Sloane Leong's newest work explores horror and obsession – Street Roots News

Local comic creator and writer Sloane Leong, known for her graphic novel “A Map to the Sun” and her comic “Prism Stalker,” releases a new graphic novel next month titled “Graveneye.” Illustrated by Anna Bowles, “Graveneye” is a horror comic exploring obsession and infatuation between two women, Marie and Ilsa, in a house that serves as the narrator for their story. Bowles’ black and white illustrations, with the occasional splash of red, complement the eerie and suspenseful story of Marie and Ilsa. After an uncertain year in publishing due to the pandemic, Leong describes what readers can expect from “Graveneye.” The graphic novel is expected to be released digitally on Oct. 20th and in print Nov. 30th from TKO studios.
Kanani Cortez: What have you been up to in the last year since “A Map to the Sun” came out?
Sloane Leong: Basically just scrambling within the past six months, as stuff has started to start rolling again. In the publishing industry, there’s still a lot of hang-ups because of all the supply delays, but all my projects are starting to pick up. During the pandemic, I was pretty much just trying to have fun. Most of my projects had been put on hold, so I ended up writing a science fiction novel. I started collaborating with friends on comics and just trying to do stuff that would make me not depressed.
Cortez:  What did your creative process look like for “Graveneye?”
Leong: It started as a short story, like a prose story and I had recently started talking to Anna again. We’ve kind of known each other online for several years and we chat and then you know, as internet friends do, kind of drift away and reconnect again. So I tapped her because I was like this could be a cool kind of murder mystery-slash-like speculative. Kind of like a dreamy horror story and she had been doing some inking work that I thought would fit the feel of it pretty well. I contacted her and I sent her the story and she was super into it, and basically started drawing concept art right off the bat.
Cortez: What’s it like to work with another artist in this capacity? Having someone else kind of bring your work to life visually?
Leong: Yeah, it feels like cheating, you know, comics is so tedious. You’re doing concept art, design, set design, costuming. You’re making these characters act and so having someone else just handle that is very nice. Like I can see why this is so addicting. It was super cool. I kind of developed the prose story, sectioned them into scenes and then chapters. But I didn’t try to make it scripted out, like page one, panel one … you know, this happened or that. I wanted her to have the freedom to do layouts and pacing, so she could bring her own storytelling sensibilities to the page.
Cortez: How would you introduce the two main characters in the story? Marie, and Ilsa, and the other main character, the house, that is narrating the story.
Leong: The two human characters, I really wanted to play with the ideas of obsession and infatuation but also this feeling of ‘do I love this person?’ ‘do I want to be them?’ both different levels. So that was my foundation for building those two characters. Marie has a more of a dreamy romantic outlook on life, that’s kind of brought on by her wanting to escape her real life, which is this abusive marriage that she’s in. And then Ilsa, I want to really explore what it’s like to have depression that takes into this extreme, where you basically have this intense numbing of emotion and connection with other human beings. And for her, this started so early that she was never able to kind of develop past it and instead develop this serial killing pattern as a way for her to get this sort of adrenaline rush. And that’s her only source of emotion that makes her feel alive. So I had those two roughly sketched out in my head, but the biggest thing for me was like you’re saying, the house. I really wanted to frame this within a non-human perspective, the house is very nonjudgmental, and is very pleasantly confused by the humans that live in it. I also thought it was just fun to write personifying the house elements and matching it to human aspects where I could and I just had fun developing that voice. I thought it was a cool way to frame the story.
Cortez: This story looks and feels different from your other recent works. What drew you to exploring these darker themes with horror and suspense?
Leong: I only have three major graphic novels out. One is kind of like a low-key fantasy, one is Indigenous sci-fi action-adventure. And then we have “A Map to the Sun,” which is like slice of life, but I actually write a ton more between them, usually prose, and a lot of it is a lot darker. I have some short fiction out that’s kind of like horror, sci-fi or horror fantasy, like mythopoeic stories. I just feel like I really gravitate to horror because I feel like that’s just the natural state of living. I feel like we’re confronted with horror every day and maybe it doesn’t feel like that because we kind of have to numb ourselves to the sensation of being exposed to horrible injustices and cruelty. I think there’s a sort of vulnerability when I explore these darker themes. I’m not always just trying to go for ‘oh, that’s gross’ or ‘that’s horrible.’ I’m trying to tap into a deeper nuanced emotional portrait of these characters. I’m hoping, even though it’s obviously terrible, there are murders happening or whatever, that there’s also a sense of reflection that a reader can get from the story.
Cortez: What are some of the works that inspired you while you were working on Graveneye?
Leong: “Haunting of Hill House,” definitely. Shirley Jackson. Brian Evanson is one of my favorite horror writers. And he works, not exclusively, in the short form, but he has so many short story collections and I just feel like he has such a charismatic and chilling style of storytelling that’s not over the top like gory or like just jump scares. It’s very subtle and complex, all his stories are always very layered to me. So that was something I wanted to try and mirror in this story too.
Cortez: What character would you say you most identify with in “Graveneye?”
Leong: I can see elements of myself in all the characters, including the house. I obviously don’t want to kill people, but I definitely resonate with having problems emotionally connecting to people, or not feeling anything, or mental illness. One of the central themes is kind of the way you’ve constructed someone in your head, and believing it, and then realizing that you’ve had the wrong impression of this person the entire time — I think is a big thing. Like just not being able to truly know somebody until they like, come out and tell you and even then it may not be true either. So this constant game we play of building up stories in our head of who people are around us. That’s one thing that I think we all do.
Cortez: What do you hope that readers take away from the story, especially touching on themes of experiencing mental illness and loneliness?
Leong: One of my favorite things about making art is that I can’t predict what a reader will take away from something or what they’ll get from either an image or a phrase, it’s just really unpredictable. So any sort of emotional reaction, even if they hate it they’ve learned something new that they hated, possibly, and that’s valuable. So yeah, really anything.
Cortez: Where can people read and find “Graveneye?”
Leong: You can find “Graveneye” in bookstores probably November 30. Crossing my fingers that the freight gets in or you can go to tkostudios.com and the digital version will be available for sure on the 20th of October.
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