No dream too bright, No nightmare too dark: a conversion with dark attic CEO Julie Ashford-Smith

First Comics News: Hey Julie Ashford-Smith, thanks for doing this interview. If you don’t mind, can you tell the readers a little about yourself. Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

Julie Ashford-Smith: Thanks for having me. I was born and raised in Ontario and moved out east about 4 years ago, and started Dark Attic Enterprises maybe a year after that. Been working on the company and diving deeper into the arts and culture community here in Saint John ever since.

1st: When did you first get interested in creating?

Julie: I always have been, as long as I can remember. Even as a kid, I was writing stories or doing some bad doodles, or rambling about some invention or another.

1st: Are you a writer, artist or both?

Julie: I would primarily identify myself as a writer or as a creator, but I do believe that writers are artists in their own right. I do a bit of visual art from time to time as well, though.

1st: Who are some of your creative influences?

Julie: I draw from anything and everything, really. Architecture, history, music… It’s a huge, awesome world and I try to immerse myself in it and let it impact me. I find the comic universes really fascinating. The way things are presented to the viewer in those and also in film always gets my brain going.

1st: If you could hang out with any creator, who would it be?

Julie: Paulo Coehlo, without a doubt. An amazing writer and even his personal backstory is something out of a novel.

1st: Who are you reading right now?

Julie: I am rereading The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funk, I read it when I was younger and then my copy got misplaced and it took ages to get my hands on a new one. It’s got a great autumn vibe, so I found it just in time!

1st: Julie, I have seen some of your work with stained glass, I have to say it is amazing! What can you tell the readers about that process? Where can a fan get some pieces if interested?

Julie: Thank you very much, that’s so kind. It’s a bit of a production with a lot of different steps, but I usually start by coming up with a design and picking out glass that I think will work for it. I cut all the pieces out of my glass sheets and sand the edges, at least a little, to smooth them and take off any sharpness (I had to learn from a few casualties that this step is necessary, no matter how perfect the piece looks after cutting). Then I put it together using solder and after some finishing touches, it’s ready to polish up!

I’ll be at a couple of Christmas markets- Kredl’s and Cedarcrest Gardens, and any I make outside of the markets I usually post to my Instagram- @jurriiidoesglass

1st: Julie, I have had the privilege to see some of your amazing paintings, what can you tell, the readers about painting and where are these paintings available if anyone is interested?

Julie: I actually don’t paint a ton, especially now that I’ve gotten into stained glass. I always just made whatever I felt like and that usually meant something galaxy-themed. It’s very cathartic to cover a canvas with colours and sparkles haha. When I do make them, they go on my Instagram as well.

1st: Julie, you are a member of many committees Fog Lit Literary Festival and Fog City Comic Con to name a few, what can you tell the readers about those festivals and your involvement?

Julie: I usually get asked on as a representative of ‘the local publishing house’. Fog Lit has been a really interesting experience, as a board member I’ve helped them plan and run events and done some work with their marketing team, but it’s been neat to get the inside view of a growing staple in the SJ literary community.

Fog City Comic Con was great, too, I got to be one of the community partners and saw behind the curtain of comic con planning. Great chance to go full geek and be surrounded by folks who get it. I also ran the Character Creation panel, in collaboration with the Fundy Comic Arts Society, which ended up being a great talk between you, Andrea Kikuchi, and Matt Delano. Getting into these kinds of events lets me be a part of the community and do what I can to help it grow, and I really love that.

1st: You wear many hats and one of them is that you are CEO of Dark Attic Enterprises. What can you tell your fans about Dark Attic Enterprises?

Julie: Ah yes, my main hat! So Dark Attic is an entertainment company that dabbles in all things creative. I like to think of it as a story-telling company because although we’re known as a publisher, we branch into all different formats. We’ve played around with indie games, comic books, anthologies, and most recently a zine. The ideas I had going in were fair treatment of creators, freedom to create, and creating some awesome stories to be shared with the world. I want it to be a place that people can count on for amazing content that doesn’t hold back.

1st: If a fan wants to get in touch with Dark Attic Enterprises, how would they do that?

Julie: There are lots of ways, and the best way depends on the reason you’re reaching out. If you’re curious and have general questions for us, there’s a contact form on the web page ( If you’re a writer specifically looking to get a manuscript published, I suggest sending a proper query letter to our email ( Business inquiries or collaboration requests can go through the email as well. And of course, anyone can feel free poke us on Instagram or Facebook, even just to say ‘hi’!

