Episode 13: Creator Interview: Freshawn Womack

Transcript

Leigh Ann: All right, Lit Nerds! Welcome back to another episode of the Modcast. It’s Leigh Ann here, and I’ve got a treat for you! 

Today, we’re proud to feature an interview with Freshawn Womack, uh, who is the creator of a graphic novel titled The Wood Witches. This magical story features a very diverse cast, with none other–with none other than three Women of Color in the lead roles as the heroes. Which is something–not necessarily new, but very exciting, because we don’t often see that! 

The premise is “Everything Old World had built up was destroyed by famine, war, and disease. This world is up for grabs between mercenaries, witches, organizers and…a soul-stealing demon that incites war! The wood witches, Fern, Aspen, and Ivy, have their hands full trying to make tea and save humankind!” 

So, this, The Wood Witches, is absolutely one of my favorite graphic novels. Anyone who knows me, you know how much I love Marvel comics and graphic novels in general. I have a whole bookshelf in my bedroom dedicated to them, and now that I have The Wood Witches: Book One up there, I’m, you know, very excited to add the rest of the series when they come out. I highly recommend getting a copy of The Wood Witches for your own and supporting Freshawn’s work. The first chapter is actually, um, free to view on the official website, so you should definitely go check out the preview, just to–you know, spark your interest and hold you over while you wait for your copy to come in the mail.

Um, at the bottom of the transcript for this episode, I will be linking all of Freshawn’s socials, um, as well as some other cool stuff like his guest appearance on the podcast, uh, “Block”–uh, sorry. “Black Super Heroes Matter,” that’s it, where Freshawn discusses his origin story as an artist. If you need more wood witches in your life, definitely follow them on whatever socials you use. 

Now, without further ado, allow me to introduce Freshawn Womack! 

So, thank you for joining me! I’m really excited to have you on this podcast. Um. We’re, we’re here today to discuss The Wood Witches, which is Book One of your four-book series for The Wood Witches?

Freshawn: That’s what I’m planning for. Right now I’m working on the second. 

Leigh Ann: Okay! So we have at least three others to look forward to, right? That’s going to be fun, because you’re just one person–the one person working on an entire series of graphic novels. So you have to write, plan, draw, color. You’re um, doing the pencil work, basically, and um, you’re doing the text yourself as well–like the writing. And like, obviously–The listeners can’t see it, but I’m holding this book, and it’s got more than 300 pages in it of one one person’s work, and–

Actually, in the back it has more than one person’s work. You have um, fan arts on the last page here, where um, your readers have participated and contributed. So–They’re really nice, too! 

Freshawn: Yeah, that still blows my mind, that people wanted to make fan art of my work! Like–When I was like, starting it, like. Okay. So like, I was honestly afraid no one would read it. [Laughs.] Like, I mean, I feel like a lot of people have that fear, anyway. Like, when they do something, but like. I had to get over that fear and just jump in because like, it doesn’t even matter, like, if it’s it’s read. In a way–I mean, I want it to be read, I really do. I want people to read it, but like, I–It’s a thing that I have to do for myself. Um, and like, I like–

Because like, every like–Expression is like, one of my big things, and I feel like everyone deserves to have their voice like, expressed. Because like, too often we’re all just hindered, um, from doing what we want to do in this society. [Chuckles.] And like, I feel like we’d be better off in general if we just like, did what–more of what we wanted to do, we felt like was like, close to home. And like, and I tried to like, write novels before, but I don’t think–

We were in a creative writing class together, so I would–I think you know that I wasn’t the best like, writer-writer like, per se. Um, but like, I found…I feel like I. It’s because like, I would always want to show things rather than like, um, write what it was and describe it. And like, I can picture it in my head more clearly. So like, that’s why I think like, when I found comics when I was older, like when I was in high school, because of, you know, Scott Pilgrim. I watched the movie, and then I had to read the comics. And then like, I was like, you know, “I can do that!” And then that kind of like, pushed me into that. And like, I was able to–I felt like I connected with comics better in that way, like writing them and stuff, and even reading them more, so. 

That was a long-winded explanation!

Leigh Ann: Don’t even worry about it because I talk forever if somebody doesn’t interrupt me, you know. 

[Laughs.]

Um. But I totally get that because I remember we were in the clinic–We had the creative writing class together. 

Freshawn: Yeah. 

Leigh Ann: Um, and I remember really struggling with that because–Um, I think it’s really important to find the right medium for a story. For–particular stories, some stories, they’re better suited to prose. Some are better, better suited for poetry, and others as comics, graphic novels. And then some just don’t work as written material at all, and it looks best as a play or a movie. So it’s really important to find the right medium. 

And I really think that this story, The Wood Witches, is suited for the graphic novel format. Because as I was reading it, I remember thinking, “Why did he do a graphic novel instead of, you know, like a prose novel?” And I realized it wouldn’t have had the same impact, really. Because not everything would come through. Like with the graphic novel, you don’t have to say that you’re including Black, Indigenous, People of Color. You can clearly see that these are Black, Indigenous, People of Color cast in the role of the hero. 

