An interview with Sophie Bédard
Sophie Bédard was 19 years old when she first started writing Almost Summer, a webcomic about the daily life of a group of high school friends. Éditions Pow Pow first published the series in French from 2012 to 2014 and the four volumes are now available in English through Pow Pow Press.
It’s been a few years since you’ve published Almost Summer in French. How does it feel going back to the series, now that it has been translated in English?
It was cool to rediscover the books. When I read the first one, I realized I’d forgotten so many things about it. I was even surprised by some of the things I had written. Translation was also an interesting process. In French, the dialogue has a very local flavor to it and there is a lot of swearing. So we really had to think about what level of langage we wanted for the English version. I think Helge Dascher really kept the original version’s crunch without resorting to using the word “fuck” all the time.
You were basically the same age as your protagonists when you started writing Almost Summer. Would you say it had an influence on the way you wrote them?
I do remember I hated it when people told me the story was “about” adolescence. I didn’t feel like I was writing “about” any kind of theme. I wrote about what I knew, and that happened to be a group of teenagers who just hang out together. So maybe my age had something to do with me writing something that didn’t aspire to be the portrait of a generation or some kind of coming-of-age story.
The overall tone of the book is pretty down-to-earth. There’s an authenticity to it you don’t usually find in stories about teenagers. People tend to either idealize that age or make everything about it seem much more dramatic than it really is. In a way, Almost Summer feels like the opposite of that. Was that your intention?
I had an ordinary, boring adolescence. So that’s what I wrote about. Most stories about teenagers I’ve read as a teen were, as you said, way too tragic – or they’d be about a girl getting her first boyfriend. Maybe that’s what I wanted to read about when I was 14 but, when I started Almost Summer, what I really wanted to write about was friendship. And when you’re an ordinary, boring teenager, friendship can only be told through the slow passage of time and the uneventful nature of daily life.
Your drawing style really evolves throughout the series. Did you ever feel the need to go back and make corrections?
For many years, I simply couldn’t go back and read the first one! It wasn’t the drawing style as much as the writing that really bothered me, but you can’t really separate one from the other. I started working on Almost Summer because I wanted to learn how to make comics, so it’s no surprise that you can see an evolution between the first book and the fourth one. I actually like the fact that this evolution is tangible, both in terms of drawing and mise en scène. And nowadays, I can actually say I like the first book. I wouldn’t want to change anything about it, not even a single page. I don’t think the way I used to and I don’t draw the way I used to. My style has changed. But even if you get better, you lose things along the way : there’s definitely an energy, a spontaneity which you can’t really replicate.