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Author Talks: Elizabeth Watasin, Part One

We're happy to introduce first guest in Author Talks series on BookLikes. 


Elizabeth Watasin is the acclaimed author of the Gothic steampunk novels The Dark Victorian: Risen,The Dark Victorian: Bones and the creator/artist of the indie comics series Charm School. She has worked as an animator on thirteen Disney feature films, including Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King. She's also BookLikes Author who shares her writing and reading passion on her blog: 'Tis Nyte! by Elizabeth WatasinShe lives in Los Angeles with her black cat named Draw. 


Elizabeth Watasin agreed to talk with us and here's what she revealed. 



You’re an illustrator, animator, comic writer. Was The Dark Victorian: Risen your first novel?


Yes, Risen is my first long form fiction to go to print. I've embraced long form fiction for storytelling, so it won't stop there!

You’re talented artist, readers can enjoy illustration galleries in printed versions of your Dark Victorian books. How did you develop your drawing skills? 

To develop skills I had to draw lots and lots. It's hard work and the learning never stops. I earned an illustration degree in art school, but my real learning began as an in-studio artist for 2D animation, surrounded by veterans and amazingly gifted peers. I also practiced sequential art--the art of comics storytelling--at the same time and kept growing in that skill. In the end, there are reasons why I draw the kinds of illustrations and covers I do for the Dark Victorian, same as why I drew my indy comic book, Charm School: What do women feel like? What does living---breathing, moving, emotions---look like? How to make them real? These are my motivations when drawing.


Is it easier to write a story or draw a story? Was mix of illustrations and text natural for you when you started writing a novel?
Whether it's easier to draw a story or write a story--that's hard to answer! Each can achieve certain things the other can't depending on the kind of story you may want to tell. I switched to long form fiction just so I could get very immersive, epic-size stories done. If the Dark Victorian series were drawn, I'd need a few more lifetimes to get it done in my drawing style. That said, it was a difficult transition to go from visuals 
that tell the story to writing only words. I found myself fighting my sequential art aesthetics, which isn't just a form of visual expression but a means of giving the experience of timing, nuance, place, and emotion.

To break from sequential narrative, I tried a children's book first (still in progress), where I managed to go to single illustrations per page. Then when I was comfortable with more words, less pictures, I finally progressed to all words telling the entire story and illustrations as accompaniment. I'm very happy with that outcome.

I would love to do a fully illustrated novel. Not sequential art, I mean 20 illustration plates, chapter head illustrations, end papers, a "this book belongs to", fleurons, the whole 'art of the book' bit. An illustrated novel should be a hardcover. But that's all 'dreams' and 'some days'. I need the stories done first!

Tell me something about your writing process. How the idea, the sparkle of Dark Victorian series was brought alive?‬ 


I probably write the kinds of stories I do because those are the stories I want to read. There are lots of kick-ass heroines out there, but I'm doing truly uncanny ones with personalities I enjoy who happen to be lesbian or same-sex sympathetic. Artifice, or Art as she's known, in the Dark Victorian series is over six feet tall, a strongwoman, and a gentle Quaker. But she'll punch out evil without a second thought--she just reserves that second thought for later when she ponders her pacifist ideals. Elle Black is the picture of a proper Victorian housewife except that she's a telekinetic and a bit eccentric, if not dorky. Like any spouse with a gorgeous, popular wife, she'll have to deal with conniving spouse-stealers, a disapproving mother-in-law, as well as insidious supernatural evil.


Once I have my wonderful characters it's just a matter of figuring out the world they're in; for both Art and Elle, it's an alternate 1880 mechanical and supernatural London. Then somehow, I'm not sure how, their stories come to me--the trials they face, the answers about themselves they must learn. Who will love them. How, in the face of some pretty scary stuff, they manage to survive. I am learning with them, and maybe I'm discovering along with them.



Could you think of literary character that you would like to meet face to face? What would your ask him/her?
Is it terrible that I want to pick my own characters? The reason being that if I got to speak with Mary Poppins--who might be really rude, so that might not work out--I'd probably say very little except, "Omg, I LOVE you". Which would be a bit useless. But if I could meet my own characters, I could ask them, "Did I do right by you? Are you okay?". As much hardship as I put my heroines through, they're not my playthings or my avatar. Ultimately, I want them to have a meaningful life.

Paper books or e-books? Why?

I would say paper, though I now read e-books too. The reason why I favour paper is because it remains memorable, and because it's tactile and an object, which has true value to our senses. We can enjoy the artwork, we can enjoy the ink on pages (especially if they're professionally typeset), we can enjoy the weight, presence, and scent. E-books are proving really disposable, at least to me. Once done, I sometimes can't remember what I've read. To be able to interact physically with a book is to create a longer impression on the senses and establishes memory.


Favorite reading place?

For now, that would be my bed!



In second part of interview Elizabeth Watasin will reveal books that won her heart, plans for Dark Victorian series development and what she's reading while writing. Can't miss this!