Smash Pages Q&A: Amanda Lafrenais on ‘FTL, Y’ALL’ and more

The creator of ‘Love Me Nice’ discusses her newest anthology project for Iron Circus, her own webcomics and more.

Amanda Lafrenais is the creator behind the webcomics Love Me Nice and Titty Time. She’s one of the co-hosts and editor of the Dirty Old Ladies podcast. She’s also an editor who worked on the Iron Circus anthology Tim’rous Beastie and the new anthology FTL, Y’ALL: Tales from the Age of the $200 Warp Drive. The anthology has an incredible premise that attracted creators who readers will know, along with plenty of newcomers.

Lafrenais’ webcomics show a range of artistic and storytelling influences. She clearly understands comics and it’s been fascinating to see her guide two very different anthologies, overseeing very different artists than herself. Lafrenais is a great talent and I took the opportunity to ask her about the new anthology, the graphic novel she’s drawing and her own comics.

I always like to start by asking, how did you come to comics?

I got into comics as a very young fan of manga, and sort of set my mind to make comics professionally by the time I was 12. This career path was inevitable I guess! Eventually I launched my own webcomic, met other professionals, got a few freelance gigs, and it snowballed from there.

So what is FTL, Y’all?

FTL, Y’ALL is an anthology inspired by the endless storytelling possibilities of decentralized space travel. The prompt was the idea that in the near future, maybe even tomorrow, schematics are disseminated publicly that allow for faster-than-light space travel on the shoestring budget of $200. Traversing space in science fiction has typically been reserved for huge organizations, governments, the rich, etc. The idea of the highs and lows of a universe that can be crossed by anyone with the pocket money to buy a budget smartphone is ripe with new perspectives.

What was the process of putting this anthology together?

After running many anthologies we’ve slowly gotten a sort of system down. We’ll usually float the idea by on social media, see if there’s any enthusiasm for it. If there is, we announce a date for a submission period, usually giving people several months to put a pitch together, and then find a comfortable chair to sit and read 200+ story pitches. Once we choose our contributors we give them about a year to work, and when their pages are turned in, it’s time for Kickstarter.

You previously edited Tim’rous Beastie so this isn’t your first rodeo. Spike and Iron Circus have done a lot of anthologies over the years. But having done this before, what did you want to do differently this time?

A big difference between Tim’rous Beastie and FTL, Y’all was that the former was my brain child, and the latter was Spike’s. This put me in the position of not just choosing stories and art that suited my vision, but knowing Spike’s preferences and vision well enough that I could put my own creative voice on mute and try to be her proxy. Being close friends for 10 years absolutely helped that process, but it was a unique challenge. On a more technical front, I had used a submission form to organize Tim’rous’ submissions, but it made coordination a bit hellish, so this time I had a form send all submissions as specially tagged emails instead of dumping them into a spreadsheet. I’ve continued to use this method.

You announced the book and people submitted stories. So is the work you do primarily picking and curating the stories? Are you editing or are people doing other drafts or what is the process like?

It’s a mix. While I do hands-on editorial work for submissions, a big part of curating the picks for the book is choosing creators who demonstrate they can handle the story they pitched, which is why we ask for portfolios and the like. We strive to feature a healthy mix of established professionals and newcomers. It makes managing so many creators and creative teams at once a little easier, but more importantly I prefer to let people do their thing and don’t want to control their art and writing too much. A big motivation to putting these anthologies together is seeing stories we might never have seen otherwise. So I only tend to step in if something really needs a guiding hand, and I prefer it to be a gentle nudge if I can.

I also wanted to ask about your own work. Because you are the woman behind the webcomic Love Me Nice. For people who don’t know, could you talk a little about it.

