Lyndon White is a comic art veteran who has spent his career exploring and reimagining some of the most prolific tales from the fantasy and horror genres. His big hit of last year was his crowdfunded Call of Cthulhu concertina, which brought the legendary Lovecraftian terror to life in vivid detail.
At the end of 2018, he announced that his next project would be his first ever solo production – a fantasy graphic novel entitled Candles. Its crowdfunding campaign hosted on Unbound is now live, with backers rewards ranging from digital editions of the book to full colour original commissions.
We spoke to Lyndon to find out more about his new project.
Kirstie: Tell us about Candles.
Lyndon: In a nut shell, Candles is an all ages fantasy graphic novel. Following the adventure of Grace and her quest to steal magic from the evil Witch and use it to save her dying village.
Candles is set in a world that has been subjected to the evil Witch and her magic for generations. The Witch has cast a nature plague known as Dark-bark over the land, which slowly turns your skin to tree bark. If you become heavily infected, you are lured into the enchanted forest never to be seen again. Grace is our protagonist and sees the good magic can do, however, her family, friends and villagers want nothing to do with it. Grace sets out to steal magic from the Witch as a last hope to save everyone.
In the mix of all this we have Idris, a flamboyant sorcerer and his talented apprentice Ava who are exiled from their town as magic users. Finding traces of the Dark-bark plague on the outskirts of the town, Idris and Ava set out to find the source and destroy it. Not partially because they want to be the heroes, but because they know they are the only ones capable of stopping it.
Kirstie: Where did you get the idea for the story?
Lyndon: It’s based on something I saw after moving to a new house last year. In the distance there are trees on the hillside and at night I could see these spots of light along the treeline. When seeing this for the first time I had no idea what was causing it and brain thought, they must be floating candles (a visual you will see in the book). This created the core idea for the book and from there I asked questions like, why would Candles be floating? Who could create such a thing? Why would they create them? Etc. This created the core idea and from there I started working through the plot points.
The very boring version of what was causing the light amongst the treeline was a house on the other side of the hill in the distance. The spots of light were what I could see coming through the trees.
Kirstie: How did you decide how the magical elements of the story would be represented visually in your book?
Lyndon: I created a few rules for myself whenever I’m drawing magic. The first is movement. Anytime someone casts a spell they generally need to be moving or show some action, as if magic is a force coming from them. This makes sure its dynamic and I don’t draw people standing still with their arms out and fire flying everywhere. I’ve seen magic drawn in several ways and I think it can very easily fall flat. A few books spend more time talking about magical everything is instead of showing it.
Another rule was impact. Spells have a force behind them, so we should see how that is affecting the area around them. Little things like a cape fluttering, the direction the spells move in (there’s quite a bit of fire and lighting), things being destroyed. Magic in Candles can be quite destructive and impact to an area when a spell is cast.
The final rule was the spell language. Characters have to call out a spell and say it aloud for it to work. Just before a spell is cast or is charging, the characters call out the spell. All of which is in its own language, so the reader can only read it as shapes and symbols (as the reader you aren’t meant to be able to read magic or understand the words). This was more of a design choice but does create suspense and helps with pacing the action scenes. Magic doesn’t randomly show up on a page, readers will see hints of it coming.
Kirstie: What were your biggest influences for the story?
Lyndon: The two key ones are traditional Brother’s Grimm fairy tales and Studio Ghibli films. Candles has a Witch, magic, creatures, monsters, etc, which naturally puts it in the fairy tale and fantasy genre. The original Grimm stories are a lot darker than people might remember. We’ve become very familiar with the Disney versions of the years. There are some slight horror notes throughout the story and this is where they come from. Not everything is nice in a fantastical, magical realm.
The other core influence is Studio Ghibli. I’m a huge lover of animation and they are my favourite studio. Tonally, it’s very similar to the type of work they put out. It can be light hearted and fantastical, yet still serious with adult themes. You’ll be able to see their influence from both a writing and drawing stand point. Particularly with how I’ve drawn Ava, as she is a very young character.
Kirstie: You’ve described Candles as being a ‘grounded’ kind of fantasy. What do you mean by that?
Lyndon: A lot of fantasy can quickly become a long sprawling epic tale that takes multiple books to tell. Which is great and perfectly fine if that’s the story you want to tell. Candles is more grounded because its set in a tight area. There are multiple locations, but this is all happening in one region of this world. We are going on the hero’s journey with a beginning, middle and end. The story will be wrapped up in one book.
I have ideas for other stories that I’d possibly like to tell in this world, but they would very much be their own thing (if I get to do them). As it stands, Candles is a self-contained, graphic novel.
Kirstie: What do you hope people take away from the story?
Lyndon: Firstly, I hope they enjoy it (I think that’s a given).
I really hope they fall in love with the characters and the journey they go on. Nothing is wasted in this book, everything has a purpose. If you happen to pick the book up, enjoy the ride. There’s a lot of heart in this one. Family is a key one. How far you’ll go to save someone. I’m being quite careful what I talk about and put online because there’s a couple of surprises that people won’t be expecting. The story is dressed up as a fairy tale, something familiar, but I’ve twisted it and I don’t think it will be exactly what everyone is expecting.
