Valerie: An Interview With Rebecca Reynolds

One of books that I really enjoyed recently is Valerie by Rebecca Reynolds so I had to get in contact with her and ask her all about it.

I know people bring their own stuff to a book they’re reading but Valerie I was reminded of some coming of age American movies. It seemed like the book was kind of about figuring your place in the world. Was that what you were going for? 

I started writing Valerie when I was between jobs back in 2016. I had recently finished up at a studio I had worked at for 5 years and it was my first time without a job since graduating college. During that time I had a lot of strong feelings about where I was going in my life and what I wanted to do next. Personally I think this feeling of being adrift in your twenties is something that can get overlooked in media, so I wanted to put that sentiment into Valerie. Gab, the main character, is a recent college dropout who’s moved back home and feels stuck. The mall itself and the ghost, Valerie, that lives in it, are also frozen in time. So yes, I wanted to try and communicate this feeling of stalled development through the characters and motifs in the story.

You wrote and drew the book. Did you have it all written first before you started to draw it?

Yes I had written Valerie in its entirety before I started drawing it. I usually like to write a complete comic script before starting the artwork. Usually the script is somewhat loose and things can change during the thumbnailing process and maybe even further down the line. But in general I like the insurance of having a completed story before starting work on a comic, even if it’s just a first draft.

The book had some interesting characters. Do you think you’ll revisit Valeries and her friends?

Unfortunately no. When I wrote Valerie I intended from the beginning for it to be a short story with a definite end. I feel continuing the story would devalue this in some way.

You have beautiful art style. Do you have any particular influences? What goes into creating a page for you?

Thank you! I have a lot of artistic influences, to name a couple I love the work of Studio Trigger character designer/animation director Sushio and Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar. The expressiveness and emotion in their work is something I admire a lot. As for comic creators and mangaka, I really love Jillian Tamaki and Innio Asano, the very personal nature of their comics really inspire me when I write my own.

As for creating a page, I’ll usually go from the script straight into creating thumbnails, to try and pin down the flow and layout of the page. I feel this is also a big help with stuff like pacing in the overall story. After thumbnailing I’ll then move into a rough sketch, then a more complete sketch, linework, colour and then lettering.

You started it out as a webcomic before the Kickstarter. I have seen a few people follow this path. Do you think it helps the campaign to have the work out there already?

Yes I think it helped in the sense that it generated a bit of an audience while the comic was ongoing and in turn a bit more hype/awareness for when the Kickstarter launched. It meant I could also promote the Kickstarter on comic hosting sites like Tapastic. There, people who had subscribed to Valerie would see the Kickstarter and in turn generate more traffic for the campaign.

Do you think having it as webcomic helped in any other ways? 

I think having it as a webcomic made it overall more accessible. People who maybe couldn’t support the Kickstarter or buy a physical copy could read the entire comic online for free. I’m also interested in the idea of cross-media storytelling. On the site I created for the webcomic I included a link to a playlist I had made that readers could listen to and create a more immersive atmosphere for the story.

“Glitch” by Rebecca Reynolds and Paul Carroll

You recently drew a story called “Glitch” for writer Paul Carroll. I think it is a great story. What was that like?

Aw thanks, I think so too, Paul is great writer! It was really fun to work on, I really enjoy collaborating with writers as it provides a totally different experience to creating comics by yourself. Paul was very precise with what he wanted and that made my job a lot easier. Plus it was cool to see the story alongside the short stories by other artists compiled together in the Plexus anthology. Overall I think the book turned out really great.

What’s next for you?

At the moment I’m mainly focusing on tailoring my portfolio for professional work (I’m a storyboard revisionist by trade), but in my spare time I’m planning a comic that I hope to start working on next year, hopefully a longer form story. I’m also hoping to compile a personal artbook soon and maybe look into designing some apparel for my online store, which is something I haven’t done before.

You can pick up Valerie here. You can pick up Plexus here.