Last week, I interviewed Malin Rydén and Emma Vieceli, the creators of one of my favorite comics, Breaks. It’s a fantastically untidy, sweet, realistic take on the unparalleled horrors of adolescent love and if you’ve not read it yet you should because it’s great. And free.
This week I’m doing something a little different; interviewing the characters. I sent across specific questions for Cortland and Ian and general questions for the group. Their answers are below. So, if you’re already a reader, get ready for a little extra insight into Breaks. If not, buckle up. These kids don’t pull any punches. Or at least so the rumours go…
Cortland, you moved here three years ago? How are you finding it?
Okay, I guess. I don’t know. This place has got better media labs than my old school, but the sports clubs are a bit lame. I’ll be out of here soon, so no point caring too much about it.
Where did you transfer in from?
Another school. It didn’t have a sixth form, so we came here.
We don’t need to talk about my background.
What was your first week like?
Pretty much what I’d expected. Lessons. Teachers. Other sixth-formers thinking they rule the place. I didn’t mind the work, I just wished I could do it at home.
How easy did you find fitting in?
Oh, yeah, the school board and my social worker made that really easy for me. Like, I’m sure every new student has meetings with the head master and their social worker on school property just to make sure they’re not going to cause any trouble, you know. That didn’t set any of the students off making up reasons they were sure I was here. So, yeah – it was really easy, thanks.
Do they still think of you as the new kid?
I don’t really care what they think of me as. They’re always going to think of you as something, aren’t they. I guess, at first, they thought Irena and me were interesting. Then they got bored and started making shit up that was more interesting than we were. I think, by now, I’m not a new kid any more. It’s been years. I think I preferred being thought of as the new kid than whatever they think I am now though. The more I try and ignore them all, the more I’m apparently trying to hide things or stir things up with fucking Kyle Spencer, who’s a dick, by the way. That or some of the girls seem to think I need hugs or something.
I think there’s, like, one person who I can have a laugh with who’s not Irena. He’s a dick too, but at least he doesn’t look like he thinks I’m going to do something crazy any minute.
Is there anything you’d change about your first days here if you could?
I wouldn’t have left my locker unlocked so that some twat could put a frog in it. I guess it was funny, in a way. And it was a better thing for people to talk about than my ‘mysterious past’ and all that. But still, it was sort of gross.
I did put a dead frog (not the same one) in his bag the next week though, so – you know – it’s all fair. Actually, you know what? I wouldn’t change that. The chain of dickery that frog-gate kicked off is one of the only things keeping me sane in this shithole.
Now, over to Ian.
Ian, you’re one of the big men on campus here. Why do you think that is?
I am? Really? Wow. Or, well, I mean that’s obvious, ennit? It’s all about who you know. And I know everyone. Or maybe everybody knows me. Still, it’s not as easy now as it was back when we were kids. I mean like real kids, that whole hair-pulling, booger-eating stage before you realize girls are a thing. Not that I ate any boogers. Much. It was a dare, alright? Once it’s a dare all bets are off. You just can’t back down from things like that, you know? If people think you’re crazy, they treat you differently. At least they used to. Growing up sucks sometimes.
You have quite the reputation as a trickster. Is it deserved?
On the record I’d like to say no, but I’d be lying. Trickster is such a loaded term though, I prefer mastermind. That way I get a better suit and a cat to pet. And henchmen.
If it was, and we’re talking hypothetically here of course, what would you be proudest of?
Hypothetically it might be getting sent home for having measles way back when we had a substitute teacher. Managed to talk her into believing that my freckles were contagious. Well, that and setting up the mother of all food fights in the cafeteria. That got me sent home too, but not in the good way. Also, tuna juice in gym shoes really does attract cats.
And are there any tricks, again, hypothetical, you might regret?
Can’t tell you that, or Cortland will know I did them. Besides, I regret nothing. Regret is for chumps.
Rumour is you’re a budding track star. What made you take it up?
Always been running everywhere. Sitting still is hard, you know? Used to do rugby before everybody put on like fifty pounds come puberty. I mean seriously, how come I still got noodle arms? No fucking fair. Besides, running away is a good life skill to have. And don’t listen to rumours, I’m not that good, okay? And I don’t take it seriously. Life is too short to take anything seriously.
