When it comes to independent comics, there are a few ways authors can get their work out there. Some turn to traditional, physical print and self-publishing, while others turn to online platforms for webcomics. There is also the issue of funding for independent comics, and one potential way to go about this for creatives is to turn to crowdfunding. This is exactly what Letters For Lucardo is doing for its third book, The Silent Lord, thanks to Spike Trotman and Iron Circus Comics.
Letters for Lucardo: The Silent Lord is the third book in Otava Heikkilä’s four-part vampire erotica story. The series so far has been about the romance between the vampire Lucardo and his lover, Edmund, who is mortal, aging, and suffering from a terminal illness. Lucardo decides to bring Edmund to The Silent Lord in hopes of saving his life; however, this also comes with its own dangers. The series has been well-received, with the crowdfunding campaign, which goes through April 28, already surpassing its goal by thousands of dollars. In celebration of this third book, Heikkilä took the time to talk with CBR in an exclusive interview about Letters for Lucardo.
CBR: First off, how does it feel to have a third installment for Letters for Lucardo?
Otava Heikkilä: It feels pretty surreal, to be honest! I come from the school of self-published authors who tested their chops on the 2010 era of webcomics. A lot of us started ambitious, long projects, and a lot of us never saw [our] first magnum opus finished – myself, of course, included. Letters for Lucardo as a comic is now 3/4 of the way done, and I’m looking at starting the final book next year. Barring any sudden comics- or life- related catastrophes, this’ll be my first long-form comic that reaches its completion.
For those unfamiliar with the series, who is Lucardo?
Lucardo is the heir to the wealthy and affluent family of immortals, generally referred to as the Night Court. He’s beautiful, hot-headed, and terribly in love with Edmund Fiedler, a sixty-year-old common scribe. Lucardo himself has been thirty-something for several centuries, so there’s an age difference to this romance, but in a way that’s not immediately obvious when you look at them.
When it comes to Lucardo’s relationship with Edmund, what’s your favorite aspect of it? What have been some of the biggest challenges these two face as a couple?
My favorite aspect of their relationship is simply getting to write the back and forth between the two. They’re both funny in a self-deprecating and impish way, and they are constantly building a rapport through humor. I like being a fly on the wall when I hear two (or more) people who are deeply intertwined with each other and getting to briefly glimpse the kind of private language that has formed between them. A lot of the structure of Letters for Lucardoin general, is about the interplay between these private, intimate spaces of interaction and the more public and codified spaces outside them that demand different personas to guard that inner core.
To answer the second question in a perfectly non-spoilery way, it’s also very much this dance between the two states and the sacrifices that bleed inwards from that public persona that threatens their blossoming relationship and even their own safety during the story.
Focusing on The Silent Lordwho is the titular Silent Lord?
Silent Lord is the entity that the Night Court, Lucardo’s family, worships. Silent Lord has blessed the family with immortality in exchange for becoming an eternal part of him. What all this means, and what its true costs might be, are all unclear to Edmund, our point-of-view character. At the end of Book Two, Edmund falls terribly ill, and Lucardo makes a decision for him to take him to Silent Lord to ask for eternal life in order to save him. You can sympathize with Lucardo’s decision, but it’s a terrifying decision to make for another person.
Going back to the first installment of Letters for Lucardowhat was the inspiration for this series?
I wish I had an intelligent reply to give, but the truth is that I was simply 25 years old and full of nervous, pining energy about my own closed existence. I escaped into a lavish, queer, self-indulgent story, with no intent on surfacing on the other side as a different person living a happily out queer life, but that’s what ended up happening, and I’m very thankful for that.
There are some influences that definitely pushed me to start the comic, though: The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal by EK Weaver was a webcomic phenomenon in the 2010s that left a thorough impression on me and made me want to work on queer character-focused narrative comics. The short comics of Lucie Durbiano have such a striking sense of humor and arresting erotic-ness to them that I’ve been chasing ever since I first read them. I should, of course, mention the classic, Bram Stoker’s Dracula… the 1992 movie (!), an absolute masterpiece in lavish horror and erotic tension that you can not look away from.