Kirstie: You’ve done a lot of collaborative work before. How does this graphic novel, which you’ve created the art and story for yourself, compare to those past projects?
Lyndon: The hard part is that you must do all the work. Which is enjoyable, don’t get me wrong, but you don’t have anyone to share the work load. If you are writing, pencilling, inking, colouring, lettering, etc, it’s a lot of work, but very rewarding.
I do enjoy collaborating with people and bouncing ideas back and forth. It’s nice to work as part of a team. I’ve had a blast working on multiple projects with a range of different people over the past year but it’s nice to be back working on something that is 100% my own. Not that I don’t love the other books, I do. I just enjoy writing and drawing, but I’m usually an illustrator before a writer.
Kirstie: What made you decide to undertake this project on your own?
Lyndon: Usually, if I’m working with someone else, they are writing the book. Since I had the idea and I write, I simply started. For some books it just becomes that way. In some sense, I’ve been trying to get back to writing and drawing my own thing for a while. The last graphic novel I did like this, was Sparks and the Fallen Star, which was published by Blue Fox Comics in late 2016. I was involved in the writing of The Mind of James Svengal, which was released this year, but Jordan Sam Adams was very much the writer on that book.
I started developing Candles a little over a year ago while I was working on other projects. I’ve been gradually chipping away at this one until I was ready to start drawing and make it one of my main projects for the next couple of months.
Kirstie: What made you decide to fund the book through Unbound?
Lyndon: I’ve been keeping tabs on Unbound for a while, they’ve been around for about 8 years and are a branch of Random House. However, it’s only in the last year that they have been moving into the graphic novel space. For anyone who doesn’t know Unbound, they are a publisher that uses crowdfunding. I work with an editor and create the book while we crowdfund the project. Pre-orders and pledges basically fund the project. What separates it from other sources of crowdfunding, is that once the project is successfully funded, Unbound switches to a more traditional publisher. They help edit, distribute, promote, market the book, all the things you’d want from a publisher.
Working with Lizzie Kaye (Unbound’s graphic novels editor) and distribution was a big thing for me. I’m not stranger to crowdfunding, so doing the legwork now, getting people interested and supporting the project is something I’m used to. It’s once the project is funded with the distribution that will help in the long run. Unbound have the network and experience of getting books overseas, into book shops and to different markets. All of which is possible on a small scale as an independent artist/author, but I’d much rather focus on making these books and promoting them, then let a publisher handle the rest. Graphic novels take a long time to make and having some help is a blessing.
Kirstie: How are you finding your Unbound experience so far?
Lyndon: It’s all very positive and people have been extremely supportive. Both in terms of the people at Unbound and people backing the project. I’ve noticed a lot of people are keeping tabs on the book as I’m working my way through the pages, which is natural with crowdfunding. People want to make sure the project is actively being worked on and see things being completed.
Kirstie: How does it compare to your own crowdfunding experiences?
Lyndon: It’s a bit more of a slow burn compared to my previous crowdfunding projects, which we were expecting. With past projects, I’ve gone onto a platform with a finished project, which makes it easier to get funded. Candles is a different beast; it’s a much bigger project. All the more reason why it’s suited to Unbound, as I’m actively working on it while we fund it.
At the moment we are 6% funded, which I know looks low, but in terms of amount raised, it’s quite a lot. This campaign is funding over a series of months, not days. Pledges keeping coming in each week and its gradually growing at a healthy rate.
Kirstie: When do you expect the book to be finished?
Lyndon: I’m expecting it to be finished mid to late 2019, which is pretty good going since I only started drawing the line work around September 2018 (after doing art samples for the pitch early 2018). That’s my ball park for it and that is dependent on me juggling other projects. Candles is my focus at the moment, but I do have other things in the pipeline that people are waiting for me to start. I might take a month or two out to work on other things, then return to Candles.
The script is finished and locked down and I’ve almost finished the line work. There’s about 17 pages left to draw and then I’ll be moving onto inking. Getting the line work finished is the second big milestone. There’s a big stack of pages sitting on my “to ink pile” in my studio and its going to be fun to work through them all.
Kirstie: Do you have any advice for aspiring creators?
Lyndon: Work hard and put the time in, sometimes it’s just the case of showing up at your desk (which is painfully simple advice).
Whatever you work on, make sure you enjoy it, especially if its long-term project and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. I’ve personally taken this on board after doing a series of horror books over the past two years. All of which I’ve had an amazing time working on, but sometimes its good to step away (even for a little bit) and work in a different area.
Say yes to things and don’t be afraid to tell people no if its not what you want. Collaborate with people and whatever you’re working on, show it to people. Get feedback and don’t be afraid to make changes. An outside perspective can be really helpful and prevent you from closing yourself off.
We’d like to thank Lyndon for taking the time to talk to about and wish him the very best of luck with his new project!
You can find out more about Candles and back the project here on its Unbound page.