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The Cat is Out of the Bag in "Fangs & Foul Play" - An Interview with L. K. INGINO

COMIC BOOK YETI: In the midst of the flurry of activity leading into the conclusion of your Kickstarter campaign, thank you for making time to chat with us today, L. K. Ingino!

CBY: So Fangs & Foul Play sets up a bit of an inversion upon the traditional relationship between a witch and familiar, instead having a cat taking on a human as a thrall. What circumstances led to your initial idea to pursue this dynamic and develop this concept into what is now an ongoing series with an increasingly involved plot?

L.K. INGINO: I actually initially had the idea by way of an image that came to me around 2am, not an actual image, just one in my head! And it was essentially what is the cover of Issue 1, just… well, the cover was modified a little to be less gruesome. In the original, it was a cat on a table, and all the guests were dead. I figured we could get this evil feeling still without showing all of that! I’d been trying to think about comic series ideas for a while at this point and I often have late night thoughts, lines for poems, etc. I smartly wrote it down, as 90% of the time if I don’t it’s gone by morning. And then I had to figure out how this came to be. It seemed fairly natural that the cat was a vampire. I wasn’t really sure how else he could have killed the guests, though, I suppose there are other options! It also seemed like it would be easier for him to find victims if he had help.

My initial thought was for Richard to be more of an Alfred, to be a butler, mostly happy to serve his master, but I ended up forgoing that as it didn’t leave as much room for conflict. Certainly external conflicts, but the conflict with the two characters living in the house makes it more palpable. And then I went to work on the other details! It took some time to get Issue 0 and 1 fleshed out, but it finally got there.

CBY: As a cat owner, it’s a bit difficult for me to see how my relationship with my cat deviates much from the interactions in Fangs & Foul Play - I wonder to what degree your own experience with cats plays into this, and how did it resonate with the rest of the team creating this series? You’ve assembled Alex Guenther as artist, Miriam Yasser as colorist, and Joel Rodriguez as letterer - a diverse, international creative team. Are they all beleaguered cat owners, or was there some other impetus behind each of them getting involved in this collaborative effort?

LKI: I certainly feel like my cats own me sometimes! And that’s a sentiment I hear from a lot of people. Dogs want to please us, cats want us to please them. And, they beg for food about as much as Fang does (maybe more, but they aren’t vampires, so it’s safer for me to not overfeed them!) And, I actually don’t think I’ve asked if they do have cats! I was searching for most of the artistic team for a bit and I had a fairly good idea of the art style I was looking for. Commissioned a couple of trial pages and assembled the team! I also sent everyone the pitch and details about the story, so of course, if anyone wasn’t interested no one’s time would be wasted. I think if you give too vague of details you could end up finding out the people who respond to your post or email aren’t as interested in your story, or maybe there are certain subject matters they don’t want to draw, etc. And I say most of the team, as I had worked with Joel on a few short comics before and had already asked if he would join on for the comic.

CBY: Beyond the operative plot device, can you tell us a bit about how you decided upon the setting, and the rationale behind selecting the time and place in which Fangs & Foul Play has been situated? As I was reading, it seemed a bit ambiguous as to when and where the action might be taking place. While the setting is obviously fictitious, did you have reference points in mind when establishing the world for your characters?

LKI: In my mind it’s more of a fictional place in America, then say, Europe. But, it doesn’t really matter, and it could also be a fictitious continent! As for the setting, I really wanted it to have this Victorian feeling as I thought that would lend a bit of that dark, gothic feel to the story, which is almost a requirement for anything vampiric, though, there are of course variations and I think it would be fun to see more of them! The time-frame if we set it in our world would be around the 1850’s or so. I didn’t want there to be cars and easier transportation. They still have gas lighting. There’s not modern refrigeration, though there are ice boxes and the like. And most importantly, I wanted to set it in a smaller town so that people are more likely to notice when people go missing, even if they’re not relatives, and there’s not as many policemen to look into things.

CBY: Now that you’ve started introducing a community of characters, can you share a bit about what sort of journey you’re planning to take your readers on over the course of the run? How big do you envision this world becoming before your main characters find some point of conclusion?

LKI: I’m trying to sort out how to answer this without too many spoilers! We’re going to be introduced to a fair few new characters, though not an exceptionally large amount. There are some twists coming, that I won’t say any more about at this time. Most of the story will continue to take place in Bludville, with some things happening outside. And overall I’m planning on a 4 book series comprised of 4-6 issues each. Subject to some change, but that’s the current plan!

