Comic artist Brandon Hicks releases debut novel

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The Fish That Ruined Everything combines Hicks’ background as a writer and illustrator to create a humour rich world that is both fictional and surprisingly familiar. 

Matt Carter 

St. Stephen-based illustrator, playwright and author Brandon Hicks has released his debut novel. The Fish That Ruined Everything is a comedic story about a man and a fish and how the two upset the local economy of a small fishing town. 

“The book has the weird, tenuous relationship with reality that most old fables and children’s books have, but it very much takes place in our world,” said Hicks. 

The Fish That Ruined Everything is a culmination of Hicks’ work over the past several years combining his love of comedy and his work as a cartoonist. Fredericton theatre audiences will also be familiar with Hicks’ quirky brand of humour through his ongoing work with NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival where over the past many years, his short comedic plays have become a mainstay on the festival’s outdoor stages. 

“I’ve been making things in a variety of mediums for a while now,” said Hicks. “I love comics, theatre and film, so I’ve tried my hand in all of these things. Most of all, however, I love books. When not working, I’m usually reading. Even while drawing, I invariably have an audiobook playing. I try to read widely and broadly. Sure, I like the classic literary set, but I love the quick, easy reads just as much. Paperback horror, romance books and children’s novels, those are my jam. I doubt that I have the skillset to write a great novel, but I was reasonably confident I could write an effective fun read. This was my chance to prove that.”

Beneath the story’s soft exterior, The Fish That Ruined Everything is rich in themes familiar to anyone who lives or has spent time on Canada’s east coast. Set in the tiny fictional community of Bay-Route, the novel tells the story of a fish and his business partner who challenge the dynasty of local oligarchs who have, for generations, held control of the locally fishery. 

“The book is pretty silly. I wanted it to be a quick, easy read, and funny,” he said. “That was my baseline goal. I like books I feel that I can live in, so to speak. I wanted readers to be able to smell the sea air and hear the waves of the Bay sloshing against the docks. I also hope that the characters resonate with the reader. I think that’s still possible with broad comedy. I mean, Bugs Bunny isn’t a character imbued with a whole lot of pathos, but he has a well-defined personality, and the audience identifies with him. That’s what I hope for with Nat, Lewis and everyone else in Bay-Route.”

Hicks began writing the story last fall and completed his first draft before the year was out. With help from ArtsNB, he was able to finish and publish the book in under a year.

The book features 25 original illustrations by Hicks, who admits to completing almost the entire story before creating a single illustration for the project. 

“About halfway through, I did a quick sketch of the main characters but nothing else until I had finished the first draft. I tried not to even think about illustrations while writing, even though I knew I’d be doing them. Then, when I had the completed text, I approached it almost like I was illustrating someone else’s work. I re-read what I had, and tried to service the text as best I could.

“The majority of my writing is intended to be paired with something visual,” said Hicks. “I primarily write comics, films and plays. The challenge I set for myself with this project was making something that stood on its own as a text.” 

The Fish That Ruined Everything is currently available to purchase online and copies will be available through the public library system later this month. Hard copies are expected to arrive in Chapters/Indigo locations sometime in November. 

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