Launching in February 2018 from Image and just in time for Valentines day comes TWISTED ROMANCE, a four-issue weekly anthology miniseries with tales of love—love gone right, wrong, and everything in between. Each issue of this month-long romance event will feature 48 pages of content: a main comic story, a backup comic story, and a backup prose story.
Kind enough to take some time to speak with Comicosity, contributing prose writers Magen Cubed, Vita Ayala, Naomi Salman, and Jess Bradley shared their thoughts on their work, and capital ‘r’ Romance.
Kelly Richards: Hi! Thanks for taking the time to do this. If you could, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background as a writer?
Magen Cubed: My name is Magen Cubed, and I hail from the flat, featureless wastes of North Central Texas. I started publishing short fiction at various small horror and weird tale outlets around 2010, with a focus on horror through the lens of queer romance. My work has largely been preoccupied with grief, trauma, and recovery, and looking at monsters as metaphors for suffering as well as forgiveness. I find both horror and romance interesting genres to explore these themes with. I published my first horror novel Fleshtrap in 2013, my first superhero fiction novel The Crashers in 2016, and am currently publishing a queer (horror-free!) romance series as Morgan May.
At the moment, I’m focusing on publishing short queer horror romance fiction and media criticism between three planned novels. Or, more like I’m avoiding the three planned novels by working on short queer horror romance. Something to that effect.
Vita Ayala: My name is Vita Ayala, and I’m a writer from New York City. I am Afro-Latinx, queer, and non-binary, which pretty strongly influences my writing. I started writing when I was 11, prose and poetry mostly. I got brave enough to post some of my writing online when I was 17, back in the Wild West days of the internet, when webrings were still a thing, and when I wasn’t immediately destroyed by my peers, I kept going. Writing gave me purpose and kept me going during some of the hardest times in my life – I would not be here today if not for writing. My first published work was a prose story for a magazine called “Lovers & Other Strangers,” which was part literary mag and part found photo treasure trove. They published two other pieces of mine. My first experiences with comics was pitching to Black Mask Studios a few years ago, and my first published comics work was through DC Comics. I have have worked with a few other publishers since then, though I continue to work with Black Mask and DC.
Naomi Salman: Hi there! My name is Naomi Salman, I’m French, and I live in Paris. In parallel with my very serious literature and publishing studies, I fell into a superhero spiral that led me straight to fandom, where I started reading and writing in English, too.
I’ve discovered that language impacts the story it’s told in. The things I write in English I couldn’t write in French, and vice-versa. So now I feel like I can be two writers instead of one! It’s great. (Wish I also had two lifetimes instead of one, though. I need more sleep.) In any language, I love imperfect characters, magical realism, and unconventional relationships. You can find me at naomisalman.tumblr.com
Jess Bradley: I’m Jess and I’m an illustrator and comic book writer and artist. I write and draw a strip for the weekly UK kid’s comic The Phoenix called Squid Bits and I’ve been self-publishing comics and art books for the last 10 years. I’ve been working on my fiction writing for the last four years and this is my first published prose story. It’s completely different to any work I’ve done before which is exciting and a bit terrifying.
KR: What is it that draws you to romance as a genre?
MC: For me, capital r Romance is an exercise in intense character study. The indulgent fantasy elements – the grand gestures, the passion, the uplifting ending – are all well and good, but I like to dig into the meat of the story. In a romance, you have one goal: to give your readers a relationship worth loving. Not only must your readers love the characters as individuals, in their most intimate moments, but they must also love your characters together as a couple. Your readers came here for a relationship to root for, laugh with, worry about, and finally feel satisfaction in seeing come through in the end. Deliver on that.
People tend to think Romance is about the gestures but, for me, it’s about earning trust. The trust of the characters in each other over the course of the story, and the trust of the reader. The romance must be organic and believable. It won’t be perfect, as it needs room to grow and change with the characters, but the foundations must be sturdy enough to build on. You have to make the reader believe in that love as much as you do, and not take it for granted. That’s the challenge of Romance, and what makes it so rewarding.
VA: I have always found Romance to be broad and versatile. Romance to me, with the big R, has a set of rules that allows it to play well with other “genres” like historical fiction, sci fi and fantasy, and even horror, which is interesting and exciting to me. Romance with the little r, to me, is a foundational element of story, like water is to the physical world. It is not always expressed the same way (x meets y, there is drama, they get it on, they live happily every after), but that is what makes it interesting. Sometimes H2O is liquid, sometimes solid, and sometimes a gas, and to me little r romance is the same. Maybe I should compare it to a spice? Romance to me is like cumin, it can be strong or subtle, background or a major flavor in a recipe, but it almost always improves the dish you add it to.
NS: All stories are ultimately about humans interacting with other humans. (Unless they’re aliens. Or vampires. Or sentient rocks. But you know what I mean.) Romance is the quintessence of that. There’s no extra weight to the story, just this key focus on a relationship and what it means to the people involved. How it transforms their lives.
JB: I like romance stories that are a bit more unconventional so Twisted Romance was right up my street. I immediately knew that I wanted to write something a bit tragic. I’ve never been a huge fan of the romance genre in the traditional sense but I like anything that subverts it a little and does something a bit weird or different.
KR: How did you come to be involved with Twisted Romance?
MC: Alex DM’d me and told her to write her a story, so I did. It’s amazing what you can get me to do if you agree to let me write a romcom about monster hunting. Then she gave me a rundown on all the people involved in the project and I had to jump onboard.
VA: I met Alex through a mutual friend of ours, Steve Orlando, and we got to talking on the interwebs (twitter I think), and she she asked me if I wanted to write prose for the project. I jumped at the opportunity, because I haven’t had the chance to really write prose since… about 2012 (and before then, college).
NS: Fandom, the interconnectedness of all things, and a healthy dose of luck. Also, kink! Which apparently has its place in a twisted romance anthology. And I love writing about kink, so when I got asked to do just that, I was very happy. Hopefully my story showcases that BDSM and romance are far from being mutually exclusive.
JB: Alex had seen some of my writing and we started to chat on Tumblr. She mentioned that she was putting something together and would I be interested, which was awesome and a great opportunity considering I’ve only really worked on children’s comics.
KR: Describe your story in 3 words…
MC: Karaoke. Monsters. Kissing.
VA: Queer. Poly. Adorable.
NS: Gay, soft and kinky.
JB: Tragic unrequited love.