Freshawn: Well, and see–

Like, whenever you said that, like, you can just put them there and you see it: that’s like, one of my really big goals with this. Because like, I was thinking, “Man!” Like, before I wrote this comic, I was like, “I wish there were more Black women in magical stories. [Laughs.] And um, and not just like, “Oh, their coffee-colored skin,” like whenever they do that kind of thing in like, novels, you know. I mean, that’s fine, but like it–

It seems like, generic. And like, they don’t always like, show that there are even different skin tones with Black people, and that each of–And everyone’s like–Or just People of Color in general, that we each have like, um, different skin tones among even um, the different, like, um, like, backgrounds. Or like, you know, wherever we come from. Like um, I have like, different–

I like, tried my best to put different shades of brown people, you know, in my stories. Because like, there are different shades of brown people, and like I feel like in like, some cartoons you see like–You might see like, Black people, but they’re all like, the same tone or something. I mean. 

Leigh Ann: Right. 

Freshawn: At least that’s how I feel. Um, but I like to show like–

I want to show like, even darker skinned people as being like, powerful and beautiful, and even lighter skinned be like, people. As beautiful and powerful. Different tones. Because that’s just how people are, different people are. They vary, you know? 

People kind of just do what they feel close to or care about or like, or, or see, I feel like. And, and those are probably like, the people that have like, one black friend and say they’re not racist. 

[Laughter.] 

And so they don’t really…Like, they don’t really spend a lot of time with like, varying people and can see like, the variances and like, noticing that we’re like–We vary. And not differ, but like, vary. Um, it’s a beautiful thing.

And it’s good to be noticed and seen because like, whenever people are seen, um, or feel seen, then they–I don’t know. It’s just really great. It’s a great feeling to see someone that like, has a similar quality or aspect or attribute to–to yourself, like, in media because it makes you feel like you can also be in that story or be that, you know. Honestly, whenever I was a kid I didn’t think that like, Black people could have like, these cool stories. Like, like I didn’t until like–Even like, when I wrote stuff, like, it was like, white characters and like, partly feels like, ugh, that I, that like, I only drew or like, wrote stories of ma–like, magical stories with white people. But like, um, that’s like–Even like, when I saw like, anime. The, the characters, you know, still looked white.  And like, even in anime culture, they want–There is like, a thing where they want to emulate whiter skin and um, white aspects, European aspects, like, um. At least from what I’ve noticed. I could be completely wrong, and if I am wrong I would like to be corrected by someone. And uh.  

But like, I didn’t think that darker people could be like, magical and great and main characters and have like, stories of prophecy and, um, magical things and all that stuff. And I was like, “Oh wait, I can just make that!” And so, like, it’s really–and it’s really been cool. Like more recently I’ve seen more of that, um, some people–It feels like they’re just trying to like, make a Black person to like, meet their quota of Black people superheroes, sometimes. But like, that’s why if you, if you’ve looked–I mean, like, I even like–

There’s more characters that I have that I haven’t like, shown in the co–in Book One because, you know, it’s Book One. But like, I plan on having even more characters, and most of them are gonna be like, People of Color and women, and the villains are probably gonna be men, mostly, because what have we seen in all of history, like ever. 

Leigh Ann: Yeah, pretty much! It’s–that’s something that also really stuck out to me in The Wood Witches; it’s not just the diversity of the Black, Indigenous, People of Color, because you have many of those–including white people, you know, because diversity. But you have diversity in, um, you know, motivations and personalities and things like that. Like, it’s not just one ideology in the story. And even when we have the, um, the elite, really, um, organizers–the people who are controlling the populace, they have different motivations as well. 

So you have one–at least one character is very obviously corrupt and that’s like a focal point of the story, but then you have another organizer whose motivations are very different. Even though he’s participating in an oppressive system, he has good intentions, and he does, um, attempt to improve the lives of those who he’s supposed to be looking after. And that was something that I thought was very humanizing because–And it’s very paralleling to today, you know, with the events of January sixth and all that. A lot of people are saying ACAB and things like that. And I think it’s very clear that um, some people do go into the police force with good intentions, and they do want to help people, and part of that is going into an oppressive system and attempting to change the system, even though it seems unlikely that they’re going to be able to do that. And I think that some of the characters in the story have those good intentions going into oppressive systems like that, and then others seem not so much like that. 

Freshawn: Yes, that is exactly what I was wanting to to portray because like, you know. I’ll say ACAB, you know, sometimes, too, but like, I do know that there are people that like, um, that want to do good and they really do have like, good intentions and wish for the best, but, you know, this, this–It wasn’t made for us. It wasn’t m–It wasn’t even like, made to technically protect us. It’s to protect its own interests, and that’s the interests of the rich and the powerful. 

And so like, um, it’s–I have–The way I’m gonna show some more of like, how that will play out is going to be in Book Two. But um, like, because like, I’ve already–You mentioned like, the police, like the–There are these people like, you’ve already read it, but there are people, for anyone listening: There are people called mercenaries, but short–it’s mercs for short, and um, they’re, you know, hired security and basically police. And um, and there is a character that is just like, “Hmm. I don’t know about all of this!” Even though she’s in it, and she’s kind of in it for like, not the complete best reasons, but like, she doesn’t–She’s not in complete agreement with their, you know, like–yeah, their ideologies, honest–But there is one guy just like, “I just want to fight; I don’t even care.” 

[Laughter.]

