An Interview with Will Morris for Gospel

1. Gospel sounds a bit like your take on ‘The Hero’s Journey’. Could you tell us a little more about that and your inspiration?

Very much so! For heroes, Matilde and Pitt, Gospel is as much a quest for identity as it is a conflict with hellish forces in a rapidly changing world.

At the outset of their journey, Matilde yearns for her deeds to be celebrated in heroic stories told by crackling firesides. Unfortunately, the stuff of legends has proven frustratingly scant in 16th Century England. Taking fortune into her own hands, she has started engineering events she hopes will pass into folklore with the help of friend and storyteller, Pitt. What she doesn’t realise is that her actions will trigger catastrophic events that threaten the soul of her community.

As for inspirations, Katsuhiro Otomo and Becky Cloonan are big influences, as is almost every film Studio Ghibli has created! 

2. There’s been a lot of talk about how the book is ‘Ghibli-inspired’. Would you say that’s more on an aesthetic or thematic level, and can the two be separated in your mind?

That’s an interesting question! What most captivates me about Ghibli films is how beautifully observed they are, both on an aesthetic and thematic level. I wanted Matilde to have a touch of the complexity of characters such as Lady Eboshi from Princess Mononoke or Kushana from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (a tall order, I know). Both of those characters are initially pitched as villains but as their stories progress, we come to understand that they are acting to support their communities. They’re doing what they believe is right from their point of view. I really admire that kind of empathy in a story.

On an artistic level, those films take my breath away! I studied the lush painted backgrounds and the subtle gesture of Ghibli’s characters in bringing the world of Gospel to life.

3. Aside from the Ghibli influence, there’s a lot of history (both real and imagined) captured in the book. Do you find it easier to start with that kernel of truth, or is history a particular fascination for you?

I studied archaeology at university, and medieval doom paintings in particular, so I am fascinated by the era. But you’re absolutely right, I love to start with that grain of truth and let it roll about my head until a story emerges. For Gospel, I was picking up a lot of folk stories from Devon and Cornwall and trying to understand what they might have meant to audiences many moons ago. It got me thinking about how stories evolve with every telling. By the time they reach the present day it’s possible that they barely resemble the original bard’s intention. It was this spirit I wanted to capture with Gospel: how could I retell an ancient story to say something to modern readers? One tale, about a conflict between St Michael and the devil over a church near Tavistock, really sparked my imagination.

4. Is Gospel a finite series, or do you imagine there being many Gospels (kinda like there is in the Bible)?

Haha! This miniseries is the story I wanted to tell with Gospel’s characters. I can easily imagine them plunging into other adventures, so you never know.

5. Obviously everyone should make a point of picking up your book, but what are you reading and enjoying at the moment?

Thank you! I’ve been reading some great stuff lately. I only just discovered Lake of Fire, by Nathan Fairburn and Matt Smith. I’m not sure how I let it pass me by, but the character development and art are exceptional. I’ve also just started reading Goodnight Punpun by Inio Asano. The first volume was heartbreaking and I don’t expect it to get any easier on the emotions. I’m really looking forward to reading Mindset by Zack Kaplan and John Pearson as well as It’s Lonely At The Centre Of The Earth by Zoe Thorogood.

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