Emily is the author of Bloodlust and Bonnets, a glorious Regency graphic novel filled with Vampires, poets, psychic eagles and lots of action. It's a glorious romp through Bath, London, Scotland (among others) with enough humour and horror to make it the perfect read.
We asked Emily some questions about the book, her creative process and of course Napoleon the psychic eagle...
Do you have a favourite artist or art style?
Too many to mention, but I will say that Fiona Staples’ art in Saga was the biggest art inspiration for myself and Rebekah on this book. When we were stuck on something we’d both often flick through the Saga books and check how she did something. I really think she’s on a level all of her own, no-one else can touch her!
Lucy’s first encounter with the vampires – she is not necessarily aware that they are vampires – is powerful. What’s her back story? Why is she so angry?
The Prologue is a word-for-word reproduction of the original Bloodlust & Bonnets I made in 2015, which was a 4-page short story. So the idea there was that Lucy’s just a nice young lady who is bored senseless and up for a bit of slashing. Then, when I developed that story into the book version, I started leaning more into the idea that she’s less angry, more directionless and craving distraction.
Your style is very spare and distinctive. What made you decide to portray your characters in that simple but effective way? (the EYEBROWS are incredible at conveying so much emotion!)
My artistic style was actually inspired by my cat, and my obsession with narrating his inner life even though he has very little facial expressiveness - he just stares at me. I project any emotion onto him just using my own invented context and maybe his body language and sounds he makes. So I thought I could replicate that with the characters in my art.
Regency society has been covered by modern authors many times, your book contains so many visuals (Bath, London, carriages, clothing etc) that it has a filmic quality. Was this your aim? Were you deliberately evoking that as you put the book together?
Completely - this book is a synthesis of my great loves: historical dramas, historical fashion, and scripted comedy. There’s some nods in the book to my favourite costume dramas, particularly the BBC’s 1999 production of Wives And Daughters, which I consider to be far and away the best BBC costume drama (fight me!).
Originally I included way more of these nods, but things do get cut out along the way. Bath is an iconic Regency location that I had to include, and Scotland (or rather, the idea of Scotland) is very important in both Romantic poetry and also romance novels. I also would claim that I managed to cover my Brontë/Yorkshire bases by including a scene of people being upset on a moor.
As for the fashion - I’m quite particular about silhouettes, and I’m actually not hugely fond of the classic Austen Empire-line column dress, which is why I set this story later in the Regency when skirts were starting to fill out a bit, waistbands were dropping, sleeves puffing out, hairstyles getting bigger.
One last thing I’d say about the Regency Romance genre and historical adaptations in general, is that the aesthetic is always a hugely important part of the story - beautiful costumes and houses are as intrinsic to their appeal as the characters and plot.
Castle reminded me a little of Iron Man’s JARVIS – the laconic all-knowing, all-seeing support staff/team member but with the additional twist that it was not infallible.
Did you have a specific voice in your head while you wrote it?
I think it’s a great trope - the disaffected service bot, also seen in Star Wars, Hitchiker’s Guide etc. I liked the idea that the characters are never sure if the castle is useless, or wilfully disobeying them, and that the place is a bit of a mess. That’s a true sign of aristocratic pedigree - a crumbling castle full of rubbish.
Napoleon – is he the Emperor in another form? His “secret” life was a laugh-out-loud highlight for me.
The bird definitely thinks he is! I think the other characters just have to take his word for it.
How long did the book take to create? You had Rebekah Rarely working with you for the colouring, did you do all the lettering yourself?
On and off, the whole thing took about a year, with the bulk of the drawing happening between September 2018 - March 2019. I did everything except the colour. Rebekah and I would discuss ideas about colour schemes, I’d give her an information packet for each chapter with reference photos, ideas and so on, and then she’d take it away and do pretty much whatever she liked with it. I saved the lettering right to the end, so I could edit the script one last time from start to finish.
Do you have the whole story mapped out in your head when you start writing, or does it happen as you go along and you have to wait to see what happens?
I’m a planner - overall plotting happens very early, hand in hand with character development. Then I go back and fill in the details.
What’s next? Might there be a sequel (I hope so!)
There’s definitely scope for one!
Is this a format to stick with or would you like to try something different?
I love comics, and I don’t really know how I would attempt to make something different, other than perhaps scripted TV comedy. But with other art forms it’s usually not physically possible to maintain total creative control - comics are very suited to my controlling side.
You’ve been out and about doing the book launch. Do you often get to meet your readers?
Very rarely! I’d love to do it more.
What was your favourite book as a child?
My Harry Potter books are my most crumbling, read-to-death books, no contest. But my dad would want me to mention that when I was 14, I went through a very weird phase of endlessly reading and re-reading Victoria Beckham’s 2001 autobiography “Learning To Fly”, to the point where it fell apart at the seams. As I recall, it was very well written!
And as an adult, what’s the most recent book you read?
Jia Tolentino’s “Trick Mirror”, which is super clever and insightful about all kinds of things, and also a complete pleasure to read.
Thanks very much to Emily for agreeing to speak with us.
We wish her HUGE success with her book, and look forward to whatever comes next.