First Comics News: Have you always been interested in weird and strange creatures?

Rachel Quinney:
Always! As a kid I was always submerged in books about mythology and monsters (and mythological monsters), I was fascinated by the artwork and stories of all the creatures. My parents have always encouraged me to be a reader, and she would take me to the local library so I could read as many books as I could borrow, and they were always fantasy books or books about weird and bizarre creatures!

I love, and always have loved, the worlds of mythology and the creatures that came with each story. They ignited my imagination as a child and never let go.

1st: How does working as a teacher help you with your writing and drawing?

Rachel: I’d like to think it helps with my writing – I teach English literature and language, and whilst I’ll be the first to admit my grammar isn’t perfect, it’d be far worse if I wasn’t teaching! (Don’t worry, the editors did an amazing job). Teaching part-time helps to work alongside my artwork and creative life – it brings a sense of structure a few days a week and stops me from becoming completely nocturnal!

Whilst I don’t get to do a lot of drawing at work, I do get to draw some pieces for wall displays. Right now I’m working on a book accurate Frankenstein’s creature with linked quotes. It’s very fun for me, and the students seem to enjoy them.

1st: What is “Cryptids, Creatures & Critters” about?

Rachel: It’s all about, well, cryptids, creatures, and critters! The book includes over 70 different creatures with an illustration and a description that says where the creature comes from and what people believe about it. The book is divided into three sections – cryptids, folklore, and mythology. Cryptids are creatures that haven’t been proven to exist scientifically, but people often believe in their existence (like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster). Folklore uses creatures to caution others against certain behavior (for example, avoid large bodies of water with the kelpies) or uses creatures to rationalize unknown phenomena (when folks disappear in the woods, blame the will o’wisp). Lastly, mythology stories are from civilizations and cultures past, and these creatures are believed to have been created from the imaginations of those times (for example, Medusa, the sphinx).

The book takes a look at several creatures – it’s not intended to be the definitive guide, as I lack the resources and time to read every source on each creature. But each entry has been thoroughly researched and I hope people will use this book as a diving board into the wonderful world of weird creatures.

1st: Of all the creatures featured in “Cryptids, Creatures & Critters” which one is your favorite?

Rachel: The tizzie-whizie! It’s such a bizarre and silly little creature, it’s hard not to love it. Imagine a hedgehog, now give it a fluffy squirrel tail. Then add the wings of a bumblebee or dragonfly, still with me? Now give it little butterfly antennae. And in case that wasn’t cute enough, the tizzie-whizie loves biscuits. Not only is it adorable, but it’s ridiculously British – all it needs is to like dunking biscuits in tea!

1st: Do you believe any of the creatures in “Cryptids, Creatures & Critters” could really exist?

Rachel: I think so! I like to be open to the idea of creatures existing. Whilst some cryptids are proven hoaxes (like the jackalope and tizzie-whizie), I don’t think there’s any harm in indulging your imagination with the possibility of their existence. We’re still discovering new species on Earth, who’s to say some of the creatures in the book don’t exist too? I may not be as certain in my beliefs as Mulder, but I’m a little more open to the possibility than Scully.

1st: How does one become a better writer?

Rachel: Read! Read lots and lots of books – even outside of genres you would typically pick! Listen to audiobooks, and audio plays, consume and devour media that makes your brain go brrr.

And then write, write a lot. Writing is a muscle, you’re unlikely to just start and be an Olympic athlete. You need to nurture its growth and be kind and fair to yourself as you go. Not everything you write will be great, and some of it will be awful, but you have to be gentle and accept that throwing words away isn’t a failure.

I always found the editing process nightmarish, and the tip that works for me is to change the font and size of your text. It will move the words about the page so it tricks your brain into reading it fresh. If you have the luxury of printing it out, that can make it easier on your eyes too.

1st: Do you have any writers or artists you admire?

Rachel: So many! I am still working my way through the amazing Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. I love authors like Ursula Le Guin, Jeanette Winterson, and Sarah Waters. On the artwork side, I’m a huge fan of Daniel Danger’s detailed pieces, and Coey Kuhn and Endivinity’s creature designs always blow me out of the water. And of course, a massive shout out to all the guest artists who appear in the book – their work is phenomenal and I’m so honored to have worked with them all.

Daniel Danger –

Coey Kuhn –

Endivinity –

1st: Would you like to do a book about movie monsters?

Rachel: I would love that! It would give me a good excuse to watch several movies on my “to watch” list. I’m terrible at watching films, but there are some amazing creatures out there that I would absolutely love to draw! I’ve already indulged myself in making some Godzilla and Pacific Rim kaiju stickers, I’d love to make more!

1st: Do you have any plans to write and illustrate more books?

Rachel: Yes, but not right now! I’m doing a big overhaul of a lot of my old artist stock, and creating new merchandise for comic conventions and my online store. I have a few projects I’d like to finish first, but I would love to write and illustrate more books. I’ve just finished designing fabric patches for all the current Dungeons & Dragons classes, and right now I’m working on a cryptid-themed card game.

I would love to write a book just about cats and folklore – or creatures of the ocean from folklore (I was obsessed with sharks as a kid too, so any opportunity for that would be exciting).

1st: Which creature from “Cryptids, Creatures & Critters” do you most identify with?

Rachel: Ooh, tough choice! The tizzie-whizie’s love of biscuits and fear of photography is very relatable and I love the Mongolian death worm who sleeps for most of the year too. If the tizzies-white was known for sleeping a lot, it’d be no contest for the little creature!

1st: How is Xena doing, does Xena play a big part in your life?

Rachel: Xena is doing fantastic. She is, as I type this, watching the magpies outside. She’s an excellent little tuxedo cat, she’s an indoor rescue and she is such a delight. She plays a massive part in my life, from walking over my head in the morning for breakfast, to cuddling up with me as I mark essays or play video games, to announcing she’s caught one of her toys in the middle of the night; she’s a very loving and gentle cat despite her awful start in life. I love her dearly!

1st: What do you have to say to your fans?

Rachel: Hello! Hi! Thank you so much! Aaa! I could not do this without my friends, family, peers, Patreon members, and fans who support me. Because of my fans, I’m able to teach part-time and sell my artwork part-time, and it’s incredible. I’m amazed and overjoyed there are people out there whose days are improved by my little drawings of Mothman or Nessie. It’s incredible. I hope I can continue to bring little joys and smiles to people’s lives through my artwork and creations.

So thank you, truly, to everyone who has helped me get this far. I’m bowled over by your support, and I hope I can continue to bring little smiles for as long as I can.

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