Rosemary Valero-O’Connell Takes Us Behind The Scenes of ‘Lumberjanes: Beyond Bay Leaf’
Last week's release of the Lumberjanes one-shot special Beyond Bay Leaf introduced two new creators to the world of Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types, and while audiences should know writer Faith Erin Hicks from her career of excellent webcomics and teen-friendly tales like Friends With Boys and Adventures of a Superhero Girl, artist Rosemary Valero-O'Connell is just starting to make her name; the Lumberjanes one-shot is one of her first published works.
ComicsAlliance chatted to Valero-O'Connell about her story of stargazing and ghost ponies, and her relationship to the Lumberjanes characters, and she offered us an exclusive look at her art process, from pencils to finished pages.
ComicsAlliance: How did you come to be part of this Lumberjanes special?
Rosemary Valero-O'Connell: I was really lucky! [Associate Editor] Whitney [Leopard] was interested in working with me and reached out, and I expressed an interest in doing something for Lumberjanes and then suddenly Beyond Bay Leaf was happening and I'm unbelievably grateful that it did!
CA: The characters and the series have had a huge impact since they debuted. What do the Lumberjanes mean to you personally?
RVO: I have a lot of very vivid memories of being a girl interested in comics and being unable to shake the feeling that so much of the stuff I was reading had specifically not been made with me or anyone like me in mind, and feeling a gaping disconnect between the characters I was meant to identify with and the ones I did, in that sort of amorphous, uncertain way you feel things before you have the language to talk about them.
Lumberjanes feels like a thing that, had it existed when I was growing up, would have made it a lot easier to feel like comics was a space that I had access to.
CA: Is there a particular character you identify with? Or any character you were keen to capture in a certain way?
RVO: Jo is really special to me and my favorite to draw as well. She's all long limbs and swoopy hair, and I love drawing that. I also have pretty significant soft spot for April for being so unflinchingly feminine in a way that's never demonized or treated as anything besides an aspect of her personality and interests.
CA: Lumberjanes seems to be part of a great movement towards more comics for girls. What do you think is driving that change?
RVO: Necessity, primarily. Storytelling is so vital for structuring your identity and forming concepts of how you're allowed to move through the world, and the effect of seeing yourself left out of, undervalued, or dehumanized in so much of the media you consume is undeniable.
We need to not only be able to see ourselves, but to be presented with enough reflections that there's space for the complexity and breadth of our experiences to unfold. We need to be shown that our stories are just as true, just as valid, just as tangible and worth exploring as anyone else's, and we need to be able to tell them ourselves.
There's no universal experience of being a girl, by any means, and I think the more voices we have chiming in, the richer the breadth of lives, tastes, and worlds available will be and we'll all be better off for it.
CA: The story starts as a stargazing adventure. Was astronomy something you were drawn to as a kid?
RVO: I definitely went through a phase when I was younger where I felt like the night sky was an incredibly potent source of magic, and I spent a lot of time looking at the stars and at this old constellation chart my dad had at home. I'm currently working on a project in which all the principal antagonists are named after astral bodies, so I guess some of that has stuck with me.
CA: Without giving too much away, what can you say about the rest of the story?
RVO: A lot of working on this comic felt like telling a story to a younger version of myself who would have been so into a bunch of tough customer pals taking on a burly immortal huntress. Like c'mon, crashing through the underbrush on the back of the spectral horse you just met so you don't get eaten by wolves? Brutal.
CA: Are there more Lumberjanes stories you want to tell?
RVO: Honestly, I'd love the chance to sink my teeth into this world again in any capacity! Beyond Bay Leaf was such a delight to work on and the Lumberjanes universe is nothing if not full of the potential for new stories.
Lumberjanes: Beyond Bay Leaf is on sale now. Check out a preview right here.