Leif & Thorn Volume 4: Blazing Stars by Erin Ptah
June’s Author Spotlight, featuring a book we printed called “Leif & Thorn Volume 4: Blazing Stars” by Erin Ptah! Below features an interview with author and illustrator, Erin Ptah.
PUBLISHED – JUNE 6th, 2022
Featured book: “Leif & Thorn Volume 4: Blazing Stars” by Erin Ptah
What is “Leif & Thorn Volume 4: Blazing Stars” about?
Dragonslaying hero Thorn Estragon has just barely recovered from all the burns when his team of knights is assigned to guard a foreign embassy. There, he hits it off with Leif: an indentured gardener, paying off an ominously-unspecified debt. Getting to know Leif is harder than it looks, and not just because Thorn doesn’t speak the language too well, but he’s having a fun time learning.
They’re the heart of a big ensemble cast, having all kinds of magical cross-cultural adventures. The most recent print collection is Volume 4: Blazing Stars, which builds up to a Magic Eurovision party, with a multilingual and multi-species guest list including an ex-supervillain working on his redemption arc. (Thorn met him in their therapist’s waiting room.) As long as they’re not crushed by any vengeance-driven survivors, and/or toxic in-laws, everything should be great.
Where did you get the inspiration for “Leif & Thorn”?
Oh, everywhere. I wanted this to be a series I could work on for a long time (6 years now), so I set it up where any time something new comes along and inspires me, I can channel that into the comic somewhere.
It works a little like the “Discworld” books, where with every new storyline I can switch between a few major teams/places and do something with their long-term arcs, or I can introduce a new batch of characters and go on a one-off tangent into a whole other part of the world. The vampire arcs owe a lot to “Hellsing”, the time-travel subplot has nods to “Madoka Magica”, the political-satire bits are very “Colbert Report”. Right now there’s a storyline about a prickly rogue that’s very “Murderbot Diaries”, and a recent magically-interrupted-first-date storyline had a strip that readers immediately spotted as a direct homage to “Doonesbury”. Everywhere!
There are also some cases of “okay, I don’t like how this series handled a certain topic, so now I’m all fired up to do a better version.” And I’ve had readers comment with things like “as a person who’s had this experience, I really appreciated how well you portrayed it,” which is a great motivation to keep doing that.
Finally — whenever I have strong feelings about the news, the comic gives me a great way to express them. Towards the end of 2020 I started doing these interludes with a whole new group of characters weathering a fictional virus outbreak — so, for instance, I got to take a lot of the terrible takes we were hearing from pundits and put them in the mouths of actual vampires. I did eventually tie this arc into the main plot (it leads to an important reveal about Leif’s backstory), but at the start it was purely about getting some catharsis.
What part of the writing and illustration process did you find the most enjoyable with this book?
Well, this is a toss-up between two very different answers…
I had been leaving clues and tidbits about that “ex-supervillain redemption arc” backstory since almost the start of the comic, and readers had a great time trying to piece them together and figure out what the real story was. Volume 4 is the book where I did some long-form flashbacks (in the form of the story being told to Thorn — for national security reasons, he can’t explain any of this to Leif) that laid it all out on the table, and then had some of the consequences burst into the present day. So I was excited to finally unroll all these reveals that I’d been sitting on for years, and to see the reader’s reactions — from “amazed at all the unexpected surprises” to “delighted to find they had put together all the clues just right.”
Volume 4 was also the one with the big Fantasy Eurovision party. I’m from the US, but I’ve been a Eurovision fan for years, so I finally pulled a Will Ferrell and channeled those feelings into a story about a fictional Song Contest. There’s a lot of comedy in the story around it, but the performances are just a pure homage. You can’t parody Eurovision. I kept trying to come up with scenes for Fantasy Eurovision that would be more extravagant and over-the-top than Real Eurovision…only to find a Real Eurovision performance that had already outdone it.
How did MyBookPrinter help your vision become a reality?
I’ve printed all four volumes so far with MyBookPrinter (through a couple different rebrandings, even), and they’ve been great. Helpful and responsive reps, serious attention to detail throughout the process, lovely quality on the finished books.
True story: the first year I did this, I was on the verge of going with a different printer that had given me a lower quote. But I got a bad vibe at the last minute, pulled back, and went ahead with the MBP team instead. A few months later, worried questions about that first company started swirling in independent comics circles, about deadlines being missed and emails going unanswered. Wasn’t long before we realized the whole operation had collapsed. Without a word. Anyone who paid them for a print run of comics around the time I was paying for mine…never saw their money, or any books, again.
So, yeah, I’m sticking with the MyBookPrinter team whenever I can afford them. When you run on crowdfunding, where every print run means a bunch of readers has already given you their money to preorder the books, a stable printer that you can rely on not to vanish in the night is worth a lot.
Where can you follow Erin Ptah and “Leif & Thorn”?
Where can buy “Leif & Thorn Volume 4: Blazing Stars”?
Website(books & ebooks)