And like, that’s, yeah. And honestly that’s like a lot of what I’ve seen in, uh, and what a lot of people are afraid of in police, you know, police brutality. Because like, when I set out to start this, my–One of my big focuses was like, white supremacy and police brutality and like, how that like, permeates through a system and affects people. And um, like we’ve already seen, um, that like, that neglect of like, the people and how it causes like, people to turn against each other as well, like um, witches–against witches. Because witches stand for basically minority groups: LGBTQ+, um, POC, just anyone who’s marginalized, basically. And um, and then you’ve got these oppressive, you know, white supremacy, patriarch–patriarchal systems that like, um, are always like, base–you know, oppressing that; oppressing them or us. And um. And like, with–I don’t really know where I was going with that, but. 

But like, what–I remember that, I was gonna say that like, um, I’ve seen like, firsthand like, this, you know, these police that just wanna, just wanna fight, want something to do to and take out their aggression on the lesser, um, what they see as lesser. And like, even like, when I was like, working on one of the chapters, I was–I was actually having to take a break and I took my dog to a trail. And I usually go to that trail, and like, um, I used to would go alone. But then like, these like–

I got harassed by like, police officers and they were like, “You fit the description. That’s why we’re like, talking to you.” And they had guns out, and I was like, “All right, this is what today is.” But I was, you know, grateful that I like, walked away from that. And um, it was–But still it was nerve-shattering and, and I still don’t go to that trail alone anymore. I always take a friend. And um, and it’s just kind of funny because like, the area that I was on, in the comic, was talking about like, like finally getting into the police brutality aspect of what I was like, wanting to talk about. And I’m like, well, this isn’t a kick in the teeth or ironic or something. I’m just like, “Look at this! Look at this. This is exactly what I was saying. Here we are! Thank you for adding fuel to my story.”

Leigh Ann: Yep. 

Freshawn: You know, I don’t always feel like the, the activist-y type. Like that–I can like, go and like, be at a protest even though like–I want to, but I’m also kind of a scaredy cat. Like if I’m being real. So like, the least I can do is, is have this story to be my like, protest. And honestly, like, if you’re Black or in any marginalized group, your existence is a protest. And you expressing yourself regardless of all the shit that you like have to like, see or go through, then you’re already protesting. But yeah. That was–That was a little heavy!

Leigh Ann: But you know, this–I mean, a lot of the topics in the story, the things that the story addresses are very heavy topics. Especially today. It’s like, I didn’t even–I read this before January sixth, so I wasn’t even thinking of it in that context until that happened and I was like, “There’s the white supremacy!” Then read the story again, and then it was a lot clearer for me after I had seen that. Because I’m a white person so I have white privilege. And I don’t always see it even when it’s in front of my face. So it’s radical terrorist attacks, attempted coups like that that really make me…

I think it’s eye-opening for a lot of people. Like this, like I’m trying to be anti-racist. I’m trying to pay more attention. And then people do stuff like that and I’m like, “There it is. You made it very clear for me, thank you. This is a great teaching opportunity, a great learning opportunity for myself, even though it’s very–Iit’s a very terrible thing to recognize.”  

I don’t know if you’ve seen the silent film uh, “Birth of a Nation.” It was, I think, filmed in 1939? But it’s based on a book. It celebrates the KKK, so it goes over the creation of the KKK, it’s got people in blackface in the film, and it’s–It’s really like, terrible. And there’s a scene in that film

where it’s after Black people have gotten the right to vote. So they go to the voting booth, and it depicts the Black people, um, disenfranchising the white people. They’re pushing white people away from the polling places so that they can take over, that sort of thing. Propaganda, you know. 

And then there’s a scene after that–Yeah, we need to go back!–To the scene where the white people rise up against them and throw them out of Congress, out of the House of Representatives, you know. After Black people who just started getting elected, whites will rise up and destroy them, as happened in history. And watching that scene it really recalls January the, January sixth event, the attempted coup, because it looked very similar to [indistinct]. 

And then if you juxtapose January sixth with Black Lives Matter protests, it’s–I don’t know how to make it any more clear, you know? Um, but those are very overt examples of white supremacy, police brutality, that sort of thing. And I think it’s less overt in your graphic novel,  like it’s less obvious. But after seeing clear examples like that, I think it’s easier to recognize the more subtle examples–If you’re willing to see it. 

Freshawn: Oh yeah, definitely. Like, my my goal with this was to bypass people’s egos because like, um, I–

Like, ego is the best way, like, is the best way to um, not comprehend sometimes. And like, I wanted Book One to be subtle because I want someone who maybe is against my ideas, or like, you know, Black Lives Matter, all these different things…But I want them to connect to these characters that are extremely relatable, that are…And um. Because once you do, you’ll be like, “Oh, I can see myself as this person.” But then like, you see what’s happening to them and against them, and you’re like, “Oh man, that would suck if that were real!” And if people didn’t believe that their problems were real, and then um, and like–

Oh man, I was gonna say something and I forgot. But maybe it’ll come back to me. But like, yeah. Like yeah, those are very like, overt. Like um, things like. There are always like, people that are, um, against the witches in some way, and I try to make it clear that like, it’s like. They’re not even really doing anything. Like, the witches are kind of just trying to exist, and um. Like–

But then people are always like, constantly saying the witches are bad, they’re evil, they’re these horrible people. And um, and it’s to dehumanize them and to make them seem less than. And um, that’s what that, like, your propaganda–the propaganda movie that you’re talking about. And there’s gonna be some of that. That’s actually gonna happen in the story later on too. Um. 

