RP: Before we get started with Sleepless, can you touch a bit on how you got your start in comics?
SV: I had been the artist for the webcomic Sparkshooter with Troy Brownfield (who had been one of my teachers and mentors at college). I had already been friends with Jonathan Luna who knew my interest in comics, and he saw my work on Sparkshooter and also liked my writing. He asked me to co-create a comic with him called Alex + Ada (published by Image). I really owe my start to both Troy and Jonathan.
LD: I got what I call my official “break” into comics through Joe Keatinge. We met at New York City Comic Con in 2012 which led to us working on Shutter together at Image Comics. But I had been struggling to get work in comics for many years before that, working on projects that didn’t get seen by many readers. I’ll be forever grateful to Joe and the other players that led to me working on Shutter and shoving my work in front of larger audiences!
AS: I guess I could say I’m just now getting my start in comics! I’ve been doing self-published work for a while but in 2016 I moved to Portland to do an internship with Milkfed Criminal Masterminds followed by another internship with Helioscope Studio where I met Leila. I had my first published writing work for the Bitch Planet: Triple Feature anthology and now I’m working on Sleepless!
RP: When asked by potential readers about the series, what is your go to pitch for Sleepless?
LD: I usually revert back to the solicitation copy that Sarah wrote: Lady “Poppy” Pyppenia is guarded by the Sleepless Knight Cyrenic, but danger is around every corner once the new king is coronated. And then I add an excited, “It’s a romance!”
RP: What was the creative process for the series? Does one take the lead? Or is it a completely collaborative process?
SV: I had had the concept for Sleepless for a few years before I pitched it to Leila, but once the book started moving, it really became a team effort. I don’t move forward on any changes to the plot until both Leila and Alissa approve, and after a script is written, it is heavily edited with input by both. The story has changed drastically because of the two of them. I write solo for Sleepless, but everyone knows what’s coming up ahead, and each issue is already outlined in detail.
RP: How were the character and setting designs created? Was there a vision from the beginning or was it more organic?
LD: Sarah and I chatted about the visual inspirations before I started doing designs. We wanted to draw from early 1600s Italy because we loved the bustlines and flowy dresses on the women, and the tight pants on the men. Later, when Alissa joined us as our colorist and editor, she suggested we throw in more Moroccan and Northern African influences since most fantasy books already draw their inspiration from European culture. We loved that suggestion and ran with it, creating a lot of patterns and clothing details inspired by non-European textiles and decorations.
AS: Once Leila re-engineered the designs with her research, the world of Sleepless began to look so much more natural. The Mediterranean influence made sense for the plot and the world became something of it’s own thing rather than another derivative fantasy setting.
RP: With a Medieval Times setting, was there an effort to base the book in reality?
LD: Not really. We didn’t want the magic of this world to be wand waving and sparkling lights. We wanted it to be subtle, and more ancient and mysterious. So the magic in this world manifests more in Cyrenic’s sleep-deprived eyes and conversations about how healing a person takes time away from them at the end of their life.
SV: It’s actually really funny that you say Medieval Times, because I’m going to flat out admit that I go there every now and then. Every single damn time, I’ve gotten the Red and Yellow knight.
Sleepless is very very loosely related to the 16th century (just a toe step out of the Middle Ages for Europe), and my nail biting over how ruthless court life could be in various countries. But really, visuals for the book were inspired by looking at tons of photos, extant clothing, movies, and sketches and saying, “Ooooooooh pretty.”
RP: What can you tell us about Pyppenia ?
LD: Pyppenia is a very kind, strong-willed, yet fearful noblewoman. The illegitimate daughter of King Verato, who has just died at the beginning of Issue 1, she is worried about her position at court now that a new king is crowned. Poppy survived an assassination attempt years before, and is now even more worried it will happen again. This threat is one of the reasons Cyrenic and his protection is so important to her.
RP: What is a Sleepless Knight and how does one assume that position?
SV: The Sleepless are an order of knights and guards who have a spell cast on them so they don’t ever need to sleep. They are “invited” by the king or queen to take the Vow, and pledge their waking days to the crown. Sleeplessness is not taken lightly, and very few people actually take the Vow.
RP: Is there a planned ending for the series or is it ongoing?
SV: Nope, it’s planned! I really love reading complete stories, and that bleeds into what I create.
RP: Without giving away spoilers, are there plans to see other areas of this universe in other books?
SV: I’ll never say never, and could definitely see a lot of spin-off stories in this world (or even little side adventures of Bini), but I really love self-contained stories.
RP: YA books and novels are all the rage these days with sales increasing. Can you touch a bit on the decision to make this a YA series and why in general you think the YA subset is growing so much?
SV: I can’t say that Sleepless was planned to be YA, though I think it’s appropriate for that age range. We gave it a T rating simply because the book isn’t so mature as to recommend Mature restrictions. I’m sure a young adult can relate to the emotional issues in a YA book while many adults can remember what it was like to be that age. Though, when I was a teenager, I was reading tons of smutty romance novels about adults. It really does depend on the individual.
LD: I like when comics are accessible to all ages, so I was happy our book fell into the YA category. There isn’t any curse words like f-bombs, and the violence isn’t gratuitous. The story centers around the companionship of two people who love each other and it’s exactly the kind of story I would have loved to read in middle and high school.
I don’t know why the YA market is growing so much, though I can hypothesize that there was a large gap in books for that age group and it’s only now getting excellent titles to fill that gap. I’m very psyched for this trend and hope we keep getting lots of books for YA readers!
RP: For fans that want to heap praise on you after they read the book. Where can they find you on social media?
SV: They can’t! I’m not on social media anymore, and to be honest, it’s really tough for me to even do group interviews. But I love to hear from people, and they can always find me through my website at www.savivi.com. Send praises to Alissa, Leila, and Deron, please.
LD: I’m on Twitter at @leiladelduca and on Instagram at @leiladelduck. And people can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And since Deron isn’t here today I’ll do the honors of plugging him! His Twitter is @deronbennett, his Tumblr is https://deronbennett.tumblr.com/, and his professional lettering and design website is http://www.andworlddesign.com/.
AS: My website is http://www.alissasallah.com/ and you can find me on Twitter and Instagram as @sallataire. Thank you for your support!