Interview with Alethea, author of “MOONLIT DAWN”

A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?

I can’t speak for every creator on the planet, since each of us is different, but I would have to say in general, we’re really not. I know there’s this image of an author or a creator is someone who never leaves their home and hunches over their computer like a troll (haha!), but we’re creating stories that people can relate to and maybe even put themselves in the characters position. I’m an introvert, but it doesn’t mean I don’t know social etiquette, it merely means I observe and only speak when I need to. In actuality, I’m outside quite a bit, either walking, drinking coffee, or talking with others and I’m gauging reactions, reading emotions, and trying to understand what goes on inside a person’s head or motivations. Maybe we’re a little bit reserved, but for the most part, I can blend in easily if I need to.

What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?

I’ve always loved fantasy, ever since I was a little girl. There aren’t any restraints when it comes to fantasy, and that’s why it’s so much fun to explore. You can provide explanations in the story if you need to, but for the most part, you’re able to implement whatever crazy magic you like because there are no rules. It allows you to completely think outside the box and color outside the lines.

When did it dawn on you that you wanted to be a comic book creator?

As long as I can remember I’ve had a passion for drawing. My earliest memory is being six years-old doodling werewolves who were saving damsel in distress, along with other sketches of horses, wolves, and dogs. And in other times I dabbled in poetry, publishing a couple, and writing novels. When I was in middle school I saw a few of my other artistic friends making comic on cheap sketch paper, I immediately hopped on board and experiment in my own time. Throughout the years I went back and forth of making comics, most of which are buried underground where no eyes can set on them (haha!) but I was addicted. When I graduated high school and started attending college, I became determined to make a comic series, which is when “Moonlit Dawn: A Mythical Tale” was born.

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

I always have a plot in mind. I have the plot, the beginning, and the ending planned first. Then I start brewing some ideas how the characters will get to those points, or spontaneously come up with key points in the story that’ll have the audience get to know the characters but I always try to keep it relevant so that in some way the story is progressing even if it’s a small progression.

Have you ever experienced “Artist’s Block?” Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?

I get it all the time. Going from panel to panel I’ll come across one where I have absolutely no idea on how the character shall look, the position of their pose, the contrasting color schemes; I’ll be at a complete loss. During these times, I step away from the project for a day or two. I let myself relax, listen to some music, smell the roses, do a goofy dance. I try not to think about the project in the least. Then shortly after this break, ideas start flooding in and I begin to feel confident again. Just remember you’re not a machine, it’s okay to step back and take a breather.

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

Though I don’t have as much free time as I used to when it comes to reading, I still have a love for it. My favorite author by far is Robin McKinley, I have several of her books and I love rereading them. They provide so much inspiration while remaining mature and clever to her readers. Some others are David Clement-Davies, Mary Shelley, and Juliet Marillier.

Were your parents reading enthusiasts who gave you a push to be a reader as a kid?

Not that I remember….I could be wrong. But I only saw my mom read a few books, and my dad read comics or westerns. I came into being an avid reader on my own. I was always disappearing (still do!) from the group and vanishing into the book section of stores. If you can’t find me anywhere, that’s where I’m usually at, haha! My parents supported my love for reading and got me books whenever they could. If we couldn’t afford it, I would spend my days in libraries, where I still feel the most comfortable and the most relaxed. A library is the only place where I feel completely void of tension. It’s quiet, there’s no pressure to rush, and I can peruse and read as much as I want.

Do you read and reply to the reviews and comments of your readers?

I always try to make time for those who purchased my books. They’re the ones who are making is possible for me to live my dream and do what I love the most. It’s always my top priority to give them time out of my day as they’ve gone out of their way to convey a message to me.

Does a bad review affect your writing?

No it doesn’t. I keep chugging along. Of course, I take what they negative review said into consideration and sometimes I’ll even alter minor things the review may have suggested. I’m always open for constructive criticism, but it won’t stop me from completing the story. Even if I get a bad review, I have an obligation to my readers and my characters to see the story through to the end.

Do you ever read any if your own work?

Yes I do, but only to remain consistent with the story and avoid plot holes. Though whenever I’m reading through it, I get embarrassed over what a character may have said or how I handled a scene. But I don’t dwell on it, instead I remind myself to improve on similar situations in the story later.

Do your books carry a message?

“Moonlit Dawn: A Mythical Tale” touches on a variety of messages and topics, which aren’t blatantly stated. Yes, there is an overarching message through the series but it won’t be answered until the last book, but even then I try to provide hints and clues for the readers. That way, when they reread it, they’ll be able to catch these tidbits and come to the conclusion themselves.

Do you have a day job other than being a creator? Does it ever get in the way?