CBY: Stepping away from the world of your comic for a moment, in concrete terms, what challenges and lessons learned have arisen over the course of debuting Fangs & Foul Play? From the experience of releasing issue #1, what have you done differently in preparation for issue #2?

LKI: I’m trying to get better at not rushing out the campaigns. I’m a planner, and I planned a lot, but I still felt like I could have taken more time to really be prepared. At the same time, I also don’t want to wait too long in between releases! So, it’s a balance. I’m also working on striking a better balance in my work/work/life balance - that is, day job, Headless Gnomes, and personal life. It’s easy to get caught up in the millions of things I could do in the business, but some balance is needed as well. This campaign I was actually a bit more behind on press than on the first one, due to some life stuff going on, but my goal for next time is to have the comic ready a bit more in advance of the campaign, and reach out to press early on as I believe that will help the campaign a good bit! I think this last one is more of an overtime thing, but I do feel that I’m much more comfortable with interviews now, and with giving the pitch!

CBY: Noting you’ve also established as a publishing company to serve as a platform for accessing comic titles and associated merch, can you speak at greater length about the process of setting up the site? When did you decide to launch your own brand for your work, and can you tell our readers a bit about the journey - what has gone according to plan, and what surprises have popped up in the process of starting this business?

LKI: Oh, sooo many surprises! Despite this not being my first business venture, which is probably good given that the average is 2-3 failed businesses, personally I feel that that won’t be true for everyone, but has been for me. Now, primarily that was due to finding out I wasn’t as interested in the idea as I thought I was! Not enough return for what I wanted to do, whereas with comics and writing, I want to do it enough that I don’t mind the low margins and returns on investments, though do hope and plan for some more upward momentum in that department!

Given that this isn’t my first business, I had some experience already with setting up sites, dealing with taxes, dealing a little bit with inventory, I’ve learned a lot more about that this time, I knew that I wanted to establish a brand name early on, rather than switch into one later. So I started brainstorming ideas that felt like they meshed with what I write which is science-fiction, fantasy, and horror, and I also have a bit of humor in most of my pieces.

As far as surprises, anything website-related always takes longer than you think it will unless you’re already a designer. I’ve built a few sites, but every theme is a bit different, and I would make good progress and then run into something I didn’t know how to do and have to go spend the time both learning and trying to understand what I was reading, which often meant more research!

Financial tracking took me a long time to sort as I am not a numbers person, and I am actually doing some rejigging there now as I realized some of what I was doing wasn’t quite what I needed (for example: fixing the way I track each project to sort when its profitable, and CA taxes not being annually whereas federal taxes are annually, so I need to sort what goes where when, etc. And then there’s understanding CA taxes and who you have to charge them to, how much you need to charge, do you need to collect taxes from other states, which, obligatory not an accountant/not financial advice, I believe is only if you make over a certain amount, but it’s important to be aware of these things!). And, there are constantly things popping up. Not to scare anyone away from it! But, being as prepared and informed as possible is good. Essentially, plan on most things taking three times the time you think it will and you’re probably good.

As for what has gone according to plan, I’d have to say a lot of the little things, or the things that I already had more knowledge about as I didn’t have to learn about them. Like buying my domain name, setting up social media accounts, commissioning a friend for my banner image, etc. I’m definitely a fan of commissioning people for things that I don’t know as much about or don’t have the time for, but sometimes the budget isn’t there and you have to take the time to learn. I do think it’s smart to have at least a basic idea on all aspects of the business, in part so you can also make sure you’re hiring the right people!

CBY: You’ve got a large roster of creators listed on the Headless Gnomes website, many of which aren’t credited on Fangs & Foul Play. I also noted the other titles in your store - the Becoming anthology from Oneshi Press, and Cthulu is Hard to Spell - so it raises the question, what else do you have planned for release in the foreseeable future involving these other creators?

LKI: I love working on short comics because they are quicker to write, quicker to edit, and I don’t have to run the campaign! Of course, I share it and try to get on a couple of interviews for it as well. And I like working with multiple artists so that there’s a variety of styles. When I’m thinking up a story I often have a style in mind that I feel will fit it best. I’d love to do longer comics with some of the artists as well, but at the moment my production schedule is currently focused on Fangs & Foul Play for at least the next year or so. I also have another short comic in Oneshi Press’ current campaign on Kickstarter - Destinations, and have two shorts in other anthologies that have not yet been publicly announced.

CBY: From my recent forays into exploring the comic industry, it always comes across to me as a busy space full of creators, and I always find my attention split in too many different directions. What sort of approach are you taking to help the ethos or aesthetic of Headless Gnomes titles and branding stand apart in a crowded space? What can our readers latch onto and know they can expect out of anything Headless Gnomes publishes into the future?

