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  • Writer's pictureTelênia Albuquerque

February 2024 and My Interview

Hello again!

This month I had a lot of personal stuff to take care of, plus the scorching heat of this Summer is destroying me orz So no news, but a long newsletter regardless.

 

Interview


I couldn't organize an interview for this month, but as it's my birthday's month, I had a last minute idea of answering the interview myself with questions asked by fellow artists (a special thank you to Barbara and Angie!) and patrons. So below is the result, hope you enjoy!



Starting with one of our recurring questions. Was there something or someone queer you felt pulled to before you even understood why?

You know, this question was actually inspired by Last Night at the Telegraph Club. Lily’s experience conveys in an exquisite way what it's like to be pulled to projections of what's inside you before you even know, because you simply have no way to know.

I think it’s hard to make a list of all situations, but for me it happened a lot with manga/anime characters, especially the androgynous ones, like Haruka or Utena, even before I could actually watch these series. Also Xena. But here's the thing, I seriously think my gaydar was way better before I realised I was a lesbian. Let me explain with a curious anecdote.

I remember the first time I saw Kristen Stewart, it was a tiny pic in a magazine announcing this upcoming movie (curiously with Jodie Foster, another inexplicable obsession of mine cause I wasn’t even old enough to watch most of her movies) and I was automatically glued to this girl's image. Fast forward I watched Panic Room a thousand times. Years later, I was already out and Stewart does the vamp movies and apparently is super straight, it was such a blow to my gaydar confidence! I’m kidding! (kinda?) But I think the biggest blow to my gaydar confidence was actually how often this sort of situation happened because so many people, be they celebrities or people around me, were in the closet back then.


Who are some of the artists who influenced your artistic development, particularly in terms of discovering your own style?

My style is a bit of a chimera, I guess. Growing up I looked to classical art as inspiration, from ancient sculptures to pre-raphaelite paintings (loved to copy Waterhouse), but at the same time manga/anime was huge too. So I had this bit of conflict where, if I tried to draw something original it'd come out more realistic, but I really wanted my style to be more super-detailed-eyes-CLAMP-like stuff lol

So it was a whole process of amalgamation that began when I started focusing more on creating my own stories around 14. But the way I draw now only got sedimented after I decided to try for real this comic thing. Apparently the more clean influences won, like Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, Takako Shimura, Kris Anka, despite my deep love for super detailed works like Kamome Shirahama's. To be real, not being able to take my sweet time with every detail, especially when doing a webcomic, probably had to do with that too.


Do you do all your art digitally or do you work in some other mediums?

I certainly grew up drawing traditionally, not like there was another option. It was mostly only pencil and paper, I didn't colour much. These days I only draw digitally, though changing to a pen display was nice in this sense. Sometimes I still miss more tangible stuff, but I have a hard time allowing myself to just draw for no "useful" reason... I should put some effort into it.


How much of yourself - your experiences, etc - do you put into your writing?

There'll always be something of you in whatever you create, it’s the very base of it. Even if you don't know what it’s like to be rejected in a certain context, as a human being you know what it feels like to be rejected and as a storyteller you'll communicate it your way. I guess I can put something of myself more directly, in the very tropes or themes I like or even a character eating certain food. But beyond that, no, I'm not the sort to bring direct experiences or people to my stories. Never expect me to write an autobiography.


What impact comics had and still have in your life?

I remember learning to read with comics and they have been with me since. Fun Home was an earth shattering experience, Batwoman: Elegy was what encouraged me to give it a real try. Making my own comics has pretty much changed everything in my life, before that I was stagnant in a long struggle with depression, it gave me purpose, a little confidence, helped me process so many things. So it's hard to summarize how much it impacted me, be it as a reader or an artist, it has always been intertwined with my life.


How did you start working with webcomics? Has it always been a goal of yours? And, do you intend to always work with comics or do you also want to go into other areas?

Well, I had decided to try this comics thing for real and I needed actual pages to show and get people interested in my work, so I started my first webcomic on Tumblr. It wasn't always a goal for me though, even because it didn't exist when I was growing up. The first time I read a webcomic I was already in college (it was YU+ME: Dream).