Vampires are immensely popular, whether that be in romantic stories, horror stories, or something in between. I would love to know what appeals to you so much about vampires and why you think they work so well in the romance genre.
Vampires are the perfect intersection of fear and desire, right? Most of us fear death or dying – I’m very envious of those who do not, good on them– but there’s something morbid about the idea of sticking around forever, as well. Vampires do that, and they become this rupture in the fabric of life, of decay and excess personified. The main way the vampire interfaces with humans in stories is by consuming them, and what could be more erotically loaded than that?
As a subject, they’re a lot of the core tenets of gothic horror – beauty hiding decay underneath, a glimpse into something that feels much older than the world hegemony around us now, and turning acts of horror into erotic and romantic acts. I’m no scholar of romance literature by any means, but I intuit that romance and horror are close siblings to each other and play well together as they both bypass our thinking side and tap directly into our instincts.
What makes Letters for Lucardo stand out in the grander vampire-romance canon?
I think this is something that the audience has the final word on and not me as the author, but I did set out to make a story that features an older human protagonist / romantic interest for the vampire to make an acquaintance with, and I think that’s left a positive impression on readers so far. I want to make stories about older queer people in general because most stories about us are about queers who are under 25. That’s just a dismal way of looking at my own future – getting old and having no models at all for what that will look like.
With this being the penultimate entry in the series, what can fans look forward to as we get closer to the end, without getting too much into spoilers?
In the third book, Edmund is glimpsing the reality surrounding the Night Court that has so far been well-hidden behind locked doors. With this revelation, we feel the tone of the story changing as well into horror. The tender romance is not going anywhere, that is what this story is at its core, but everything surrounding them is built on the premises of that beauty hiding decay I mentioned earlier. In other words, if one wants there to be a truly happy ending for Lucardo and Edmund, it can not be built on what’s underneath them right now.
What do you hope fans can take away from Letters for Lucardo?
It’d make me very happy if the story inspired others to make things that their hearts desire. The existence of Letters for Lucardo is, inherently, a little vulnerable and comical. Not to go on too much of a tangent, but we all instinctively look somewhat down upon erotica and romantic stories. Hell, the same goes for vampires and the bodies of old people. These subjects are all considered more or less free targets for ridicule, and I’m sure I’ve done my part in ridiculing them as well. When I talk about the comic, I sometimes have to fight away this knee-jerk instinct of putting it down or cracking jokes about it because I know the sum of these parts [is] considered neither intellectual nor cool.
I think it’s still worth doing it because then I hear people say they’ve always wanted to see stuff like this but just have not found it. I’d rather do something that connects with people than sit on a throne that reads “the coolest of the nerds.” So I guess my hope is if you have a story forming inside you that feels a little too embarrassing or vulnerable to even consider making, I hope you’ll give it a chance and see if making it anyway will fill you with happiness. If it does not work out, well, congrats. You just did an exercise in being honest with yourself, and that usually has positive echoes later down the line as well.
Looking at the crowdfunding campaign, y’all have already surpassed the funding goal with several weeks in the campaign left. How does that feel?
It fills me with tremendous amounts of glee, terror, and a general sensation of absurdity. I have no delusions about the wide market appeal of my works (or lack thereof), but to see people show up for a four-part gay horror porn on a tremendously niche subject is pretty incredible. It stuns me every single time to think of people reading and loving my comics. It really makes all the tedious parts of making them feel worth it.
Anything you’d like to say to those backing this book?
Well, my humbled thank yous. I do not know how many professions there are where the customers showing up has such a direct correlation with the author continuing to be able to make the thing. There probably are many, but making indie comics is one of them. As for the third book and the story itself, I really hope it feels like a thrill to read, and I hope you feel like you can trust me as we head towards the final book. I’m very proud of this story, and I think the ending is such a satisfying finish for all that came before it.
The crowdfunding for Letters for Lucardo: The Silent Lord runs through April 28, with a publication date in June.
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