Black Ship Books Interviews Linda Luksic Sejic

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1. Blood Stain is a quirky and original reinterpretation of certain horror tropes. But I believe that it was originally intended to be a much darker work. What was the original influence for Blood Stain – what was the spark that brought it to life and how has it developed and evolved from your original concept?

The way Blood Stain started was something completely unplanned and spontaneous. It started from a picture my husband drew for me during a very depressive period of my life to cheer me up.

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The situation of those two characters intrigued me enough to want to explore more about them. I wondered what the before and after picture might look like? How would the characters react? How did this situation happen in the first place? So I started doodling. At the time I had no plans to show any of it to anyone, I just enjoyed creating their world. This was my sanity project, something I would do on the side that I had no obligation towards to. It was just fun. Until I posted the first page online, and saw how many people liked it. I knew from there on, it can no longer stay a silly thing on the side. So I started shaping the story and the events into something more coherent.

It started as a horror (?) because I tried to justify the situation on the original picture that inspired me. Many questions about this picture kept popping up, and I just had to know the answers.

So I explored many possibilities. I researched about brainwaves, dream patterns, cloning and so on. Nothing too deep, but enough to get me going. Over time the story outgrew the original concept because as I wrote them, the characters responded to their challenges in a more realistic manner with all their strengths and weaknesses included in the mix.

2. Blood Stain is an intelligent retelling and deconstruction of the horror genre, particularly the Gothic subgenre. I’m guessing from this and from certain inside jokes in the comic itself (such as naming the candlemaker “The House Of Wax”) that you’re a horror fan.What are your favorite horror films/books/comics and why?

Hm.. that is an interesting question, because movies, books or comics were never something that inspired or influenced me, especially not horror, as I am not particularly fond of that genre personally I am more a fan of comedy and parody.

I am a generation of people who grew up surrounded by videogames. So videogames were the ones that left the biggest impact on me.

When I write, I imagine my story as a massive click and point adventure. There are small plot points and pieces in there that need to be picked up at a certain moment and when the time and the place is right, you can use them to unlock your path to the next stage.

I think it comes as no surprise that one of my all time favourite games are the old Resident Evil series. I always admired its movie-like locations and the mood, and wanted to create something visually as impressive. So you can say that influence bled over into creating Blood Stain.

And has horror always been a genre you’ve wanted to explore?

It was never planned. The story just randomly happened by just throwing the main character into a situation way out of her comfort zone, and then just having fun watching her resolve and overcome certain situations. With time, the doctor’s character changed as well, for he too was now placed in a situation way out of his comfort zone. So now we have these two awkward characters each trying to deal with their situations in their own special ways.

Horror aspect is here just as a spice.

3. Your artwork is a unique blend of stylization and realism. Certain panels in Blood Stain are almost reminiscent of story book illustrations (such as the panels depicting Elliot’s previous jobs at the butchers and “The House Of Wax” etc) in terms of their layout and atmosphere. It adds an enchanting fable-like aspect to this Gothic tale.

Can you please tell us a bit more about your artistic influences, especially those that influenced your work on Blood Stain?

Style for Blood Stain happened after years of painting realistically and growing tired of it. I wanted to draw in a simple style for a change but still use all the knowledge I had of colors and shapes after years of training. So I drew characters in the way that felt most natural to me. In a style where I could make characters do silly faces without me stressing out how it would look if I had to realistically paint every pore on their face. It was a fresh start. I could do whatever I wanted. so I thought it would be cool to try a style used in animes with painted background and sharp cel-shades characters.

I was also always heavily influenced by Disney cartoons and their beautiful sense of colors and mood. I strived to reach that kind of quality in all of my works.

4. I believe that, in addition to other projects, you’ve worked on Grimm Fairy Tales and other comics. How does working for a publisher compare to working on a personal, creator-owned project? I’m sure they both have positive and negative aspects. Can you please share these with us?

I only did colors on a few covers of Grimm Fairy tales books, but I actually work at Top Cow productions as a full interior comic artist.

Obviously, creator-owned projects give you all the freedom you can possibly wish for. You can write about anything you want and you can draw whatever your heart desires. It gives you all the creative freedom and passion to express yourself.

