“It was the Viking landscape, the barren ice and waves, that brought the tone of this story together” Ryan K Lindsay talks viking shield maidens in Eternal

Writer Ryan K Lindsay is never one to rest on his laurels when it comes to story genres. Having brought the world ‘antler noir’ in Deer Editor, surf noir in Chum as well as psychedelic sci-fi and all ages adventure in Stain The Seas Scarlet and Ink Island respectively, he is now embracing the world of swords and sorcery with Eternal – a tale about an ass-kicking viking shield maiden called Vif that sees him team up with his old art buddy Eric Zawadzky from Headspace to create a truly unique and epic fantasy adventure. We catch up with Ryan to find out more about the wintery world of Eternal.

“Eric wanted to channel Frank Quitely with the fluid motion of the action and the specificity of character emotion.”

Eternal sees you dipping your toe into the fantasy genre. Is this an area you’ve always wanted to write about, or was it the nature of the story that inspired you to write a swords and sorcery story?

Ryan K Lindsay: I honestly never thought I’d be writing anything fantasy based. It’s one of the genres I like, but it always felt like a blindspot in my writing arsenal. But the ghost aspect matches my style perfectly, and it was the Viking landscape, the barren ice and waves, that brought the tone of this story together for me.

What’s it like working with your old buddy Eric Zawadsky again? Has this project been on the cards since Headspace? Or did you approach him once you had the idea?

RKL: I approached him with this not long after Headspace, yeah. We started kicking it around, and then he got busy with THE DREGS [at Black Mask with Lonnie Nadler & Zac Thompson, it’s amazing!] and we shelved it for a while. I didn’t want to do it with anyone else. But then Eric and I tabled together last year at ECCC and we talked about it and hopefully I infected him with some enthusiasm for the project again, enough to resurrect it, and we were gunning then. It was after we got well stuck into the guts of it that I mentioned it to Black Mask and they decided they would love to lose some money on our passion project, haha.

His artwork feels like it has really stepped up a level for this, was that because it was such a passion project do you think? Or just the extra years of practice on The Dregs? We love all the Celtic design work at the beginning.

RKL: Eric said from the outset this one was gonna run him some time because he wanted to channel Frank Quitely with this one. And he has. The fluid motion of the action, the specificity of character emotion. Everything came together for him to produce yet another absolute highlight in his already stellar career. 

“Eric wanted to expand the open and endless landscape, and from there I was just along for the ride.”

We understand it evolved into a much more substantial project as the creative process went along and Eric started expanding and developing the story to a greater scale? At what stage did it start developing into this more epic scale and what challenges were there writing like this?

RKL: Once the book was in Eric’s hands, it levelled up. He rebroke pages, added pages to sequences, and completely mapped it out all on emotion. I hadn’t given as much room as most writers would like, because this was a one-shot, and I didn’t want to burden Eric with the heavy lifting of drawing so many pages, so I kept it tight, minimal, but Eric wanted to lay it all out. He wanted the open and endless landscape, and from there I was just along for the ride.

As for redrafting over his new pages, we didn’t have to do too much. The narrative and emotions were either already there in hs new art, or we just spread the words out a little more, leaving breath beats between captions and the like. 

How important was it for you to build this story around a strong female protagonist? It certaintly wouldn’t feel half as fresh or emotive without a female lead.

RKL: I think diversity in the characters we create is extremely important, and it needs to start becoming natural. Natural to see a variety of character types on the page, natural to create a wide diverse cast just because that’s the world. Eternal was always about Vif, always had a woman in the lead, and it wasn’t strategic in any way that I felt like it would create a whole new narrative for me as much as it was done because any story can be told with anyone, you just tweak the little things around it, but this is a story about character change and realisation, and so with her locked in as the character, then the story flowed out. 

“I think diversity in the characters we create is extremely important, and it needs to start becoming natural”

This feels like a world which you could readily return to, would you like to do more fantasy books? Or more Vif/Sheild Maiden stories?

RKL: The world of Vif and her shield maidens is most certainly closed, I have nothing left to say here specifically. At least, not at this time. As for fantasy, I know I just said it was a blindspot for me, but I’m actually breaking ground on a very high fantasy story right now I’m incredibly excited about. It’ll be interesting to come back in a year and see if I’ve got it off the ground. 

How does it feel working with a publisher like Black Mask on this (and Beautiful Canvas) and how does it compare to working on your own books?

RKL: I absolutely love working with Black Mask. I’d work with them forever more if that becomes an option. Matt Pizzolo over there is incredibly supportive, and he’s a huge advocate for creators telling their stories in their ways, all the way down to paper choices and story styles. Black Mask are amazing, and their line up has been stellar from inception and well into late 2018. I’d say there’s as much creative freedom there as on my own Kickstarter material. The advantage is they bring a lot of clout on the shelves because people trust their brand, and rightly so.

And finally what’s next? You had a particularly strange sci-fi story on Kickstarter before Christmas, so will you be returning to another crowd funded book? 

RKL: Next up I’m running a Kickstarter in April [probably April] to rerelease Headspace from me and Eric as a Digital Omnibus because we got the digital rights back for it. Beyond that, I’m clicking away on two miniseries that are greenlit, and breaking new story on other things that I can only hope appear in the fog of 2019 or beyond. Or, as always, I’m keeping on keeping on over on twitter as @ryanklindsay, and blasting out my writing centric newsletter, THE TWO FISTED HOMEOPAPE, which people can subscribe to at tinyletter.com/ryanklindsay

You can purchase Eternal for £5.49 from ComiXology