How did you and Spencer meet?
His dad and my dad used to hang out, so we got shoved together a lot of the time. I mean it weren’t just us, there was a whole bunch of us. It was easier back then I think, I liked coming up with things to do, and he never backed down from anything. And my b… never mind. It’s a long bloody time ago.
Well that’s our leads, and they make quite a pair don’t they? Now, a little conversation with the rest of the cast:
So what’s your first memory of school?
Irena: Oh god. There was this girl at the front gate who was totally eyeing us up as we approached. She totally ignored me, of course, went in for Cort with an ‘I don’t recognise you, you must be new’ flutterry-eye approach, and he said ‘We’ve been in your class for two years. Rude.’ and we walked off and I flipped her the bird and that was our first conversation at our new school. It was pretty awesome and suitable.
Amilah: The thing that sticks in my mind is being pushed into the dirt and being shouted at for being a bloody paki. Kids are bastards. Or do you mean this one in particular? In that case, less pushing and more muttering. People have a hard time handling that I know what I’m about and I’m brilliant at it. But I already knew a lot of people starting here, so I could care less what the rest of them thought.
Spencer: The less I think about school, the better. It’s just there, you know? A fact of life.
How’s the social scene here?
Irena: I sometimes go for coffee with some people from my art course. Some of them even ask about Poland rather than treat me like I’m here to steal their jobs and eat their babies. That’s about the extent. I’ve heard that there are some proper club nights sometimes, but Cort and me don’t exactly get invited to where the cool kids go. But we’ve never much needed a social scene.
Amilah: Not London, I can tell you that. It’s got some interesting people, but everything’s so small. So local. Everyone just goes around pretending that things are cooler than they really are, hoping that one day they can just get the hell out of here. At least they should. I won’t lie, if there’s any form of social scene here, it’s because I worked damn hard at making one.
Spencer: Same as everywhere I suppose. Some people think they are cool. Some people think they are violent. Some people think they are fun. Get a few beers in them and they’re all the same.
How easily did you make friends when you got here?
Irena: I’m a social butterfly. Everyone loves me. I’m just swimming in friend requests.
Amilah: I don’t think it was easy. My mum moved here from London when she divorced dad, I think I was about eight at the time, and the school I ended up in was pretty white. I think I was too angry to try to make friends back then, but I got them anyway so there you go. These days I have the friends I need, I suppose you could call me popular? Or laugh at me and say I got the friends I deserve.
Spencer: People have always wanted to be my friend. Just don’t trust most of them. Most of them just want to feel important. Be on the winning team.
What do you plan to do when you leave?
Irena: Celebrate. I’m going to run through the streets and throw confetti. Cort and I have plans to travel europe once he’s…well, when we have time. After that? Something arty. I’m an artistic soul.
Amilah: Finally take the fight with mom and give music a go. She wants me to go to uni and get that business degree, but I’m eighteen now and she can’t tell me what to do anymore. My Dad knows some cool people in London.
Spencer: Honestly, I have no idea. Leaving school feels unreal, we’ve been here forever. Not even sure I know what an adult is supposed to be like, they don’t teach you that in class.
Is there one piece of advice you’d give teenagers starting here today?
Irena: Just try to enjoy it. Don’t try and grow up too soon. Not all of us get that choice, mind you. Some people are fighting off real life at every turn. If everyone could just focus on not growing up and enjoying their cocoon-state, school would be better.
Amilah: Figure out what you want to do, and how to do it. Nobody’s gonna keep giving you homework or a required reading list forever. Make your own lists. Life’s not gonna care if you don’t grow the fuck up, but you should.
Spencer: Keep your head down, or be prepared to fight not to be stepped on. Don’t go making any cheques you can’t cash.
Thanks to Cortland, Ian, Irena, Amilah and Spencer for taking the time to chat to me. And massive thanks to Malin and Emma for both setting up the interview and such a great series.
Breaks is available for free here and the Patreon page is here.