Interview with Emily Whitaker: author of Ladies of Market Street

Today we bring you an interview with independent comic book author Emily Whitaker. She will be unveiling the story behind her latest creation of Ladies of Market Street, a comic about “crime-fighting hookers”.

The comic is out for sale through amazon and you can find it here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01N37BQ3T

You can also follow Emily on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ee_whit

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So Emily, please tell us… We know you and Trey met at a local art show, and that is how you two managed to pull this off, because of your cool skills were like peanut butter and jam…But how did you come up with something as remarkable as crime fighting hookers?!

This is actually a story that has been with me for years now.  I elude to the fact that the Ladies are also Real-Estate agents.  I get into more of this in the next issue.  But they use the vacant apartments for parties and to entertain their Johns and such things!  And it is that Real-Estate Agency that first gave birth to this strange story.  In 2003 I worked at a Real-Estate agency in New York and all the people were young artists.  We would use the vacant apartments for everything… if we needed a bathroom, a place to change, or some privacy!!!  My roommate was in love with an apartment on the upper east side that wouldn’t sell because they were asking too much.  So every Sunday she would go there to paint because the sun would come through the windows just right!  I wrote our story at first, but it was about that time that I was coming face to face with facts of human trafficking throughout the world and in the city.  The only way I knew to fight it was to write about it.  And to create women who were strong enough and savvy enough to truly fight something so heinous.  So I put pen to paper and got to create these amazing women and  fight the war the only way I knew how.  It is a serious subject, but while I was writing it I felt I wanted to be friends with these women.  And that is the joy I hope my readers have as well.

Particularly, considering your first novel: Benvolio…It is quite a different subject altogether!

Yes, trying to market both books has been tricky seeing as they are so opposite.  I was originally trained in Classical Theatre. I studied Shakespeare at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts and in New York at Circle in the Square Theatre School.  Shakespeare is my first love! My Mom told me that in order to break the rules you need to learn the classics – This was in response to me telling her I wanted to quit the clarinet and  be a rock star! – I think this advice it true for any medium and know that my knowledge of Shakespeare greatly influences any writing I do. And writing comic books is my version of rock and roll.

The characters are very well planned and you can almost feel that you had the outline of every single aspect of them in your head for a while – are we correct? These people were very much real – or that is the feeling that we get in any case.

I originally wrote this story as a play!  In 2004 I moved to LA and interned with a small writing agency where I decided to write this story as a TV show.  I should go through this process with all of my stories because when writing a TV series you have to create what they call a bible for the entire show.  The bible has you going into great detail in all character studies. In 2006 I left LA to find a quiet place to write this story as a book.  And with all of this development I know where each of these ladies were born and the path they took to become the women they are today.  It was fascinating to discover how a person can become a crime fighting hooker!

Talking about the characters, can you tell us a bit more about them? Are they based on real people? Experiences? Concepts?

They are all based on amazing women that I love and respect.  And each of them have a part of me in them.  My favorite characters are Lil and Lizzy.  Their friendship is based on one of my own, and though we now live far away from one and other, I feel like we are still together when I write them.  As for their sexual pasts and the events in their lives that brought them to who they are today, that is fiction.  Later in the series my roommate who painted in the upper east side apartment will come into play.  And I will have a cameo as well as my role in the Real-Estate agency.  As much as I wish I was Veronica, I was the goofy receptionist who hiked up her tights every time she stood up! Veronica’s back story is my favorite.  She gets to experience innocence as a child, with a loving family of women and a Mother who is a Madam.  And her sideways view of sex and it’s meanings are how she becomes the Madam of crime fighting hookers!

Obviously, Veronica is the core in a way, but all the ladies in general are feisty and opinionated. These are all very plainly 21st century women. Were there certain issues regarding gender or women’s treatment in society that you wanted to really push for in here (other than the, well, hooker aspect, of course).

 As for the strength of the ladies, I have always been surrounded by amazing women.  My mom fought for the right to vote for 18 year olds, paved the way for women to work in corporate America, and was a leader in teaching multicultural studies in her schools.  And because of her, it has always been important for me to surround myself with strong women and I have met so many amazing friends in my life that I had to infuse them into these ladies.

As for my inspiration from society’s view on women, I have always felt an unfair comparison on men and women regarding sex. Society has put boundaries on women that has hindered women from exploring their sexuality freely. And I believe these boundaries reach into all aspects of a woman’s life.  Expression of self in social and professional environments are diluted so we can fit into the confines of how we should act. A woman’s power comes from every aspect of who she is.  Her mind, her emotions, her sexuality all forming into one strong body.  But there is judgment from society, men and women, if a woman’s power comes from her body. For example, workplace dress codes!  If a woman is empowered by a form fitting low cut suit, that does not make her less intelligent.  Perhaps the issue is it makes the people looking at her less intelligent!! Which brings me to my true point!  I am curious why prostitutes are historically the ones looked down upon, when it is clearly the weakness of men that should be the issue.  Looking at the wild west for instance, women became hookers and had a place to stay, a family and madam who looked after them. As long as they did their job they were free to learn to read, or walk through town or talk to men without an escort!  If I lived back then and my choices were to get married or become a hooker… Well I would totally be a cowgirl!  But you get what I mean!!  It was this idea of cashing in on men’s weaknesses and becoming more powerful, that I wanted to explore without the boundaries of society holding these women back.  Of course they have to keep their jobs a secret because society still exists!  But in their minds and hearts there is no judgment on their choice to be hookers.