LKI: I feel like this is true of many creative industries, especially in the writing world. I’ve submitted a few short stories and have had much better luck getting into comics anthologies thus far! And for poetry, oftentimes there’s a reading fee, which I understand, but it does make for some barrier to entry as I can only pay so many reading fees! And there’s no guarantee of acceptance.

Something I think every comic creator should do and that I strive to do, is try to make the best story they can, and always try to improve upon that. Make sure there’s a good catch and leave a bit of a cliffhanger, but not so much that it upsets readers!

As for branding, I do my best to make sure the comics look professional, that I have the best team assembled that I can, hire professional logo designers and make sure the books are comic store ready, should I get around to soliciting the books to them! I also want to make sure that I’m using the best paper and finishes that I can. My comics are a higher paper weight than most on the market as I want the individual issues to feel like they are just as much quality as a graphic novel. And I hope to be able to continue to do that, as paper costs soar it is getting harder, but I’m always trying to go for the best that I can do so that they stand out.

And most importantly, I strive to bring entertaining stories to life that help people escape to other universes. Like a fancy door to another world.

CBY: Discussing the overarching approach you’re taking to operating Headless Gnomes, and the stylistic and thematic content of Fangs & Foul Play, can you share a bit about your own creative background and influences that have shaped your taste and carry through to your current work?

LKI: I enjoyed reading fantasy around middle school, I was reading before then, but not as much in the fantasy genre. So for the majority of my life I’ve had interest in the fantasy genre. I also read some science-fiction books. I tend to shy away from the ones that are heavily ship detailed, but I enjoy a good science-fiction setting. I’ve only recently come to horror as I’ve always been someone with extremely intense and detailed dreams, at least when I can remember them!

I thought that my love of poetry started around high school, but my memory is terrible, and my mom recently gave me a box of items from my early early years and I found a book of poems I wrote in early elementary school, maybe first grade or so and… I wrote a few decent poems in high school, and a larger selection of ones that I could rewrite into something better, but wow, high school me would have cringed at my elementary school poems. They may or may not ever be shared with the public! Perhaps if someone pays me to read them. Now, given everyone has to start somewhere with writing, and most of us aren’t great right off the bat. I’ve certainly read some poets that started publishing in their teens that were well ahead of what most of us think of when we think of high school poetry (I wasn’t one of those. I had a tendency to over metaphor to the point where I read some now and have zero idea what the poem is about, as well as use “big” words for the sake of using big words. I like a good “big” word but it has to be well placed and meaningful.)

I also wrote a few fantasy stories around high school, and then over college and after I wrote here and there. I almost went to college for writing, but somehow thought that fashion would be a better choice financially (it can be depending on where you work), only to find out I really don’t like sewing (I do still sometimes make my own costumes) and often in fashion you have to start with the sewing jobs and the cutting and typically not designing for a while unless you have the funds to start your own shop (typically online). I finally came around to the conclusion that I want to write for my profession, not just here and there, and that’s when I started Headless Gnomes!

As for more specifically what inspired me, some of my favorite authors are: C. S. Friedman, Mickey Zucker Reichart, and J. R. R. Tolkien. Some of my favorite stories are anything Alice in Wonderland related, Peter Pan, and all of the OZ books. Favorite poets include Margaret Atwood (of whom I’ve only read one fiction book!) and Billy Collins. Though I wouldn’t say my poems are quite like theirs, I suppose if you were to compare mine, they’d be closer to Billy Collins than Margaret Atwood.

CBY: To close, we always like to provide our readers with an opportunity to learn what’s inspiring you now, from comics to films, television, books, music, and beyond - what has your attention at the moment that you’d like to see work its way more broadly into the zeitgeist/ What should everyone be checking out?

LKI: I’m actually only just watching the various Vampire Diaries shows, so I’m a little behind there! I do love What We Do in the Shadows, though it wasn’t my main inspiration, I love the dynamics between the characters. I just started listening to Spiritbox and Banshee, I love Beartooth (who has a graphic novel out, though I haven’t checked it out just yet), and have been trying to listen to more female-fronted metal bands. There are so many great male-fronted metal bands and I find that I hear about them much more, so I’ve been making a point to find more female fronted metal bands on Spotify as well, and I can’t do screamo, but I love listening to women singing and then going into screamo.

CBY: L.K., thank you for joining Comic Book Yeti today, and please feel free to share any social media or other links to material you’d like readers to check out!

LKI: Everything can be found on my linktree:

Some of my most important links are: <- (Where you can get a free digital copy of Issue 0 of Fangs & Foul Play!)

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