TIME Books

Kate Beaton: How to Make It as a Cartoonist

The author discusses princesses, ponies and writing her first children's book

I’ve been a fan of Kate Beaton’s work for years, starting with her genius webcomic Hark! A Vagrant, which covers, among many other things, 19th century novels, ludicrous superhero costumes, Canadian history, weird Nancy Drew covers and Shetland ponies. It is—along with Mallory Ortberg’s columns on The Toast—the funniest thing I am aware of on the Internet.

When some of Beaton’s comics were collected as a book in 2011 I put it on Time’s best of the year list. This month she’s publishing her first children’s book, The Princess and the Pony, about a warrior princess and the pony she gets as a gift, who is not a warrior pony. She also has another comics collection coming in the fall.

Beaton is Canadian—she grew up in a small town on Cape Breton Island, which is part of Nova Scotia. Once, at a books festival in Vancouver, I attempted to introduce myself to her, but it turned out to just be somebody who looked like her. Now I’ve actually spoken to her on the phone. She was staying with her parents, who still live on Cape Breton Island.

TIME: So what do your parents do? I assume they’re not Web cartoonists too.

Beaton: No. (laughs) Though they finally kind of know what I do. My mom worked at a bank, and my dad was a butcher. They both retired this year.

A butcher, that’s amazing. That was before it was even cool to be a butcher. Now it’s like a hipster thing.

I guess so. There’s only one store in my town, and he was kind of the meat manager. My grandfather was the person you’d call if you wanted to slaughter one of your animals, so he kind of grew up the old-school butcher way, then he worked in a grocery store.

So how did you become a cartoonist?

Well, I always drew. And was encouraged to do so by my parents. I didn’t think there was going to be any money in that, so I went to school for history and anthropology, and I was going to work in museums. But I did comics for the student newspaper, and this was like the early 2000s, when graphic novels were becoming a bigger thing. You could see that cartooning was something you could kind of keep up. So I just did. And I put the comics online, and they spread through word of mouth, and when they reached a certain point I thought, well, I’ll give this a shot.

That was when webcomics were still a new thing. I can remember writing a story for Time about PvP and Penny Arcade and these webcomic things people were doing.

They were the real trailblazers. People like me really benefited from the work that was put in between the late 90s and the mid 2000s, by those guys, establishing a business model that works. Me and my peers kind of rode hard on those coattails.

This is embarrassing but I’ve never really known what Hark! A Vagrant meant.

Oh, it doesn’t mean anything! I needed a title for the comic. It used to be called katebeaton.com, and then I wanted to remove my name from it, because it seemed a bit grandiose. I just wanted a title that didn’t mean anything but also sounded a little bit bizarre and archaic, a little bit funny. It’s one of those things where you make a decision and then you live with it forever. For a while I was like, I kind of wish I named it something normal.

That makes me feel better. I thought it was a joke I wasn’t getting. Tell me about the pony, of The Princess and the Pony, because the pony’s been around as a character for a while.

I think I first drew the pony in 2008. That’s really soon after I started making comics. And it has always struck a chord with people. You can’t predict what will and what won’t, but the pony was just unprecedented. I don’t know—it’s round, it kind of looks like a pig. I get so many emails with pictures of tiny horses. Whenever people go on vacation and they see one, or there’s one on the news, I get a bunch of emails.

Was there a real life pony that you were drawing a picture of?

No! I took an anthro course, and we took a trip to the Shetland Islands, and there were ponies there. And it was like a dream. They’re so small! Everything there is small. Their sheep are smaller. It’s a place after my own heart. And the horses are fantastic. You’re on the Shetlands, and you’re minding your business, and then you turn and there’s this tiny pony behind a fence. And like nothing prepares your heart for what it feels at that moment. In the book the princess gets the pony as a gift, for her birthday, and at first she thinks, oh God, this is not what I asked for, this is not what I want.

The pony was on Adventure Time, which is amazing. How did that happen?

Adventure Time is full of a lot of friends, peers, people that you know, and they kind of pull references from a lot of places. It’s something like a sharing economy of ideas and art. Pen just told me that they were gonna do that, and I said that’s fine. It was really simple. And he’s purple in the show! It just showed up there. I think a lot of things just show up there.

And then it turns out at the end of the episode that it’s not even a real pony.

Yeah. It’s a wizard. (Laughs) I’ll take it.

And what about Princess Pinecone, did she already exist before you wrote the book?

