As teens hit puberty, finding their identity can be an arduous quest. In the case of Flutter’s main character, Lilly, it gets a little more complicated than that.
Lilly has the ability to shape shift and is shifting into a boy to obtain the heart of the girl of her dreams. However, when shifting, Lilly learns that being a boy isn’t that easy either.
Flutter creator Jennie Wood took time out of her busy schedule to have a conversation with me about her project and filled me in about how she gave birth to Flutter.
JW: The seeds of Flutter were planted during high school when I worked at a movie theater in a small, conservative, Southern town. I sold tickets and served popcorn to my guy friends and boy cousins who all brought their girlfriends to the movies. They went into the movie and made out while I cleaned the popcorn machine. I’ll never forget that feeling – wishing I was the one in there making out with a girl. Wishing I was a boy so I could be in that theater with a girl.
Flash forward a few years later, I’m writing a short story about a girl who shape-shifts into a boy in order to become the perfect mate for her beloved, perpetually single girl friend. I was having fun with the material because it resonated with feelings I’d had growing up, but I wasn’t having fun with the short story format. It felt too flat, too static for the story I wanted to tell. Thankfully, at that same time, I came across graphic novels like Y: The Last Man and got the idea to write the story as a comic series.
As soon as I started writing Flutter as a comic, the story just flowed. It’s so important to find the best way to tell your story. When you do, you’ll know. It’s love at first write.
SU: How do you come up with ideas for your work, do you use personal experiences?
JW: I always start from personal experience and then take a left turn as soon as possible. With both Flutter and my recently finished YA Novel, A Boy Like Me, I could’ve just written from personal experience, growing up as a closeted lesbian in a small town, but I’ve lived that. Where’s the challenge in writing that? Where’s the growth? For me, it’s much more interesting to write from the point of view of a girl who can shape-shift into a boy in Flutter or from the point of view of a transgendered protagonist in A Boy Like Me. Both of those characters have a different road to take than the one I had. They have different obstacles and responsibilities on the path to embracing who they really are.
Writers are told over and over to write what they know, but, for me, that’s never been enough. It’s a good starting point, but I like to write what I obsess – a question that’s been nagging at me or a situation that rocks my core and keeps me up at night. That way I’ll remain interested through the multiple drafts, edits, revisions, publishing process, marketing, and promoting.
SU: How have you been able to fund your projects?
JW: Thankfully, the writing part is free. It’s really the greatest creative pursuit in terms of that. I’ve been in rock bands where we had to spend so much money on thinks like rehearsal spaces, recording studios and equipment. Visual artists have to constantly buy supplies. I don’t have to buy more pens, inks and paints every time I start another draft.
Of course, even with a great indie publisher like 215 Ink, there are expenses that come with getting a comic series like Flutter made and out there. I’m extremely lucky that I have a full time gig writing and editing non-fiction features for infoplease.com. That job helps fund my personal projects like Flutter. Plus, it keeps my writing and editing skills sharp on a daily bases. I also have a very supportive girlfriend who understands the need to create as well as the sacrifice of time and money that comes with it.
For those interested in making comics and graphic novels, there are ways to save money when publishing and promoting your work. A good way to get your work out there is to exhibit at comic cons. One way to save money is by sharing a table at cons. I try to exhibit at every con with my friend JohnYuskaitis, the creator of Boots and Pup, because we split the cost down the middle. The comic community is so supportive and helpful. There’s always a fellow creator who can tell you about a good deal on printing and merchandise. If you’re lucky enough to work with an indie publisher like 215 Ink, they are going to do everything they can to help you market your book, while helping you save money in every way possible.
SU: What have been your influences in creating comics and what made you want to do so in the first place?
JW: I grew up reading The Hulk, Thor, X-Men. Like a lot of kids, those superhero stories appealed to me because I thought if only I had this or that super power things would be different, things would be better.
