Under the Surface with Ariane Dénommé

Nov 7, 2018 by

ariane_dénomméIn a recent review, Maisonneuve described Ariane Dénommé’s 100 Days in Uranium City as, “A colourless world laden with the miners’ unvoiced desires. But the chiaroscuro also creates a luminous beauty: a lamppost shining on snow on a barren street, or a starry night sky.”

If you haven’t already read 100 Days in Uranium City, you’re missing out on an important piece of work. The graphic novel shines a light on the kind of life that remains invisible to many Canadians–the quiet isolation of uranium mining in 1970’s Saskatchewan.

In this instalment of Under the Surface, we talk with Ariane about her process, what’s next for her, and why she wanted to tell this story.

 

Why did you want to tell this particular story?

I was really interested in writing a story about work and its defining role in our lives. I’ve personally always had a complicated relationship with work, paid work especially, and for me, writing stories is the best way to think about things.

The project started with a completely different premise; I did not plan to write a mining story at all. But while I was visiting my parents, my father told an anecdote about the time he was working in this faraway mine, in Uranium City. I had never heard about this time in his life, so I was curious and I asked a few questions. And the more we talked, the more I felt that his story of working a hundred days in the mine was very compelling and moving. So, I threw away the old project and started anew, using our conversations as a starting point.

 

How much research was involved in putting together 100 Days in Uranium City? 

I interviewed my father for many hours, talked to other people who work now, or have worked, in distant mines. I’ve read about the city itself – Uranium City—but I also watched a lot of documentaries made during the sixties and the seventies about mining in general, and mining towns. Many thanks to the National Film Board!

 

Tell us about your process—what comes first, the words or the pictures?

Definitely the words. I wrote this story many times before even starting to draw. I think in pictures, but I’m very slow to draw, so I write what I’m seeing, with a lot of details. On the other hand, the dialogue really comes at the end, when I draw the storyboard itself.

 

How do you know when a project is finished? 

When I’m done rewriting the first chapter. That’s always the last part, and the most difficult one. I think for this book I drew the beginning at least four times.

 

What do you hope people take away from this comic?

The first thing I wanted to do with this book is to make work—the daily, grinding, and sometime crushing, experience of work that many live every day—visible. I hope people will be touched by this story of a guy working to make a living. I might have a secret political agenda, but I think I’ve succeeded in keeping it to myself, and in letting the story live its life.

 

What’s next for you?

I’m writing a melancholic sci-fi book!  I’m done with the research and the scenario, and starting the storyboard. I thought mining machinery was a pain to draw, but space shuttles are worse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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