1. What was the genesis of the story for Orange Crows? And can you describe the scene in your life when you received that first strike of creative inspiration for the story?
At the time I came up with Orange Crows, there weren't a lot of stories out there dealing with witches and warlocks. I really wanted to do something in a world of magic. So in my free time during college I started playing around with some ideas and concepts. It wasn't 'Orange Crows' just yet. Just a couple of witch designs on paper. I slowly started coming up with other characters and, with each one I created, the story started to take shape more. I didn't wake up one day and go "Eureka! Orange Crows!!!" It was a gradual process. It was a fun process. I wanted to have a giant world filled with strange cultures and unique creatures, and Orange Crows is quickly becoming the world I envisioned in my dreams.
2. How do you define your protagonist? And can you share any interesting background history for the character that readers may not get in the book, but that you imagined to help build the character?
Cierra Pensblood is a person, or witch in this case, trying to find out who she is. No, she doesn't have amnesia. She's just been through an explosive crisis and her personal foundations have crumbled spectacularly. When she was young, Cierra was smart and confident. So confident she tried to create her own magic, which led to her exile (and an giant accident that wounded of one of her close friends).
After becoming a Forsaken witch, she is overcome with guilt, remorse, and doubt. Her life was shattered to pieces and she's trying to pick up them up bit by bit, and see how they fit back together. She can never go back. She can never be who she was. Or can she? That's what the reader gets to find out alongside Cierra as she tries to make sense of a herself in a world that's drastically changed 5 years after her exile.
In Orange Crows, the witches can use magic and the warlocks can't. They use a variety of martial arts and weapons instead. Witches are normally unable to beat a warlock in physical strength, due to their frail bodies and strong dependence on magical arts. But Cierra is a small exception. During her exile, Cierra's body is beaten into shape. She trains under an unknown warlock and learns how to both take and deal damage to warlocks in physical bouts. But what about her magic? Her intense training to become a rarity came at a great cost.
Her magic abilities are much weaker than normal witches, and a variety of spells are out of her grasp now. She's in a gray area between the magic of the witches and the might of the warlocks.
3. Did the hiatus between Volumes 1 and 2 change the direction of the story at all as the characters sat with you, or did you have the whole story in your head as you worked on the first volume?
In a way, I'm thankful for the hiatus because it let me reevaluate the story and some of the character motivations. I have the basic framework of the story in my head. A beginning, middle, and end. But I left things open enough so I can be flexible and give the characters the room to breathe and evolve as I write. The direction of the story hasn't changed, but the road to get there and the way the characters interact has had a drastic shift. And that's really exciting.
4. Can you walk us through your creative process?
I'm a big fan of character design and clothing. By the end of volume 2, each of the characters have at least 3 different outfits. And there are plenty more on the way! Because of this, it takes me a while to design each character I make. Sometimes I have their personality in mind and draw out ideas based around the personality I set, and other times I draw random faces and ideas and then I form the character's personality after I find a design I like. But either way, I like to draw at least 5 different outfits for each character to get a feel for how I want them to dress. And I have a ton of reference. I feel reference is the best way to get the creative juices flowing and spark ideas that I may not have thought of.
5. What was is like working as a self-publisher on Orange Crows Vol. 2?
It was very challenging. I expected it to be a lot of work, but it still blew my expectations away. Handling the art, screentones, word bubbles, text, etc all by myself was a monumental task on it's own. But on top of all of that, I also had to learn printing specifications, what programs to use for print, and how to talk with and deal with printers. Thankfully when I got stuck, Stu Levy was there to answer questions for me and nudge me in the right direction. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, but was still very hard.
Every last bit was worth it though.
6. Do you have any advice for others who would like to self-publish their graphic novels?
Be prepared for a lot of work. Self publishing consumes your life! Don't expect readers to come straight to you when you finish your book. You gotta get out there and network! Make sure to have a business card with easy to read text that directs people to a dedicated website that shows your art or manga. I feel going to anime conventions is one of the best ways to let people know about your work. I also found it's helpful to have an artist alley table. People will be more willing to check out your story if they get to meet you and hear about it face to face. The business cards help people you meet remember you later and check out your stuff later. And a lot of passing people like to grab cards too. So even if they don't get to talk to you about your story, there's a chance that they will see the card in their pocket later and decide to check out your website.
7. And finally, what got you into graphic novels?
I grew up as a comic kid and didn't like manga because it was black and white. When I was older and wiser, I finally started reading some. It blew my mind. Manga was so vast, so daring. You could read a story set in a grim cyberpunk future, experience the adventures of a pirate made of rubber, and then go immediately to a manga about baking the world's best bread. I was greatly inspired by the possibilities of storytelling with manga. It was only a matter of time before I was swallowed up by the possibilities and would be led to create my own adventure, and I love it. Now that I'm in this amazing and wondrous world of manga, I never want to go back.
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