Wednesday, February 2, 2011

| 1 Molnija Marks
I'm so excited to be able to post this! Emma Vieceli, comic artist and illustrator of the upcoming Vampire Academy Graphic Novel, was kind enough to answer some of my questions about her, her work and the VA Graphic Novel.

I finally get to share this with you, and I defy anyone to resist being smitten with Emma after reading this interview. ;-)

First off, it's important to note that Emma did this interview as an individual and as an illustrator, not as a representative of Penguin, and the opinions expressed here are not official.

So, here we go!

Marie: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

Emma: Well, I'm half Italian, married, and my background was largely in theatre, bizarrely. I have a degree in English Literature and Performing Arts, and always dreamed of going into musical theatre, haha. Comics were always a hobby, and drawing doubly so; so you can imagine how surprised and delighted I am with the path my life has taken. ^_~

Marie: From what you've written on Twitter, I understand that you've had a lot of different jobs. Could you tell us about some of them?

Emma: Oh, blimey - lots of jobs! I was always a bit of a head-in-the-clouds person, not sure whether I'd pursue singing, acting, writing or any other career path that was super difficult to make money from or get into,, in the meantime, I needed to make money. I enjoy trying new things, but my attention span can be short. So I'd tend to take a job, enjoy it, and then hit a wall after about 2 years. I would be just as happy walking through London with a coffee in my hand on my way to the office (pretending I was Bridget Jones) as I would be on stage, but only for so long...then the charm would wear thin, haha. I guess this is why freelance illustration suits me so well. I'm never on one job for too long. there's always something new and different to try out. It's risky of course, but it suits my nature.
Let's see, here's a list of the jobs I've had that come to mind:
Virgin retail (head of books and games), Telephone dealer in the stock market (Bridget Jones period!), Television presenter, radio DJ, office temp, fish and chip shop, H&M clothing store, Session singer, actress, singer in a blues band, photocopy monkey, cocktail waitress, coffee barrista, MMORPG moderator, video games artist....I'll stop before I drive myself crazy. haha. So yeah, I like to try a lot of things ^_^ Life should be lived and I'm glad I got the chance to try so many paths before finding the one I'm on.
Dreams are great, but you have to eat!

Marie: How did you get started with doing comics?

Emma: As a hobby. I loved drawing for fun. I used to write all sorts of stories too, but never in comic form. I would spend every hour I could steal writing books into notebooks, by hand! When i was first approached by a member of sweatdrop (which we'll come to) about possibly turning one of my stories (dragon heir) into a comic, it seemed to make sense! Why hadn't I tried before? Of course those early attempts were pretty awful, haha. I came to comicking late, but I had great fun. I never dreamed that hobby could one day become a job! Eventually, years later, I pitched and was succesful for the Hamlet graphic novel, published by SelfMadeHero, and that sort of kickstarted me into taking comics more seriously! 6 years on, and I'm still loving it :)

Marie: How did you come to be part of creating the Vampire Academy graphic novel?

Emma: It's actually a really nice story and one that really hammers home that old freelance (or life) rule of 'take every opportunity and be nice to everyone; you never know what might come back'.
Years ago, before I went freelance, I entered Tokyopop's Rising Stars of Manga UK competition. To my amazement, I ended up being one of the winners. The editor of the book at the time, Rob Valois, championed my entry not because it was perfectly drawn or because I was in any way ready to be published, but because he could see potential there. He picked out my storytelling and page layout more than the drawings themselves. For that, I will be eternally grateful. He saw something in my work back then that I don't think I even saw.
As it turned out, the competition over here didn't really yield the instant results we'd all naively hoped for (we had far too many stars in our eyes in some ways, haha), but it did allow us that entry point. I stayed in touch with several of the Tokyopop crew over the years, including Rob, even when they'd moved onto other companies. They're a great bunch, as so many people in this industry are! A couple of years back, I was over in New York for the NYCC event and Rob was heading along too. So we had a coffee together and a catch-up.
Maybe half a year or so after that, I got an email from him saying that the company he was working at now were going to be doing a GN of a book called Vampire Academy, and that the team had been interested in my art. I was floored.
I have so much to thank Rob for. That he has watched my progress and seen where my work has come since RSoM all those years ago means a huge amount to me. I'll certainly never regret entering that competition!

Marie: What were your first thoughts about Vampire Academy? Had you heard about the books before?

Emma: To my shame, I hadn't read the books before hearing about the job. I grew up with Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles the first time around (Now I feel old!), so a lot of the new wave had passed me by. Penguin sent me along the first book to have a read of and....well, it's no exaggeration to say that I instantly fell in love with it. It's rare these days for me to have time to read an actual book rather than a comic, haha, but I DEVOURED the Vampire Academy series and have since been passing the whole series onto many friends. I've read all six books and am so excited for Bloodlines it's untrue. I think I can definitely be classed as a fangirl now. I would have felt weird drawing a book with such a loyal and vibrant fanbase if I hadn't myself cared about the characters and the story. As it is, you can be assured that these pages are being drawn by someone who adores the series and wants to marry half of the cast XD Richelle has created something so special, and you only have to look at the reaction the books get to see how much they're appreciated. She has brought into the world characters who you find yourself caring about so much it hurts sometimes. I would feel physically angry at some characters' decisions, or sob uncontrollably at certain moments. The best kind of reading experience. ^_^
More importantly for me maybe, as I read that first book, I got such a strong urge to draw it I just couldn't wait to get some of the scenes out in comic form. And that's when I said yes to the job ;)

Marie: Do you think Vampire Academy is a book that's suited to be turned into a graphic novel?

