We were lucky enough to have an opportunity to interview a handful of fantastic romance comic creators: Nika of Love Debut, Amy of Fine Sometimes Rain, Denise of The Good Prince, Catarina of Children of the Night, and Heldrad of Orange Junk! They all graciously took time out of their busy schedules to share their insights on what they find appealing about romance comics and their take on writing them. I hope you will enjoy reading their answers and hopefully find something insightful. Enjoy!
So why don’t you introduce yourselves and tell me about your work!
Heldrad – Hi! I’m Heldrad and I’m the author of Orange Junk, a shoujo comedy about school life, friendship, family and love.
Nika – Hello! Nika here. I just finished up “Love Debut!”, a story about high school pop star Nick Thomas who falls in love for the first time. This is probably a terrible description and you should just read the comic.
Amy – Hi there, I’m Amy and I create Fine Sometimes Rain which is a slice of life romance about overcoming depression.
Catarina – Hey! I’m Catarina and I’m the author of Children of the Night, a gothic romance set in the Victorian era. It follows a young woman’s coming of age amidst a clash between vampires and the Hunters, an order of vampire slayers.
Denise – Hey there. 😀 I’m Denise Schroeder, also known as Nisey (pronounced NEE-see) on the web. I’m the creator of Sparkler Monthly’s Before You Go, a girls’ love series of shorts about two girls who meet by chance at a train stop, and the webcomic The Good Prince, which is a convention romance about a GL author.
What has attracted you to the romance genre?
Heldrad – I’ve been influenced by it ever since I was little and would watch mexican soap operas. When I was a kid I would draw fan comics of them and then eventually created my own stories.
Nika – I love the predictability of romances and their goofy tropes, haha. There’s also a somewhat sadistic joy in seeing otherwise self-sufficient characters become completely undone by their feelings.
Amy – I’m just a sucker for romances. I like happy endings and the character growth you can see over the course of a relationship. To be honest it’s really fun to write romances because it winds up being a fun diversion or fantasy idea I can dive into for a while, similar to when I play video games, I just like to get out of my head for a while and enjoy things for enjoyment sake.
Catarina – I think it’s because love is such a powerful, almost overwhelming feeling that makes people capable of doing practically anything for it. It makes for some really interesting character choices and dynamics, and I just like the intensity of it all.
Denise – I’ve loved romance for as long as I can remember (I think a very early age intro to The Princess Bride had a lot to do with it, lol)! Nothing makes me swoon like a good love story, and I’m a massive sucker for forbidden romances. Honestly? These stories just make me feel good to read and write, and I love sharing those feels with other people.
Some people love them, some people hate them, but what are your feelings on love triangles?
Heldrad – I think it’s a classic plot device. You can’t go wrong with it if you do it right. People can tell when love triangles work, so I have nothing against them, and have used them in my own stories as well.
Nika – Love ‘em! There’s something so invigorating about keeping love interests on their toes. I wish I had found a way to slip one into “Love Debut!”, but with all the other plot developments going on, I just couldn’t make it work.
Amy – I enjoy them when they are well written, but I loathe them when they are poorly written. Really I see love triangles as being women’s fantasy, similar to the “harem” trope/genre you see in shounen manga. Of course women would want their own harem too.
Catarina – I love them, especially when they’re unpredictable and keep the readers on their toes. But I prefer when it’s not obvious who the main character will end up with, otherwise the second lead will just be there to create conflict. Nothing wrong with a good ol’ classic trope!
Denise – Ewwwwwww no. Disclaimer: I’ve seen a LOT of really bad ones, so that doesn’t help, and I admit that a love triangle done WELL can be an impressive thing to behold. But ultimately, I just think they’re tired and overdone. Give me a solidly-built story with only two characters and unique conflict instead, or if you’re going to do a LT anyway, do it differently and go poly or pick neither.
What do you feel your biggest challenges are in creating romance comics?
Heldrad – Pacing the romance, not rushing it but not dragging it forever either. Also, avoiding unnecessary tropes.
Nika – I’m trying to challenge myself to write beyond the conventional mold I grew up with and make more thoughtful choices about the characters I choose to depict. Unfortunately, it’s so easy to default to certain types of pairings.