Yes I do. I work as a housekeeper at a nearby lodging facility and the summer months are our busiest. Last year I had to work six days a week, with 12-14 hour shifts and I’m expecting the same this year. It can get in the way of my comic creating, since drawing a page can take 12 hours, and if I don’t have enough time in the day it causes delays in the release of a new installment. I’m hoping to work something out with my job so that doesn’t happen again this year.

What do you do in your free time?

In my very little free time, I work on a webcomic called “Between the Realms.” When I’m not working on that, I’m reading, doing chores, going on walks with my dog, and exploring the areas around me.

Did the thought to give up ever occur to you?

Yes it has, though I’m way passed it. I often thought it would be easier if I gave up comics and become an illustrator, or give up drawing altogether and just live my life. But, I began to think what would happen to my characters? What about the readers who are anticipating that next book that’ll never come? What about the story I spent so many years developing and caring for? All of it would be abandoned and forgotten, and it broke my heart. So, I steeled my resolve and promised myself no matter what, I’ll see “Moonlit Dawn: A Mythical Tale” to the end.

If offered, would you want your series adapted for the silver screen?

As for any creator, our dreams for our stories are as wide as the sky. As a creator, all we want is our story to be shared and loved because we have this urge to introduce these stories and characters to the masses. If “Moonlit Dawn: A Mythical Tale” was ever offered a movie or TV deal, I would be very open to it. I know a live action version would be out of the realm of possibility, so it would probably be suited as an animated film even though this costs more than a live action feature. I would approach it realistically and objectively, so I would be open for minor changes to be made and would be willing to make it 2-D animated. If I met someone who was adamant about making it CG and they had a vision and plan to make it work, I would be willing to listen.

Doesn’t it bother you that when books are turned into movies, they are often changed?

You know, it used to bother me a lot when a director would change everything about a movie from the book, until one day I realized we’re seeing a director’s vision of the story. Everyone envisions a story differently; how I picture the Beast from Beauty and the Beast folktale is different for the person standing next to me. It’s another interpretation, and making a 500+ page book or a series into a singular hour-in-a-half film things are going to get cut or compromised; it’s all in how they handle it though. And I feel like the end goal (I could be wrong! Haha!) is to get the audience who haven’t read the book interested in the story they may want to read the book and experience it in an all new way. Same thing goes for fans of the book who sees the book adapted into a film, they’re getting an all new experience with this adapted director’s version.

What’s your favorite movie which was based on a book?

I freakin’ love The Neverending Story!! I own the movie and I never get tired of watching it, I often watch it when I’m in need of inspiration or when I’m sick to make me feel better. I have the book version, which is written by Michael Ende. I love how the movie it only a quarter of the book, so when I got the book I was pleasantly surprised that there was more adventures of Bastion and Atreyu to read about.

Did “Moonlit Dawn: A Mythical Tale” ever get rejected from publishers?

Oh goodness yes. It felt like every publisher I sent to just didn’t want it. It got rejected maybe over 10 times, the exact amount I don’t remember. But I know it was a lot. I had a list of publishers I wanted to send to and all of them were crossed off before I found Insane Comics. When I submitted to them, I was so used to rejection that I thought the worst they can say is “no.”

How did it feel when your first book got published? How did you celebrate?

The very first time I received the response from Insane Comics that they were interested in reading more of “Moonlit Dawn: A Mythical Tale” I nearly fell out of my chair, and my heart leapt into my throat. I was in utter disbelief and happiness. I couldn’t stop grinning the rest of the day. When I received my physical copies, I cried with happy tears, and danced around the house. Every time I get a new installment released, I always celebrate. I don’t want to take any of this for granted, so I’m always thankful and I take time to let it sink and allow myself to celebrate by dancing, hiking, going out to eat, or enjoying myself at a club.

Is there a particular kind of attire you like to create in?

Uhh….my PJ’s I guess? I like being comfortable when I’m illustrating, so pajamas or my long, flowy skirts.

If you were given a teaching opportunity, would you accept it?

Oh gosh yes!! I’m not an expert, but I love helping people and I want to support other inspired artists and comic creators, so I would love to help them as much as I could!

Is there a genre you absolutely despise, or are all pieces of art demand respect equally?

I don’t really care much for the superhero genre, but I don’t despise it. It’s just not my cup of tea. I’m also interested in very little sci-fi (I mostly like sci-fi horrors or sci-fi philosophicals). This doesn’t mean I go out of my way to announce my opinions, I keep them to myself most of the time. These genre of comics still take time, effort, and passion to get them out there. There are people behind these stories sweating and sleepless nights to get their books out there, so I deeply respect them. Creating in itself is art, doesn’t matter if you “despise” a genre, it still deserves respect.

