Friday, May 22, 2009

Lynn’s Interview with CTV Canada AM

Go to this link and then select "'For Better' creator pens a kids' book" from the list of video segments under their player image.

Transcript stolen from dreadedcandiru2]with my commentary added:

Interviewer: For thirty years, Lynn Johnston has entertained readers with her 'For Better or For Worse' comic strip and now she's back with a brand-new picture book for kids. 'Farley follows his nose' stars Farley, the Old English Sheepdog, and Lynn joins us now in studio. It's a pleasure to have you here.

Me: I love this line “and now she's back”. That has to unsettle Lynn, because she hates the idea that anyone would consider her gone.

Lynn: It's great to meet you in person. I see you all the time and it's so exciting to be here.

Me: At this point I realized that Lynn did not know the name of the interviewer. It is Marci Ien, if you are interested.

Interviewer: It's a pleasure to meet you. So Farley is one curious dog; this is a great read.

Lynn: Well, thank you! It was, it was a lot of fun to do; it was, it was nice that I got a letter from Harper Collins asking if I was interested in doing a children's book and that kind of thing just spurs you on. It's like "Well, it's like a lot of work but....". So my sister-in-law, whose name is Beth, she's a veterinarian, she loves to write, she's a good writer the two of us so I called her up and the two of us sort of collaborated on an outline and worked with the editors there and came up with this story and the best part was illustrating it 'cause that's what I love to do.

Me: "Well, it's like a lot of work but....". In other words, “I don’t want to do it because it’s too much work. Make it easy for me, and I will do it.” It is at this point, I imagined a conversation where the publisher suggests people to “help” Lynn do the book in order to get her to agree to do it. In the interview, Lynn leads into how she got Beth (no last name credited) Cruikshank to write the story. We know that the next part is where Lynn made arrangements with the publisher to not have to take on a full art load, since they hired Patty Weise to do the watercolours. You can practically hear the gears turning in Lynn’s head about what to say here. After saying that she and Beth “sort of” collaborated on an outline, i.e. the reason why Lynn got a writing credit for the book; then she drops her final line about how she loves to illustrate. When Lynn makes such a specific point about something, it makes my “Lynn is lying” meter go all a twitter. Of course it helps when you already know she is lying in advance.

Interviewer: Well, the pictures are great, they're just so full of life and vibrant and the whole thing is that Farley is following his nose. [An illustration from the book is shown] He's at this thing (the kids' party) and there's food that interests Farley [they show an illustration that has Farley salivating as he mentally pictures a hot dog] and kids that interest Farley and all the wonderful smells of flowers, all these things and the adventures he finds along the way [the next illustration shows him running up to what proves to be Phil's car] and this was based on a dog, a sheepdog you once owned; is that right?

Me: I haven’t bought this book, but there were a few illustrations I had not seen before in the on-line book sellers’ websites. I compared them to the drawings Lynn did of Farley in this strip which featured Farley extensively. To my eye, the figures of Farley in the book do not look right. He has a lolling tongue, the muzzle is the wrong shape, his legs are too long and look too dog-like, and there is un-Lynn-like texturing of the lines showing different shades of his dark fur. Ever since I learned Chrissie Boehm’s specialty is imitating other people’s art style and she was credited on-line for illustrating the book, I have been curious what her actual contribution to the art was. Chrissie said she just did a sample, but these pictures seem to tell me a different story.

Lynn: I once owned, I once owned an Old English Sheepdog called 'Farley' [the illustration shows him jumping headlong into a kiddie pool] and I think I wanted an Old English Sheepdog because they're cartoon dogs, I mean, they're all hair until they're wet...

Interviewer: ...and then they're Mr Muggs, do you remember Mister Muggs, oh boy, I'm probably dating myself [we shift to his SNIFFA-SNUFFA-SNIFFing the air]....

Me: Here is a link to Mr. Mugs.

Lynn: well anyway, well I haven't had a date in ever, the, the dog that we had was just a delight, he was a wonderful old guy but he was a lot of work and I had no idea but the brushing, the looking after, the training and all that kind of thing. So he's forever remembered in the comic strip, I had to bring him back to life.

Me: I love this segue. "I haven’t had a date in ever. " Hint. Hint. Single men. Lynn is advertising herself. It’s pretty obvious Lynn does not remember Mr. Mugs from the school room, since was from the 1960s and 70s. It is at this time, Lynn begins ignoring the interviewer and moving onto her main talking points. This one is: If you like Farley, he is currently in my comic strip.

Interviewer: You did and we're glad that you did. So here you are at thirtieth anniversary of the strip. Did you ever think, when you started this whole process, that thirty years later, you'd be here?

