Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, LJ Phillips – LJ Phillips is a professional artist who has had three solo exhibitions. He has also published numerous articles and pieces of short fiction. Currently he lives in South Africa and spends his free time working on his creator-owned comic, Silver Bullet Nights..
Thanks so much, LJ, for joining me!
JSC: Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?
LJ: I enjoy writing a blend of urban fantasy and crime. Crime comics, especially Neo-noir, tend to be aimed at mature readers. It gives me more leeway when it comes to what I can include. My short stories and flash fiction are normally horror or dark fantasy.
JSC: Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book? If so, discuss them.
LJ: My current comic, Silver Bullet Nights, features a largely queer cast, all from different backgrounds. In fiction, the masculine ideal seldom exists outside a hierarchical structure. It’s written within the context of conflict. Neo-noir comics are a stage for this kind of conflict. However, this genre is normally very heterosexual. But when you add queer main characters, things shift and we’re forced to re-examine genre staples.
JSC: Does your work spring to life from a character first or an idea?
LJ: It depends. When I’m working on a collaborative project or a paid one, I’m normally very disciplined. I work from a central concept and try to make sure that the plot and characters work as vehicles for this concept. With my own work, I can be a bit more spontaneous – I often start with a scenario and let the story grow from there.
JSC: Tell us something we don’t know about your heroes. What makes them tick?
LJ: Most of my characters come from restrictive backgrounds. Even if theirfamilies or cultures seem progressive, they still adhere to certain ideologies and expect others to do the same. So the characters in Silver Bullet Nights are both shaped by their upbringingand the need toescape it.
JSC: What character gave you fits and fought against you? Did that character cause trouble because you weren’t listening and missed something important about them?
LJ: Definitely Donovan. My main male characters tend to be big, bellowing, jolly blokes but Donovan is the opposite of that. He’s quiet, cerebral and resembles a muscled-up Steve Urkel.
Being an introspective character makes him a challenge to write; I always feel that he works better when interacting with someone like Sed. He came together on paper when I wrote an argument between him and Sed; there’s a potential for a great love story as well.
JSC: What inspired you to write this particular story? What were the challenges in bringing it to life?
LJ: I’m a comic book junkie. I fell passionately in love with comics when I was a young boy and started to read more mature titles as I aged.
Unfortunately, many mature titles in the 90s and early 2000s still tended to portray queer-coded male characters and women (regardless of sexuality) as weak, unstable or villainous.
Today, there’s far more diversity in comics, which is a good thing. But the default queer character in most mainstream comics is almost always a bisexual woman. Queer male characters are pretty rare and transmasculine characters almost non-existent.
I personally don’t believe that we can force diversity in a medium or be too dictatorial about what characters we want to see in an established IP; that has the potential to create resentment and backlash among an existing fanbase.
What we can do is write and publish the kind of works that we’d like to read. So I decided to create a Neo-noir comic of my own, one with a cast of queer characters. That’s how Silver Bullet Nights was born.
JSC: Who has been your favorite character to write and why?
LJ: Definitely Sed and Rachael. Probably because they’re not “nice” characters. Rachael peddles black magic out the backdoor of her club and Sed is…well, Sed. When we first see him, he’s threatening a take-out delivery gnome.
But they’re both survivors and their flaws will allow for a lot of growth over the course of the comic.
JSC: What other artistic pursuits (ifany) do you indulge in apart from writing?
LJ: Well, I’m also a professional artist. Which comes in handy because it means that I can illustrate my own comics when the need arises.
JSC: What are some day jobs that you have held? If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.
LJ: Bartender, bouncer, bodyguard, art lecturer, professional animator and door-to-door salesman of singing soft toys (that last job was when I was just out of my teens.)
At the end of the day, I think that the people I’ve met have influenced me more than my jobs. A lot of my security colleagues were ex-military and being older than me, were veterans of our border war. Many are now dead from suicide or just self-destructive behaviour. PTSD is very real and sadly, there’s often not enough assistance in place for veterans.
JSC: What are you working on now?
LJ: I’m working on a number of projects, some collaborative. Silver Bullet Nights is my latest free comic – if I had to sum it up, I’d say that it’s Sin City set in Fairyland. SBN features a dead immortal, a witness who can see in the dark and an overweight gargoyle with cigar breath and a sheriff’s badge.
And now for LJ’s work: Silver Bullet Nights:
It starts with the murder of an immortal. Tossed out a motel window like a cigarette butt. Now it’s up to Sed Stonehaven – ex-junkie, gargoyle, sheriff of Kraggworth – to find the killer. But in a world of gods and monsters, is justice just another myth?
LJ Phillips is a professional artist who has had three solo exhibitions. He has also published numerous articles and pieces of short fiction. Currently he lives in South Africa and spends his free time working on his creator-owned comic, Silver Bullet Nights.