(PDF of original post on Rue Morgue Magazine on May 27, 2015 Rue Morgue | Sinister Seven: GLOOMCOOKIE creator Serena Valentino)
Monsters under the bed, gargoyles, living wax statues and really bad goth poets all contribute to the dark charm of author Serena Valentino’s impressive graphic novel library. The author of the six-part goth subculture comic GLOOMCOOKIE and the horror fantasy collection NIGHTMARES AND FAIRY TALES has become a powerful presence in the realm of horror comics thanks to her ability to combine mythos and historical terror into unique and compelling stories.
Valentino has also been working on young adult novels for Disney Press, taking the perspective of our favorite Disney villains to tell their side of the story, including Snow White’s Wicked Queen in FAIREST OF ALL (2009) and Ursula from The Little Mermaid in the upcoming POOR UNFORTUNATE SOUL.
With the launch of her self-publishing press The Fearsome Library, Valentino has made it even easier for fans to get lost in the worlds she creates – a monthly subscription-based service keeps her readers up to speed while allowing them access to exclusive short stories and sneak peeks at future works, including the historical mystery HELL’S CAFE or the nightmarish tale of TERATOPIA (both of which are yet to be released).
Valentino is currently working on launching a crowdfunding campaign for a special hardcover anniversary edition of GLOOMCOOKIE, but she took a break to chat with us in a Sinister Seven interview about her inspirations, aspirations, launching a self-publishing library and keeping things on the dark side.
You seem to draw inspiration from all over the place; tell us about a few of your most important inspirations.
I’m extraordinarily inspired by historical figures and events, and intriguing people of note, like Count St. Germain, Delphine Lalaurie, Gilles de Rais, Nikola Tesla, and other people of interest, and they have found their way into my writing much like the fairytale characters have. There are mythos surrounding these people, which I’m exceedingly inspired by, and I think that plays a part in my interest in exploring these people and bringing them into these worlds I’m creating.
Lately you have left the darker side of writing and moved more to the Disney side of things; what made you move in that direction?
I wouldn’t say I’ve left the darker side of things, though I see how one could make that assumption. The stories I write for Disney are very dark, and sometimes rather violent, and they address similar themes to those of my other stories. It’s funny, actually; I’ve been criticized for making my Disney books too dark, not by Disney, mind you – they love the work I’m doing – but some of the readers felt I made the Beast in THE BEAST WITHIN too evil and irredeemable. Though I think those are the readers not previously acquainted with my other work, or acquainted with the fact that fairy tales, from their inception, were meant to be dark. It’s not surprising those are the very virtues most of my readers new and old alike love about the series; they love the opportunity to see the darker side of theses tales, and to see how I explore these characters. I don’t think I will ever find myself straying away from darker storytelling. I’ve been hardwired with the desire to do so since I was a wee child watching Hammer Films and TWILIGHT ZONE with my father. My new work on HELL’S CAFE (for example) with Pablo Santander has taken a decidedly darker turn than any of my previous work, and I’m looking forward to sharing that with my readers in the very near future.
So, no, young Jedi, I have not abandoned the Dark Side.
The Disney collections you’ve been writing are the villain’s perspective, what other villains are you planning on giving a voice?
I recently finished writing Ursula’s story, POOR UNFORTUNATE SOUL to be released sometime in 2016. We haven’t decided who will be featured in the next novel, though I would love to write about Maleficent and Cinderella’s stepfamily in the near future.
What sort of lines do you draw in terms of content? For example, would you ever do a project that was really evil or gory?
I don’t think in those terms (of drawing lines), I write what needs to happen in that particular story; I write where the characters take me. I’ve certainly written some tremendously evil characters in my time, and there are some very gory scenes in HELL’S CAFE. For that matter there was quite a bit of gore in the original NIGHTMARES AND FAIRY TALES, though I think it was obscured by FSc (Foo Swee Chin)’s amazingly cute illustrations. She is by far one of the most talented and unique artists I’ve had the pleasure of working with, but I think the readers will find with the new series it will take a darker turn by virtue of the more realistic approach to the illustrations, which I feel fits my vision of the stories, and hadn’t been completely realized until I started working with Santander.
Tell us about Fearsome Library.
Fearsome Library is my self-publishing company. All my future creator-owned works, like the new GLOOMCOOKIE hardcover edition, NIGHTMARES AND FAIRY TALES: ANNABELLE’S STORY, HELL’S CAFE, BLACKBEARD THE PIRATE QUEEN and TERATOPIA will more than likely be self-published with Fearsome Library. In addition to new, original materials, I plan to reprint some of my older work aside from the first six issues of GLOOMCOOKIE. It will really be up to our readers what becomes published because it will all happen through crowdfunding.
What have you got planned for the GLOOMCOOKIE Anniversary Edition to celebrate the series?
Ted Naifeh and I are collecting the issues we did together in a hardcover edition featuring a new, gorgeous cover by Naifeh, and a foreword by Roman Dirge. We also plan to include some artwork not previously published, and if our readers decide to fund a particular feature of the campaign, the book will include new original sequential art and a new story, written by me and illustrated by Ted. With each pledge of that sort we will write, illustrate and publish a new original page of GLOOMCOOKIE and it will feature the character of the reader’s choice. The reader will also receive the original storyboard, that portion of the script (both signed by me and Ted) and a little sketch of themselves in the thank you section in the back of the book. We also plan to re-letter all six issues, and we’re bringing in our old editor from SLG, Jennifer de Guzman. Ted and I are really excited to bring this hardcover edition to our fans after all these years, and we love that we have the opportunity to make it into a beautiful lasting edition (without the typos and terrible lettering).
Read more of Valentino’s work at The Fearsome Library and keep an eye out for her Indiegogo campaign, launching soon!