But like, I’m setting it up right now. Um. And there’s like, there’s always like, whispers of like, witches being awful, or. And then like, um, if you’re a witch, then, um, or found out to be a witch, then you won’t be able to like, sell anything. Because like, this is like, a time of like, where being a merchant is extremely important. Because like, ever like–

There are a lot of like, nomadic people and just people, and then there are some civil–some um, like, small civilizations or small villages and stuff, of people that um, come together. And they’re usually like, a bunch of different merchants and just, uh, farmers or people living. Um, but selling is extremely important in this and like, who you know. Um. And that’s–

And that’s why if like, a small village of people finds out you’re a witch, it’s pretty much a game over for you. You’re pretty much just done for as far as like, selling. Unless you want to like, do like, really tough work or become a mercenary yourself. And um. And that’s like, really, um. And that also is to show that, um, the system being against you, kind of, makes you do like, a lot of like–makes people do a lot of shitty stuff or stuff that they just do not want to do. Like, people will like, um, talk about the ghetto like it’s–like some bad thing. Um, or like, um, hood people or something, and like, it’s bad, but like, they’re–They’re just people that are–just people. And they’re only looked at as bad because like, a lot of Black people were the ones doing it first. And then like, then those ideas are like, stolen, and then–by white people. And then like, said, “This is our idea now! Now it’s good. Now it’s cool. Now it’s safe.”

[Laughter.]

But like–

Leigh Ann: Yeah.

Freshawn: But like, oops, sorry! 

But a lot of people, um. And then. But they’ll also like, um, say “What about black on black crime?” And–As if like, these people aren’t fucking surviving! Like they, it’s like, just imagine being like, poor, forced to like, um, in like, being forced by a system–systemic oppression to, to like–

You can’t get like, better jobs or like, the things you want because people are going to judge you by your hair being nappy or something, or “unprofessional.” Um, or all these like, different biases. And then um, poorer like–then gentrification, and then poor like, um, funding for like, education in these like, schools. And like, poorly funded, um, like, areas and stuff. And then, um, like, job opportunities aren’t as like, available, so like. You’re gonna fight each other for your resources. And like, whenever–

And also, black on black crime isn’t real! Because like, there’s white on white crime. Come on, guys. It’s like, you’re gonna–If you’re–

People kill people that are like, more, you know, around–They’re more around. I mean, that’s, that’s what…People kill people that are around, that like, everybody–But like, it’s like–“I’m around you. I have to kill you, that’s the law.” But like, just like if you’re gonna like, you know, you know, shoot at somebody, it’s probably gonna be people that look more like you. Like, skin-wise, that are–you’re just around, probably. But it’s not like Black people are more violent than white people. 

But like, that’s also to say that like, the people are like, in my comic, are like, saying, “Oh, witches are so bad.” But they’re really just like, surviving. There are a lot of people, there are a lot of witches that are in hiding because they don’t want to be found out, um, because it’s unsafe for them to be found out. Um. And, and they’re really just trying to live and do their best and not hurt anybody. Because they’re just people. 

Leigh Ann: Right! They’re just trying to have bread and tea and just live in the woods, you know? 

Freshawn: I’m just trying to have bread and tea and live in the woods!

[Laughter.]

Leigh Ann: Like that’s–that’s the ideal. It sounds so ideal to me right now. 

Your book is kind of like a prophecy or something, you know. The war, famine, disease. We’ve got the disease! 

Freshawn: Yeah, ‘cause like. I don’t know. And the thing is, like, I was like…I had written the synopsis like, a long time before like, the pandemic was happening. Okay, not a long time, but it was like, 2019. Um, because like, um, I was like, what would happen for this to happen?

[Laughter]

And like, I mean, also it’s just like, history kind of repeats itself. And usually, like with war comes the famine and disease. Usually, anyway. Because like, usually, like, um, the world like–humanity…We not–we–

But usually, you know, men in charge: they neglect the people, and then that’s what usually overtakes people is famine and disease–and then war, and all this destruction happens. So of course an apocalyptic like, hellscape is sure to, you know, and follow. I mean, ensue or follow. Um, and follow, but. But um, yeah. 

So like, whenever I, uh, wrote that part, and then like, the, the disease part was happening, because like, it’s supposed to be like that. 2040 was what I imagined that the, the end times would be. And then that would jumpstart the rest of the story, and. But I feel like it came like, 20 years sooner, and I’m just like, “All right.”

[Laughter]

Leigh Ann: I picked this up at the end of 2020, so I’m like, in December or something like that, and I read it and I was like, “I think we’re getting there!” 

All right. Oh! So, I just want to discuss the elemental attributes themselves because I know in the in the story, Ivy monologues about what exactly the elemental attributes are and what it means for people who can manipulate those elements. And because we’re not visual, I was going to go ahead and describe, read this page for the listeners so that they know what we’re talking about, and what it means to be a witch in this world. 

Freshawn: Okay. 