But on the other hand, all the hard work falls on your shoulders. You have to plan your own time of the day, and set your own deadlines. You have to edit yourself when working, and if needed you need to re-read or re-visit the strips you’ve already created in case you’ve missed something or if there is something in need of a fix. And there is always the risk when presenting the pitch for your work, it might get rejected.

Working for a publisher, you are presented with a plot, characters and a written scenario for each issue (at least in my case, since I only do interiors) so the amount of work is halved compared to working on a creator-owned project. You also get an editor who reviews your work and gives you notes, and you get a fixed amount of pages and a deadline which you are expected to meet, so things move at a much faster pace. But because you are limited to an x number of pages, you do not always have room to show everything you intended on that page. Often times you will have to cut some corners to fit the format, or to reach the deadline on time.

Working on both on your creator own project and for publisher can prove to be very challenging in its own ways, but the experience you get out of it is invaluable.

5. Can you please tell us about some of the other projects you’ve worked on?

I started in 2011 as a colorist in Top Cow on a comic called 39 minutes. The project was forgotten until 2013. San Diego comicon, where it was published as a hardcover trade.

The time betweeen 2012 and 2013 was a bit of a pause, so during that time Blood Stain was born.

Since I had free time I also took on a few Zenescope covers to color.

In 2013. I got offered to work on a project called Wildfire with a writer Matt Hawkins. This was my first official full art project (drawn and colored).

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While working on Wildfire I also did art assists on the first arc of Tales of Honor, a comic book adaptation of a popular novel. (I didn’t draw or color, I just tweaked color balance and facial expressions where it needed) and did a bunch of covers as well which I still continue doing.

Currently I am working as a full artist on 2nd arc of Tales of Honor with a writer Matt Hawkins.

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We started on a zero issue which was given out for free on free comicbook day. The whole issue was placed online as well here:

I designed a few logos for their books as well.

Logo for “wildfire” was my design, as well was the logo for the book called the tithe

6. Blood Stain has a refreshing, off-beat humor. I’ve heard it said that successful humor is often harder to write than drama. What are some of the key points to writing a humorous webcomic?

I have never thought about it, honestly. When I write, humor just happens randomly, and I don’t really have a clear plan. I only plan out the story for the given strip and if humor happens along the way, that makes it a very happy accident. But I do admit that I am endlessly amused by the irony of the situation my characters get caught in, and I sometimes love revisiting pre-established situations just so that I can experiment with different outcomes. That alone can sometimes be enough to get a few chuckles out.

7. It’s commonly thought that you work alongside your husband, Stjepan Sejic on the webcomic, Sunstone. Can you tell us about your creative contributions to Sunstone?

I do not collaborate on Sunstone in a way that people think. There was a wide spread misconception on the internet that started when the first Deviantart article about Sunstone got out.

The article it wrote that I am a writer or at least a co-writer of Sunstone, which is false.

We simply bounce ideas and brainstorm. He listens to me babble about my story, and i listen to him.

And then we make up silly scenarios that will never be in the story itself, but it helps on many different levels. Sometimes you will realize the character you are writing has hidden trait that just fits in perfectly and you never would’ve discovered it had it not been for that other person sitting there. Its amazing how much a fresh pair of eyes and ears can help with writing.

8. And I know many fans are excited by the fact that Blood Stain and Sunstone exist in the same universe, so to speak. The characters can and do interact at times.

Can we expect to see further interactions between the characters and if so, what can we expect? (I’m guessing hopeful fans will be disappointed if they expect to see Dr. Stein or Elliot in leather gear lol.)

Heh, my fans already partially know what to expect from the crossover between my comic and my husbands. There are still a few that hope Ally and Elly might interact on a “deeper” level just for the fun of it, but I usually remind them that Sunstone has it’s own storyline and genre, and BloodStain has it’s own.

So both of our plans of intertwining storylines is dealt in a way that would not cause problems in each others continuity or water down the story by just adding random events.

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9. Speaking of characters, Doctor Stein is a fascinating protagonist. He’s tall, dark and disturbing yet somehow endearing. Do you see him as an amalgamation of various “mad scientist” characters from horror and sci fi or was he inspired by a real life person?

He was meant to be a typical eccentric mad scientist type, but he evolved beyond that.