Amy – Pacing definitely and also probably a bit of overcoming conventions. I grew up reading Sailor Moon and other schmaltzy romance mangas many of which use the same tropes and conventions. It’s easy to want to play the shoujo manga card so to speak. Also I don’t want to be too corny haha!
Catarina – Pacing for sure, especially since it’s different for everyone. I personally like when the characters are well developed first, so I really care about them when that first kiss comes around. I’m a fan of the slow-burn so to say, but I notice that readers can sometimes get frustrated if the pace is too slow. Also, like everyone already mentioned, it’s challenging to break out of the mold but it’s something I’m definitely interested in doing.
Denise – Romance might seem like a “simple” genre to write for, but so much more goes into it than you think and it takes a lot of skill to do it well! Making sure the pacing of the relationship feels natural can be hair-tearing, as well as keeping the dialogue and character interactions realistic. There’s a lot of really trope-y romance out there, and it’s easy to forget where the tropes end and a real conflict/conversation between humans begins.
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to start writing romances?
Heldrad – Use your own experiences, or get inspired by people around you. That’s the best way to come up with original stories that haven’t been told before.
Nika – Start small! Shorter stories will really help you get a feel for pacing, and you won’t have to wait as long for the fun bits.
Amy – Well read romances for one! Read and consume other literature and films and draw from your own experiences. Part of creating is researching other artists and writers and seeing what they are doing and how they are doing it.
Catarina – I think the best advice is to write what you’d like to read or watch. Really, you can’t go wrong with that, and eventually people with similar interests will notice your work. Otherwise it’s important to read and research romance. Not just things we like either, sometimes it’s important to study what you don’t like, or find problematic, so you can analyze what works or doesn’t.
Denise – If you’ve ever fallen in love before, start there! It’s always easier to convey strong emotions when you’ve experienced them yourself. Don’t be afraid to write something the way you’ve seen/felt it, even if you don’t think someone’s written it that way before. But that said, reading a lot of GOOD material in the romance genre (and other genres!) can help you get a headstart on how to construct a good romance story. I’m biased here, but the fantasy genre has a lot of solidly-built romances worked into them that I can’t get enough of.
Do you have any romance comics, webcomics or even novels to recommend to us?
Heldrad – Two of my all-time favorite shoujo manga are Strobe Edge and Kimi ni Todoke. As for movies, I love Whisper of the Heart.
Nika – So hard just to choose a few! Manga-wise, “Skip Beat!” by Yoshiki Nakamura and “Gokusen” by Kozueko Morimoto are my go-to favorites. Great webcomics are Always Human, Check Please!, and Orange Junk. For books, I adore “The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf” by Gerald Morris, “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” by Holly Black, and “The Countess Below Stairs” by Eva Ibbotson.
Amy – Just read everything by Jane Austen. Romance comics wise I am keeping track of http://www.novaecomic.com/ and Heart of Gold on Sparkler. For manga, I really like to read stuff by Ikuemi Ryo and Higashimura Akiko.
Catarina – I like my romances dramatic and dark, since it doesn’t always need to be happy or light-hearted, so I recommend the Brontë sisters books. For something lighter you can’t go wrong with Jane Austen and the movie adaptations of her works. As for manga, I’m a really big fan of historical romances like Emma by Kaoru Mori.
Denise – I’m a voracious novel reader, so nearly all of my responses to questions like these are novels, haha. I’m nuts for fantasy romances, which are uncommon, so I tell everyone about any good ones I find. It’s out of print, but one of my all-time favorites is The Secret of Dragonhome by John Peel. I’m currently crazy for C.S. Pacat’s Captive Prince series as well. In the actual romance genre, Sandra Hill’s viking romances are hilariously fun, and I have a guilty soft spot for her Deadly Angels series about viking vampire angels (yes, I’m serious).
As for comics/manga, I’ll read just about anything by Fumi Yoshinaga. As trope-y and repetitive as they can get, I still enjoy several of Arina Tanemura’s works. Kaoru Mori’s A Bride’s Story is achingly beautiful and worth every minute. And if you’re looking for a NSFW, sexy and adorable lesbian romance comic, I just started reading Sunstone by Stjepan Sejic.
I read surprisingly few romance webcomics, but anything by Amy and Heldrad is great. 😀 Absolutely anything KaiJu touches, for sure. And it updates very sparingly, but Doki Doki CheckMate is perhaps my favorite webcomic on the internet!