Leigh Ann: So Ivy monologues, um, 

“The bottom line, according to my studies, is that there are five elements. They are earth, air, fire, water, and soul. Most witches will have one of these elemental attributes that they can manipulate. A rarity is that a witch can have two, maybe three, attributes combined. This makes for a different kind of magic altogether. Though this doesn’t mean combined elements can be used separately. A steam witch wouldn’t be able to conjure fire or water alone. So the fact that wood witches infuse water, fire, air, and earth makes us something truly unique.” 

Okay, so. And that was something that really intrigued me, is the five elements: fire, water, air, earth, and soul being the fifth and most rare. Um, so a witch is somebody who, according to what I’m getting from this, is somebody who is born with this innate ability to manipulate whatever elements and any combination. So you have like, several different possible combinations there. Um, but even though they’re born with the ability, it doesn’t always seem to appear. Like, it can lay dormant for a while. For example, you have one character whose powers does not, um, appear until her life is in immediate danger. 

So um, what exactly makes a witch? Is it just the ability that you’re born with, to manipulate these elements? Or is it something else? Is it something about a person or their genetics or something?

Freshawn: It’s a mixture of genetics. Um, in–Later on I do give like, a slight hint of what may have caused witches in general. But like, there are some people who could have the genes but it just never gets expressed, like, you know, doesn’t come out. Um, and there are some people that may have like, one element. And then one of the parents may have an element, and then the other parent has an element, and then they combine, and then the child may have that. Still may not like, be expressed, but like, they still have that in them. But like, they have the, the witch blood in them. 

[in a creepy voice] The witch blood! 

[Laughs.] And uh…

Leigh Ann: Okay! Okay!

Freshawn: But like, the…I guess, really, the just–

What makes you a witch, or known to be a witch, is if you can use that power. And like, the, the thing about them is that like, they can–they’re like, they’re like a muscle. I feel like, um, a muscle that’s used–even though that’s not the best term for this. But like, because there’s some other stuff that goes along with it that I haven’t really explained yet, um, in the story. But um, right–for right now, we can say it’s like a muscle, and the more you use it, the stronger it gets. And like, the–or at least like, the more accessible it is for you. Like, um, like, even Fern, like, in the beginning, she said, um, “I don’t normally use my power like this,” And she like, used it in a different way than she used it. And um, because like, there’s

Because there was a time–because like, like I said, like, witches, they didn’t–They were kind of, they’re just in hiding. And so like, you kind of see like, the difference in their abilities, um–

Echo! Sorry, my dog is whining at me because she wants to play. I hope she–I hope she doesn’t poop in my house. 

But like, um, like, you can see that the reason why like, Ivy is like, so knowledgeable and she is see–She seems to be more like, fluent with her powers, and like, they’re just really just a part of her, is because she never had to hide her powers. Because her mom was a witch, and her mom and–They lived in the woods together. So like, they kind of just were like, “Cool. We’re cool. Everything’s cool about magic!” But like, the–

So she got to practice with her powers and find out like, more limits of her powers and like, what she can do. Like, um, but…But Fern and Aspen, they’re still kind of learning because they’re just now like, being able to finally be like, “Oh, magic is okay, and I’m around these people that I can be magical with!”

Leigh Ann: Right. It really–it really expresses the power of an accepting community. Um, and community-building. It really affects you for who you are. And then, of course, you’re going to be able to express yourself and learn more about yourself than you ever would with somebody who wants you to be something you’re not. 

Freshawn: Yeah! And um, I plan on–

And I plan on them to like, not only learn from like, the small like, the three of them, but they–They learn from each other and they’re also going to learn from like, outside their community and like, different witches, and like, learn new like, things that they can do. Because they’re gonna be like, “Oh, that’s something that can be done with my power? Okay!” 

And that’s really, that really is just people in general. Like, whenever we’re repressed, um, we don’t learn about ourselves. We don’t dive deeper into like, these magical parts of ourselves and–But like, when we’re ever–whenever we’re able to like, like you said, be with like, a community of people, um, where we can just be ourselves, we flourish. We, like, like a plant, and–

[Chuckles.]

Um, and we can become our fullest selves, our most powerful selves, and ourselves that can help heal other people. Like I was just, I was thinking like, how interesting it is that if you attempt to heal yourself, you’re basically attempting to heal other people by default because like, you heal your wounds and then other people can see that and then they can like apply that stem cells and then they heal themselves as well. Or, and just–

We all just like, heal each other whenever we heal ourselves and are in a safe space to do so. 

Leigh Ann: That’s something I think everybody can learn from, you know. It’s like if you see a good set example like in the story, where they–they’re communicating with each other; they live in a very small space together. Even though they each have their own rooms, they, they live together in the woods. So they’re spending a lot of time together. 

And there’s one, there’s one point in the story–more than once–where um, there’s a little bit of tension because one is not expressing their feelings to the others, so they’re not aware of the feelings. But then when it gets brought up they, they immediately connect with that, and recognize and listen to it instead of saying, “Oh, you didn’t tell me so it’s not my fault” sort of like, off-putting the blame and the responsibility. It’s this idea where you listen to each other and openly communicate with each other in order to make sure that everybody feels safe, everybody feels respected, that sort of thing. 

Freshawn: And like, good, yeah. That’s a really big thing. Um, like, I wanna–I wanna show like, healthy relationships. I wanna like, I wanna have like, various foils, as well, to these like, healthy relationships. Parallels, or, you know, opposites. 