She was created for the book. I was going to make it the story about the pony, but it’s kind of like an inactive thing, and there has to be an active character, and you’re talking to kids, so it’s probably going to be a kid, and I’m from a family of four girls, so for me it was probably going to be a girl.

And then there was the princess thing, which I had debated, because there’s so much princess stuff out there right now. But when I was a child I really, really liked princesses, and I don’t think that—I remember it was my choice as a child, I loved princesses, it was my choice. Of course things are being sold to you, because a lot of stuff is being marketed at kids, but I loved them, I just did, I drew myself with the cone hats and the dresses and everything.

And so I thought, if I’m going to make this story about a princess it matters a lot who she is and what she wants and what she’s all about. So her name—a lot of princesses are called flower names, like Rose or whatever, so I picked one that was kind like a flower but not really. A little bit more prickly, a little bit off center. And I thought it suited her very well. I mostly wanted a book that would make kids laugh.

And this pony is this kind of inactive, doe-eyed character, in a lot of ways, so the best thing to do would be to put that pony in a world where there’s nothing but action. Everybody just loves battling with each other. It’s a rough and tumble world and the little princess, Pinecone, she wants to be part of it. She wants to get her piece.

So she’s quite an atypical princess, as princesses go. She looks quite different. She’s short and stocky, not that kind of classic elongated Disney body type.

Yeah. So am I. Someone called me burly once and I thought, well, I’ll take it. That’s also I how I draw kids, they tend to be these weird round like Campbell’s soup kids.

So in the world of the book battling is just kind of the general occupation for people?

It’s this weird nonsense world. It’s not full of Vikings, it’s full of whoever—whoever wants to be there, and that’s what they like to do. But they hit each other with like pool noodles and things, which is another thing that kids do, they get in fights with objects that are supposed to be swords but they’re not, and nobody gets hurt. Princess Pinecone’s not afraid, and her size doesn’t really bother her very much, she’s just gonna go for it.

I wrote it really fast, it just seemed like a natural thing. She gets this present she doesn’t exactly want, but we’ve all had that. Parents always do that, they listen, and they’re like oh, yeah, a bike, and they get you the thing that you asked for but not really. But they’re so happy to give it to you! A lot of it is modeled in a strange way on myself, I guess: when I was little I had a lot of those sweaters that just had random stuff written on them, I remember I had a shirt that just had a bunch of bears on it, and it just said exercise on it. It made no sense. I feel like there were these factories just outputting these weird random shirts that kids were given.

So she wants a warrior horse, and she gets the pony instead, because her parents don’t really know. But it’s a story about love in the end, because her parents love her, they want to support her. They show up for the battle later on and they’re cheering for. She understands that it’s not exactly what she asked for, but she makes the best of it. And then it turns out to be the best gift of all, which also happens, because you treasure those things, because of the love that was behind them.

I have two daughters, so I’ve spend a lot of time looking at princess stuff.

When it’s happening, when they’re into princesses, they really are, and you don’t feel like some adman came over and was like, wouldn’t you like this? They choose it, and they choose it hard. That’s interesting to me. I can’t remember ever thinking, God I can’t wait for some prince to scoop me up. I think princesses are just these characters—they’re young, they have a lot of choices, they have autonomy, people listen to them when they talk. They do get to dress nice, and they do get to have ponies. There’s a lot kind of going on there for that archetype. You can see why little girls, or little boys, anybody gets into it. It’s just this tiny powerful person.

Was it different making a book instead of a webcomic?

Oh, yeah. A webcomic—for one thing, I make it, it’s short, I put it up, it’s complete, people write LOL in a box and send it to me, and I’m like, good, job done, amazing. And if it’s bad I just make another one. But this picture book, it’s forty pages, and it has to be a good story, it has to be good art, it has to cater to this brand new audience that I had never really talked to before. It was a learning curve, for sure. A lot of people think they can write children’s books, but when you get down to it, it’s actually quite hard. There’s a lot of story packed into that book, and that was the hardest part. They say that you’re supposed to be able to pitch your book summary in an elevator? The elevator pitch? And I can’t do that. We’d have to go up and down the elevator a few times.

My kids like the book, but they’re especially obsessed with all the different sweaters in it for some reason. Even on the endpapers, where the pony’s wearing all different sweaters. They’ll go through each different pony and talk about its sweater.

That’s another great thing about kids. You can be like, kids’ll love this! And then they’ll zoom in on some random detail, like in the back corner, and they’ll be like, that’s my favorite thing. That’s why Richard Scarry’s books were always so good, there’s so much happening. I don’t know if I could do a Busytown type of thing, but I guess mine falls somewhere in between. It’s not like Jon Klassen pristine, but it’s not Richard Scarry busy.

