Rogues Portal had the opportunity to chat with writer Jeremy Holt about his book Skip to the End, which will be available from Insight Comics today June 12, 2018. Check out the Q&A below!
1. How do you pitch Skip to the End to potential readers?
Jeremy Holt (JH): I pitch it (to anyone that cares to listen) by referencing a visceral experience that we all share: hearing a song that instantly transports us to a specific time and place. For all of us, music, and smells too, are time machines.
2. Where did the idea for it originate?
JH: STTE is the byproduct of my profound love and active interest in music that has spanned over two decades. I’ve long believed in my little elevator pitch for this book, before I knew that this feeling we all experience could be translated into a story. The book eventually took shape once I discovered and became obsessed with the band Nirvana.
3. Did you have to research a lot before writing this comic, or did you have all that Nirvana/90s culture knowledge stored in your brain already?
JH: A bit of both. I was born a bit too late to have appreciated Nirvana during their apex of fame/popularity. Even though I was too young to appreciate their debut album Bleach, or get to see them perform live, I do distinctly remember a friend telling me when Cobain died. I wasn’t even living in the country at the time and was only aware of the band. Truth be told, the “cool” kids in my grade listened to all of that music, that, at the time, felt too sharp for me. It’s ironic to me that I didn’t feel comfortable listening to music made for and by outsiders, when I was a bit of an outsider myself.
I did do a considerable amount of research for this project though, and in some ways it hasn’t ever really stopped. I’ve watched, read, and listened to just about everything that Nirvana has ever produced, and even took it a step further by learning about the rich history behind the DIY music scene that slowly developed in the northwest during the mid 80s. This educational tour has taken me to AA meetings in dusty church basements, all the way to Cobain’s former mansion that overlooks Lake Washington. My love for the band, the scene, and everything in between has left an indelible mark on me.
4. I love a sci-fi story with depth, and what immediately struck me about Skip to the End is
the recovery narrative at its core. Can you talk more about why you went this route?
JH: I wanted the protagonist to be a drug addict, so that I could explore the complexities of addiction. I am also drawn to redemption stories, and felt that I could tell one with an intriguing time-travel twist.
5. What is your writing process like? Did you know how Johnny’s story would end from the
JH: I certainly have a method to my writing, but I rarely know how a story is going to end when I start work on it. I am a huge proponent of outlining, which is where I do a lot of my heavy lifting plot-wise. It’s during this phase that I’ll start to see an ending in mind. Sometimes it’ll change, but, more often than not, I’ll start connecting the various narrative components like a jigsaw puzzle, until they all snap into place to reveal the ending.
6. What was it like working with your creative team?
JH: A real joy. Alex and I co-created and collaborated on Southern Dog. There was no doubt in my mind that I’d work with him again. It was just about finding the right project. Since Alex and I have never met, nor had a conversation about music preferences, I wasn’t entirely sure if Skip to the End was going to interest him. He’s also young, 26, completely missed the grunge era, and was not part of the MTV generation.
When he had mentioned that he was available, I sent him my pitch materials, and he was on board the next day. It was actually fun to supply him with copious amounts of reference material: everything from 90s fashion to popular 90s Sub Pop bands to several MTV music videos.
7. What is your favorite Nirvana song?
JH: Oof. That’s a tough one. I think my favorite ebbs and flows with my current mood/disposition, so I’ll have to list a few. “In Bloom,” “Scentless Apprentice,” “Pennyroyal Tea,” “Aneurysm,” and “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle.”
8. Now, for the most important question: which side are you on in the whole Courtney Love
had something to do with Kurt’s death conspiracy?
JH: Wow! In the three years that I’ve spent working on this, you’re the first to ask me this. I’ve read about this from a myriad of perspectives. The evidence in favor of some kind of conspiracy is intriguing, but it all completely ignores the fact that Kurt was a man of constant contradiction. He was, as far as my years of research has yielded, not psychologically capable of handling his meteoric rise in fame. Even his closest friends were never entirely sure where his head was at any given moment, especially in the last year of his life. For the rest of us, it was unfathomable that someone with such promise in this life would just forfeit it. That sort of bias has influenced many to look for answers elsewhere that might explain something we don’t understand.
Perhaps the greatest insight I received about this was from a first-hand account. Several summers ago I had the opportunity to hang out with Stuart Murdoch. He asked me what I was working on, and I mentioned this story. He paused and said that he met the band once. My jaw dropped. He went on to explain that he used to work at one of the event spaces at the University of Glasgow. This was in the early fall of ‘91, just before Nevermind had made rock’n’roll history. He was responsible for supporting the local talent that came through, and Nirvana did. He spent maybe fifteen minutes with them, and said that they were all really nice guys. The things that he did notice about Kurt was that he was soft-spoken and polite, but carried a noticeable sadness with him. Stuart mentioned that there is only one other musician that he’s met that projected an identical sadness. When I asked who, he said Elliott Smith. There were a lot of parallels between Cobain and Smith’s life. Both came from damaged upbringings that failed to prepare them for the lives they ended up leading. Stuart saw something in both these guys that I believe is extremely telling, perhaps even slightly prophetic. As tragic as both their deaths are, it’d be naive for anyone to blame any one person for what happened.
9. On a less serious note, what comics/books/television are you enjoying these days?
JH: Haha! Nice 180 degree turn there, Anelise! What have I been enjoying as of late…?
I typically flip back and forth between literary and young-adult fiction. The Sympathizer by Viet Thahn Nguyen, 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, Scythe by Neal Shusterman, and The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon. These are absolute must-reads in my opinion.
My wife and I have a few shows that we cannot watch without the other, most notably HBO’s Here and Now. My god that first season is brilliant. I’ve also been thoroughly enjoying Barry, Silicon Valley, Homeland, and Atlanta.
It’s been a huge year for Kendrick Lamar. Damn is a really amazing album. I’ve gone back and listened to his debut Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, which everyone should give a spin. I recently discovered Young Fathers, and have listened to their entire discography on loop. Same goes for Frank Ocean. Other bands that are worth a listen, and in no particular order: Waxahatchee, Moaning, Young Thug, Anderson .Paak, Miya Folick, and Moses Sumney. This year I’ve seen José González, Wolf Alice, and JD McPherson live, and hope to see many more.
10. Lastly, where can we read more of your work?
JH: Well, Skip to the End will be out June 19th. My book Skinned came out through the same publisher (Insight Comics) last November, and I have a two-book OGN series that’ll be debuting in October through them as well. The first one, titled After Houdini, will be out in October, and the second, Before Houdini, will be out in May 2019. All of these books are and will be available wherever comics and books are sold. You can get a preview of these books here: http://www.simonandschuster.com/authors/Jeremy-Holt/2116359932.