Like, um, like, there’s this, these two characters that are extremely unhealthy: One, um, full of rage and only sees his goals and his desires; and then this person that loves him. But like, it’s not really healthy love, or you could even call it obsession. And um, honestly that’s–they’re in a way similar, in the fact that they see what they want to see, you know. But um. And that really–And they’re projecting what they think that the situation should be, and that just leads to pain after pain after pain. 

But with The Wood Witches, I was, I’m wanting to show like, healthy, like, I mean, of course we’re human beings and we’re going to have like, arguments, disagreements. Um, but like, we can healthily go about those. And that’s what I want to portray with them. Like, even with like, romantic love and stuff, like, that you see in stories or, or even friendships and stuff, there’s always like, these like, disagreements that are toxic. And I mean everyone has like, toxic, you know, toxicity. We’re humans. 

But like, they don’t always express them in the healthiest ways. And like, that kind of like, media is really important in it–in a way that shows people like, how to deal with other people, because like, um, one thing I’ve seen is that reading books helps with your empathy. And I think the same. It’s the same with really most media in general, because you can you attach yourselves to these characters, and you can empathize. 

And um, I like–honestly, like, that’s one of the big reasons why I want to write like, stories is to like–and this one in particular–is to help someone else learn something. Because like, um, media just shows like, a lot of toxic things. And then we see, we see that a lot. We think, “Oh, this is just the way people should behave. This is how I should treat people, and it’s okay if I am toxic and negative. This is just how I am, and there’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it.” 

And that’s not really how things should work. Because like, that’s not how we grow, and that’s not how we keep these good connections that are wholesome and, um. Like, not every connection is worth keeping but like, we can–The ones that are worth keeping, we, we need to like, be better about communication and being healthy about it. And like, sometimes you get angry or frustrated and you just need to express that, and that’s okay. That’s good, that’s positive. And um, but like. 

That’s why I wanted to show like, these people who express themselves and say what they need to say. But they’re not–No one’s mean about it. They’re just like, “Hey, I’m upset about this thing.” And then it’s like, “Oh, I didn’t even know! All right, got it. I’ll be better. Well, this is how I’ll be better.” And well, that, it leaves room for everyone to be able to like, grow in their security with each other. And that’s just like, a life thing in–in the story. 

Leigh Ann: Right. Like it’s very good to have like, a positive model and then you can have like, the other models that people will be able to–be able to relate to those. Like, you know, with the unrequited love. So a lot of people have unrequited love, or if they love the bad boy, they’re fascinated by the bad boy–or the bad girl, however you want to go with it. Like, instead of having like, a love triangle model, we really have like, a love circle model with some of these characters, so that we can have like, a good representation of–. And then the others included are more like the, like a hierarchy. And then others are a triangle, like, where you’re not able to reach anybody. You can’t see everybody or connect with everybody in these situations. But with the circle, you’re able to see everybody and get–and communicate with them more effectively. 

Freshawn: Exactly. Like I–Community is really big for me in general. Like um, if you couldn’t tell by how much I love people in general, um–I mean, the, the listeners probably don’t know, but I love people. Um, I mean, sometimes I need my alone time. I’m just like, I know people, but, but like, um, I really–

That’s why I really like the, the idea of inclusion, and I will like, um, ask like, different people’s thoughts on things. Like usually, like, um, like I had a, I have a friend that’s indigenous, and I wanted to have an indigenous character. But not just like, a token indigenous character. I wanted to like, be like, “Hey, what do you think about this character? What do you think about these things that are going to happen with her?” 

And um, and even before I started The Wood Witches, I was like–Before I became, what I feel like, I guess I consider a witch myself now. But like, um, I would interview, I would ask people, like, “Hey, what does being a witch mean to you?” basically. And like, “What kinds of things do you practice? And how’s life for you?” And I would read like, different like, some books and stuff, um, before I started. Um, but like, I think I just, I want different people like, to be seen and noticed and looked at and–

Because that’s what a community is: heard–being heard, and being able to fully express yourself without fear of judgment, or like you’re gonna get hurt. But yeah, don’t know where I was going…Yeah like, I–I basically am writing this story because like, I’m like, “This is what I want. This is what I want guys to see in the world. Everyone just be chill with each other. That’s really all you need to do, is just be chill and not mad at each other. Well, you can be mad at each other at some point, but like, we can resolve it easily. I mean, resolve it.”

Leigh Ann: Yeah, it’s like, it looks such a good thing. Like, you’re proving that if something’s missing, if there’s a gap in the literature, if there’s something, you know–not everybody is seeing themselves accurately and respectfully represented–proving that this is possible, that you can take it into your own hands and do it. And you also give everybody else a model showing that, “Hey, I did it, so it’s possible for you to do it, too.”

Freshawn: Yeah! 

Leigh Ann: Because a lot of times, you’ll see, um, people like, creators will say, “Oh, well, it’s just not my experience, so I can’t include it.” But I feel like you can include it, if you include it respectfully.

Freshawn: Yes. 

Leigh Ann: You know, if you do the research. If you get sensitivity readers, for example. Ask other people how, like, people whose experience it is, and ask and include them in the process, you know. And that’s how you get an accurate representation and allow people with that experience to feel seen.

