Grief, Love and Vampires – Lady Changeling: A Gothic Aromance

Eilidh McNeil is an aroace NB woman from Yorkshire currently studying creative writing at university. They tried doing an art degree but it didn’t suit them, so now they draw webcomics whenever they can. In their spare time they like gardening and growing tomatoes, playing with their cat, running and watching the frogs that live in their pond. They are the creator of Lady Changeling: A Gothic Aromance.

Synopsis: A gothic tale of grief, love and vampires in the nineteenth century. Lady Changeling is a love letter to Dracula, exploring aromantic love and mental illness through the lens of the gothic novel.

Is your comic available in any other languages? If so, what language(s)?
Nope, but I may well try and translate it into Japanese and/or French someday

Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
I did an Art Foundation course, but beyond that I have no particular formal education in art or writing.

What is the main genre of your comic? What appeals to you about that genre?
I’d say either horror or gothic, and probably gothic horror. I was attracted to writing horror as a young teenager, and I believe it was because while I didn’t yet identify as aroace, I definitely still was and remember feeling wholly disconnected and alien from the smut that others my age were starting to write.

I quickly discovered that horror filled the same niche for me at the time, it could incur the same morbid fascination and visceral thrill for me without the extreme discomfort that sexual content had. As for the gothic half, I love the tendency to tragedy and the very intellectual terror and existential dread that crop up so often in stories of the genre.

Are there any other genres that apply to your comic?
Historical, LGBTQIA+

What was your inspiration for the story?
The comic’s prologue is loosely based on a short story I wrote for a creative writing class in my first year of uni. I pulled inspiration from the books I’d been reading for my studies, some of which I’d read before and already loved, some new. Jekyll and Hyde, Frankenstein, and most of all Dracula were my biggest inspirations.

My biggest motivation was wanting to write a story that fitted into the classic gothic genre without requiring sexual or romantic love as a plot point – as someone who doesn’t experience either of these, I was and am determined to tell a story that demonstrates how equally strong and necessary to life other forms of love are – familial, platonic, queerplatonic and more.

Do you have any favorite artists or writers who influenced your style?
Artists: Chris Riddell, Hiroyuki Asada, Ayami Kojima, Alex Assan.

Writers: Garth Nix, Ryukishi07.

How long does it take you to complete one page?
It varies, but currently at least a month since I’m a student as well.

What is your process like for creating comic pages from start to finish? What tools do you use?
I work traditionally. I’ll plan out pages in my sketchbook, then move straight to sketching the real thing. I tend to pencil, ink and shade simultaneously on different parts of a page, since I find it much easier to focus on working if I can freely switch up tasks, but I’ll always at least rough out the panel placements before everything else.

I draw my comic on A3 Bristol board. I use several mechanical pencils with different coloured leads for sketching. I use a Kuretake No. 8 brushpen and a Platinum Carbon fountain pen for inking, both filled with carbon ink. I shade with a variety of Copic sketch markers and Promarkers, and add highlights with a white gel pen. I letter by hand with a sign pen.

Is your comic a finished work? If no, how long do you think you think it’s going to be when it’s complete? Is there a definitive ending or will you just keep going for as long as possible?
I have an ending planned, but I don’t have a timescale for when I’ll get to it. I doubt I’ll finish the comic in the new few years, though I DEFINITELY hope to have it finished before the next decade.

How many pages do you have complete at the moment?

How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
Around six months.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced during the course of making of your comic? If you could go back in time to the point where you just started making it and give yourself a pep talk, what would you say?
Definitely feeling confident enough in my skills to start it. I had only just started drawing traditionally when I came up with the story, having worked purely digitally for nearly ten years. I was so scared of messing up and not being able to fix my mistakes, or just not being able to draw well on paper. If I could go back and give myself a pep talk, I’d encourage myself to go for it and not worry about how it looks, because I’ll get better so quickly, and I’d get myself hyped up to tell my story!

What is your favorite part about working on your comic?
Shading! I absolutely love creating atmosphere through dramatic lighting and shadows.

What is the most difficult part about working on your comic? How do you overcome it?
Figuring out the layouts is really hard sometimes – if I’m really stuck I go and read my favourite comics for inspiration, or just cut out some paper shapes and play around with them until I find an interesting layout.

Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
So far I really enjoy writing for Lillian, since I get to draw on my own experiences of anxiety, depression and grief and channel them into her – it makes her feel much more realistic as a character, and helps me process my own feelings as well. I can’t say much in case of spoilers, but a lot of Lillian’s feelings are heavily based on my own experiences, including the fear and regret I struggled with for years before and after my grandmother passed away. I enjoy fictionalising these feelings because it gives me a safe environment to play around with them while remaining in control.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to write for?
The vampire who has yet to be introduced – balancing her manners and private motives with her hidden monstrous nature is tough.

Do you have a favorite character to draw?
I love drawing V. Floofy hair!

Which character gives you the most difficulty to draw?
Again the vampire – I am terrible at drawing bats!

Where can we find you?

Anything else you want the people to know about yourself or your comic?
I’m aroace, agender and I have ADHD and anxiety – it’s definitely hard to keep up with a webcomic for me, but I’m determined!
(so many “A”s omfg)

Also do not draw woodlice, they will haunt you.