INTERVIEW: Vera Greentea on ‘Nenetl of the Forgotten Spirits’

Vera Greentea’s new Kickstarter project, for Nenetl of the Forgotten Spirits, sees her teaming with artist Laura Muller for a second time. After previously having the first issue of their planned four-part miniseries funded through the service, the team have now set up a new Kickstarter for part two. Set during the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico, the story focuses on the eponymous Nenetl, a ghost who comes back to Earth for this one day in order to look for her family.

Greentea has has five successful Kickstarters in a row, with this being her sixth. She was kind enough to talk to me about what Nenetl is about, how the series has developed, and her advice for anyone else looking to take their projects to Kickstarter.

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Steve: Who is Nenetl, and what is her story?

Vera: Nenetl is a spirit from the Forgotten Realm, the place where ghosts who had been forgotten by everyone go. Given a chance to come back to the world of the living, she has a single day to find someone to remember her. If she finds at least one person who would care enough to invite her spirit every year, she won’t have to go back to the Forgotten Realm. She’d be able come back every year for the Day of the Dead (the Mexican festival that celebrates remembered passed ones). But it’s not so simple. Her family is long gone and there are exorcists on her trail trying to send her back to the Realm. Part Two of the series begins to explore as to why they need Nena to go back to where she came from.

Steve: What inspired you to write the series? What was the moment where you knew this was an idea you wanted to pursue further?

Vera: The idea of the Day of the Dead very much took hold of me when I first delved into it. Both my cultures (I consider myself part of American and Russian cultures) are rather somber about the idea of death and afterlife. The passing of a beloved person leads to so much anguish in day-to-day life, and I thought it a great comfort when I discovered the Day of the Dead and its cheering traditions. I read as much as I could about it, and somewhere along the way, Nenetl was born. I didn’t intend to write about any of it at first, but I think a large part of me had to share the magic of this festival.

Steve: How did you first get interested in Mexican mythology? It’s an interesting choice of inspiration for a horror series, given how joyous the celebration is.

Vera: I love to spend time reading about different cultures, but with the Mexican culture specifically, I got into it through cooking. My significant other is of Spanish and Latino descent, so we like to shop at a grocery shop that targets the local Latin population. It didn’t take me too long to look up the provenance of a traditional Mexican recipe and begin exploring the Day of the Dead and its incredible culinary practices for the holiday.

And even though it’s such a jovial and optimistic holiday, I do think there’s a lot of spookiness in the festival that absolutely lends itself to a horror series.

Steve: And another thing to note is that this is an all-ages series. Was that always the intent? Do you think writing for all-ages brings another element of challenge into writing a horror story?

Vera: Yes, Nenetl of the Forgotten Spirits was always meant to be all-ages in my mind. As a writer, I tend to go for whimsy and magic more often than not, and I wanted to do a scary series that has an enchantment to it. I’m not one for gore or sex in my writing anyway, so it wasn’t too far of a bend to make sure this book is kid-friendly. Of course, there’s a balance to stride between spooky and terrifying, and I hope that I was able to do that. That said, I do think kids can take horror as long as it’s served with hope and goodness.

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Steve: This is the second part of a planned four-issue miniseries. Could you see the character appearing in more stories, following this miniseries? Do you prefer telling a story with a determined ending, or do you have any interest in an ongoing, returning property?

Vera: This particular story of Nenetl does have a very definite and what I hope is a satisfying ending, and I haven’t planned to write more after the miniseries is done. However, I do see myself missing this world of Nena and the Day of the Dead, and I’m sure I can be persuaded to write another story with one or more of the characters from it. In general, I like experimentation, so I have no problem in doing short stories with a determined ending or going on a long, winding road of one ongoing story. I guess it varies with how much there is to tell about a single character or his/her world.

Steve: The astonishing Laura Müller is drawing and colouring the series. What do you think she brings to the story?

Vera: Oh yes! Laura brings so much to the story! She’s extraordinary. She is very thoughtful in her designs and has an incredible intuitive sense for layout. She also has this sublime feel for the nuances in the personalities of the characters and their acting out the story. She brought energy and vibrancy into the series. And the way she colors… I can’t even. Laura is brilliant.

Steve: How did you first find her work? Did you find her whilst looking for this project, or did you bring this project to her based on having seen her work?

Vera: I was very lucky in discovering her work fairly soon after I wrote the last word of the script. I was looking for someone with a dynamic presence in their work and once I found her, I never looked back. I contacted her immediately and was intensely excited when she wrote back within a few minutes. It was a good day.

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Steve: How has the collaborative process been between you both? A lot of research must have gone into the character designs.

Vera: Absolutely. We do like to talk about the feel and personality of the character or the setting, as well as what part of the story they’re playing and how they should look. Laura and I work very closely on the designs, but at the same time I try to give her space to explore her own feelings about every part within our comic process. I find that when I do that, she comes back with her most amazing work, and I can approve it happily.

Steve: This isn’t your first Kickstarter – how has your experience with crowdfunding been, in general? Greg Rucka described it recently as being “a full-time job”.

Vera: Rucka is so right. It is absolutely a full-time job. But in my personal experience, it’s also a really fun and compelling full-time job. I very much enjoy communicating with my supporters and try to be as present as I can: answering questions, replying to them and being accessible in general. It can take away time from writing, but I find the experience very worth it. And my gosh, this is my sixth project!

Steve: What would you advise for anybody looking to set up their own project? What have you learned works best in terms of incentives, etc?

Vera: My biggest piece of advice is don’t be fearful – really, if you have an amazing project in you, do it. Even if you fail to make your goal, it doesn’t mean you failed – you got your work out there for people to see, you gauged the popularity of this one project, and you showed the world that you are serious about your work.

My second piece of advice is make sure your project is something you can complete in a determined amount of time. You know the ending to your story and how to get there. You know you can do it in 3 months (or 3 years). You can learn other stuff on the job, but you must have those particular basics down.

As for incentives, well, put your best-valued gift at $25-$35 and make sure you’re accessible for questions!

 

Many thanks to Vera for her time! You can find more details on the Kickstarter on its page. You can also find Vera on Twitter here, and on her website.

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