Q&A: Jeannette Arroyo and Ren Graham, co-creators of “Blackwater”
We recently had the pleasure of chatting with Jeannette Arroyo and Ren Graham, co-creators of the upcoming black water, a fast-paced graphic novel (adapted from the webcomic) that follows two boys falling in love in a haunted town. We got to ask them about their favorite webcomics, tropes galore, and more!
Hi Jeanette and Ren! Thank you very much for joining us. Why don’t you tell our readers a bit about yourself?
REN: Hello! Thank you for your interest in Blackwater and having us here to talk a bit about it, it’s a huge honor! I’m a full-time graphic designer who does freelance illustration (and comics too, of course!) in my spare time. I love reading, isometric RPGS and gardening too.
JEANNETTE: Thank you for having us! I am a freelance artist who has done illustrations for children’s books alongside publishing Blackwater. I hope we can share more of our stories in the future.
Quick Tour: What’s the first book you remember reading and the first drawing you remember creating?
JEANNETTE: That’s a tough question. I think the first book I remember reading was a Goosebumps book, but I can’t remember which one specifically. I always used to draw dogs as a kid, mostly trying to capture the likeness of my own pets back then.
REN: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, I believe. It was such an elaborate world that it really drew me into the fantasy of reading. As for the drawings, I used to do a lot of original Sonic the Hedgehog characters when I was a kid. That, and pencil drawings of Pokemon fighting.
Now tell us about black water! What can readers expect?
REN: Mild horror with some teenage angst. And a lot of New England’s dull forests.
JEANNETTE: A supernatural coming-of-age tale!
Blackwater is launched as Stranger Things meets Riverdale. How did you come up with the idea for Blackwater and what inspired you to make it a first webcomic?
JEANNETTE: Ren and I are both extremely drawn to the supernatural and the horror genre in particular, and we wanted to create our own light horror story in a small town.
REN: Webcomics are extremely accessible and I love that they allow anyone with a vision and a story to get their work out there and share it with people without all those formalized upfront publishing hurdles.
And speaking of webcomics, what are your favorites?
REN: I don’t read a lot of webcomics, but other comics I’ve enjoyed are Bayou by Jeremy Love (which may have started as a webcomic now that I think about it) and Harrow County by Tyler Crook .
JEANNETTE: I think Ariel Slamet’s Witchy is an incredibly beautiful webcomic.
Blackwater plays with stereotypes and misconceptions, especially when it comes to what other people think of you. What do you want readers to take away from the story?
JEANNETTE: I think we’re all a little judgmental and pretentious as a teenager, even if we don’t realize it until we’re older. I would like readers to be open and empathetic towards their peers and recognize that everyone is multi-faceted.
REN: It might sound a bit sappy, but I really like the newfound family trope and I like to think of Tony, Marcia and Eli as both a close-knit group of friends and a family that can support each other. each other in different ways. they might not receive at home. It also plays into their engagements with Taylor, the hermit werewolf of the forest, and helps her through her own lonely grieving process.
Tony and Eli couldn’t be more opposites, but they end up being such a great support system for each other. Beyond this trope, what are your favorite tropes to read (and write!)?
REN: As mentioned before, found family is a big trope that I appreciate and I think it’s especially important for members of the LGBT community who might not have that support in their direct family to create that welcoming space elsewhere. . Also a big fan of the “enemies of lovers” trope, which I think would be fun to play around with more in a future story.
JEANNETTE: I like to write a character who masks his insecurity with arrogant bravado. I think Tony was fun to write for that reason. A fun trope for sure!
Blackwater has a creepy but also wholesome vibe. If you had to choose a song suitable for the graphic novel, which one would you choose?
JEANNETTE: Lonely Boy from the Black Kids and Bad Kids from the Black Lips, maybe?
REN: I think that rings true!
With the upcoming release of Blackwater, are you already working on another project? If so, can you share a tidbit about it with us?
REN: We have a few ideas floating around. One involving the spiritualist movement in the 1920s and how it intersects with the tragedy of the Great War, the labor movement and other avenues in New York.
JEANNETTE: We always navigate between at least three distinct story concepts at a time, but this one is the most advanced. Almost finished being scripted at this point!
Finally, do you have any book recommendations for our readers?
JEANNETTE: I really liked Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman. It was a truly gripping medieval horror novel with a very endearing and charismatic cast of characters.
REN: I have a few! White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi was a recent favorite. A truly gruesome and brooding meditation on the supernatural bonds in a multi-generational family and how they intersect with colonialism in the UK. George Saunders’ December 10 was also a hilarious collection of satire touching on elements of class and free will. I still have to represent Shirley Jackson too. The Queen of Subtle Horror! I haven’t read a short story or a novel by her that I didn’t really enjoy.