Today’s guest writer is Erica Heflin.
A classic geek, comic book and children’s fiction writer, Erica J. Heflin maintains a questionable degree of sanity in her household of small children and unruly animals. She finds working with geckos and snakes to be much easier than managing small people, though it’s easier to find superhero attire for the latter. Her comics works have been published by GrayHaven Comics, Inverse Press, Arcana, Bronco Ink, Pilot Studios, Alterna, and Zenescope Entertainment. She enjoys the freedom of small press, struggles with social phobias that make conventions as stressful as they are enjoyable, and identifies as bisexual.
I’ve never been able to let go of the characters or the story, whether it be Thundercats or Star Trek or Marvel comics. And a lifetime of that love morphed into a career.
I was running on a beach.
I was three years old and my mother ran breathlessly behind me. She was screaming my name, trying to get my attention, but I was no longer Erica Heflin. I was Cheetara and I needed to run.
I was five years old when I got so far into Cheetara’s head that the rest of the world didn’t matter. It might have been common for my age, but it was something that I never outgrew. It made me an oddity among the children who had once been my close friends.
By middle school, I was undoubtedly more interested in Star Trek (The Next Generation) than I was in dating or dances. A middle school science teacher had a Trek poster on her wall. Every day I’d stare at it and mentally work on the next story. It was fan fiction before the internet exploded with it, and I would carefully type on my old word processor and print out stories, but the internet was slow and the stories were just for me. I loved getting into the characters’ heads.
When high school rolled around, I was a self-realized nerd. I wore t-shirts in men’s large sizes, because that’s all anyone locally sold, and was likely all that was generally available. These shirts professed my love for comics, and in particular, the X-Men. That goofy cartoon with the exaggerated and often terrible accents and dialoguing encouraged me to dig into the back issue bins in the local comic shop, and soon I was reliving the lives of the all new, all different X-Men.
An X-Files t-shirt was the catalyst for many high school friendships, as the other local geeks and nerds loved the show as much as I did. The t-shirt provided an opportunity for dialogue among an otherwise sometimes shy or quiet community. These friends introduced me to a different form of storytelling. Tabletop roleplaying games.
At first it was all Marvel, complete with FASERIP, but secretly I began to play 2nd edition Dungeons and Dragons. This was during a time when there was still a lot of stigma over the game and there were worries that satanic cults were using it to manipulate the minds of youths across the nation. For me, it simply served as another means of getting into a character’s head, directing them, and directly participating in the storytelling process. It’s a collaborative oral storytelling style that remains very powerful to this day.
I was truly hooked.
I’ve found other things that I am deeply passionate about. I love animals of all forms, with fur and scale alike. I adopt, rehabilitate, and work with many species. Like the story, it’s something I could never carve out of myself. A love of animals inhabits me as deeply. For a long while, I thought they would become my career. I’ve worked independently and at a zoo, and am deeply fulfilled by my work.
But about five years ago I realized that while my work was wonderful, I didn’t feel complete. My family and work life were enjoyable, but there were a thousand little voices in my head—characters in stories that I needed to tell.
It began with The Gathering, a small comic book anthology from GrayHaven Comics. I pitched a two page concept, was accepted, and then was introduced to artist George Amaru, who drew my story with incredible care and skill.
From there, the stories kept coming.
I’ve managed to balance family life, animal care, and writing, with few stumbles. I’ve been fortunate to meet a great many talented writers and artists as the years have gone past, and worked with companies that make me incredible proud. At Alterna, The Black Hand features the story of a young woman with partial deafness whose black hand empowers her to slay the undead.
With Inverse Press artist Amanda Rachels and I tackle Flesh of White, the story of a mother protecting her son with albinism from the witch doctors in Tanzania. I also write the ongoing series Wonderland at Zenescope Entertainment, which follows Alice’s daughter’s twisted adventures on the other side of the looking glass.
The characters and their stories will never let go. And why would I want them to?