Transcript of CBC’s Live Chat with Jeff Lemire


At 2 p.m. EST today, hosted a live chat with Canadian writer/artist, Jeff Lemire. The chat was held in support of CBC’s Canada Reads event, for which Lemire’s Essex County has been picked as one of the final five books (see here). If you missed the chat, I have pasted the transcript below for your reading pleasure.
Don’t forget to tune in to the Canada Reads debates on February 7, 8 and 9, when Sara Quin will be defending Essex County!.
Thursday January 27, 2022

Hi everyone, and welcome to the final Canada Reads 2011 live chat! Thanks for joining us each week, it’s been a blast hosting these chats. Today’s guest is Jeff Lemire, author of Essex County. If you have a question, please enter it now so they can be entered into the queue for Jeff to answer.

We also have a Canada Reads prize pack to give away. If you ask a question, your screen name will be entered in a draw. The winner will be announced at the end of the chat. The chat will last approximately 1 hour and will close at 3pm ET.

Welcome, Jeff!

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:01 [email protected]
Jeff Lemire:

Hi Erin!

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:01 Jeff Lemire

While we wait for everyone to get their questions in, I’ll get started with one of my own. Out of the three stories in Essex County, do you have a favourite? Why or why not?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:01 [email protected]
Jeff Lemire:

Ghost Stories is the heart of the whole trilogy and the book I’m the most proud of. It was also the most difficult to complete

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:02 Jeff Lemire

Why was that?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:03 [email protected]
Jeff Lemire:

Trying to weave between past and present, fantasy and reality. It took me some time to find my “voice” and how I wanted to approach that It was also the longest book and took me the longest to draw.

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:04 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From EmilyEmily: ]

Canada has some kick-ass cartoonists and comics creators. Why do you think that is?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:04 Emily
Jeff Lemire:

You’re right, some of my favorite cartoonists are Canadaian, Darwyn Cooke, Seth…I think Canadian artists, whether they’re filmmakers, novelists etc…all have a unique, “outsiders” point of view because of our proximity to the US giant.

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:06 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From SetheSethe: ]

I’ve always wanted to know this. The section in Tales from the Farm at the end when Lester and Jimmy fight the aliens, what did you want to convey there?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:06 Sethe
Jeff Lemire:

…it is meant to be ambiguous enough that you can read it in different ways…you could take it literally or you can take it more symbolically…Lester has one last gasp of childhood fantasy before going back to face up to his “reality”

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:08 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From GuestGuest: ]

Hi Jeff! I loved E.C. and think it’s brilliant! Having said that, do you think it belongs to this selection of novels? I’m not asking that because I question its literary and artistic value, but because I’m not sure about the categorization. Is it really a literary subcategory or is it a form or an artistic medium that should be recognized on its own? thanks

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:09 Guest
Jeff Lemire:

That’s a tough one to answer. I think comics as a medium deserve as much recognition as prose writing..but are they the same medium? Of course not. Yet it depends on your definition of a “novel” which can be more broad.

At the end of the day the public seemed to think it did belong, I’m not going to argue.

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:11 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From Sarah R.Sarah R.: ]

“Essex County” was my first graphic novel, and I LOVED it. I started re-reading it last night and took the time this time around to read the wonderful introduction by Darwyn Cooke that I hastily skipped the first time around (sorry!) He places “Essex County” within a larger Canadian-Graphic-Novel scene, one that I had was totally unaware of but now SUPER excited to start exploring. What would your “Must-Read”s of the genre be?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:11 Sarah R.
Jeff Lemire:

It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken -Seth
George Sprott - Seth
Louis Riel - Chester Brown
Skim- Jillian and Mariko Tamaki

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:12 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From WendyWendy: ]

Can you elaborate on your creative process? How does one create a graphic novel? Do pictures or the dialogue come first? Let us into your creative psyche, Jeff!

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:13 Wendy
Jeff Lemire:


Thursday January 27, 2011 2:13 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From DeniseDenise: ]

If this is just suppose to be about Essex County, then forgive me. Sweet Tooth! Love it. Where did the idea of a kid with antlers come from?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:13 Denise
Jeff Lemire:

Just Kidding…it;s a pretty organic process and changes from project to project. But If I were to boil it down….I always start with an image..a re-occurring image or “scene” that keeps popping up in my sketchbooks

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:14 Jeff Lemire
Jeff Lemire:

In the case of EC it all started with a drawing of a little boy on a farm in a mask and cape and a big hulking Hockey Player I slowly developed their larger story started jotting down ideas for dialogue and plot as they came to me and eventually worked that into a loose outline.

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:15 Jeff Lemire
Jeff Lemire:

Then I just start drawing pages. I’ll take one scene at a time, write out what happens and what the rough dialogue will be, then lay that out into rough little thumbnailed page layouts breaking it down into a rhythm or story beats. Then I pencil these very loosely getting all the main details and drawing problems figured out

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:17 Jeff Lemire
Jeff Lemire:

Then I ink these as expressively as I can..trying to make the final art as emotional and bold as I can. I then letter the pages on the computer from my original notes and tweak the dialogue and text one more time as I do that.