How long does it take you to finish a book?

Depending on the page count and the level of detail for each page, one single issue for “Moonlit Dawn: A Mythical Tale” can take anywhere between 3-4 months. That’s from the sketching, illustrating, formatting, lettering, and the little extra content I try to add into each installment. One page can take 12+ hours, and many of my nights are sleepless but I always feel satisfied and accomplished by the end of it.

What is that one thing you think readers generally don’t know about your specific genre?

Most people, this is from what I observed and I could be wrong, assume that animal-related stories are meant for children and hold no depth. I was raised with don’t judge a book by it’s cover, and never take anything at face value. Just because it’s cute doesn’t mean it has to be, there are no rules when you’re making a story. Look at the anime Madoka Magica, it’s a dark, twisted, tragic series with a cutesy girl art style, completely shattering your expectations. I hope to accomplish this with “Moonlit Dawn: A Mythical Tale,” I want to bring something new to the table and break the mold of a predominately “child-friendly, simple” genre. I’m not the first either. Look at the books Watership Down, Plague Dogs, Mrs. Brisby and the Rats of Nimh, The Jungle Book—these are all mature, dark animal-related stories forming the genre into their own identity.

Are you open to creating or co-creating other comic book genres?

I am! I would love to branch out and try other genres. Not for any reason other than the mere fun of it. I would like to try westerns, romance, horror, apocalyptic, other types of fantasy, drama, comedy, thriller/mystery—any of these either singular or combinations of them I would love to try either as the artist or a co-creator. The only genres I’m really not interested in are slice-of-life and sci-fi.

Can you tell us about your current projects?

Aside from “Moonlit Dawn: A Mythical Tale” I create and do the art for a fantasy/romance webcomic called “Between the Realms”, which can be read for free on Tapastic. I have another personal comic series I’m developing, but no announcements have been made.

I’ve collaborated with comic writers and creators on numerous projects. I’ve done the artwork and lettering for “Babblings of a Lunatic” which is written/created by Braiden Cox (author/creator of Reclaiming Godhood) and is featured in the horror anthology Insane Asylum, published by Insane Comics.

I’ve also done sequential pages for Alex Giles (professional letterer and author) on a short story called “Fight for Mara,” which will be featured in Insane Asylum Issue #2 and will also be published through Insane Comics.

Currently, I’m doing sequential pages and lettering for Jordan King (creator/author of Sineater) on another short called “Insomnia” for a horror anthology. I’m also co-creating and doing the artwork for another series with him, which is still in production.

And finally, I’m in discussion with Alex Barranco (author/creator of Wunderfolk) of co-creating a couple of series but these are still in development.

When can the readers expect your next book in print?

“Moonlit Dawn: A Mythical Tale – Chapter Three (#4)” will be released in May 2016 in both digital download and physical print format. “Moonlit Dawn: A Mythical Tale – Chapter Four (#5)” will be released in September 2016.

Are you attending any conventions where readers can meet you and/or buy your books?

I’ll be attending Taikai Con on May 21st here in Palmer, AK from 10am-10pm. I’ll be selling copies of “Moonlit Dawn” along with other merchandise. I hope to attend Senshi-Con this October here in Anchorage, AK. I also plan on going to Bosco’s Cards & Games in Anchorage, AK in celebration of Free Comic Book Day where I’ll be giving away several copies of “Moonlit Dawn” away. If people aren’t in the immediate Alaska area, my publisher Insane Comics, attends conventions and sells copies of my books as well. Go to www.insanecomics.com to see where they’ll be at, and if they’re in your area drop on by and say hi!

Any advice you would like to give to aspiring creators/artists?

The best advice I’ve ever gotten was “Draw what you know.” So, you wanna draw or create a story about western but have no idea how to do about it? Then do your research, read books, watch movies, learn as much as you can so you’re versed in the genre. You have no idea how to draw a horse? Reference, read/watch tutorials, learn about horse behavior and proper riding etiquette, and most importantly go out and meet a horse. Ride one, learn it’s movements, read it’s body language, and build a connection that way you have a reason and inspiration to draw that horse in your western comic. This method can be applied to any comic or story you want to create, or if you’re just an illustrator. Besides, it’s better to be a jack of all trades rather than master of one, right?

Another bit of advice I can say is never give up, never surrender (if you get that reference, you get a cookie). You may get haters, your friends and family may not care or try to divert you from your dreams. The thing is, all they can do it throw words at you. Words only hurt if you let them. They don’t break your legs or hands, words physically can’t stop you. Only you can. Believe in yourself, rise above the negativity, and be proud of your dreams. It’s only you that has the choice to make your dream a reality, don’t let invisible words stop you from that. If you won’t believe in yourself, then I will!!

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