The Forbidden Chamber: An Interview with Sarah Searle About Gothic Tales of Haunted Love

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cover art by Leslie Doyle, logo by Dylan Todd

Sarah Searle brings a new twist to the gothic genre and an old tale in her story for Bedside Pressanthology Gothic Tales of Haunted Love. A fundraising campaign is currently running on Kickstarter and you can read more about it in this previous article.

Searle’s story, “Ladies of the Lake”, is Searle’s “spin on the classic Bluebeard tale, incorporating some Arthurian themes over a setting of spooky 1920s Wales.”

The new themes and setting is one twist Searle gives this source material, but this story is even a slight departure for Searle herself. “I’ve done a good amount of historical fiction at this point, but I’m allowing myself to stylize it and go a bit darker this time, which sets it apart from my past works that focus more on research.”

Although Searle hasn’t “read anything from that time period [the 1970s gothic romance comics that inspired this anthology]”, she is “a great lover of gothic literature and romance comics, so it was a natural fit!”

It was such a good fit, in fact, that she “had this story already written, just waiting for the perfect home. ‘Ladies of the Lake’ references some of [her] favorite books, including Northanger Abbey, so [she pays] homage to [her] own inspirations as well.”

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“Ladies of the Lake” by Searle

Searle elaborates on her love of Northanger Abbey: “Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey is a delightful play on the gothic romance genre back when it was much fresher, which is an enjoyable read.”

But Northanger Abbey isn’t her only gothic inspiration, as Searle explains: “I also love Terry Pratchett’s Carpe Jugulum for a healthy dose of vampire romance. I suppose I’m drawn more toward humorous, satirical approaches these days, but I can’t help but love taking it seriously sometimes, too.”

And Searle doesn’t just create and read gothic stories–she plays them too, as she explains: “My D&D group recently finished the Curse of Strahd campaign and I really enjoyed seeing the romance and drama unfold amongst the NPCs.”  

When discussing Hope Nicholson and Sam Beiko, the two editors in charge of the anthology, Searle had nothing but good things to say: “I haven’t worked directly with Sam before but she’s had great feedback for my script, and Hope is always super on top of the business side.”

Having worked with NIcholson on The Secret Loves of Geek Girls, Searle had already experienced Nicholson’s business acumen.  In particular, she commented on how “everyone in publishing is so busy all the time, which often means (understandably) long waits on emails, so [she] extra appreciate[s] how quick they’ve been with communication.”

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The Secret Loves of Geek Girls Kickstarter Edition Art by Gisele Lagace and Shouri

Searle offers one last word on the Gothic Tales anthology itself: “I’m especially excited for the comic my friend Hien Pham is working on, about a man who gets help from a friendly ghost during the Vietnam War”, a comic covered in this interview with Pham.

But this anthology isn’t the only place to see Searle’s work.  Much of her work can be seen on her website, www.swinsea.com.  Searle is passionate about her site, putting in the same effort in designing it as she would her comics, saying, “I started it back when I was a new media major learning coding and web design, and I don’t know if I could ever leave it behind. It’s like I’ve built this time capsule that tracks my whole career.”

She continues to express her passion for her site: “I keep it mostly for myself, but I do see that it gets regular traffic, and I like knowing people can get a taste of my work even while I’m toiling away on books that won’t see the light of day for years to come. Plus the accessibility of webcomics has been so important to me, I try to put as much out there as possible.

As seen in the images above, both the anthology piece and the pieces posted on her website, Searle avoids extensive cross hatching and weighing her work down with unnecessary details.  

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Searle’s “Ruined” from Oni Press/Rosy Press’s Fresh Romance

Part of this comes from her many inspirations.  While “it changes all the time,” Searle lately has “been studying the works of Hayao Miyazaki and Jillian Tamaki in particular”, artists known for conveying much emotion and story in few lines.

As Searle herself says, “’I’m very story-focused so my art ends up on the minimalist side, and I want to learn from artists like [Miyazaki and Tamaki] who seem to really understand just how much detail is needed in a character design or environment to convey meaningful nuance.”

Reflecting on “Ladies of Lake” and her other work Searle concludes, “I’m proud of all the comics I’ve made for various reasons, but I’m also generally pretty happy to leave them in the past. I learn so much from every project I do, even the small ones. Even if I don’t feel confident about the quality of story or art anymore, I’m proud of myself from making them so I could grow into the better storyteller that I am today –– and still growing, I hope!”

Anyone interested in more of Searle’s work can follow her on Twitter and study her online portfolio while waiting for Gothic Tales to release!

 

CJ Standal is no stranger to Kickstarter, having run a successful Kickstarter for his comic Rebirth of the Gangster, for sale as a print copy or an ebook now!  Find out more about him at cjstandalproductions.com.

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