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:17 Jeff Lemire
Jeff Lemire:

How’s that?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:19 Jeff Lemire

I’d say that was pretty thorough!

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:19 [email protected]
[Comment From Gabriel BGabriel B: ]

How long will your run be on Superboy?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:20 Gabriel B
Jeff Lemire:

Right now I have a 24-issue run plotted out….I was actually just outlining issues 11-20 in more detail right before I went online!

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:21 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From AlexAlex: ]

What Canadian authors influenced “Essex County”? (Alice Munro? EC is very evocative of her)

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:21 Alex
Jeff Lemire:

The biggest Canadian influences were Ken Dryden’s THE GAME and Seth’s Its A Good Life…

John Steinbeck was actually the biggest literary influence

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:23 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From JulesJules: ]

I loved your post about Essex County on the Canada Reads blog the other day. Would you ever pay homage to another place you live, like Toronto?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:24 Jules
Jeff Lemire:

I am working on a new book that is a love letter of sorts to Canada’s Maratime provinces.

After that I plan on doing another book that takes place in Northern Ontario where I spent a lot of time as a child

EC Vol2.(Ghost Stories) really dealt with a lot of my feelings about T.O.

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:25 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From DawsonDawson: ]

DC has a million plus characters to choose from, why settle with Superboy and Atom to kick off your intro to the universe?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:26 Dawson
Jeff Lemire:

I didn’t choose them…they chose me…or Geoff Johns and Dan Didio chose me to write those two characters. Having said that Superboy is a pretty good fit for me.

Now that I have my foot in the door though you will start to see new projects from me in later this year that focus on characters that I pursued on my own!

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:27 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From ashash: ]

The relationship between Lou and Vince felt very raw and real. Do you have any siblings and did these relationships influence how these two interacted?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:28 ash
Jeff Lemire:

Also…I’ll ask everyone to excuse my bad spelling…I’m trying to eat a cheeseburger as I type!

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:28 Jeff Lemire
Jeff Lemire:

I have two sisters and neither of them ever played hockey with me. Their relationship was totally fictional and not based on anyone I know.

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:29 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From CarrieCarrie: ]

What has response been like in the real Essex County?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:30 Carrie
Jeff Lemire:

Very positive. Everybody is extremely excited and supportive!

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:30 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From JaredJared: ]

what can we expect next for Sweet Tooth? do you plan on creating any other original ongoing series after Sweet Tooth?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:31 Jared
Jeff Lemire:

Yes…it’s already in the works!

After Sweet Tooth and The Underwater Welder I’ll most likely be doing a new ongoing Vertigo book that will be a bit more sci-fi, and another graphic novel set in Northern Ontario that draws on, among other things, my 10-year experience working as a cook

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:33 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From JillJill: ]

since Canada Reads was announced, you’ve been everywhere! and there’s a new Sweet Tooth and you write Superboy. How in the world do you find time to do it all?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:33 Jill
Jeff Lemire:

I don’t know. I love to work. I love making comics…I spend every waking hour doing it. Aside from spending time with my wife and son it’s all I want to do.

I don’t play video games…I don’t watch TV…I don’t go out…I work!

And I’ve also learned how to juggle different projects from day to day and still be productive with each.

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:36 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From David David: ]

Hi Jeff, I really enjoyed Essex County, especially Ghost Stories. I live in Essex county in the UK! Do you have any plans to visit England? Maybe a signing or talk?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:37 David
Jeff Lemire:

I have had a lifelong love affair with England…ever since I read way too many Hellblazer comics as a kid and listened to way too much Clash…

I would love to come to the UK…but UK a store or convention has yet to invite me!

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:38 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From Jared Jared: ]

Honestly, what is your favorite project to work on right now?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:38 Jared
Jeff Lemire:

They are all so different and all offer something different to me creativly. As a result it’s the balance that I enjoy.

I would never just write superhero comics. On their own they are not enough to satisfy me creatively. But doing them in addition to doing my own creator owned series and my own graphic novels…they provide a nice escape for me and are a lot of fun to do.

But at the end of the day, what really motivates me is doing new projects like The Underwater Welder, Essex County and Sweet Tooth

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:41 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From Dawson Dawson: ]

Is it frustrating for you as a DCU writer to deal with fans pleading for something new/original and still asking for a followup to a prior story? Do the requests for cameos and crossovers ever effect your work?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:41 Dawson
Jeff Lemire:

In some ways The Underwater Welder is the most “fun” to work on because I have total freedom to work at my own pace and experiment

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:41 Jeff Lemire
Jeff Lemire:

Sometimes it does, but that’s part of the business.