Did you test-drive the book on some kids before you turned it in?

No. But I have a nephew now, he’s a baby, he’s amazing, so I’m trying to write this next book about a baby. I spent some time with him, tried to understand his baby ways. Which are mostly just putting things in his mouth.

TIME Music

Watch Philip Glass Look Back on Decades of Bringing Music to Art

The iconic composer talks about his longstanding friendship with sculptor Richard Serra, his recent performance inside an art installation and his advice for young artists

Early in his career, Philip Glass gave intimate performances in art galleries and downtown New York City lofts. Today, at the age of 78, the acclaimed composer still hasn’t stopped playing in unconventional spaces.

“The kind of music that I was doing, that my friends were doing, was not welcomed in the concert halls,” says Glass. “But we had no problem playing in museums and galleries, so that’s where we went. And then we never really left them.”

Glass recently partnered with sculptor and longtime friend Richard Serra to organize a concert in which Glass and violinist Tim Fain perform inside Serra’s exhibition, Equal. The installation, currently on view at the David Zwirner Gallery in New York and recently acquired by MoMA, is composed of four pairs of stacked 40-ton steel cubes.

“His work possesses a very strong presence and identity,” says Glass. “So when we put music into a sculptural environment that his work is, it’s a real encounter.”

Yet Glass and Serra don’t talk explicitly about the relationship between music and sculpture.

“We’ve never discussed it, actually,” says Glass. “Yet over the last 30, 40 years—it’s a long time—there have been many times when we have put the music and sculpture together.”

One recent notable performance was in 2008, when Glass performed a solo piano concert at the Grand Palais in Paris inside another Serra exhibit. For their latest collaboration, the decision to put together the concert was simple. Serra had invited Glass to watch the process of installing his new work in the gallery—something Glass often does—and mentioned the idea to him.

“Richard said, ‘What would you think about playing here?’ And I said, ‘I think that’s a good idea,'” says Glass with a laugh. “That was it!”

They agreed to make the event a benefit concert to support House with Heart, an organization for women and abandoned children in Nepal that needed funds to rebuild their facilities following the earthquake in April.

As is evident in his relationship with Serra, Glass values collaborating with his peers in various fields. He advises young artists to do the same.

“When I talk to young composers, I always encourage them to find people their age who make music and make dance,” he says. “Don’t work with the older people. Work with the people your age, because then you’ll grow old with them. You’ll have them for your lifetime.”

TIME Comedy

Why Darrell Hammond Modeled Himself After Eddie Murphy

The comedian with a skill for impersonations on how it all started

Comedian Darrell Hammond’s first impressions came at age seven alongside his mother, who liked doing impersonations of the neighbors. Hammond realized he, too, had a knack for impressions and was soon doing voices of Scrooge from A Christmas Carol, cartoon characters like Foghorn Leghorn and Popeye, and a host of others.

Fifty years later, Hammond’s repertoire includes dozens of celebrities, including Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Sean Connery, all of whom he made famous in the 1990s and early 2000s as the longest-serving cast member in the history of Saturday Night Live. His latest character is Colonel Sanders, the founder and mascot of fast-food chain KFC, who Hammond has resurrected as an off-kilter, mandolin-loving Southern goofball just a bit out of touch with 2015.

Hammond recently stopped by TIME’s offices to discuss his latest transformation, Eddie Murphy’s outlandish impressions, and what it’s like being back at SNL as the show’s new announcer.

TIME Comedy

Watch Darrell Hammond Break Down His President Clinton Impression

It's all about the "vocal crinkle"

Comedian Darrell Hammond is the longest-serving cast member in the history of Saturday Night Live and for 14 seasons was often the sketch comedy show’s go-to impressionist. Before he left SNL in 2009, Hammond honed impressions of dozens of celebrities, but he’s probably best-known for one of them: President Bill Clinton, which was an almost weekly occurrence on the show in the late 1990s thanks to the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Hammond, who recently took on the role of Col. Sanders in a new advertising campaign for KFC, is back at SNL as the show’s announcer, and his lip-biting, thumb-wagging Clinton has returned as well. Last week, Hammond stopped by TIME’s offices and shared a few tricks on how to become the former president. (Hint: Perfect a “vocal crinkle.”)