We can see you have gone to an effort of making them ethnically diverse and with different attitudes to life. Was this something you were explicit about? I mean was this always the case, or did you flesh them out this way to appeal to a large audience?

This was a development in each of their stories as I explored their pasts.  The cultures they grew up with and the effects on their choices and personalities is how their diversities all came about. I have to admit they were set in stone before I knew I should appeal to a large audience! However, I think writing different cultures is going to be my greatest weakness as a writer. There are so many amazing cultures out there that I have not had the pleasure to explore, and because of that I don’t feel comfortable writing about those cultures.  I hope I have done and will continue to do well while portraying each of these cultures.  And I will continue to immerse myself in the cultures I come across so I can expand my view on the world.

And tell us about Trey – how did you determine this was the right person to bring your story alive? Why his art style and no other?

Trey was my first choice because of the way he draws the worlds he creates. The first day I met him I bought his comic book and studied it.  He mostly draws fantasy and dinosaurs, so Ladies was a big change for him.  But his style of art has a passion, a lust if you will, that I wanted to mingle with my words. I felt his style would give my work the strong, gritty yet beautifully unique look I wanted. I gave him my words and told him to do what he wanted with them.  And everything he created was beyond my wildest dreams!!!  It was so amazing seeing my world come to life through his eyes!

How did you find the whole experience of funding your comic through Indiegogo? Obviously, you managed to secure the funds, otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about this. But did you struggle with certain aspects of the campaign? What were your main concerns?

 I would recommend using Indiegogo for a new idea like this.  The best part was testing the idea before investing our time.  By the time we started work on the book, we knew people believed in our idea enough to fund it!!  That confidence is always helpful as are the funds to create the book itself! However I will say that both of us put more time and energy into creating the campaign and the gifts for the pledgers than we did the actual book!  By the time we got everything mailed to everyone we realized the amount of work that goes into a campaign like this.  And we now know the amount of work that goes into the actual book!  We will do another campaign if we need to because we know it is worth it.  But it is my goal to fund each future book with the past book.  Fingers crossed.  No one makes a better business manager than a comic book writer!! AHAHAHAH!

How does it feel to be an indie writer/artist? We are aware that the public are sometimes unkind towards young and fresh creators like yourselves. Is this something that has affected any aspect of the publishing or the success of the comic so far? Do you think the industry is moving into the right direction to support people like yourselves?

 It feels totally cool to be an indie artist!!!  Trey and I are both in Iowa and there is an amazingly supportive culture here. There are fairs and shows to share our work, and the people who attend are so excited to try something new and support local artists.  As for globally, I have found wonderful support and excitement online for the book.  You guys are so gracious to give us the time to talk about our work and I believe that with a community like this, Indie artists will get the chance to grow.  There might be competition that is beyond me when it comes to the publishers, but Trey and I just wanted to create something cool and get it to the people and let it fall where it might.  I think when that is your goal, you will find joy in what you do as an indie artist. And to be surrounded by the talent that is out there has been very exciting!

Now, at what stage is currently the project? Volume one is out. When will be more? Are you ready to share that information yet?

Volume two is in the works as we speak!  I am not sure when we’ll get to release it, but I will make sure to keep you posted.  As for the rest of the story, it is written and just needs to be polished for Trey to do his magic!

What else is in the horizon for you? Are you planning on keep writing comics? Do you have any other projects that you are working on at the moment?

Trey is working hard on a totally cool project with another writer, and I can’t wait to see it when it is complete.  I will also keep everyone posted on that!  My next comic book series is called Mind Freaks!  I will let your imagination run with that little bit of info!  And oddly enough, the supportive indie comic book culture I mentioned here in Iowa, is getting together with a local brewery to write a comic book that will give the proceeds to local school art programs that are going to lose their funding.  So I am writing a comic book about a brewer who makes a beer that cures the zombies!!!  And many cool artists are working on it with me.  I might even get my Dad to write a few pages with me!  And Ladies of Market Street should be about 10 or more volumes for this first part of their story.  So I am always working on that!

Is there anything in particular you regret to have experienced throughout this process, or perhaps something you wished someone would have advised you on before you started your journey, and that you would like to share with those following your footsteps?

One aspect that I believe was more important that I knew when I started was my relationship with my artist.  Trey and I easily worked out our communication and work process.  This is my first time working and collaborating with someone, and I didn’t think about this aspect when I began this project.  I feel lucky to have had such a smooth and positive experience and would advise anyone else to think about this as well when searching for a partner in artistic crime! Other than that, there were hurdles and falls but each one made the story stronger and the end product better. And we learned from these moments and will be stronger for volume two and all the others!  So no regrets.  Although if you asked me this question while I was standing in line at UPS for the 500th time to try to safely mail our pledgers their gifts, I would have had a much less positive answer!!!

And finally, this has kind of become the house question of every interview. Could you please share with our viewers your utter-most-inner-geek-passion? Anything! (Apart from well, your job obviously!) Other comics, films, games, hobbies. Whatever keeps you going 🙂

My recent utter-most-inner-geek-passion is Rick and Morty!  I will strive every day of my life to be that smart and clever of a writer.  I have shown binged the first two seasons three times this month!  My life long utter-most-inner-geek-passions are Battlestar Galactica and Harry Potter!  Always!

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We would like to thank Emily for taking the time and the best of luck to her and Trey with regards to volume 2 and their other projects! 🙂

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