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Emma Vieceli | BREAKS

Written By:

Ed Fortune
Breaks - cover

Emma Vieceli is a highly talented and critically acclaimed British comic book artist, and writer.  Her work includes BREAKS, Vampire Academy, and Life Is Strange. We caught up with her to learn more about the new edition of BREAKS.

STARBURST: How would you pitch BREAKS to someone who’s only just discovered comic books via Heartstopper?

Emma Vieceli: Firstly, I’d tell that person, Welcome to comics! It’s a big and exciting world of stories, and you chose a great way in.’

For BREAKS, specifically… hmmm. If you’ve been enjoying Heartstopper and are perhaps also keen on reading something sitting a little older and a little darker, BREAKS is a good choice! Whilst still a love story at its core, BREAKS is also a mystery. The characters have their burdens to bear, fears to conquer and choices to make, but they’re discovering themselves alongside a twisting, woven story as they slowly unravel the mystery that connects their families. At times brutal, at times raw, the action is emotionally driven and emotionally complicated. Recommended for older YA readers and beyond, especially as we get into book two in June, I’d say it’s a layered story that moves beyond being pure romance and turns up the drama dial.

BREAKS has been around since 2014; what advice would you have loved to have given yourself back then?

Oh, younger me: Trust that you’re not wrong. This sort of story will find an audience. They’re out there. The time will come when people talk excitedly about LGBT comics and love stories and will watch them adapted on TV and will find it hard to fathom that it was such a struggle when you started. You’ll work hard and give over a decade to making sure this story gets told and seen, but you’ll be so proud when it is. Not rich. But proud. And, by the end of that decade, trust that the world will have changed a lot. 

 Also, maybe work in black and white and save yourself the trouble of having to convert the whole series down the line? 

Why do we keep falling for enemies to lovers stories?

Gawd, I don’t know, but there’s just something delicious about that thin line between love and hate, where emotions are turned up to eleven and can suddenly morph into a new form. In Ian and Cortland’s case, while we don’t get to see a lot of it before the story kicks in, we can assume that the entire rivalry was based on what was so obviously lurking beneath the surface. Tension is a powerful thing. 

If you could sit one of the characters from the books down and have a word with them, who would it be, and what would you say?

Oh blimey. They could all use a few words. Except Amilah, maybe. That girl has it all worked out, and I could use her sitting down to give me a few words. But yes, only one of them? Gah. I mean…I guess I’ll have to go for Cortland. Because, for all his faults, Ian sort of tunes into himself a little faster than Cortland does in some ways. 

Look, Cort… I know you seem to think that the world rests on your shoulders and that your mistakes are worse than anyone else’s mistakes, but look around you. Everyone makes mistakes. Closing yourself off from people who actually seem to care about you is not the path to making anything better. You are not your anger; not everyone is out to get you, and leaning into feeling good sometimes doesn’t make you a bad person. And hell, sometimes you’re allowed to be angry. It’s what you do with it that matters. You are on the road to recovery, even if you don’t realise it yet. And that tall ginger goof over there… yeah, he’s going to matter quite a lot. He’s going to make a few mistakes of his own, but try not to punish him too much for those. He’s on his own road, but you’re both heading to the same destination.

Why is life so difficult for the characters in BREAKS?

A big theme of BREAKS is about living with legacy. Living in the shadow of what has come before and walking the path you’ve been placed on. All of the young adults in this story are in some way emerging from the past (aren’t we all, in some ways): from having divorced parents or growing up an immigrant to coping with family loss or coming to terms with their own worst actions…it’s why their ambitions, passions, and their ability to find and accept love become so worth celebrating. 

How different is creating something like BREAKS compared to Hamlet or Life is Strange?

From Hamlet – immensely! I was working on a ‘very’ known story with an adapter. It was all about how to best illustrate the script and bring out the full meaning of the words. 

From Life is Strange – actually, not all that different! Aside from the fact that obviously, I didn’t draw Life is Strange – a big shout out to Claudia Leonardi, who is wonderful! But the themes and emotions in Life is Stange often overlap with what Malin [Rydén] and I had been doing for years with BREAKS. Emotionally, for me, the comics sit in a similar place. Self-discovery. Courage. Accepting past mistakes and learning to live with who they make you. Process-wise, of course, it’s different. I was the writer of a licensed title on LiS – and paid, to boot! – whereas with BREAKS, Malin and I co-wrote the story, each bringing our own characters to the table. Then she did the first pass of the scripts, and I would come in to edit those and move on to creating pages. Sometimes, I’d add scenes; sometimes, she would. It was a fluid process and very much our own. And done in our own time. So, I have a lot more ownership over BREAKS. It’s our baby. But yeah, those emotional beats aren’t all that far apart.

What other projects would you like to work on? 

It’s getting harder to answer this as I get older, you know? Partly because I have been lucky enough to work on some of my favourite characters and worlds over the years – Jem/Back to the Future/LiS/Nightwing, etc – but also because our priorities shift. I’ve still never gotten my hands on Gambit, but beyond that, I like being surprised by projects these days. I don’t so much crave specific titles anymore. It’s more about the types of stories I want to tell. A mood. And a big dream for me is to tell more of my own stories too! 

What’s next for you?

My next big personal story is called Gods & Graces, and I’m so excited to tell it. It’s going to be a hell of a ride. As it’s me, you can imagine it has similar themes and emotional checkpoints to BREAKS, LiS and the rest… because complicated human emotion and moral dilemma is what I do… but this time, it’s also a historical fantasy fiction. 18th century, so glorious fashion, of course. Set twenty years before the French Revolution proper; it’s part celebration of the birth of queer culture in London’s molly house scene and part epic fantasy as mortals race to become gods… I’m excited! There’s already a subscription button for it up on Tapas, and I’m hoping to launch it there this year. 

I’ll also be working on more illustrations for the amazing Juno Dawson, who continues to grow her powerful world of powerful witches. I’m so happy to be a part of it! And I’ll be teaming up again later in the year with friend and multiple-time collaborator Paul Cornell, this time with added Lizbeth Myles joining him on writing duty. We’ll be creating a four-part original story for Magma Comix, and it’s going to be something to really…get your teeth into.

Beyond comics, I’m also – um – writing a musical. So, let it never be said I’m not up for a challenge.

Dragons or Drag Queens?

Do I have to choose?? Can’t the drag queens be riding dragons??

Pop Music or Opera?

Something between the two. I’m a musical theatre baby, after all. 

Vampires or Werewolves?

Vampires. That one’s easy for me.

Truth or Beauty?

There is beauty in the truth, and truth can cast beauty.

BREAKS is out now.



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