My intention is always to work with comics, don't know if always in the same way, even because it's very physically taxing, but I think I'd miss not working visually in a story. Despite that for the past few years I've been realising what I love above everything else is creating a story. While I was only focused on comics I missed working on prose, so I've been slowly working on developing this side as well.


The first 2 pages of my 1st webcomic, Amazonomachy.

When it comes to creating queer stories, what are some things you always take into consideration when you set out to tell a new story?

I always try to be aware of my responsibility in bringing something into this world, so I try to be careful of what I'm transmitting. As the ideas start flowing I wait to see if there’s anything good that can be taken from it, that in the end readers be left with good feelings and hope (and I think the historical genre can be a powerful adder of hopeful perspective too). Most of my stories turn out to be about some sort of healing journey. When I was younger I used to underestimate stories like the ones I tell, but I think in a world so full of atrocities and where people die more by committing suicide than from violent deaths, it is a very necessary sort of work.

At the same time, criticism from the community can be the harshest and most painful and I had to take a step back from taking it into account while writing. A famous brazilian drag queen put in words what I had been feeling about this, that unfortunately we're at a point many people don't really care about representation, they want to see themselves, but in an individualistic sense, if it's not their exact experience and perspective as an individual it means it's lacking and it means it can and should be put down. So I tried to go back to the beginning, to that creation that comes from within, because just like in any other relationship, if you're always putting the needs of others above yours it won't work long term.


As you leave Soft behind (congratulations by the way!), what are you looking forward to the most with all that you learned and experienced through creating that story?

A less chaotic process? Haha Soft was a huge journey for me in so many ways. I think it strengthened my confidence as a comic creator, but also it was while doing it that I made huge work-life balance changes. Those changes had a big impact in my life and the management of my anxiety, which in turn allowed me to finish a webcomic while keeping a way more consistent schedule.

But what I always look forward to the most after finishing a project is the possibility to tell new stories, because I still have so many in me to tell.


Do you have any subjects, stories, ships, or even historical periods you think you'd like to explore with your artwork but have never had the chance?

Well, I have a proposal that takes place in Brazil in the 20s while also dealing with the Dutch period in the XVII century, but unfortunately it never got picked. There's some other idea in the 60s... Sometimes I think about tackling the Early Middle Ages, Renaissance, Belle Époque. But I have to say Soft awakened in me a new love for contemporary too.


In the era of burn out, rising anxiety and social media, we have been forced to rethink routines and our relationships to working on our previous hobbies. A long trial and error process. How have you been navigating that? Do you keep any specific habits?

To me social media can be especially hard because as an autistic person (which is a very recent diagnosis that has explained a lot) there's a thing called excess of empathy (yes, people think autists can't be empathic but that's bullshit), and if to be bombarded by all manner of absurds happening every second in the world affect's anyone, the effects on me are amplified. But even before I knew that for sure, at some point in the pandemic, between doom scrolling and the pressure of "being productive", I left Twitter. At the time, I had just read The Priory of the Orange Tree and Samantha Shannon had also just left Twitter, and she summed up what I was trying to make sense of myself. It had helped my career, had helped me meet awesome people, but it had also taken too much and I got to a point I couldn't and didn't want to keep paying the price to be there.

I created this newsletter as a big part of my attempt to not depend so heavily on social media anymore, and this step is growing more relevant with each day. Now even Tumblr seems to be on its way to definitive combustion just to abide AI (I've done my back up, 10 years of work and so so much more). So now the only one kinda left is Insta and until when? I certainly must have lost opportunities, though at this point of algorithm madness I don't know if even that is true, but I won't martyrize myself for social media anymore.

About more general habits, in the first year of the pandemic I made what should be the very obvious decision of allowing myself to rest. Now I have weekends, holidays and vacation, the audacity! And surprise! I'm actually way more productive now, and even if I still struggle with my mental health for other reasons, I haven't had a burn out since.

But as it's said in the question, it's a long trial and error process, and it's hard.


What are some of your favorite books and music? Where would you like to travel to? Do you have any pets? What kind of hobbies do you have?

