“Setting a traditional vampire story in a foreign territory frees us of the genre cliches” JD Oliva talks samurais and vampires in Red Sunrise, now funding on Kickstarter

JD Oliva’s New Orleans based flood drama, Deluge, has been a long time favourite of ours, and so we were excited to discover JD was bringing a completely new tale to Kickstarter, Red Sunrise, featuring vampires in feudal Japan. We catch up with JD and find out why his take on the world of the undead manages to reinvent the formula in ways we’ve never seen before, and why you should support it on Kickstarter here.

So, samurai and vampires, sounds like a pretty awesome combo for your new book Red Sunrise? Where did the idea come from? Was it one of those ‘what if’ moments – and how do their various powers exhibit themselves and developed the story?

JD Oliva: I had the germ of the idea in college. I was a double major at Northern Illinois University (Media Studies & History) and I took a lot of Japanese history courses. I always found the feudal era particularly interesting. The concept of seppuku is fascinating to me and  as a joke, I wondered how that would apply to a samurai vampire. Years later, during the never-ending-process that was Deluge, I was developing a vampire project but it wasn’t really coming together. So I took some of those ideas and recycled them into that loose idea that went through my head. The concept here is that the daimyo (warlord) that ruled Feudal Japan is a vampire, but what makes this story different is the vampire mythos didn’t exist in Japan. Our characters know that the Shogun and his army aren’t human but they don’t know what they are, nor do they understand how to kill them. Setting a traditional vampire story in a foreign territory frees us of the genre cliches. Though we can tell they’re vampires, we never use that term in the book, because it wouldn’t exist. There are no crosses, wooden stakes, garlic or mirrors. Nonemu, the story’s protagonist, has to use his own cunning and ingenuity to stand against these forces. Putting it in Feudal Japan also gives us a chance to examine the bushido culture. It’s a fun twist on an old story.

You mention in the pledge video that you’re doing this as a tribute to a late friend, can you tell us a bit about that story?

JDO: Yeah, I had been working on a different project with a very talented artist friend of mine named Matt Jordan. We’d been working for over a year and it had taken that long to get any pages from him because his day job as an animator was incredibly time consuming. But I was patient because I wanted to do this project with him. In truth, Matt had had a rough year, with his mother and grandparents (whom he lived with) each passing away. Matt had survived a bout of childhood cancer that left him wheelchair-bound and when his mother was diagnosed with cancer, he was her primary caregiver. I knew his situation and understood, so I had to be patient. When I finally got the pages, it was totally worth the wait.

After his grandfather, the last of the three had passed, I knew I owed it to my friend to get both of our careers moving in the right direction. So I went to NYCC that year with a mission. The pages went over very well, they got good reviews and received some interest from publishers. Matt was thrilled when I told him how well it went. Over lunch, he said, “after all this time taking care of others, I can finally do something for me.”

A week later, I got a call that my friend had died. Apparently, Matt had a staph infection and hadn’t gone to a doctor, thinking it would pass. He drove himself home from a late night at work and fell asleep in his drive way. He never woke up. I feel I owe it him to see our story finished someday. The first step to that is completing Red Sunrise.

It feels like a quite different story to Deluge, is it closer aligned to your own passions or were you keen to try a new genre and develop as writer?

JDO: I love noir crime and I love horror stories. Both genres have their influences in the German expressionist film movement in early cinema. I worked pretty consistently on Deluge from 2010-2014, then I released a gritty, noir one-shot called Shunned in 2015, and Deluge’s rerelease last year, not including projects that haven’t seen the light of day yet, were all in that same crime/noir wheel. I’ve been itching to do a horror book and it was the right time to strike on this project.

How did you hook up with the art team and what were aims for the book visually?

JDO: When I decided it was time to get back in the game and move forward with this idea, I put an ad out looking for a partner. I thought it would be a good idea to see what I could find and write the script while working with an artist, as opposed to just having someone draw my words. I wanted someone who could bring their own thoughts and concepts to the art. Pascal Saint-Clair answered my ad and I was simply blown away at his work. I think he’s a gigantic steal! He’s so talented and ready to really break out. I hope this project can give him a bit of platform to get noticed. I love what he’s done for us so far. I’m really excited to see him finish this book.

Deluge coverWhat have you learned from your experiences on deluge which you’re applying on this campaign?

JDO: I did everything wrong on DELUGE. I had no idea how to run a Kickstarter campaign. I had no fan base, no clue on how to promote but we still made it work and hit our funding goal. Unfortunately, it took way too long to finish the book and I thought because of that, I had blown my Kickstarter credibility and couldn’t do another. It wasn’t until I started listening to Tyler James’ ComixLaunch podcast that I realized how wrong I was. I wanted to run another Kickstarter but I wanted to do it right, so I signed up for his ComixLaunch 5-day workshop and then enrolled in the ComixLaunch Course. I’ve learned a ton about running a great campaign along with audience building and promotion. I also learned that I did kind of squander what I’d built up back in 2012, so I’m kind of starting over again, but it’s okay. This time around I’m doing things much smarter. Doing a digital-only campaign, I knew that the funding goals would be smaller than most comic related Kickstarters, but that’s perfectly okay with me right now. We’re currently 66% of the way toward our goal with 16 days left in the campaign (wraps up on June 1st). I like where we are right now.

And finally why should people back your campaign?

JDO: People should back this campaign because, quite honestly, we’re creating great comics. But I realize it takes more than that to fund a Kickstarter. What we’re doing with our campaign has been pretty fun. We posted some of the pages from Pascal’s up-coming sketch book. I’ve also utilized my background in film and video to create some really cool updates. I’ve posted a couple of unique videos and I’ve also created a podcast dedicated to this particular Campaign, where I’ve introduced myself and interviewed my partner, Pascal. I’ve got an interview with my friend Rich Douek (Gutter Magic, TMNT Universe), who’s doing a script critique as one of the rewards, set for later this week. The reward I’m proudest of is offering video consulting and editing services to any creator planning to launch their own Kickstarter for only $100. Being in the business the past fourteen years, I’ve picked up a lot of tricks and hacks to make videos look big and more expensive. I can easily show someone how to level up their work and create a standout Kickstarter video.

You can pledge your support for Red Sunrise here and purchase Deluge on ComiXology here.