Emma: Absolutely! The comic format can be used to tell any story, I think; especially one as kinetic and powerful as VA. Obviously adaptations should always be seen as just that. They're not a substitute for the original. They're either an entry point for new readers, or a new way of enjoying the story for established readers. In an idea world, the GN would be about 600 pages long so that we could fit absolutely everything in (and more Dimitri on every page XD). Obviously, it's not - so it does need to be treated as an adaptation.

Marie: How does it feel, knowing that you have the fanbase for Vampire Academy watching you, people who may have high expectations or already set views on how things should look? Is it scary, or is it exciting because you know that people are interested?

Emma: All of the above! I've gone from moments of utter girlish joy at knowing how many people are as excited about this GN as I am, to absolute zero when I've seen negative (and frankly horrible) comments. It's a weird feeling. Thankfully the joy is winning out.
Capturing such loved characters in a drawing is a HUGE challenge. Take Dimitri as a perfect example. When a guy is designed to be every woman's ideal man (swoon), what do you draw? Everyone has a different idea of what an ideal man looks like. Readers are also of different age groups, which might affect their vision of what a man should be. I've had some hilariously contrasting opinions to the very few bits of art out there so far: from 'he's too girly, not butch enough' to 'he's too hard looking, should be prettier'. But I've had an awful lot of comments saying he's exactly what people pictured, and that makes me so happy! Positive feedback is an elixir.
It's hard, and we're never going to be able to please everyone, sadly. I just hope that people can take the GN characters to their hearts.
The bottom line for me is that these are Richelle's characters, so my first job was to make sure they looked how Richelle imagined them. If we got that right, then we couldn't be far off, right? ^_^

I also asked Emma about the possibility of more VA Graphic Novels. I asked this question based on a comment she made on a podcast a few months ago. (I will do a blog post about that podcast sometime this week.) I got the answer I suspected I would. ;-)

Emma: Sorry, I can't confirm at this stage. '^_^

Marie: Would you say that there is a trend now with a lot of Young Adult (and otherwise) books being turned into graphic novels?

Emma: Yes there is, and long may it continue ^_^

Marie: What is the process like when you adapt a novel into a graphic novel? Do you wait for the script to be finished? How much do you talk with the author of the original novel when creating the characters and settings? Do you have a particular approach? Is it difficult that there are a different people contributing, each with their own opinion?

Emma: It all depends on the job and the team. I could go on and get very boring about process, haha, but I'll just say that on this one: we went back and forth with character designs between myself, penguin and Richelle while Leigh worked on the script, and then I dived in with pencils. These get run by the team at penguin and by Richelle and I include any feedback as I ink. Then the pages get sent to the colourist, then they're by the time I see the finished pages, they're transformed ^_^

Marie: I listened to the CNI podcast and you're an incredible singer! Could you tell us about that? Howcome you ended up in comics instead of the music business?

Emma: Aww, thanks :) I miss music and theatre hugely, but I guess comics just won out. I still write songs and sing sometimes, but I like that comics are so self sufficient. Also, back when Hamlet was starting, I had a bad bout of pneumonia, which hurt my lungs pretty badly. It took me a long time to get my voice back to strength after that, by which time, I was enjoying making comics ^_^

Marie: What is Sweatdrop?

Emma: Sweatdrop is a UK comic collective that I've been a part of coming up ten years now! We began out of an idea to split table costs at conventions and share the space to sell our home-made, folded and stapled comics. It's very much an independent group, who've had a large emphasis on supporting independent comics over the years. Some members have gone into professional illustration in games and comics, others have day jobs in other areas, but we're united by a passion for comics and all of us use the sweatdrop label when we want to just tell and print our own stories for fun.
Do check out the group here:
Things in the UK have changed a lot since Sweatdrop began. It makes me very proud to know we were there in the early days :)

Marie: Dragon Heir is one of your own projects, and it was recently released in a new edition. Could you tell us a little bit about it?

Emma: Dragon Heir is so important to me. It was with me at the start of my comicking hobby, and it's still with me now. If you like a bit of adventure, angst, romance, a touch of comedy, and beautiful people...then you should check it out. It's a story I've had in my head for years and as soon as I get a chance, I want to finish it up. Just need some time! But yes, book one is available now from Sweatdrop directly (the best way to buy really - or amazon or even through Diamond, so you can ask any comic shop to order in a copy. It's 240 pages of love, and has shiny gold on the spine! What more do you need? ^_^

Marie: You're working on other projects at the moment as well. Avalon, for example? Would you like to tell us a little bit about that? Is it difficult to work on everything at the same time?

Emma: Avalon Chronicles is going to be great fun! Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir are the writers and they're fab. We've plotted out a lot of the series together, so I feel very attached to it, and the cast is fab. I hope people will love them as much as we do! the series follows our heroine, Aeslin, as she discovers a new world that's remarkably similar to one she used to hear stories of as a child; oh, and it's in a book XD Cue a fantastical adventure with a very down to earth approach from Aeslin. Warrior bandits, suave scribes, cunning magicians, heroic knights - it's all in there ^_^ It's being published by Oni Press and book one should be out later this year.

Juggling projects is hard indeed. I wish times had worked out differently. But on the other hand, it keeps me fresh and interested as I switch between them. I've also been doing a load of design work for a web series being made by channel4 and Hat Trick, written by Leah Moore and John Reppion - The Thrill Electric, so that's flexed my character design muscles a lot!

I hope people enjoy following my work!



Thank you again to Emma Vieceli, for taking the time to answer my questions! So, what do you say? You can't help but love Emma, right? :D

You can see more of Emma Vieceli here (among other places):

Twitter: @EmmaVieceli

1 kommentarer:

Tina Marie said...

Hey Ladies great stuff we are going to Blog about your interview to send fellow VA fans your way!

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