Freshawn: It just, yeah. It just takes a little bit–just takes a little bit more work. Um, and like, if you–I feel like white people definitely have, have a big responsibility in showing inclusion in a more positive and non-generic way in media. Um, because like, the Black people–We’re doing it.

Like we’re, we’re already making all these like, Black characters real, and we’re like, sharing our voice and stuff. But um, and there are like, a lot more that I’ve seen. Like um, white artists that are like, including like, People of Color and different like, body types and stuff, and that’s really cool and amazing. Um, so like, but yeah. It’s like, you just, you really just have to talk to people. Like if, if you’re not like, talking to people, then like, what are you really doing with your like?

I mean for me, my–For me personally, I feel like art needs to like, have like, some meaning to it. Because like, you can make art. It doesn’t have a meaning, you can just draw pineapples all day, I don’t care; that’s amazing, you do you. And that’s–And I love that, too, because like, I appreciate really just any art. But for my art specifically, I think I want to like, talk to people on like, a different level of like, things. Like um, like on these like, heavier topics and on these like, um, maybe even some controversial views and stuff. And even just like–but in a light-hearted manner mostly. Like, they’ll be like, fighting and stuff, and making jokes, but like um. There’s like–

When I was talking about like, issues can be resolved by talking with people and being heard and seen, like, there is a character in there that like…You would think, “Oh, this person, she’s a villain,” but like, no, she’s just hurting, and she just needed to be talked to and someone to hear her and then everything was fine.

Leigh Ann: Yeah. Like there’s–I really like that in this story, too, because you humanize your characters in a way that I don’t often see. Um, even when you have the so-called villain, um, you draw the line between a good person doing bad things, a good person who’s in pain and expressing that pain in a non-healthy way. And then you have a bad person doing bad things. And the difference is the bad person knows what they’re doing is wrong and either they don’t care or they enjoy it, and that would be a bad person. And with a good person, you have to try to connect with them and show them a better way to express their anger, their hurt, their fears, so that they can get over it and heal from it. 

Freshawn: Yeah, because like, we, like–Humans just really want connection. Like, that’s really like, why I feel like we fight a lot and like, hurt each other. Um, because of rules by cold men who are not connected and don’t want those connections and don’t really care. And um, and they pit us against each other and then we’re just fighting fighting fighting. And then we have all these complex views, when really it’s a lot simpler. It’s really just like, us versus like–all of us versus this small group of people that don’t really care about you and making you the product and how they get rich and how they stay, you know, up there. 

Leigh Ann: Right! It can get really frustrating to see it, especially in real life. You know, um, and that’s why I really appreciated this story because we get so many good examples and good, um, role models, really, so that we can kind of figure it out on our own, by learning from this book and how they navigate the world and try to improve it not only for ourselves but for others; connect with each other, develop more empathy, that sort of thing. 

Freshawn: That–that’s a goal, because like, um. 

I learned a lot of morals from um, like, tv shows when I was a kid. And like, I feel like more of those like, from like, shows and like, people in my real life sometimes because–And so like, I think that’s why I really connect with like, like, stories, and like, comics, and like, shows. Because like, um, I just–That’s how like, I got a lot of like, wisdom. 

Like, people are going to judge me for this or hate me for this one, but like, I love Naruto, and like, I know there are a lot of people that love Naruto, but there are people that just really hate it! Like, I get it, though. Like uh, like, it’s anime, and it’s got, you know, anime aspects and the long monologues and flashbacks to that, to that one swing set, but like, but um. Like I–I learned a lot of things. Like, I related to Naruto and the fact that he likes orange, and that he’s just some weird outcast kid and that didn’t really have a place. But like, he worked and worked and worked hard, and like, eventually everyone was like, “Oh no, he’s actually chill.”

But like, I learned a lot of like, different like, lessons from that show and just shows like that in general. Um, and I guess like, me writing stories and wanting it to be like a lesson for people is because I want to give back and like, be like, “This was helpful for me. I bet this could be helpful for someone else.” So that’s why, that’s what I want to give. I want to–

It’s my gift to the to the earth–to the earth people. The earth people. 

Leigh Ann: Yes! And I’m glad to be an earth person with a copy of this book to help myself learn. 

Freshawn: Yeah. But um, it’s–It’s a lot of work. And honestly, like, I’ve been having my motivation tanked recently because I’ve been like, working working working. And then like I’ve had like, crap come up with like, my digital tablet, so like. I’ve had to like, go through like, months–I’m still months of like, trying to figure that out. 

But like, I’m still trying to figure out how to work. Um, it’s–The hiatus is taking longer than I wanted to. But I–

Leigh Ann: It’s trial and error. 

Freshawn: Like, yeah. But chapter one is out on Facebook, but I’m working on chapter two as of right now. Um, or at least like, in a hiatus still, because I’m waiting for my tablet stuff to get resolved. Um, maybe I could bully the people through the support? But maybe I won’t. Who knows! 

Leigh Ann: I hope that gets fixed soon because I’m actually waiting for this second book to come out! [Whines.] I’m waiting!

Freshawn: Me too. I’m technically on five chapters or four chapters in on like, sketching and like, notes and stuff. And like, I’ve already, you know, plotted out the whole book and like, what it’s supposed to be and like, everything. Um, but like, now I’m just in the sketching phase of all that. And um, it’s a, it’s a whole thing. 

