This interview is conducted by Rutger!
Comic: Used Books
What got you started in webcomics?
To be honest, it was when my brother told me to upload my pages as a webcomic. I was not really part of the webcomic world, aside from occasionally checking out Penny Arcade or laughing at the silly things my brother made. It was after I uploaded my early pages to DrunkDuck that I started browsing and appreciating webcomics.
When did you decide to do your own webcomic, and is “Used Books” your first?
To answer in reverse… ;) Used Books is my first, and it started out as rough “story boards” for my friends, not a comic or a webcomic, so I was into it nearly 200 pages before I decided to make a webcomic. I decided to create “Used Books” when I was in the mall, browsing mangas and how-to-draw books and watching my roommates' antics (imagining them as fictional characters).
What is “Used Books” about?
The main characters are three young women with complex histories, uncertain futures, and strong friendships that defy logic. One is a former criminal trying to live a peaceful life. One was a legendary rookie cop who quit at the high point in her career and is seeking something fun and interesting. The third spent most of her life in school/college and is just starting to discover herself as a non-student. They are trying their best to get on with their lives and somehow maintain their friendship despite all the pressures working against them. – I know it sounds like a downer, but these aren't sulky emo characters. They live day-by-day and have a lot of levity. Despite circumstances (psycho ex-husband, dead parents/fiancee, lots of old grudges…), they are a down-to-earth group trying to make the most of the hands they've been dealt.
Where does the story for “Used Books” come from?
It began with three characters based loosely upon me and my friends (generously sprinkled with elements of “stock characters” from anime, sitcoms, and mystery books). Most of the story arcs were inspired by mystery stories or sitcoms. As for the longer themes and story, I'm not sure where it comes from. I get inspired when I take showers, so maybe there's something in the water…
Would you agree with me if I said your art has improved a lot since you first started “Used Books”?
Yes. Lol. I'm not an artist. I've say it often. Artists both amaze and intimidate me, and I still feel like a stranger among the artistic lot here. I never took much pride in my drawing, but I've been encouraged and inspired by the DrunkDuck community. When people are enjoying my story, I feel more pressure to not only do my best, but also make sure my current best is better than my past best.
Will “Used Books” ever come to an end? And if so, what will happen then?
Probably… I'm working on an especially long and intense arc right now and just finished page 700 (of the comic, not the arc). It has a pretty cool climax, but I have ideas for arcs to follow, so it probably won't be the end. It runs as a series more than a self-contained story, so there are many stories and many “endings.” As loose ends get tied up, I often unravel a few – or I remember a few things that require exposition and/or resolution. When things resolve, it will end. As for what will happen then… If I actually knew, I still wouldn't tell you. ;)
How long do you usually spend on a page?
It usually takes two hours to draw a page. Then I scan it, and it sits on my computer for months (big backlog). When I open it in a graphics program to clean up the drawing and add text, that often takes around three hours. Coloring takes a long time. I don't know how long exactly, but I always spread it over two or three days.
Is the story planned out, or do you make it up as you go along?
A little of both. Sometimes I picture a scene and then put a story around it. Often I map out the major points of an overarching plotline (A leads to B leads to C) and the stories in between help develop and link those points. Sometimes I plan out a detailed story arc – usually missing one or two details that I fill in as I go along, and then the story changes because I am inspired or it doesn't “feel” right. When the actions/dialogue I planned feel forced and unnatural or not as good as they could be, I write the most natural reaction of the moment and let the story find its own way back to my original plans or the ultimate goal – or I change the goal.
What's the most difficult part of making “Used Books”?
Cleaning up the pages digitally. It's a tedious process without much “fun” aspect. Plus I have arthritis and no tablet (mouse, ugh), so it can be literally painful. In addition to that, I find myself cringing at some of these pages, drawn quite some time ago. Once in a while, they are so bad that I rewrite all of the dialogue or even redraw part of it to scan again or using the mouse.
What do you enjoy most about doing a webcomic?
It's so cool to have people actually read something I've written and respond to it. I've always been very hesitant to share any of my creations. I write a lot but never let people read anything, because it makes me feel exposed and unworthy. It was really rewarding to step outside my comfort zone and share something with “the world.”
What is your opinion on used books in general?
If you mean actual used books, I'm addicted to them. I love their musty smell, dog-eared pages, and writing in the margins from previous owners…
If you mean my comic, I think it's good. Lol. If you're interested in a character-driven mystery story with sitcom humor, a heavy dose of drama, and a little bit of violence, and you don't mind the clumsy sketches of an artistically-challenged woman attempting to do some visual story-telling, then you should take a look.
What do you like to do outside of making comics?
I have a degree in biology, so my passions often center around animals (our cat, my rats, wildlife) or reading about science stuff. I also watch a lot of TV, mostly Animal Planet, Comedy Central, old/classic sitcoms, and I have a few select anime series I love. Lupin III and Detective Conan are my favorites. Aside from that, I like to read. ;)