Books and music: I grew up reading a lot of British literature, from Jane Austen to Agatha Christie to Tolkien to Samantha Shannon now, and guess it still holds for me. Music changes a lot for me, depending on my mood etc, but lately I'm in a phase of classical music again.

Travel: I never built the habit of traveling much, but two places I've always wanted to visit are the UK and Japan.

Hobbies: Reading mostly and I've been lowkey learning piano for the past year, because I really needed a not-related-to-work-at-all hobby. I've been wondering if maybe my curiosity gives me small hobby pockets, when I fall down a rabbit hole of finding out about something historical, cultural or scientific, but those might become part of stories later, so I don't know.

Pets: One of my sisters has zoophobia so we can't keep pets at home, but at the same time we live in a rural area so there are animals around, including cats that come and go. And there was this cat, Bolinha (little ball), who was always around until he died during the pandemic. He helped me through some tough times, we'd go on walks together and he'd let me pet him. It was a joy and I'm grateful he let me be part of his life.

Bolinha, the gentleman, before he'd let me pet him.

What are the queer stories (in any medium) that have your attention right now?

Well, I guess this answer is in the next section.


What would you like to see more in sapphic/queer stories?

Some of you might know Soft came from my frustration with the lack of sapphic romcom movies and this hasn't really changed. Actually, sometimes I feel like we're going back to a time when sapphics were villains, criminals or extremely troubled and miserable characters, but now instead of being coded as, it's just being sold as complex writing (and of course there must be a "shocking" sex scene).

Well, I still want my romcoms, but it's easier to go for comics, novels and a few series than to wait for Hollywood's good will.

(I won't even comment on wanting to see more butches because that's always implied.)


 

Stuff I read


Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree



I confess it took me a few tries to get into the first book, as it sometimes happens, but I'm glad I insisted because I loved it. I'm so here for more cozy fantasy! (and Thimble is possibly the sweetest character ever)

The second one, which is actually a prequel, isn't as cozy as the first but I still love its brand of fantasy and the charismatic creatures that populate it. Would love a sequel.




Winter is known for her ice queens and in her first romcom the trope is still there (if a bit thawed) in the presence of a butch academic doctor (who is clearly inspired by Anne Lister, including her detailed journaling). I was automatically sold by that alone, but coupled with the many delightful layers of absurdity, this story was even more fun. What’s more impressive it’s how a romcom managed to balance well the very serious issue of abusive exes in the middle of a chaotic premise. Including highlighting the issue of economic abuse, which I feel is not emphasized often enough. In sum, strongly recommend!


How You Get the Girl (Love and Other Disasters 3) by Anitta Kelly



Another great read and another great balancing of serious issues and romance. In the center of the story is the struggle of defining your queer identity, quoting the book: "Queerness and sexuality were all rainbows and endless freaking options. Sometimes, that felt like the whole problem." Which is a thing I often think about, how somewhat obsessed and micromanaging we have become not only of our own identities but of the identity of others too, and how damaging it can be to people's mental health when it should be something helpful. And I'm talking about inside community dynamics only. Anyway, I thought Julie's journey as (maybe?) a demi person is particularly nuanced, how she internalized the demeaning and infantilizing perception of our hypersexualized society, even if her family and friends weren’t even pressuring or judging her.

(I also greatly recommend Wherever is Your Heart by Kelly. A short I brought up here before, about two butches 50+ finding their courage to admit their mutual crush).

 

Stuff I watched


She Likes to Cook and She Likes to Eat (season 2)



I caught up with the manga just in time during the Holidays. The series got more episodes this season, which is impressive, when I was already shocked it had even got a 2nd season. This means they're expanding on the manga plots and I think probably got a better handle on the whole Nagumo situation. I felt in the way it got explained in the manga things were dangerously close to sounding like a neglected eating disorder. Anyway, this series continues to be a delight and make me hungry.

 

Fun Fact


I haven't done one of these in a while but some groundbreaking historical news was just delivered. In a new batch of Red Sea Scrolls found a decade or so ago, there was a diary written by the leader of one of the working parties who built Khufu's Piramid! So no, the pyramids weren't built by ETs and the workers were paid. The logistics are also detailed and involved artificial waterways to help bring materials near the pyramid.

 

See you next month!

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