Like I said if I couldn’t do Sweet Tooth and my own graphic novels as well, these things would bother me more…but since I can, and have TOTAL freedom in those worlds, it’s easy for me to be more flexible with my DCU work.

Also those things you mention can be restrictive, or they can be a lot of fun…it all depends on your attitude

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:44 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From Jen Jen: ]

Essex County screamed “Canadian” to me, but I hadn’t heard of it until Canada Reads. But I heard it did very well in the US. Why do you think that is?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:44 Jen
Jeff Lemire:

Well, the publisher was that’s a start. And as an American publisher they didn’t really understand the Canadian marketplace as well as they did their own. I’m just glad Canada Reads finally helped EC find a Canadian audience!

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:45 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From Angela Angela: ]

Do you have a favourite character or are you equally fond of all your characters?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:45 Angela
Jeff Lemire:

Old Lou is my all time favorite character that I’ve ever written and drawn. I feel the closest to him and still miss him a little bit everyday. He was the most like me in many ways

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:46 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From AJ AJ: ]

Wow, all your ideas sound so geat and so different from each. Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:47 AJ
Jeff Lemire:

Like me Lou had big ears…a big nose..he loved to drink too much canadian whiskey and watch too much hockey and was always grumpy

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:48 Jeff Lemire
Jeff Lemire:

That is the hardest question to answer…I don’t know where things come from…Trying to remember where an idea first started is like trying to pinpoint the exact second you started having headache. The usually start as some really simple image or idea…the same kind we all have a dozen times a day…

Most we forget or ignore but some keep coming back and growing like a snowball until they turn into something more

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:50 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From Leslie Leslie: ]

I loved Essex County. go Sara Quin! I was wondering where you see Lester as a grown-up? Does he ever connecting Jimmy? What is he doing now?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:50 Leslie
Jeff Lemire:

When I look in the mirror I see Lester grown up.

Jimmy still works at the gas station. I do want to do one more Jimmy and Lester story some day, but I don’t want to spoil it here…it will answer both those questions in more detail…some day…

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:52 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From Ami Ami: ]

I loved the book, but am wondering why there is such a prevalence of male characters. Anne, the country nurse, is the only major female character. Was that intentional, and if so, why?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:52 Ami
Jeff Lemire:

Well…I’m a man…so I just know more about that perspective and see the world through male eyes. I was also still finding my “voice” when I did these books so I guess i focused on what I knew best and was most comfortable with.

I think I have grown as a writer since and can stretch a bit more now though…my next GN after Welder will focus on a female lead character.

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:54 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From Jared Jared: ]

What type of advice do you think aspiring writers need that they might not typically hear?

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:55 Jared
Jeff Lemire:

It’s really hard and takes a really long time to a) find your voice as a writer b) have any kind of success with it.

You need to be willing to write a thousand bad stories before you find a good one, and not give up. And you need to accept that you will never make a living writing or be “famous” doing it. The writing is what is important..nothing else matters.

Persistence and dedication is the most important quality that you can have. There are millions people out there more talented than you…but you can still out work them!!

Never accept your work…always move on to the next thing and try to be better with each thing you do

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:58 Jeff Lemire
[Comment From David David: ]

The crow in Essex County I have seen in your other works, is this intentional. I always saw the crow in EC as the storyteller…

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:58 David

Thanks for coming everyone. We have time for Jeff to answer David’s question before we wrap up.

During the conversation, we had a draw for the Canada Reads prize pack and the winner is….Alex! Alex, email [email protected] to claim your prize!

If you’re in Montreal, Jeff will be doing a live event there tonight. All the details can be found here:

Thursday January 27, 2011 2:59 [email protected]
Jeff Lemire:

The crow is the soul of the town…EC embodied and watching over its residents from above. He sees the big picture and how they all weave together even if they don’t

I killed him in Sweet Tooth because I needed to move on as a storyteller and couldn’t keep one foot in the success of EC if I wanted to do that.

Thursday January 27, 2011 3:00 Jeff Lemire

Thanks to Jeff, for chatting with us today. I hope you enjoyed your cheeseburger!

Don’t forget, there are three ways to participate in the Canada Reads debates this year: attend the debates, listen on the radio or watch (and chat!) online. All the details can be found at

Thanks to everyone who came out to the live chats. I had a lot of fun and I hope you did too.

Thursday January 27, 2011 3:01 [email protected]
Jeff Lemire:

Thanks everyone! Go buy Sweet Tooth!!

Related posts:

  1. Jeff Lemire In-Store in Montreal Today and Live Chat Online!
  2. Jeff Lemire Shares Thoughts on Essex County for CBC’s Canada Reads
  3. Jeff Lemire’s Essex County Makes the Final Five for CBC’s Canada Reads Top Books of the Decade!
  4. Jeff Lemire’s Essex County Makes CBC’s Canada Reads Top 10 Books of the Decade!
  5. Jeff Lemire’s Essex County Named one the Top 40 Essential Canadian Novels of the Decade!


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