RICH INTERVIEWS: Jeff Estrella Writer Yonge At Heart Toronto Comics

First Comics News: Why did you enjoy being a part of “Yonge At Heart”?

Jeff  Estrella: This will be the second story I’ve contributed to Toronto Comics, I worked previously on the third volume which was the first time a story of mine was put in print. Both times I really enjoyed collaborating with an artist to put together a story, and for Yonge at Heart, I was able to work with a friend of mine.

1st: What is the story you wrote in “Yonge At Heart” and what is it about?

Jeff: The story I wrote is called Caddy’s with art by the wonderful Cleopatria Peterson. The story is about two boys from Scarborough who are out to steal the Cadilac from the front of a strip club in their neighbourhood as part of a sort of hazing/initiation ritual.
Along the way, they discover things about themselves and each other that will change their friendship.

1st: What is the main selling point of this story?

Jeff: The story is a great showcase for a part of Toronto that doesn’t get as much attention as other parts, Scarborough. Both Cleo and I spent a lot of our lives there and it’s an interesting and diverse part of our city with lots of stories to tell.
For me, Caddy’s is a coming of age tale wrapped in a heist story. At its core is the relationship between these two young men who are coming to terms with how they really feel about one another, a process that can be both painful and exhilarating and one I was excited to explore.

1st: Who is the artist and does their art compliment your writing well?>

Jeff: I worked with my friend Cleopatria Peterson on this story, who also worked on the third volume but on a different story. We worked on this one pretty much collaboratively, while coming up with ideas to pitch she told me she wanted to do a story about a couple kids trying to steal the Cadilac from in front of Caddy’s and I said sure!

1st: Would you like to be a part of another anthology from Toronto Comics?

Jeff: Sure, if they’ll have me! I’ve got lots of stories to tell and I’m more than willing to tell them.

1st: What was your story about in vol. 3?

Jeff: In the third volume I worked on a story called “The Way Home”. It’s a ghost story about a young Filipino immigrant who gets lost on a trip into the city but can’t ask for help because he doesn’t speak English. However the boy comes from a long line of people who could see and speak to spirits, and with their help he finds his way back home. I wanted to write a story that incorporated my experiences coming from the Philippines and the idea that Toronto is a city that has been built on waves and waves of immigrants. Each spirit the boy meets represents a different wave of immigrant, and they help him along his way, as the previous generations of immigrants helped the next along theirs.

1st: Why do you think anthologies are a good idea?

Jeff: I think anthologies are a great way to showcase new or little-known talent to a much wider audience without a ton of pressure. They’re a great way for someone who has an interest in comics but doesn’t have any experience to dip their toes in and get started.

1st: What are you planning to do next in your writing career?

Jeff: I still plan on writing for comics, it’s a style that I love and have always wanted to work in. I’m currently working on a couple different scripts and pitches and hope to be starting work on those very soon.

1st: Any advice for new writers just starting out?

Jeff: These are the two best pieces of advice I ever got. The first was to write often and read widely, its the only way you’ll develop your taste and your voice. The second was from Bryan K. Vaughan quoting Neil Gaiman: “Try to get published as soon as you can because nothing will make you get better, faster than knowing complete strangers are reading your terrible writing”. Wise words, haha.

1st: Why does the world need writers?

Jeff: Well if it didn’t a lot of us would be out of jobs wouldn’t we? Haha, Honestly though, I think it’s not just writers we need, but storytellers. Being able to tell stories to one another is such a uniquely human process, and whether it’s through written words, spoken words or pictures we need to have these stories in our lives.

1st: What kind of movies did you watch growing up?

Jeff: When my family moved to Canada my uncle had recently closed the neighborhood video store he had run throughout the 80’s so his house was full of VHS tapes. We spent a lot of time watching those movies and newer ones that my other uncle from Montreal would bring us a couple times a year that he bootlegged off his illegal pay per view box. I think I’ve literally seen thousands of movies of all sorts of genres, but I watched a lot of horror and Sci-fi in particular. Not because I loved, they terrified me as a child and gave me nightmares, but because my dad said it would make me tougher watching them. Hey, now I love those movies!

1st: How do you feel about dogs?

Jeff: Oh boy…. That’s a loaded question… Let’s just say, I don’t cry at funerals, but if something bad happens to a dog in a movie or book, better get the Kleenex out!

1st: Have you gone to any conventions or would you like to?

Jeff: Mostly as a fan, once or twice helping as a retailer. I would love to go representing myself and my writing in some capacity eventually.

1st: What would you like to say to those who read your stories?

Jeff: Thank you for taking the time to read them, it’s my hope that I can write something that means as much to you as it does to me.

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