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Interview with the Creators of the Valor Anthology

Today I have the privilege of bringing to you, the fans of The Geek Girl Project, an interview with the co-editors of the the Valor Project. If you haven’t heard of the Valor Anthology series then you’re in for a treat. Without spoiling too much, the Valor Anthology is a major team of writers and artists bringing their own brand of classic fairy tales to life in comic format. With a promise of paying homage to the strength, resourcefulness, and cunning of female heroines in a fairy tale setting, the Kickstarter for this project shattered their goal expectations of 20,000 by over five times the pledged goal. To say there is a rabid fan base already for this collaborative effort is an understatement. And here to talk to us about their exciting new project are Megan Lavey-Heaton and Isabelle Melançon!

Valor the Anthology

Valor: The Anthology

 

 

JL: There are so many I’d like to ask but first could you tell us a little about yourself?

Megan: It all started at a 5,000-watt radio station in Fresno, California … wait, sorry, not Ted Baxter. I’m Megan Lavey-Heaton, and I’m the co-creator of Namesake alongside Isabelle Melançon. We’re also the editors for Valor Anthology. My day job is a producer for PennLive.com. I’m a voracious bibliophile and Whovian, and I’m owned by three cats. I live with my husband outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Isabelle: Hello! I’m a French-Canadian artist living in Ottawa, Canada. I’m the co-creator of Namesake with Megan Lavey-Heaton, as well as the creator of several comic shorts like Jabberwocky and Knot (Megan helped me edit). I work in a bookstore and also give comic classes in schools. I love fairy tales and have been reading comics since I was very small (my parents loved them). I also really love inking, especially with a brush.

JL: When you first began working on making the Valor Anthology a reality, did you find yourself drawing from any particular source of inspiration?

Megan: We had already run two Kickstarters with our ongoing comic, Namesake. We learned a lot of lessons from running them, especially the second one. When it came to reward structures, things like that, we looked at successful anthologies such as Smut Peddler.

Isabelle: For the structure; past projects, mostly. We looked at various past anthology kickstarters (including the Womanthology that we participated in) and at the elements that made our own past kickstarters successful to figure out the best way to do it. For the theme itself; at first the theme was just fairy tales, but it became apparent in everyone’s work that female characters were center stage and being awesome, so the title just happened. Made us realize how amazing all our friends are.

JL: There is a fairly sizable list of creators attached to this project! How exactly did the Valor Anthology come together with so many people? How long did it take?

Isabelle: At first, the project was just us and four friends, and it stayed that way for a bit. When we decided to assemble the rest of the team, it took only about a month to get everyone on board. Most folks are either friends or coworkers in Hiveworks (and are now friends). So the ambiance on the project is amazing.

Megan: The genesis of the idea came from a book signing that was hosted by the amazing Comic Book Embassy in Toronto when the second volume of Namesake was released. A bunch of us there had a common interest in fairy tales, and several of them had talked about the logistics of doing an anthology. After the book signing, I talked with Isa about it, and from there it developed like Isa said.

JL: In the past several years it seems like we’ve seen a resurgence in the retelling of classic fairy tales. Not only in the comic book medium, but also on TV and the silver screen. The Valor Anthology sounds like it could be a part of that same revitalizing movement, yet it also sounds like you’re doing some new things, as well?

Megan: Yes. All the creators are encouraged to either come up with new tales or retell existing ones in unique ways. It’s been so interesting looking at the evolution of stories throughout history. So many of our modern tales existed in one form or another with fairy tale-ish roots.

Isabelle: I think all re-tellings come with re-creations. Fairy tales are used the transmit the values and identity of the time period it’s being told in. A re-telling naturally creates at least the beginning of a new tale. In the past, fairy tales got re-wrote and re-told a lot. Even the Grimm brothers’ version is a re-telling of the tales originally told (they edited and added a lot). So it’s not so much a new movement. Fairy tales get retold every century. It’s part of what makes them so strong and fascinating. They grow with their tellers and readers.

JL: Will this book be available in bookstores for purchase or is the intention to keep the sale of the Valor Anthology online?

Megan: We’ll have it in the Namesake store, through Hiveworks, and any comic shop that wishes to carry us. The individual creators will also have copies for sale as well.

Isabelle: Mostly online, and in a few comic shops. Any comic shop that wants copies is welcome to contact us.

JL: One of the new benefits of late has been crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter. Not only do they let you market your potential product, but it also seems like you get a good gauge of what your consume base is looking for. How has your Kickstarter experience been thus far? And did you ever consider any alternatives?

Megan: No. Kickstarter has been immensely friendly to us, and everyone’s been very responsive with it.

Isabelle: This is third project with Kickstarter, and in general, we are really satisfied with it. Unless they make huge policy changes, I don’t think we would switch.

JL: One look at the Kickstarter website shows everyone that you have blown away your original goal! It has to be exciting to see so many people come together to believe in and support Valor like this. Did you or any one of the creators loose themselves in a Kermit-esque flail of excitement? You can be honest with us. We know -someone- there did the Snoopy Dance of Joy!

Megan: My favorite response has been from my husband, who was giving me regular updates whenever he passed by the computer. I think I just kind of sat there slack-jawed. I spent the entire week before the Kickstarter launched chewing my fingernails to the bone because I was so terrified the project wouldn’t fund. So, it’s more like an overwhelming sense of relief that we can print the book and pay our creators. When I have the book in-hand, then I will do the Snoopy Dance!

Isabelle: The whole team flailed often. It was great! Notable moments also include getting re-blogged and re-tweeted by some of our heroes, including Tamora Pierce. This whole thing is really flattering and exciting. I love that people are in love with the concept as much as I am.

JL: Since we know now that the Valor Anthology has the support and will be in production soon are there any plans on a follow up anthology?

Megan: Not at the moment. Our next printing project will be the third volume of Namesake!

Isabelle: After this, we are refocusing our energy on Namesake and our upcoming comic Quibbling for a bit, but who knows! I definitely have ideas for other anthologies.

JL: Now that you are nearing the end of your third successful project through Kickstarter, all three of which went well over the initial pledge, what sort of advice could you give to someone interested in following in your footsteps?

Isabelle: Don’t be afraid to ask advice from the people around you, especially on an anthology. Use tools to keep things organized such as Google Docs, Backerkit and Trello, as the situation can easily get away from you. Make sure to budget your costs, including stuff like hiring friends to help you pack books if need be. And most importantly, be patient, available and polite to your backers. They believe in you and deserve your respect.

Megan: In addition to Isa’s suggestions, make sure you can prove to your backers that you can be held accountable to have the Kickstarter succeed – especially if there’s setbacks. Make yourself open and available. Have examples of your work online. Embrace social media, and above all, be polite. Be excited about your project, and make yourself available for any question at all.

JL: Alright so to finish off the interview let us test the waters of geekdom with 3 quick questions!

Megan:

1) Better movie: Darby O’Gill and the Little People or Stardust? Stardust!

2) What is your all time favorite fairy tale? Thumbelina.

3) Better reptile: Kermit or Godzilla? Definitely Kermit.
Isabelle:

1) Better movie: Darby O’Gill and the Little People or Stardust? Stardust

2) What is your all time favorite fairy tale? Andersen’s Snow Queen.

3) Better reptile: Kermit or Godzilla? Kermit.

And with that our interview concludes. Thank you again to Megan and Isabelle for taking time out of their schedules to answer our zany questions! Be sure to watch for updates on their Kickstarter page Valor: the Anthology! And if that excites you then be sure to tune in to their ongoing comic strip Namesake and consider supporting them on Patreon.

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