When I started fleshing out Flutter, I’d rediscovered my love for comics through graphic novels, especially Y: The Last Man. That series was a huge reminder of the kind of epic storytelling that I could do in comics. So Brian K. Vaughan was an influence. The Scott Pilgrim series was another one. Michael Easton’s Soul Stealer was another. Those are three very different series, but they’re all epic stories grounded by believable characters in believable worlds. And while reading them, all kinds of bells and whistles went off in my head. I knew I had to tell Flutter in that format.
SU: What would you like people to take in when reading your comic?
JW: If Flutter is an entertaining, fun read for people then I’m happy. If Flutter also gets some readers thinking about the differences in gender and how much external forces like society—our expectations, traditions and customs—play into those differences then I’m over the moon.
SU: What other projects have you been working on and what kind of stuff would you like to do in comics?
JW: Right now I’m writing volume two of Flutter. It’s another full-length graphic novel and, in this volume, Lily starts to explore all she can do. Having shape-shifted into a boy for the love of a girl, she’s experienced life from that point of view so she begins to ask herself who she wants to be.
I also have the YA novel, A Boy Like Me, which I recently completed. It’s about a boy trapped in the body of a girl who falls in love and learns what it means to be a man.
As far as comics, I want to continue collaborating in different ways, on different projects. My favorite thing about working in comics is the collaboration. I love going back and forth with an artist, seeing what they’ll come up with, what they’ll do with each scene, each panel. With Flutter, Jeff McComsey is always looking for ways to elevate the story with the art and I love that.
SU: What are you reading right now, any comics right now you are really into?
JW: I just finished the latest issue of The Private Eye, the digital comic book via Panel Syndicate, a project by Marcos Martin and Brian K. Vaughan. I love the pay whatever you can aspect of it. The digital download looks great – well worth the time and money (whatever you can afford) to check it out.
So far this year, I’ve also really enjoyed the all-girl X-Men. I’m looking forward to Michael Easton’s latest series, Credence, coming soon from Blackwatch comics. The advance pages I’ve seen are great. I love the concept of taking an old school cop and exploring his internal narrative, how lost he feels in today’s society.
SU: What are your plans for the future?
JW: The plan is to have both A Boy Like Me and the second volume of Flutter out by the end of 2014. I’m currently exploring all the different publishing options for A Boy Like Me.
Beyond that, I’ll continue writing comics every chance I get. It’s so much fun. I love writing shorts for comic anthologies like FUBAR: American History Z and FUBAR: Empire of the Rising Dead.
And I’ll continue writing about gender issues. It’s been a lifelong obsession, starting in the 7th grade when I read Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights for the first time. Cathy yelling, “I am Heathcliff” is forever etched in my brain.
SU: When will your project be released?
JW: Flutter is available right now. You can get a copy at 215Ink.com or through Amazon. A digital version is also available on Comixology.
SU: What is your method of writing/creating how do you come up with your content?
JW: The content always seems to find me. As I mentioned above, it’s an obsession, a nagging question that won’t let me go. Then I create a character and situation to explore that question. The content / story comes from the obstacles in front of the character.
Once I have the story then I have to find the best way to tell it. With Flutter, I experimented first with prose then as a screenplay before finding its home in comic form. With A Boy Like Me, I knew it needed to be told as a novel, but I had to play around with different points of view for a while before I realized it had to be in first person so the reader was inside his head, experiencing first-hand how he viewed himself vs. how the world viewed him.
SU: What was it like to be in Go Magazine’s women we love list?
JW: I was honored and humbled to be included in Go Magazine’s list with so many accomplished, talented women.
SU: What advice would you have for people who want to break into comics?
JW: Don’t be afraid to approach other artists, creators, and writers, even publishers for advice. It’s such a helpful, supportive community. There’s a willingness to help, to share information without holding back. There’s a level of selflessness that I haven’t experienced anywhere else. So ask any and all questions that you have. If there’s an artist you want to work with or a writer you want to co-write with, and you’ve got your idea fleshed out, don’t hesitate to approach them. With social media, it’s easier than ever. And everyone is so approachable at comic cons. People who make comics do it because they love it and they are so willing to share that experience.