough about making comics when I started, and it shows. But it was a good kind of struggle and even though I look back now at what I made in the beginning and literally cringe, I can be proud that I fought through the challenges and still do. Art is an evolution – you just have to be either too determined or too dumb to quit.

  • What is the first piece of art you created?

I honestly don’t know. I’ve just always done it. It’s kinda like asking about the first bite of food I took. It definitely happened, and I probably loved it, but I can’t remember any specifics.

  • What’s your favorite medium and why?

It changes all the time! My work is typically digital, but if I’m doing something just for fun or for a commission or whatever, I’ll typically try to branch out and try something new. Lately I’ve been working on my gouache skills. I’m not great at it, but I’ve really been having fun with the learning process.

kari6

  • Do you have any rituals or quirks when you’re creating?

When I’m making a piece of visual art, there’s a lot of side-eyeing the piece. I have to get up and walk away from it, come back and wander around it, glaring at it from different angles. Movement is pretty big in my creative process, but visual art gets an extra helping of side-eye.

  • What other projects do you have coming up?

Art-wise, Regarding Dandelions keeps me pretty consistently busy. I pick up commissions here and there, depending on time. I’m also doing editing and, thanks to Café Macabre, I’ve been inspired to go back to a novel I set aside for a while. All sorts of stuff all across the board!

  • What song would you play as the piece you created for this collection, and why?

The Misfits “Die, Die, My Darling”. 😉

  • Who is your favorite artist, or the artist who has most influenced you?

I adore Egon Schiele’s work. I love his comfort with the grotesque. I love, love, love Artemisia Gentileschi. She was a Baroque-era powerhouse and survived unthinkable circumstances to become one of the greatest artists of her time. She was nearly forgotten by history, but I’m happy to say her story and her work are resurging more every day. Consider this doing my part to tell more people about this incredible artist.

  • What advice would you give to new artists?

Take in art like it will save your life. Learn to need it like you need food or water. I rarely endorse consumerism, but consume art like there’s no tomorrow.

Learn enough technique to break the rules.

Maybe most importantly: LEARN ERGONOMICS. Your 30-something self will thank you.

kari2

 

 

 

 

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