1st: Dark Attic Enterprises has partnered up with Katrina Pridgeon: Editing Services, that must be exciting, what can you add about that partnership?

Julie: Yes, we partnered on the zine that was recently launched! Katrina had this amazing idea to pull a zine together with pieces from local writers we both knew. Dark Attic produced it and she took on the submissions, handpicked all the pieces and edited them to really make them shine. It was a great experience to work with someone who is on the same page about how amazing Saint John and Canadian creators can be if they’re given the opportunity.

1st: If a fan wants to get in touch with Katrina Pridgeon: Editing Services, how would they do that?

Julie: The business Facebook page is probably best, they should definitely go check her out. I believe she will be doing a ‘writer help’ type of blog series soon, so there should be even more information and tips coming soon on that page.

1st: I have been following your posts about Dark Attic Enterprises Magazine called Pieces of Us. It is set to be launched at the International Culture Fest 2019 October 12th Harbour Station Saint John NB. What can you tell your fans about the Zine?

Julie: Pieces of Us is a collection of 3 short stories, 3 poems, and a little bit of art, all made by Canadian (mostly local) creators. We put a huge emphasis on local, it was even printed at Print Three right here in Saint John. It follows a bit of a nature theme and has some nice spooky vibes, so it’s a great autumn read.

1st: If a reader wants to get a copy or multiple copies, how can they get them?

Julie: We have a few amazing retailers who offered to carry and sell for us. Pristine on King Street, Sheherazade on Prince William, and Bunkhaus on Water Street should be stocked with some copies. Readers can also reach out to either Dark Attic or KP Editing and place an order. It’s a limited edition print, so only 150 copies are out in the world. When they’re gone, they’re gone.

1st: Pieces of Us has some amazingly talented creator contributing to it, Andrea Thornton-Kikuchi Katrina Pridgeon and Brian Conoley to name a few. What can you tell your fans about these creators and who else is involved in this project?

Julie: Oh yes, it most certainly does. I’m quite positive that Andrea will be the next bestseller when her book comes out. Brian has a published comic called Minds of My Own, which I instantly fell in love with when I read it. Katrina is an accomplished poet and writer on top of her editing business, readers should keep an eye out for her next published work (hopefully a poetry chapbook, Cliff Notes had me wanting more poems from her!). We also have a poem from Rachel Friars who is just an amazing human and has been published in numerous journals and currently studies Literature at Queens University in Ontario. Our outlier piece from Rayna Farr-Dutchin has such impact in the writing style and stanza formatting, we knew it had to be included. Remi T. Jones is a new, local writer with a lot of potential. We were also fortunate enough to have the artistic work of Emily Rouleau, Tabitha Smith, and Grace Buchmayer featured in it. Some of the art appears as teaser posters for videos that I’ll be releasing on the Dark Attic channel next year (stay tuned for that!). It’s really inspiring and humbling to have these incredibly talented individuals entrust us with these little pieces of themselves.

1st: Julie, is there anything else you would like to mention that we haven’t covered in this conversation?

Julie: I think that about covers it, Peter! Just keep an eye out for new projects, there’s a lot of cool stuff I have planned that I’ll be announcing soon.

1st: Any shout outs, links you want to share?

Julie: I’d like to say thanks to all the contributors of the zine and to the local businesses and organizations who backed the project; Pristine, Printworks NB, Imperial Theatre, Artslink NB, the Boiling Point Podcast, Craftology, Bunkhaus, Acacia Projects & Events, Doyle & Day, PRUDE Inc, Jennifer Irving Photography, and the Fundy Comic Arts Society. The community really showed up for this one.

Thanks to anyone who decides to purchase it, you’re proving that creative ventures still have worth in a non-creative world.

And thank you, Peter and First Comics news, for having me!

1st: What advice can you give to anyone interested in getting into the creative world?

Julie: If it’s something you really love, then you’ll keep doing it. Regardless of doubt, from others or even yourself, you’ll always pick it up again. And when you realize you have something that draws you to it like that, just go for it. If you love it and work hard for it, things have a way of working out. You get what you give in the creative world.

1st: Thank you so much Julie Ashford-Smith CEO of Dark Attic Enterprises, this has been amazing. I can’t wait to get a copy of your magazine at The International Culture Fest 2019 Harbour Station Saint John NB October 12th. Amazing things are happening 2019, keep on creating!

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