I remember when I was like, first writing the, um, like, the plot–like the big plot points out like, for all the four books. And I was just pacing around my house and like, talking–silent like, talking to myself and like, whispering to myself and chuckling. And then–I’m sure I look nuts, but like. And like, my friend Paco–well, Joshua Bradley–he was there. He’s a, he’s an amazing artist. He was drawing something actually, while I was pacing, and I’m just glad he didn’t like, be like, “All right, man. I’m leaving.” 

Leigh Ann: I do the same thing, like I–It’s the creative process. It’s a whole thing. 

Freshawn: It really is, yeah. It’s funny, though, because like, um, I took uh, composition for like, music, and I didn’t really excel in like, doing that because like. There was a certain way that the professor wanted it to be done, and that didn’t work with my, like, style of making music and composition. And um. But like, now, like, that I am like…When I started writing this story, like, the stuff that he like, told me and like, was like, “You need to do this and this and this,” is like, what I’m like, is like, crucial in how I plot out my story for The Wood Witches and how I keep it all organized. And so I don’t go like, insane from it. 

But um, I mean, I’ve got a whole world in my head. Like, I’m probably already some sort of like, not completely, you know, sane. And with the other peop–with like, typical people, I guess, I don’t know. But um. But like, it’s really interesting like, how things can translate from different media, different mediums, from medium to medium. 

Leigh Ann: It is! It’s like, that was really fascinating to me how like, creators have things inside their head and then they put it out into the world so that everybody can see it. Like what a world! What a concept! 

Freshawn: I feel like we do make the world better. Like I said, like, whenever we heal ourselves, we can heal our communities because the more people that are healing, the less we need, like, conf–like strife. Like, you can have conflict. Conflict is fine. But strife? I feel like it’s just, like, you’re just fighting to fight, you know? At least, that’s how I feel. I could be wrong. 

Leigh Ann: Like–like, there’s a line between conflict and oppression. When the conflict becomes somebody taking the powers and using that power to oppress the other ones, that’s what goes wrong, I think. 

Freshawn: And by conflict, I feel like we need that conflict. Like, whenever we have those oppressive powers in play, conflict is absolutely crucial. Um, because like, if it’s–If there’s no conflict, then you’re just being pushed along, and you’re going along with it. But even then, there’s conflict internally because no one wants to just be pushed along and oppressed. But like, we need that conflict. We need to talk to people. We need to tell them, “Hey, this idea isn’t exactly…” You know. 

Leigh Ann: Right. 

Freshawn: Like, um. Conflict isn’t always, you know, bad. We need to talk to like, our friends who may be in the like–Like, we need to talk to men about like, how their actions can be oppressive. We need to talk to white people about how their actions be oppressive. Anyone who’s in, like, who benefits from oppression needs to be talked to. We need to have that conflict, or else we don’t grow or that–and that seed is not planted. 

Leigh Ann: Right. Without conflict, there’s no communication, really. 

Freshawn: Yeah. And my story is going to be just–It’s full of conflict. Trying to talk to y’all. I got something to say. [Laughs.] 

[Pause.]

Leigh Ann: And the point with this story is there’s like one overarching, like, big conflict thing going on that’s gonna–It’s gonna be all right, right? No spoilers, but you have to tell me it’s going to be okay. 

Freshawn: Yes. Maybe.

Leigh Ann, devastated: No!

Freshawn: Probably. 

Leigh Ann: Probably is better than maybe, I guess? 

Freshawn: I don’t know. I will say that like, I’m gonna like–I tried to like, hint at like. Things are gonna get dark in Book One, but like, not super–like, say, how dark I was just like–Because like there’s that part with like, you know, whenever–

Before they went to the, went to Queen B–I won’t like, exactly say because that’s kind of a spoiler, I guess, but um, like, before they met with Queen B, there’s that scene that they see and they’re just like, “Hmm. Okay.” But um, that’s like a hint that, you know, like people–Like, it’s kind of funny when people come up to me. They’re like, “Your story is so cute and adorable!” And I’m like, “Okay. All right. Yes.” 

Leigh Ann: Yeah, but epic battles can also be cute and adorable, right?

Freshawn: Well, exactly. That’s the, that’s the goal here: to be devastatingly cute. 

Leigh Ann: Right?! This one is not just one of those superpowers is making like, you know…

Freshawn: Fashion goals, devastating to handle. 

Leigh Ann: [Laughs.] Yeah. 

Freshawn: But um, yeah. That’s yeah. That’s, uh, we covered a lot!

Leigh Ann: Thank you so much–

Thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate it, and you know I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes next here. And yeah. 

For everybody listening or reading, you should definitely get your copy! Again, the links are going to be down below the transcript, so you will be able to, you know, find it really easily and go ahead and get yourself a copy. 

Freshawn: Well, thank you for having me! Means a lot to me. I hope that you have a wonderful rest of your day and be well. 

[End transcript.]

Want more of the wood witches? Follow them on your socials! 

Instagram: @thewoodwitches

Facebook: The Wood Witches 

Website: TheWoodWitches.com

Get your own copy of The Wood Witches: Book One! You can also check it out on Webtoons

Support Freshawn on Patreon

Check out Freshawn’s guest appearance on the Black Super Heroes Matter podcast


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