10 Questions: The Gathering Edition – Erica J. Heflin

For nearly three years The Gathering anthology has afforded nearly 200 comic creators the opportunity to have their work published for the first time.

GrayHaven Comics has been dedicated to giving aspiring creators their big break and through fourteen issues of The Gathering have done just that. Along with newcomers to publishing, The Gathering has also featured the works of pros like Sterling Gates, John Jackson Miller, Mike Lapinski, Brent Peeples, Gail Simone and Len Wallace with many more to come.

Coming up on their three year anniversary and leading up to some big announcements at New York Comic Con, Graphic Policy has teamed up with the GrayHaven Comics in an attempt to put together an unprecedented set of interviews. The same 10 questions have been sent to all 200 comic creators covering their start in the comic book industry, their work with GrayHaven and The Gathering and what advice they’d give to those just starting. That’s potentially 200 different perspectives to learn from.

We’ll be posting 1 interview a day for as long as we get responses….

Up first is Erica J. Heflin. Erica’s first foray into comic books was with The Gathering. She describes herself as a “comic fan, gaming geek, mother, screen and comic writer with a mix of archaeologist and herpetologist thrown in just to keep things interesting.”

An on to…. 10 Questions with Erica J. Heflin.

Graphic Policy:  How did you get started in the comic book industry?

Erica J. Heflin: My plunge into the comic industry really began with discovering GrayHaven and The Gathering. I had previous experience writing screenplays, and had taken a stab at a comic script many years previous. Finding a place where I could submit as a writer just seemed remarkable. After pitching my first stories the staff became more familiar with my writing and editorial experience. I was invited to edit the All-Women’s issue, and then invited on full time afterward.

GP: Were you a fan of comic books before?

EJH: I’ve been a comic fan for many years. I’d say that I first jumped into comics during the height of their 90s popularity. I lived and breathed the local comic shop and gaming store through high school, and then in college I worked at a local shop. I eventually owned my own comic store.

GP: Do you read comics now? If so, what are some of your current picks?

EJH: Absolutely. I’m leaning heavily toward a lot of the current Image titles; they’ve got some fantastic and explorative books available right now. But if I was going to pick one book to demand that people read, it would be Rachel Rising. Terry Moore is proving that once again he is a master of his craft. I’ve loved his previous titles, too, but the marriage between Moore and horror is heavenly.

GP: How did you get involved with The Gathering?

EJH: I got started by putting in a pitch for a fairy tales story.  As a writer I’m constantly bracing myself for a rejection letter, but on this occasion I made the cut. My first collaboration was with George Amaru. From there I just never looked back.

GP: Each issue of The Gathering has a theme, how did that factor into the comic creation?

EJH: I wasn’t around for the inception of the anthology, but in recent months I’ve had the opportunity to discuss theme ideas with the rest of the staff. We’ve got to strike a balance between visiting the themes that everyone just loves – such as horror – and breaking new ground and pushing our artists and writers to explore new genres. Pulp heroes is a great example of the latter.

GP: What advice would you give to independent creators just breaking into the business?

EJH: Don’t be too hard on yourself. Anyone who creates is going to have supporters and detractors and it’s important to listen to both. Learn from your critics, but don’t let them define you.

GP: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned through your experiences?

EJH: The pool of talent in the independent comic industry is astounding. There are numerous people who spend their days hunched over keyboards or sketchpads, and each one of them is looking for a break. While it’s easy to focus on yourself and your personal goals, if you reach out and help the other talented creators who are trying to break in, you’ll reap some incredible rewards.

GP: Do you think it’s easier today for creators to get published?

EJH: With the increase of print-on-demand services, it’s become much easier for creators to publish their own works. Financing projects, and then taking the time to do all the promotional work, is where I see a lot of creators struggling. Printing is just a small part of the package and while it’s becoming easier to do, I still don’t think that it’s easy.

GP: How do you think technology like social networking or crowdfunding sites like IndieGoGo or Kickstarter are impacting comic book publishing?

EJH: I think that these sites are already having a notable impact on the industry. Small creators are able to produce miniseries, graphic novels, and single issues without bankrupting themselves. Industry pros are able to produce their dream projects without the same concerns over rights.  Better yet, it’s a great place for consumers to find projects that they would not otherwise have access to.

GP: What can we expect from you next?

EJH: While I continue to work on editorial projects from GrayHaven, I’m turning my attention to several different Phase 2 projects. Issue one of my five-part miniseries Mother and Son, a twisted science-fiction invasion story, is now available.  I’ll have several other projects available in the near future; Of Wolf and Woman and Flesh of White should also be available this year. There will be some more great announcements at New York Comic Con, and our upcoming open submission period will reveal my new major editorial undertaking.