Short Stories of Horror – Tales of Terrible Things

Sara Rydholm is 26 years old and lives in Sweden with two large parrots and one tiny dog. She is the creator of Tales of Terrible Things.

Tales of Terrible Things is a horror anthology featuring both human and inhuman monsters.

Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
I have taken a few courses such as concept art and interactive storytelling but in my focus in university has been on digital design and later on web development as I figured I had to find a more “practical” application of my creativity. I didn’t really consider making comics an option until I started to self-publish on Webtoons and found out that there were people out there that wanted to read my stories.

What is the main genre of your comic? What appeals to you about that genre?
Horror. I’m a hopeless horror buff with a fascination for all things morbid. I think that’s because fear is such a basic emotion that there end up being a simplicity to the stories I find comforting. I know that it might sound a bit strange, but I often struggle to remember the names of all the characters in dramas and find it stressful when there is too much conflict between them, but with horror there’s no need for that. You don’t need to know the name of a character to find it scary when they get eaten by a monster and if there’s a serial killer stealing people’s faces out there you don’t need constant drama between the leads to create tension.

Are there any other genres that apply to your comic?
I find that there’s an overlap with crime genres such a thriller and mystery, which isn’t all that surprising in cases where the monster is of a more human variety. What might be more unexpected is that there has been the BL influences in some of my longer works, for example The Haunting of Montford House. In most of my short stories the characters tend to be secondary to the events, but when writing a longer story the characters become more important and I often end up making them older gentlemen that care deeply for each other. The romance aspect is never clearly stated in my stories, but adding a supportive relationship to keep in the background usually contrasts nicely to the rest of the horrors in the story.

What was your inspiration for the story?
I usually take inspiration from many different places, sometimes it’s a news story or historical event, and other times it’s just taking something very mundane and asking myself what’s the absolutely worst thing that could happen?

Do you have any favorite artists or writers who influenced your style?
My biggest inspiration is Junji Ito as I adore his style of body horror, but I also admire the storytelling of Fumi Yoshinaga and the art of Harry Clarke. I also take a lot of stylistic inspiration from old school shoujo and early shounen ai such as Kaze to Ki no Uta as I adore the drama of it all with the mile long eyelashes and endless sparkles.

How long does it take you to complete one page?
As I work in a vertical webtoon format there is no real “pages” but an episode around 15-30 frames takes me about 40-50 hours at least.

What is your process like for creating comic pages from start to finish? What tools do you use?
Once I have a script written my process is pretty simple as I do all my work in Photoshop. I start of with a rough layout sketch where I place the text and try to approximate how many frames will be needed by making some rough sketches of the events. I then move onto drawing the individual frames one by one, making sure to keep to keep them in separate layers and groups. Often I find that some scenes need more frames added to them to be clearer or more impactful so at this point there is a lot of moving frames around, adding some and removing others which explains why keeping everything neatly separate is so important.

Not until every single frame is drawn do I start to work on the final layout and pacing. Working on each frame as a separate entity rather than finishing all sketches and then moving onto the inking has it’s downside (such as realizing one of the early frame you did has to be scrapped because of an inconsistency with a later frame) but I find it necessary to be able to jump around and chose what you want to draw depending on the day’s energy levels. Some days you are able to dive head first into a complex action scene, but others you just want to draw some roses in the background and I find it more productive to focus on what you can do rather than get stonewalled by a complex illustration.

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?
Tales of Terrible Things is not finished as it’s a collection of short stories that I’m constantly adding to. I find that the format offers a lot of freedom as I can switch between single episode stories and longer works with returning character so currently I don’t feel tempted to move to working with a single main story.

How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
I honestly didn’t plan at all. I have always loved comics and decided on a whim that drawing a short story would be a good way to force me to draw on a more regular basis and to draw things I usually tried to avoid, so that’s how the first short story The House came to be. Once I posted it the response I received was so positive I was motivated to continue. Previously I had just assumed that no one would want to read my stories so I saw no point in making them as I was too self-critical to really enjoy the process, so learning that people actually wanted to read my stories was what got me started.

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?
The fact that I was started in such an abrupt manner with no plan meant that I never had a buffer so most episodes were completed about 20 minutes before they were uploaded, which is a bit stressful to say the least. I also feel like I wasted a lot of time simply assuming that my work was bad and that no one would want to read it so if I could I would have given my younger self a pep talk about simply getting started years earlier as I would love to see what improvement I could have made if I hadn’t wasted all that time being too self-critical to even try.

What is your favorite part about working on your comic?
I really enjoy writing the stories, but I must say that my favorite part has to be reading the readers’ comments. It’s simply so much fun reading their theories and it’s wonderful to see if you managed to unnerve them or if they are as in love with a character as you are.

What is the most difficult part about working on your comic? How do you overcome it?
As I have mentioned earlier my confidence has been my biggest hindrance as I tend to be extremely self-critical and often discard projects once they don’t meet my standards (which they never do). I can thank my readers for overcoming it as knowing they like it works as a wonderful counterweight to that critical voice inside my head. I have also embraced the mantra of “it doesn’t need to be perfect, it just has to get done” which helps when I get stuck on a particularly bad frame. It’s after all important to remember that the reader will see the story as a whole; not focus on how wonky the perspective is on the 23rd frame.

Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
I love writing Clarence, the main character of The Haunting of Montford House. He is based on the horror stereotype of the eccentric clearly queer coded uncle that usually end up dying so the main character can inherit the haunted mansion or in some other way get the story moving. I always ended up loving these throw away characters and always wish they were the lead, so in my story he is. Clarence is the kind of oblivious that only rich people that never had to deal with the real world can be and live with a near childish optimism and love for beautiful things, which explains why he ends up buying a haunted mansion…. Add to that his relationship with the far more grounded Henry and their tendency to banter like an old married couple and he is just a joy to write for as he offers some well-needed cheerfulness in my usually quite dark stories.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to write for?
I find that writing children to be quite hard as I have no idea how to portrait them realistically. I’m terrible at interacting with children so can’t really grasp how they speak or act. My social skills have two settings: adults and pets, so children remain an absolute mystery to me.

Do you have a favorite character to draw?
Once again, Clarence. His character design is completely excessive and self-indulgent. He is heavily inspired by old school shoujo with absolutely ridiculous eyelashes and overly detailed eyes. His wardrobe and surroundings are just as opulent so I just have a lot of fun drawing him.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to draw?
I don’t find a specific character difficult to draw, but rather I tend to find it really hard to keep characters consistent. Often my characters just “end up looking like that” so trying to recreate an accident is a bit of a nightmare.

Where can we find you?

Twitter: @SaraRydholm

Anything else you want the people to know about yourself or your comic?
The story CHILD features pedophilia and sexual abuse (mentioned, nothing shown) so it can be wise to skip that one if you find it triggering.

Have you read Tales of Terrible Things yet? Let us know what you think in the comments! Or, hey, go to the creator’s site and show some love ?

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