Lynn: Um, well, when you're, I was offered this job and so it was a panic so, I mean I knew I could be funny once in a while, I knew I could do a comic once in a while but to do one every single day forever is challenging. [The interview repeats that last phrase.] It's a challenge so what you do is you work from week to week and month to month and eventually it became a story and a saga and that kind of thing and thirty years went by and so I didn't, I didn't expect where it was, I didn't know where it was going but all you want to do is be able to is hit those deadlines and get it out and I've been so lucky that it's still out there, it's still, it's still in print and it's doing well.

Me: Lynn sort of ignores the interview question again, and makes her second main talking point: My strip still exists.

Interviewer: Well, you generated a lot of excitement in our offices because I was speaking to a friend earlier and we were talking about the fact that you were going to be here and how much we love the comic strip and her point was "And she ages her characters." [Lynn: That's right.] And that's not something that you often see. Why do you do that?

Lynn: Well, it worked best for me in writing story lines because you need change in something like this; to write something about characters that are static is very difficult. And so, for me, the change was really important and the story lines were really important but you have to deal with lifespans then so, of course, the dog had to disappear. So, when Farley died, it was tragic and it was hard to write about so to be able to go back and able to do a story about the dog has been a lot of fun. And to be able to start the strip again from the beginning has been a lot of fun too and I'm really enjoying that. And working on it.

Me: Lynn does answer the question this time, but quickly moves to her third main talking point: The strip has restarted from the beginning.

Interviewer: And the thing too is that you deal with real life. [They both repeat the sentence 'That's right.']

Me: The interviewer has realized Lynn has stopped listening to her and now she starts using one sentence phrases in the hope that Lynn will go along with her.

Lynn: And going back for me has really been great because I can identify with the young kids again. I couldn't identify with Michael, you know, the adult Michael with his [stammers a bit] new children coming up. I'm a, I'm a grandmother-age right now, I'm not, I don't know anything about kids today, about their iPods and their toys that do everything. So, it's much easier to go back into my own past.

Me: Lynn ignores the interviewer question and goes to her fourth main talking point: This is why I restarted the strip from the beginning.

Interviewer: And learn a few things along the way.

Me: The interviewer hopes in vain that Lynn will share one of these things.

Lynn: And remember a lot of things. [The interviewer smilingly repeats this.]You have a five-year-old right now, don't you?

Me: This is hilarious. Lynn, herself, has just remembered something someone told her to say in this interview related to the audience for the book.

Interviewer: Almost; she's four and three quarters, she'll tell you she's five. She's almost five and she's going to be thrilled because this is going to be her bedtime story tonight.

Lynn: I'll be thrilled to sign in for her, thanks.

Me: She didn’t ask, but Lynn volunteers anyway.

Interviewer: It was so nice to meet you.

Me: The interviewer did not thank for Lynn for her generous signature. In other words, she is thinking "Lynn has stopped talking to me and this interview is over.:

Lynn: You too.

My conclusion: A disaster. Lynn is here to push the children's book to an interviewer known for being an advocate of children's needs on this show, and she spends most of her time pushing her comic strip. The fact she says so little about the book speaks volumes about how much she actually worked towards its creation.


Blogger Muzition said...

Thanks for posting this transcript. I couldn't be bothered to watch the actual video.

8:22 PM  
Blogger DreadedCandiru2 said...

You can just bet that Lynn has no idea how poorly the interview went. She got to flog the new-ruins so it's pretty much 'Mission Accomplished' as far as she's concerned. Is she aware that her incoherent stammering was a turn-off? That her total non-answer as to what happened to the real Farley sets off alarm bells in the minds of animal lovers? Sadly, the answer to both questions is a resounding "No."

8:31 PM  
Blogger Destroyer of Worlds said...

Fascinating! Also, thanks to DC2 and Howard for making a transcript. It helps deaf people like me who can't understand non-captioned interviews. :)

9:07 PM  
Blogger forworse said...

"the dog that we had was just a delight, he was a wonderful old guy but he was a lot of work and I had no idea but the brushing, the looking after, the training and all that kind of thing. So he's forever remembered in the comic strip, I had to bring him back to life"
I shook my head at this point: she wanted a cartoon dog, but he turned out to be a lot of work and somehow this was unexpected. Then she glosses over what happened to the real Farley, other than to say that she brought him "back to life".

11:16 PM  
Blogger howard said...

As for what happened to the real Farley, Lynn rarely ever states that explicitly in interviews, except to say she got rid of him. It's interesting she talks about the difficulty in taking care of dogs, because that is what almost all of her Farley strips are about.

Even the children's book carries this theme. Farley runs off and creates mayhem. Then by pure luck he manages to help a kid. He has to be tracked down by his owners and washed by his owners. Farley follows his nose, and not any kind of training discipline.

7:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lynn will certainly not realize this interview is horrible. And if someone points it out she will blame the interviewer. It's always their fault.

8:46 AM  

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