It’s really quite remarkable how capital T trauma can move us to create impactful pieces of art, that can be used as vehicles to assist ourselves through our personal struggles. Kevin Zoldan did just that, after suffering from a stroke he created this truly beautiful graphic novel entitled Unbroken, Illustrated by Bax. I’m not going to say much about Unbroken because I think you should read it after this interview. It’s truly riddled with onyx pitch. The world that Zoldan created is one that I can relate to very much, I repeatedly read Unbroken because of the lining of hope. I was quite moved after I read Unbroken, that it had inspired me to scribe a poem based on his exquisite yet tragic body of work. That type of lightening has not hit me for a while, I totally took advantage of it. And, I’m glad that I did, because it really allowed to me to give thought to concepts I’d not contemplated. I was so young when we immigrated from Lebanon due to the civil war – thankfully I don’t remember any semblance of war but, have always been seriously impacted by imagery that moved me to tears – the really sad very kind cascading down a cool cheek. It’s really amazing how we can pick something up and it triggers our mind in ways we thought we had been immune to. For more information, check out Zoldan on Instagram @thezold.
RMMW: Have you ever been creatively blocked? If yes, how did you overcome it?
KZ: Of course! Everyone has experienced writer's block in some way. I've been blessed with always having a lot of projects. A few years ago, I played a lot of music. If I couldn't come up with anything I liked, I'd write a short story or something else. It's convenient to have numerous outlets for your creative emotions. Sometimes one medium works, sometimes all of them or none of them. It doesn't matter if what you create is common. It's just good to get it out. I say do it regardless and the cream will rise to the top.
RMMW: We all have an inner critic -- how do you contend with yours?
KZ: I'm my own worst critic, which I think has kept me from releasing projects. I couldn't tell you if that's a curse or a blessing, but when I do release work, I'm happy it has my name.
RMMW: Do you have any artist rituals before starting a new piece?
KZ: No, not that I know of. It's kind of a process of note-booking and planning it out. I get caught up in the beginning. But I have taken the cue to have an ending ritual after finishing a piece. I used to rush on to the next project, but completion of a work needs to be recognized. Seeing something through to the end needs to be celebrated! Champagne!
RMMW: What was the catalyst that started you initially writing?
KZ: I think it began with getting the ideas down. There were scraps of paper with scribbles on them ever since I can remember. I felt better after I wrote. I'm just glad that instead of little pieces of paper, humans now have cellphones. But the notebook and writing on paper as far as creation, that's when it blossoms from an idea to a project.
RMMW: Unbroken houses within its pages plenty of traumatic images but the element of hope was consistently present. Why was it necessary for you to bring Unbroken to publication fruition?
KZ: Unbroken is very personal. I had a stroke in March of 2019. It was a hard experience to get through. It was rough on my lady, and I'm very thankful she stuck by my side and helped keep a positive outlook. I lost feeling and function on the right side of my body and left side of my face. I wrote for rehabilitation. When I started, my handwriting was barely legible. Unbroken is a survival story and a metaphor for my recovery. Hope is the inspiration behind most achievements. Hope can get you through a vast amount of turmoil. I felt it was necessary to create and promote that idea.
RMMW: Are there any differences between your speaking and writing voice?
KZ: Oh yes! That is a spot-on question and it's very relevant to upcoming writers. I was raised in the south and I'm not talking about horribly racist, extreme bigotry type of deep south, but a suburban paradise full of diversity. My family moved to Virginia Beach when I was one, so I have a southern accent, and I think it has been a strength instead of a weakness. I've been living in San Diego for the last nine years, and having an accent has made me different, but made me who I am. I'm fascinated by accents. But in any professional writing, it can't contain slang unless it's dialog or a narrative point of view. I don't sit down and write a paper with “ya'll” or leaving off every “g” from the “ing” words. I went to a writing workshop and the advice I received from the panel was “keep all aspects of your writing professional” and I mostly agree with that, but I think it's important to retain your own personality. It's a balance every writer should think about, make a decision, and move towards that goal.
RMMW: How many unpublished manuscripts do you have? Are you planning on publishing them?
KZ: I have five finished scripts that's a collection of a true-life WWII story. We will see what happens to them. I also have numerous others in various stages of production. It's a good idea to have an array of projects to be able to bounce between like stove-top burners, because one project might not be flourishing at a particular moment, but this burner is flaming hot.
RMMW: What do you relish most regarding the writing genre of Noir?
KZ: It seems natural because it's also realistic. Looking at our current world, it's hard to not have a bleak and dim view of what is happening around us. The people's voices have not been heard. Corporate values have taken over the majority of the aspects of life. Climate change is looming. We are facing serious problems. So, creating a noir is an easy way to relate to society that is this universe. That's why I have positive protagonists, because that way of thinking, that energy, is what I want to promote and exude.
RMMW: As your graphic novel Unbroken revealed itself prior to scribing one word to you, did you have a plan for cathartic release or was that a perk of producing such a heavy and dark themed digital artifact?
KZ: The emotional expression is never a planned event for me. But I try not labeling it a by-product. I have gratitude that creating is an emotional release. I'm very lucky that way and I think a lot of people feel the same. I'm just thankful that I was able to find Bax. Without Bax, Unbroken is just a bunch of words. His visualizations are perfect for the story. I'm honored that he agreed to this project. Check out his work on Instagram @planetbax2.0, what he has done will blow your mind.
RMMW: I relish the concept of handbound books... Are you planning on producing print copies of Unbroken? If yes when?
KZ: Yes! The digital pdf is available for download now for $4 USD. Unbroken will be available in print. The print release is New Year's Day, January 1st, 2020 at UNBROKENCOMIC.COM for $5 USD + shipping. It's a dream come true to have the work available in print. It's a different experience to sit down and read a printed copy. It reminds me of “Field of Dreams” where Ray Liotta is taking about his memories of baseball and the smell of a leather glove. It's magical.
RMMW: Was Unbroken a one and done? Do you plan on turning it into a series of graphic novels?
KZ: At first, Unbroken was going to be a one and done but people have really responded well to it. Bax is down to make more. The story is there, but the issues will be released over time and they won't be rushed. The first book was never rushed, and I don't feel like the other issues have to be either. We have always focused on creating something that we want to stand by, and be proud of the finished project. I don't see that changing.
RMMW: Where do you go from here?
KZ: Stay busy. Keep the feet moving creatively. There is a lot to be done and a lot to be said. Continue to surround myself with like minded humans. Stay grateful and thankful for this life and the gift of conveyance. I will pop champagne and celebrate!
RMMW: If you had a superpower what would it be?
KZ: Flying would be awesome. But I would honestly go with always having good luck. Things would be easier all around you.