“Sailor Moon meets Never Have I Ever via The Dark Crystal”: An Interview with S.M. Beiko

Laura McKay (LM): Today’s #SpecFicPicks Q&A starts now!
Special guest: S.M Beiko, Winnipeg writer of The Realms of Ancient series and creator of the teen fantasy webcomic Krampus Is My Boyfriend!

LM: @SMBeiko hello! Thank you for agreeing to the interview today. I’ll start with a few easy questions to get us warmed up.

S.M. Beiko (SMB): Happy to be here, thanks for havin’ me!!

LM: What book(s) are you reading right now?

SMB: The Adventure Zone: Petals to the Metal by The McElroys; Be Gay Do Comics from The Nib; The Midnight Tablet by Clare Marshall; & Kid Gloves (for the millionth time) by Lucy Knisley.

LM: You read a lot of books at the same time! Do you always have so many on the go?

SMB: Oh yes. My TBR is huge! I also revisit a lot of my old collection for comfort <3. I backed a lot of Kickstarters too, so those are trickling in!

LM: Would you consider yourself a pantser or a plotter?

SMB: Used to be a pantser, but couldn’t handle the stress anymore. Got into plotting, but there’s a danger of overdoing the planning too. So I loosely plot w/ thematic goal posts, flexible if the work tells me to go another way.

LM: Do you write/create your first draft of a book by hand (with pen and paper) or on a computer?

SMB: I mix it up and don’t stay married to a medium for drafting! I write a lot of dialogue in my Apple Notes app on my phone, and [for] my last novel, I drafted a ton in a notebook because I was travelling a lot. Love to change it up!

LM: Do you do the first round of sketches for Krampus by hand, too, or is it all digital?

SMB: When I started it and had no idea of my process, I pencilled by hand, scanned in, and inked/coloured digital. Now I do it ALL digital; saves sooo much time, and I use a giant Cintiq Pro to do it all.

LM: Which writers/creators have most influenced your work?

SMB: Gah it is a HUGE list. Here’s a few off the top of my head: Francesca Lia Block, Brian & Wendy Froud, Kazu Kibuishi, Naoko Takeuchi, Jim Henson, Tolkien, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Guillermo del Toro.

LM: What is the “elevator pitch” for Krampus Is My Boyfriend!? What would you tell someone who’s never heard of the comic before?

SMB: A Canadian teen summons Krampus to deal with her fat-phobic bullies, but it backfires hilariously. A fish-out-of-water romantic comedy, it’s Sailor Moon meets Never Have I Ever via The Dark Crystal.

LM: Prior to Krampus, you had mostly published novels. What inspired you to create your own webcomic?

SMB: I’d cut my creative teeth on manga & anime long before writing. Was in Art school but left due to a disappointing program. Still read piles of webcomics, always wistful. After finishing my YA trilogy, which was super steeped heavy things, I wanted to do something more light hearted but still with fantasy. Reading stuff on WEBTOON pushed me to do it for real.

LM: What have been some of the challenges in transitioning to this new format?

SMB: Challenge: it takes soooo much longer to create comics than novels, and they’re consumed sooo fast!! I also have to work every single day for 4-8hrs to keep up with a weekly update schedule. I need an assistant -_-

LM: Yes, so much of the story is visual, so it doesn’t take nearly so long to read them! I don’t know how you manage to update it so often.

SMB: Haha I operate on a very clear dose of determination and spite! Also consistency/discipline does mean that I’ll have a finished book that much faster! Its 4 pages a week, only 20 more, and this issue is DONE.

LM: How has Krampus been influenced by your own experiences? (Do I detect a few Winnipeg references? 🙂

SMB: Haha yes, the town, Prairiecrest, is definitely a mash-up of Winnipeg and Brandon, Manitoba. (I’ve lived in both places! Resin Woods=Spruce Woods; St. Gobnait’s is based on St. Mary’s Academy, etc…) But also Olga’s motivations/personality are definitely based on personal experiences.

I’ve not only struggled with body dysmorphia and disordered eating all my life, I’ve been directly bullied by friends, family and strangers for being fat. Self love is the hardest love story, but it’s one I want to tell.

LM: A related question, then. Why was it important to you to include diverse characters in this comic? How did you ensure these representations were respectful?

SMB: Because there are more perspectives than white/straight/cis/abled ones out there, and I wanted the comic to be about the world I live in. I don’t tell the stories of these groups though, I tell my own stories with this representation IN them because I can’t co-opt what I haven’t experienced.

I’ve spent years listening, learning, having the hard convos and reprogramming my own problematic attitudes, and I want my readers to see themselves in my work. I will fuck up, but I will strive to keep learning and acknowledge when I’ve stumbled.

LM: It sounds like you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. I love how real Olga feels as a character, too. You can tell that she was written out of a real experience.

LM: What can we expect to see from you next? What are you currently working on?

SMB: I’ll be working on Krampus Is My Boyfriend for a very long time…it’s been planned up to 3 ‘seasons’ with 10 episodes (issues) a season. BUT I’m taking a break from it end of Oct when no.3 wraps, as I am…having a baby!! AHHH. On my mat leave, I’m gonna work on finishing a draft of my next YA fantasy.

It’s a novel called The Silverling Masterwork of Sobena Strange-Face. More demons, but 9th century Ukraine folklore, with maker guilds and lesbian romance by the boatload. Also gotta get Gothic Tales of Haunted Futures (@RenegadeArtsEnt) done and to backers!

LM: I can’t wait for Haunted Futures! And the novel sounds amazing. So many projects on the go! Where can readers find out more about you and your work?

SMB: Yes, so many projects, maybe the baby will force me to slow down (in a different way…) My website http://smbeiko.com is where all my stuff lives + my personal shop & @webtooncanvas is where you can subscribe to Krampus Is My Boyfriend! Updates on Mondays ❤

This is a full transcript of an interview that took place live on Twitter on August 1, 2020. It has been edited for clarity and readability.

Did you enjoy this post? Check out the schedule for upcoming interviews here.

Have you read any of S.M. Beiko’s work? Which book/project is your favourite? Tell me about it in the comments!

Author Interview SpecFicPicks

writerlauramckay View All →

Laura McKay is a speculative fiction writer whose work leaves you wondering and your mind wandering. Inspired by the Dresden Files, her current work-in-progress brings fast-paced, thought-provoking mystery and magic to the streets of Winnipeg.

Laura is also an Assistant Editor at Portage & Main Press and freelances on various writing and editing projects.

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