Love Me Nice is a webcomic I started around 2010, the first comic I ever really drew honestly. It’s a story about cartoon actors and humans coexisting, sort of like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, but with a focus on the more adult side of that concept– though when I say adult, I mean more that its dry and has a focus on interpersonal lives and company politics, though its also been a vehicle for my rarer crude humor. It explores ideas like what it would mean to perform as a “legacy character” when that role is inherited, as the main protagonist performs a character that is literally his own father. A lot of it is about identity, who you’re allowed to be, especially for the marginalized, a theme close to my heart as a queer creator.  It’s my pet project I make for free and it has always been and continues to be a work of love. I never would have met any of my current friends or network of contacts had I never started it. Though I made the mistake of having my very first comic be a 600+ page story instead of something shorter, which means while I have every intention of finishing it one day, the project has gone on hiatus multiple times.

Don’t be like me, kids. Start small.

You also make comics for Slipshine. Titty Time has a somewhat silly title and I believe some people have called it “adoraporn.” How did you end up making very different kinds of porn and what did you want to do with the comics?

Hahaha well, to be blunt, I always liked sex and comics, but whenever the two intersected I was really bothered and grossed out. It didn’t make sense to me, so I started making my own pornographic comics to my tastes to marry the two in a way that felt right to me. And it turns out what I wanted was a lot of others wanted to, as there was enough demand to make a career out of it. Mostly my porn tends to focus on exploring weird things that tend to be otherwise exploitative in a way that makes them warm and fun. Like, I’ve never had good sex and NOT laughed at least once, so it was weird to read porn where no one joked or laughed with each other. So laughter and people just straight-up being fond of one another is a major focus. I just want to see real relationships reflected in porn. Even a professional dominatrix is gonna trip in her heels now and again and need to laugh it off.

You’re also drawing a graphic novel, Iris and Angel. Can you say anything about that?

Absolutely! Iris and Angel is an erotic romance being written by Spike and drawn by myself. Its a really cute, charming story honestly. A woman running an Etsy handmade soap business finds herself way more successful than she’s expected, needing an accountant on the cheap. Thanks to a pushy roommate she meets a man willing to due her taxes for free, on the proviso he be allowed to indulge in his kink of wearing women’s underwear. What’s meant to be an awkward one-time thing ends up turning into genuine friendship, as the two bond and learn about themselves. But mostly, it’s about a woman learning she really, really likes dominating a dude in lacy underwear.

If that’s not enough you are one of the people behind Dirty Old Ladies podcast. What is the podcast and what’s your role in it?

I’m one of the hosts, alongside Spike and our buddy Kel McDonald. I was the editor too, but due to time constraints we just began the process of outsourcing that job. It’s a podcast about our perspectives on independent comics and making it in the industry. Half of it is us trying to disseminate the knowledge we learned the hard way to people so they don’t make the same mistakes we did, and half of it is us being opinionated jackasses. It’s fun, and I’m really happy to hear that it’s helped people make better career choices. It also gives us a chance to show a side of comic making we don’t always get to share through our social media and projects, because at the end of the day we’re still trying to promote our work and be somewhat professional through those platforms. Its nice to talk about your failures and anxieties within the framework of helping others.

After that long list I feel odd asking this, but do you have anything else happening right now?

Aside from more Iron Circus projects and restocking my online store, I don’t have much to promote right now. Not to dwell on my personal life but its been a weird few years for me and I got a bit derailed, and I’ve just recently reached an equilibrium, so my goals are largely to pick up where I left off – update my webcomic again, relaunch my website, get more Iris and Angel chapters done. A lot of maintaining so I can start doing new things in, like, a year.

So final question, what is your pitch for FTL Y’all? When you have a chance at a show or in an elevator or wherever, what do you tell people? What do you hope people get out of it?  

I’ll usually ask someone what they would do if they themselves got access to $200 FTL technology TOMORROW, and their answer is usually a good jumping off point to pitch a specific story from the anthology to them. And that’s what we’d like the anthology itself to do, spark imaginations and get people thinking about new, strange and amazing ideas.

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