Nicola R. White (writer), Kara Braeun (illustrator), Jono Doiron (colors, cover art)
Independent Kickstarter Comic
Once upon a time in Canada, an independent comic series was born when a romance novel author read a dark legend about a murdered Irish woman in a children’s book of horror stories. Wild Rose elaborates on the urban legend that is its namesake, in comic book form. The creators behind Wild Rose look to fund colors and cover art, as well a limited issue run of the first issue in the six issue series, through the Kickstarter running until November 30th.
Nicola R. White, author of Wild Rose, wanted to explore writing comics after her prolific work in the romance novel genre. White has written more than a dozen self-published works. In Wild Rose, she looks to explore intersectionality, witchcraft, and the realities of life for LGBTQ+ people and people of color in 18th century Europe. WWAC went in depth with White to find out more about what we can expect from Wild Rose and how the story was molded.
You have previously written several romance novels and now bring that to comics. What drew you to create comics?
It was probably inevitable that I turned my attention toward creating a comic book. I read widely in many different genres and formats, and I have a huge amount of curiosity about how things work. I like to learn about things I’m interested in by experiencing them, so a lot of my projects start out as experiments and then I realize that I might be onto something. The idea to create a comic book grew out of some reading I was doing about screenplay formatting. I realized that there is no particular industry standard for comic book scripts, so I decided to write one of my own to see what worked and what didn’t. I was also interested in which aspects of my writing style would adapt well to the comic script format and which wouldn’t. It turns out that I really enjoy comics/game writing, probably because I enjoy variety and sometimes get bored halfway through a longer project.
Tell us about how you “met” Eliza, and how you developed her character and discovered her story.
I read a version of the Eliza Day folktale years ago in a book of horror stories for kids. The romantic elements were sanitized, but I have always been drawn to tragedies and morbidity (I was a weird kid!), so the story stuck with me. Years later, I decided to re-imagine the legend as a comic book because I could picture the story very clearly and knew it would translate into images well. My version of Eliza has a good heart, but she’s very naive at the beginning of Wild Rose. As the series progresses, she will have to deal with some major challenges that she would never have faced if she’d stayed in her village and followed society’s expectations of her. Some of the choices she makes will have lasting effects on her life and on other people’s lives, and Eliza has to live with those consequences.
Why rural Ireland in 1790? Was there something about that place and era that drew you in?
Ireland was a given because that is where the folk tale originates, but I chose 1790 very deliberately. I researched Irish history and felt that 1790 was the “right” time because there was civil unrest and social change happening, but it wasn’t a time of outright war. Ireland had obtained independence from Great Britain in 1782 for the first time in centuries. The famine of 1740 was well behind the country, but the population was growing rapidly and more political dissent and hardship was on the horizon.
I knew that Eliza would need to go to London to further the story, so I took into account what was happening there at the time, as well. Although slavery in Britain ended in 1772, there was still a great deal of prejudice aimed at the Irish and other nationalities/races, and I wanted to explore the race and class differences of the time. [Author’s note: Slavery in the British Empire wasn’t formally abolished in the Empire until 1833, and exceptions existed until 1843, although case law in 1772 held that slavery in England and Wales was not supported by law].
I also felt that the time period would be visually interesting. I’m no artist and I have no interest in micromanaging my co-creators, so I was excited to see what they came up with for character design, costuming, and color schemes. They’ve done an awesome job with issue number one and we’ve had some great discussions about how facial expressions, postures, and clothing can have different meanings and can show things about the characters without having to spell it out.
Your novels seem to be romances where male actions affect women. You’ve chosen to portray white relationships so far — do you plan to keep that focus in the future, given the fact that Wild Rose is an intersectional story?
Of the five romance novels I have published, two of them actually feature multicultural romances. In Fury Scorned, there is a white heroine and Black hero, and in Man’s Ruin, the heroine is Latina and the hero is white. That being said, I’m not an expert on intersectional romance and I do plan to keep educating myself and to include more racial diversity in future books. I have also written about single motherhood, mental illness, and bisexuality. My published work so far has focused on m/f relationships, but I am working on some projects that explore other pairings. I have a lesbian sports romance in progress and I am currently working on a text-based romance game that allows the player to choose how they want to express their gender identity and whether they will pursue monogamy or polyamory.
In that same vein, do you think it’s important to show in a story that the actions of men can impede a woman’s growth?
I do think that is important because it is a reality of North American/European culture that we live in a patriarchy, and have been patriarchal for a long time. This means that there are institutional and systemic barriers to women’s growth, whether it’s the messages we learn and internalize about our self-worth, or whether it’s outside forces like the wage gap or harassment in the workplace. In Wild Rose, Eliza chafes against expectations of her, but she isn’t able to overcome her own prejudices until she sees more of the world outside her family and village. That being said, I think it’s also important to show that in a culture that encourages women to compete against each other, women sometimes hold other women back too. In Wild Rose, there are both men and women who help and hinder Eliza’s growth.
What are some comics or graphic novels that inspired you to write Wild Rose?
Although it’s very different in terms of plot and artistic style, Pretty Deadly has been inspiring for me. Like Wild Rose, it’s a historical with a revenge theme and supernatural elements. I have really enjoyed the Buffy comics that continued the canon after the show ended and definitely drew some inspiration from that series. Neil Gaiman’s 1602 was very influential for me, as well as Saga and Bitch Planet.
Wild Rose hasn’t been directly influenced by the superhero/villain side of comics, but I have been reading comics with female leads for years, way before I ever thought about writing my own. Gotham City Sirens was one of my favorites and I still can’t believe DC ditched it. I also like the newest version of Harley Quinn a lot — she’s much better without Joker dragging her down — and I think She-Hulk is hugely underrated.
What comics are you reading now that you love and would recommend?
There is a new series called Songs for the Dead that I picked up at a comic convention recently that I am really enjoying. They only have three issues out so far, but the pacing is great and the covers are gorgeous. The premise is a natural-born necromancer/female bard trying to find others like her and prove that necromancers aren’t all evil.
I would also recommend any of Tim Hanley’s non-fiction books about women in comics. Tim is a comic book historian and the author of Wonder Woman Unbound, Investigating Lois Lane, and Many Lives of Catwoman.
What other projects do you have in the works that we should look out for, after the Wild Rose series comes out?
Aside from the projects I mentioned above, I am working on a new urban fantasy series about a badass female mechanic with cybernetic implants who sings in a punk band. The series is set in a near-future, dystopian Detroit. It was inspired by the Dark Angel TV series from the early 2000s, as well as Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghosts series and Patricia Briggs’ Mercedes Thompson books, which also feature a female mechanic.
Thanks to author Nicola R. White for joining us for this interview. The Wild Rose Kickstarter ends on November 30th, so if you want to find out more about this six-issue historical fiction comic, check it out.