Erica Schultz: I was on the phone with (I believe it was) Liana Kangas, and I just blurted out the idea of three estranged sisters coming together trying to solve their mom’s murder and not killing each other in the process. I have a whole history written up about the family and how they’ve been Nazi-hunting badasses since WW2, etc. There are snippets of this history that get peppered throughout the series.
Originally I was thinking this would be a three arc series, each arc touching on a generation of trained assassins, but I couldn’t really find the throughline when I approached the story that way. So when James Emmett (our editor) came on board, he took all my false starts and streamlined them so I could tell a coherent story. I can’t say enough great things about his work. Everyone hires him! He’s amazing!
Anyway, I thought it’d be interesting to explore the inner workings of a family with three wholly independent yet completely co-dependent women. They’re paradoxical and so human that they really feel like real people…who knows…maybe I based them on people I know. wink wink
We’ll be doing a Kickstarter starting on May 11th for the entire five-issue series where backers can get digital and print copies of The Deadliest Bouquet along with a terrific print by Alane Grace, a journal with the incredible cover by Kevin Wada, and loads of other great rewards.
1st: Who are Rose, Poppy, and Violet?
Erica: Rose Hawthorn, Poppy Winterberry, and Violet Hawthorn are three sisters who grew up in an unusual household. Their mother, Jasmine, was raised to be a Nazi-hunter by her parents who were members of La Résistance in WW2. Jasmine, now semi-retired, runs a flower shop with the oldest, Rose, and is found dead one morning when Rose goes to open the shop. That’s where our main story begins, but there’s still so much more to it.
1st: What is the relationship between these three sisters and why does it seem strained?
Erica: The family dynamics are complex, and they all really need a good psychotherapist. Each sister grapples with her own secrets, guilt, and the lies she tells herself and others just to survive day to day. They have so much in common and so little in common at the same time that they barely see themselves as related, yet here we are. There’s a back and forth resentment between the sisters that is on full display. Rose hates the fact that Poppy and Violet left to go live their own lives while leaving her (Rose) to run the flower shop with Jasmine. Poppy resents the fact that she just wants to live a “normal” life as a wife and mother, but gets sucked back into the family drama. Violet resents the fact that she feels her mother held her back all these years and wants to be her true self.
A lot of this is loosely based on my own family (minus the assassinations, etc.). I’m one of three siblings, and there’s this round robin of two ganging up on one that happens all the time. Alliances turn on a dime, and everyone is just trying to survive the best way they know how, whether that’s right or wrong…you be the judge.
1st: Why the flower motif in this comic book?
Erica: The name of the flower shop that Jasmine runs with Rose is Les Trois Fleurs which means, “The Three Flowers.” It was named for Rose, Poppy, and Violet, so we kept that as a running theme.
Flowers are also beautiful but very delicate…and they tend to wither quickly. So take that as cryptically as you want. Haha.
1st: What will grab readers the most in this series?
Erica: The story is plot driven, but the character development is very expansive. I think the relationships between Rose, Poppy, and Violet will really draw people in. It’s a slow reveal of what life was really like under Jasmine’s roof, and how her own life’s decisions could have contributed to her death. But I really think readers are going to enjoy this book because it feels real and raw.
1st: Violet is violent but just how violent does she get?
Erica: When I was explaining the characters to our incredible cover artist, Kevin Wada, I said, “Violet will f*ck you, then f*ck you up.” Violet isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. She picks fights when she’s bored, but she also does exactly what she says she’s going to do. Violent Violet lives up to that name in every way.
1st: Is there an art to lettering a comic book?
Erica: Comic letterers are definitely artists. They’re the unsung heroes of making comics. When lettering is good, you don’t notice it. When it’s bad, it’s a real turn off. I used to teach lettering in an online class, so I would always say that lettering has to complement the art in such a way that it’s almost unnoticeable. A bad book can be saved by good lettering. A good book can be tanked by bad lettering.
1st: Who is M3 and how do you feel about her?
Erica: M3 was the first comic that I wrote back in 2009. It’s a 12 issue series about an assassin (M3) and the FBI agent tracking her down. How do I feel about her? I’m very proud of that series. I’ve come a long way personally and professionally since writing M3, but I will always be proud of that book and the work Vicente Alcázar and I did on it. I try not to go back to previous work and pick it apart. If I were to write that series now, I may make different choices, but I think it’s a solid story as is.
1st: What stood out the most for you when writing Mandrake the Magician?
Erica: There’s a great deal of history associated with the character of Mandrake, and I wanted to make sure that in Legacy of Mandrake we touched on that history but didn’t rely on it. Legacy of Mandrake is really Mandy’s story. Yes, she’s still in the world of the original Mandrake, but we didn’t want to feel chained by that. We wanted Mandy to still be able to live her life.
Also, the original Mandrake strips are definitely a product of the time they were created with several racist tropes that we stayed VERY far away from. We wanted to make sure that any character that harkened back to the original strip was revamped to be respectful and in no way associated with the prior depiction. The character of Lothar was completely rewritten as a loving father in our series rather than a “sidekick” and parody of African stereotypes from the past.
1st: Do you ever get writer’s block and if so how do you get over it?
Erica: I think writer’s block in some form or another is pretty natural. Depending on what my deadline is, I will usually skip the sequence that is giving me trouble and work on another one. It also helps to just get away from the desk and have a physical change of scenery. Go for a walk. Take a hot shower. These things tend to loosen you up to find the story again.
1st: You have worked for both Marvel and DC would you like to do so again?
Erica: I actively pitch both Marvel and DC often. I really enjoyed working on Daredevil and Hawkgirl, and I would do so again in a heartbeat. There’s a contingent of fans in Brazil and South America that often talk to me on social media asking when I’m going to be writing Hawkgirl again. The answer is always, “DC has my number!” Haha.
Rich: What do you have lined up for the future career wise?
Erica: I’m currently editing some books for Mad Cave Studios, and one will be released later this year. I’m also co-writing a book that hasn’t been announced yet (hopefully soon!). I’ll be teaching a writing course this summer through The Kubert School, and I HOPE to try and take a break sometime this year…a whole week or so where I do NOTHING. We’ll see if that happens because I’m a bit of a workaholic.
Rich: What comics besides your own would you recommend?
Erica: I haven’t had the chance to really read a lot of comics lately because I’ve been so busy, but I like TRVE KVLT by Liana Kangas, Scott Bryan Wilson, and Gab Contreras and Snow Angels by Jeff Lemire and Jock.
Rich: Any final words for the fans of your writing?
Erica: Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Practice social distancing. And if you’ve liked some of my work, go to www.EricaSchultzWrites.com/shop and pick up some more books!