TIME Music

Watch Ciara Walk You Through Her Most Memorable Dance Videos

The second part of TIME's interview with the singer focuses on her fancy footwork

Ciara just embarked on her first tour in six years to promote her new album Jackie, but don’t think the “I Bet” singer has gotten rusty with the choreography. Whether it’s the floor hump from “Ride” or her The Matrix-style back bend from “Like a Boy,” she’s still breaking out her best-known routines on the road.

“Sometimes you get bored of the same moves, but you know that there are those moves that those fans love,” she tells TIME. “And you better not change those moves or you might create a little confusion! It’s those key moments that people remember because they mark the special creative moments you shared. It’s only right that you give them that thing they’ve loved from the beginning of the song or era.”

So when TIME sat down with Ciara to talk about how motherhood influenced her new record, it was only right that we asked her to walk fans through some of her most memorable moves and dance videos as well. See her reflect on “Gimmie Dat,” “Promise,” “Work,” “1, 2 Step” and more in the video above.

Read next: Review: Ciara Stays in Her Lane on Jackie—And That’s A Good Thing

Read next: Ciara: Motherhood Inspired Me to Swear a Lot More on My New Album

TIME Music

Ciara: Motherhood Inspired Me to Swear a Lot More on My New Album

Part one of TIME's interview with the Jackie singer

Ciara doesn’t like to curse. The “Body Party” singer won’t use profanity in front of you, and when she started using more colorful language on her 2010 album Basic Instinct after years of resistance, she censored the actual four-letter word to keep it from getting too vulgar. So it’s a surprise, then, to hear the singer call herself a “bad motherf-cker” close to two dozen times on “Jackie (B.M.F.),” the opening track off her new album, Jackie.

“I was really thinking about everything I had been through, so when I went in the studio, I just felt like screaming it out,” she says of recording the song. “There was a whole newfound confidence that came over me after having my son.”

Ciara spoke to TIME about becoming a mom to baby Future, how the music industry has changed since “Goodies” and why she decided to get more personal on her new album.

On what it means to be B.M.F.: “B.M.F. is purely confidence. We all have an inner B.M.F. in us. It’s that moment when you’re embracing who you are. If you feel like you’ve been through things in your life and have been able to push through those things, you are a B.M.F. If you’re a mom who’s been working her butt off and delivered a child and had to raise them, you are a B.M.F. It’s for any person who’s being courageous. If you feel a little insecure and a little doubtful, you need to look in the mirror and tell yourself, ‘I am a B.M.F.’ That’s the attitude you have to have.”

On addressing her breakup on “I Bet”: “Having a child with someone, you’re always going to be respectful of that. But the song ‘I Bet’ was honestly inspired by my life experiences — I can’t just say it’s from one experience. It’s one of those songs that’s very real. I would talk to people in the studio, and we’d talk about real-life things that everyone can relate to, not just the women, but the men too. It was one of those songs that felt necessary for the universe. It’s so good when I see young girls come up to me and say, ‘I love ‘I Bet,’ it’s helping me, that’s my song.’ That’s what you want your music to be: you want it be something that touches someone. It does feel good to know that it speaks to someone’s heart and can inspire them.”

On social media: “You can either allow social media to be helpful for you or it can be harmful. I like to let it be helpful. It allows me to have instantaneous interactions with my fans — you didn’t have that luxury before. It is cool when you put something up on Instagram and get the response right then instead of waiting to see what the world thinks tomorrow. I like how it allows me — a person who used to always be so private — the opportunity to grow and push myself. Sometimes sharing a photo is really O.K. because you never know how it can inspire someone. Or writing a tweet of what your thoughts are — you can show people you feel what they feel.”

On looking back at scrapped singles like “Sweat”: “You just have to keep it moving. There are a few songs where I definitely go, ‘Eh, I knew this one song wasn’t going to work.’ But I had to do it! There are some songs where you’re like, ‘I really like this song,’ and it just didn’t work out how you thought it would. That’s life. You win some, you lose some. You can’t dwell on it. I can’t be worried about the past. I’ve got to keep it moving and stay focused on the future — pun intended.”

Read next: Review: Ciara Stays in Her Lane on Jackie — and That’s a Good Thing

TIME Food & Drink

Inside Cronut Inventor Dominique Ansel’s New ‘Impossible’ Bakery

The cronut inventor's new bakery, Dominique Ansel Kitchen, will offer made-to-order pastries

From the cronut to the chocolate chip cookie milk shot, chef Dominique Ansel has made a name for himself as an inventor of viral baked goods.

This time, his latest creation isn’t just a pastry — it’s a bakery with a unique business model.

