Tuesday, 12 April 2016

The Dust on the Moth

The Dust on the Moth - a multimedia novel brought to life through crowdfunding

A new work of fiction has just come to my attention, an ambitious hardback made in Notts and so original it’s difficult to describe sober. Let me try: Anna, along with Adam (her twin brother), and Henry (her boyfriend), are viewing a rental opportunity - 8 Asgard Street - an eerie gaff with a voyeuristic landlord who flits between creepy and monstrous. This modern Brothers Grimm set up runs parallel to another otherworldly story, a dark fantasy set in a lurid alternate universe that shines a light on our own. Artistic illustrations and photographs accompany the chapters (the book even comes with a six track soundtrack that could be from a sci-fi flick) in this literary feast of rich prose, engaging dialogue and colliding lives. This book is unique, the result of an author’s unfretted talent at work and play. It rings with intrigue and unease. As it is impossible to describe The Dust on the Moth in one word, I'll give you seven: Experimental. Rich. Creative. Political. Philosophical. Fantastical. Visual.
The Dust on the Moth, produced by a local publisher, was funded through Kickstarter. Wanting to know more about this undertaking I invited its creative producer to write a guest post. Enjoy:
My name is Kirsty Fox. I’m a creative producer with Bees Make Honey Creative CIC, a social enterprise for local creative industries. In March 2015, we got together with writer Darren Simpson to launch a Kickstarter campaign to publish his book, The Dust on the Moth. In March this year, we officially launched the finished product into the world after months of nail-biting drama and good old-fashioned elbow grease.

The Dust on the Moth is a book, but also a bit more than a book. A collaboration between a writer, illustrator, photographer and creative producer (me), the finished work lies somewhere between illustrated literary fiction, photographic journal, objet d’art and graphic novel. There’s also a soundtrack for it, just to add another dimension. A dark and funny science fiction fairytale about the collision of two worlds, Darren’s novel-length story was picked up in raw form by myself a few years ago, when I was looking for more work to publish under Bees Make Honey Press. Bound for the slush pile because it was too ambitious and strange for the UK’s timid publishing industry, Darren’s ode to number 8 Asgard Street now sees the light of day with thanks to our friends, family, fans and the Kickstarter community.

Publishing fiction as an independent press is really hard; it can be a huge gamble and there’s generally not much money to be made. It has to be done for the love. As Bees Make Honey (who also organise events and offer creative business support), we weren’t in a financial position to put the novel out off our own backs, so we decided to look at crowdfunding as an option. We’ve always been interested in thinking outside the box when it comes to publishing and our core team of myself, Dan Layton and Phil Formby have a varied skill set (writing, editing, illustration, design, photography, video and music), so it seemed logical to do something a bit different – something that was more likely to capture the imagination of the general public and local creative community.

And so we began developing The Dust on the Moth as a multimedia creature. The nature of the book suits and adapts to this really well. There’s a lot of strong imagery in the book and many memorable characters, but at the same time it has this abstract metaphysical quality which really lends itself to inspiring a whole hinterland. We didn’t just want to create literal illustrations, but to play on the intense atmosphere and the breadth of ideas that spin out between the colliding worlds of Asgard Street and Midgard. The former is very small, claustrophobic and self-contained, with just four characters who rarely seem to leave this tiny realm. The latter is a whole planet with a system of governance and a rather fantastical story which touches on the lives of multiple characters. 

We put together a selection of initial illustrations and photographs and Dan began working on a soundtrack under his musical alias Apalusa. We then organised a launch party for the Kickstarter campaign with an exhibition of the artwork and live music from local bands The Cusp and Grawl!x, alongside Apalusa playing some of the music from the soundtrack, featuring Graham Langley of slowcore legends, Savoy Grand. 

The crowdfunding campaign was an experience in itself. Having to promote something to a certain deadline is quite nail biting and takes over your life somewhat. You get to a point where you’re sat in the pub with a friend and you mention it, and they’ll say they didn’t know you were running the campaign, and you’re dumbstruck because you feel like you’ve tweeted about it so many times and you’re barely able to talk about anything else. It’s very intense and not an experience I’d like to relive too often. But also it’s a fabulous way to get an audience really deeply involved in a project and invested in the outcome. I would recommend it as a way forward with collaborative projects in general, though I’m not sure how good a tool it would be for, for example, self-publishing a book. If you’re doing everything by yourself, it’s very draining and potentially damaging to your self-esteem when things aren’t going so great!

I think it was also generally beneficial to Darren Simpson as an author to work on something collaborative. Writing can be a lonesome thing! Darren has the following to say of the experience:
“Writing is indeed a very lonesome thing - hence most of my writing sessions tend to end with a little cry in the dark. But seriously, working with Bees Make Honey was a great experience, and not only because of the social element. It was really exciting and educational to see each member of the group bring their own insight, interpretation and expertise to the story, and to watch as The Dust on the Moth evolved from manuscript to cohesive, multimedia creation. It's now become much more than the sum of its parts; it's almost a living, breathing, self-contained microcosm of its own, which feels very true to the story itself.”

We were really lucky with the response and help we got from the local community. Most of those who contributed were local to the East Midlands (though there was also a big chunk of Germans thanks to Darren’s wife’s family!). It was a humbling experience and we really feel very proud of the finished product. While the initial illustrations and photographs gave a good taster, some of the gems that developed later on really are quite something. The final book can now be purchased from our website here. You can also get your mitts on it in the wonderful Five Leaves Bookshop. 

Further information and can be found at Darren Simpson’s writer’s blog.
More images from the book can be found on our instagram page with ‘Image of the day’.
More on Dan Layton Design & Illustration.
More photography and video work by Philip Formby.
@beesmakehoneycc on twitter
Bees Make Honey on Facebook

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