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Riding the Phoenix

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Like the eponymous mythical bird of the title, Sarah Ellerton has undergone her own rejuvenation, reproducing her webcomic success for the second time. After the end of her fantasy hit Inverloch, Ellerton has returned to the web scene with the period fantasy The Phoenix Requiem. The webcomic has consistently placed within the top three spots of Top Webcomics and completed just over a hundred pages.

Despite Ellerton’s name recognition, The Phoenix Requiem might not be the easy sell it seems on the surface. Unlike the largely traditional fantasy of Inverloch – filled with elves, sorcerers and rogues – The Phoenix Requiem is set in an isolated village in a time resembling the Victorian era. Most of the magic, or even mention of magic, occurs in the background, with the bulk of the hundred pages so far exploring the young protagonist Anya, her friends Robyn and Petria, and the mysterious Jonas Faulkner, who is found unconscious in the story’s opening.

With the webcomic still picking up both steam and revelations alike, what comes next for both Sarah Ellerton and her cast of characters?

Broken Frontier: Why webcomics? From Inverloch to The Phoenix Requiem, did you ever consider approaching the works as fantasy novels, or was the chosen medium always webcomics?

Sarah Ellerton: I'm an artist first, a writer second. Creating a comic was a way to breathe more life into the static paintings and character portraits I had been creating up until then. I had never considered writing the stories as novels; I prefer visual artistry, and I'm not particularly good at descriptive writing.

BF: We've seen sparse terminology from Inverloch pop up occasionally in The Phoenix Requiem. Can you tell us, if at all, how the two stories are connected?

SE: The references to Inverloch are there as a little homage to my first story; they're not crucial to the plot, meaning that people who haven't read it won't be missing out on anything. Inverloch is known as a fairy-tale in this world, but nothing more.

BF: For preparing The Phoenix Requiem's period piece aspect, did you do any research, and if so, what kind?

SE: I did research on various aspects of the Victorian age, including fashion, architecture, technological level, and medical knowledge. While some Victorian sensibilities are intact, that area deviates most from our true history - some of the culture would have been a hindrance to the story. The story isn't actually set in the true Victorian England, but I wanted it to feel like a world that had the same level of advancement. It could have been a fun challenge to recreate the period entirely, however the religious and magical aspects play too large a part in this story to make it believably historical.

BF: One of the primary characters of The Phoenix Requiem, Jonas Faulkner, has just woken up after stumbling into town wounded over eighty pages ago. Why keep this character "under" for so long, and what will his arrival do to the dynamic you've created with your characters already?

SE: Well, it certainly ended up feeling a lot longer in comic form than it did in the original script! But there were several reasons for the delay. Firstly, I wanted his appearance to be the opening scene of the comic; that was something I was sure of right from the beginning. But I also needed to establish what the relationships were between the other main characters before introducing a new one into the mix. Of course, his waking timed with the death of another character (and his nonchalance about the whole thing) also gives the readers something to think about.

BF: Lastly, do you have any advice for aspiring webcomickers out there?

SE: Something I've learned is that you get out what you put in. If you want to create a successful comic, then you need to be willing to spend a lot of time on it; they can easily become as much work as any full-time job. But if you're really enjoying what you do, and not just putting out pages because people expect it, then getting tired of it will never be a problem.

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