Dominique Ansel Kitchen, which opens in New York City on April 29, offers made-to-order items that will be ready within a minute or two after an order is placed.

“A lot of people told me it was impossible or too hard to do,” says Ansel. “It will require us to change the entire organization of the business, but I believe it’s possible.”

Ansel has a flair for pulling off the unexpected. When he first opened Dominique Ansel Bakery (now known as the home of the cronut) in 2011, he was advised to sell cupcakes rather than French pastries, to cater to the tastes of the public. Instead, he built a launching pad for a series of edible inventions that quickly caught the nation’s attention.

“When you think of pastries, it’s still a world that hasn’t been explored as much. [In New York City] there are bakeries from different countries, but there’s nothing as exciting,” Ansel says. “There are no experimental bakeries, there are no bakeries that really push themselves to do something unique and different.”

Ansel believes Dominique Ansel Kitchen will be the first bakery of its kind, with 70% of the menu assembled to order. To him, time is an ingredient, meaning that the time elapsed between the moment the pastry is completed and when a customer takes his first bite is crucial. Over the past few months, Ansel has kept timing a priority when planning his menu, which includes made-to-order chocolate mousse, a 1:1 lemon yuzu butter tart, mini matcha beignets and more.

“To me, having a dessert assembled when you order it, there’s nothing better than that.”

TIME

Nick Kroll Says All Movie Characters Shouldn’t Sound Like 30-Year-Old White Guys

The "Adult Beginners" star on sibling dynamics, the importance of strong female voices and his dream to be on "The Real Housewives of Atlanta"

Nick Kroll has played a radio host called The Douche (Parks and Recreation), a spin instructor named Tristafé (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and a German foosball enthusiast named Juergen (Community). But in the new movie Adult Beginners, which hits theaters (and iTunes and video on demand) Friday, Kroll plays a character that’s a little less hyperbolic and a little more relatable.

In the film, viewers meet Jake, a failed entrepreneur who moves in with his pregnant sister (Rose Byrne) and her husband (Bobby Cannavale, Byrne’s real-life boyfriend), and becomes a nanny to their young child. The story was inspired by Kroll’s own experience as the youngest of four siblings and uncle to a dozen nieces and nephews. After developing the idea with Mark Duplass, his co-star from The League, he enlisted husband-and-wife team Liz Flahive and Jeff Cox to write the screenplay.

“I wanted to have a female voice in helping to put the script together, because it’s really as much about me as it is about my sister in the movie,” he says. “A lot of movies are written by 30-year-old white guys, and you don’t want your characters all to sound like 30-year-old white guys.”

Fans who know Kroll from his recently retired Comedy Central sketch show Kroll Show, on which he played characters like the tuna-loving Gil Faizon and craft services extraordinaire Fabrice Fabrice, may be surprised by how normal a character Jake is. But Kroll insists that the gulf between Faizon and Jake is not so gaping, after all.

“The goal is to create something that just feels really believable, whether it’s a grounded character in a dramedy or a toilet baby who has been forced into becoming a father himself. How does that guy talk, how does he walk, how does he feel about his mom, how does he feel about his sister,” Kroll explains. “I’m trying to do the same homework regardless.”

TIME Rwanda

Scars and the Smell of Grass: One Survivor’s Lasting Reminders of Genocide

Survivors of the Rwanda genocide in 1994, which left hundreds of thousands of people dead, still grapple with its brutal legacy

More than two decades after the Rwandan genocide, the smell of grass in the summer still gives Consolee Nishimwe nightmares.

Between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, according to the United Nations. At 14, Nishimwe survived a brutal attack that left her emotionally and physically scarred for years. As a result of the assault, she is now HIV positive. Her father and brothers—aged 18 months, 7 and 9—were all killed.

“I will never forget what happened to me,” Nishimwe, who has vivid memories of hiding in the bushes from Hutu militias, told TIME in a recent interview. “Physical violence happened to me, and also living with HIV as a result of that, it’s something I will never forget—that will never go anywhere, that I have to live with.”

This week, as Rwanda’s government commemorates the 21st anniversary of the genocide, many survivors like Nishimwe are faced with unavoidable reminders of the physical and emotional toll of the conflict.

When asked about forgiveness, Nishimwe, who now lives in New York City, spoke of a work in progress. “That’s a really difficult word,” she said. “I think I did… I think 20 years is still early to me.”

Nishimwe’s book, Tested to the Limit: A Genocide Survivor’s Story of Pain, Resilience, and Hope, is an account of her experience as a survivor.

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