10. I must admit that Elliot is my favorite character from Blood Stain. She’s infinitely relatable. It was a bold move having a main character who starts the story as an unemployed underdog. As a reader, it’s been rewarding to follow her character arc so far and see her develop.

What was your main inspiration for Elliot? Did you partly draw upon personal experiences to shape her character and the challenges that she faces?

Elly’s character happened by a chance, solely on a reason that I needed to rush her over to the doctors house. So I needed to build up some extremely desperate circumstances around her to give her that last push she needed. And through those circumstances she grew into a character she is now. And she is still growing, because there are more challenges to come.

I won’t lie, I was afraid that I will mess her up when writing. I started not knowing what to do with her at all. I knew what to do with Serge, and I knew what to do with Vlad, but Elly was a complete blank. And I was worried that people would dislike her because she doesn’t have defined character traits , but instead her strengths and weaknesses vary from situations and circumstances she is placed in, and how well she adapts and overcomes them.

But once I found her inner voice, I discovered Elly is an extremely fun character to write. Simply because she has much to learn and discover and because of that I can do so much more with her character as opposed to other already well settled in characters.

Some parts in her story I wrote from my own experience. Working in a coffee place for example(I only lasted a week there.. XD) or delivering surveys (I admire people who can do this, because I fail at that miserably as well.) which was enough to give me an idea for the overall economic crisis in that world and how it impacts all of us small fries fresh out of college suddenly dropped into the harsh world.

11. Blood Stain, like Sunstone, is a webcomic hosted on Deviantart. How do you think the internet and digital publishing are affecting the comic book industry? Do you see this as positive or negative?

Blood Stain is not published yet, so I can’t really say how hosting a webcomic for free might affect the sales once it gets out in physical form.

12. I may be courting controversy here but do you feel that you’ve faced any difficulties breaking into the professional comic book world because of your gender? Many comic book publishers have recently come under fire for not hiring enough female artists or writers. What’s your view on this?

I can’t speak for everyone, but based on my own experience I can only say is that this industry is more interested skill, speed and quality when choosing their artists, than what gender they are.

13. This is a question I ask as many creators and publishers as possible and I’d love to get your feedback. How would you like to see the comic book industry grow and change over the next few years?

I want it to grow as large as the manga industry. I want to see a wide plethora of different genres that you can pick and choose based on your own preferences, and not just be limited on choosing between the usual superhero genre and mystery or sci fi. I want to see more slice of life, and more quality character driven stories.

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14. Blood Stain features stunning digital artwork, further enhanced by excellent coloring. I’m assuming that in addition to illustrating and writing the comic, you also letter it. That’s quite a work load! Would you give us a step-by-step breakdown of how you create a complete comic page?

Writing and sketching in my work are inseparable. When I have a certain dialog in mind I need to accompany it with an appropriate expression in a sketch. Writing/laying out said strip can take me from 1-3 days to complete in ideal conditions.

After the sketch with text was laid out, I give it to my husband, and my two best friends to read so that I can hear their impressions. If they were confused or had to ask questions to justify things to themselves it is a clear signifier for me to get back to the drawing board and change a few things. I can not stress enough how much a fresh pair of eyes can help you see mistakes that you might have missed.

At this point once the strip is approved, the lettering is already done, so I no longer have to worry about it, except the sound effects that come at the very end.

Next step is to construct the characters, ink them and do color flats. After all the characters have been done, I paint the background which is essential for the second to last step of the process- light and shadow.

last step are the sound effects and panel borders, and the strip is ready for sending.

15. Last question – what are your long-term creative goals? What you like to achieve within the next five years?

I am currently focused on this story, so I can’t say what will happen in 5 years.

If this one proves successful I think it might be fun to try writing a different genre like steampunk, fantasy or sci-fi. Who knows, I might even do a collaboration with my husband on one of his projects. Only time will tell.

LJ Phillips
About LJ Phillips (81 Articles)
LJ Phillips is an ex-bodyguard and professional artist who has had three solo exhibitions. He has also published numerous articles and pieces of short fiction. His interests include Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, over-analyzing pop culture and staring into the abyss. Currently he lives in SA and spends his free time working on his various creator-owned comics.

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