“The book is based on real moments, but none of the characters are real people” we talk to Scott Jason Smith about his debut graphic novel Marble Cake
We loved the quiet minutiae of Scott Jason Smith’s debut graphic novel Marble Cake when we reviewed it recently and were keen to kind out more about the meaning behind this fascinating world. We caught up with Jason to find out more.
Marble Cake follows the lives of a group of people in South London, but mainly shop assistant Tracy. Can you tell us a bit about what inspired the story? Was it individual moments which you wanted to capture and develop into a story? Or did you have an over-arching theme you wanted to look at and so the characters grew from there?
Scott Jason Smith: I guess it was individual moments that I sort of stitched together and crossed over. I knew when I came up with the idea of Tracy’s story that it would be a longer piece… the other stories were originally short strip ideas I had knocking about. When I revisited Tracy’s story and decided to develop it, it made sense to merge in the shorts I’d already written.
I set the book in London mainly because the job-hunting character uses the tube, but it’s an imaginary area of London. In future I plan to create work using real places and possibly real people.
You seem to really capture the minutiae of some of your characters’ worlds, were any of them based on real people? Or real moments? And which were your favourite characters to write and would you revisit any of them in the future?
SJS: Much of the content and dialog is stuff I’ve overheard or witnessed, so yeah, a lot of the book is based on real moments, but none of the characters are real people. My favourite characters are probably the two boys that wander about annoying people, so if I were to revisit any characters it’d most likely be them, although not in main roles, just floating around in the background like they do in Marble Cake.
The story feels very grounded and very real – you don’t seem to rely on hyperbole or sensation to tell your story- is that an important part of the process for you as a graphic novelist? Or is it a reflection of the books and work which inspire you?
SJS:Yeah, I read/watch a lot of realism and I find it easier to write stories based around the everyday (more or less). In the future I’d like to branch out into different genres, just got to wait for those ideas to come!
Your artwork has quite a regimented feel to it, using 6 panel for many of the pages, and then breaking out into full page spreads where needed. Was that a conscious choice to give yourself structure? Or is it just your preferred way of working?
SJS:It was a conscious choice, I like a six-panel grid and I wanted to keep the layout quite rigid to symbolize the repetitiveness of going to work, going to the shops, watching TV etc. The full-page spreads allow the book to breath every now and then.
For people who are new to your work, is this your first graphic novel? And what other work can we see of yours?
SJS:Yep, this is my first graphic novel, but I used to put out photocopied mini comics years ago. I stopped self-publishing a while back (although I reckon I’ll start up again) and have since just submitted the odd strip to an anthology or posted them on my website. So, to see more visit scottjasonsmith.com, there’s some comics on there.
And finally, I assume the book is named after the cake which Tracy’s mum makes for her – but what is your favourite type of cake? Marble cake also?
SJS: Probably lemon drizzle or carrot cake, a slice of each of those and that’s 2 of your 5 a day! But yeah, the title came from the cake making but is also relates to the slice of life feel to the book and the mix of characters.