Ascend, an Interview with Kelly Chen

Another day, another interview for the Life Finds A Way anthology! This time we sit down with Cloudscape’s own Kelly Chen, AKA Scarlet Wings Kaili, to chat about her story “Ascend”.

This post is a part of a series of articles about Cloudscape’s Life Finds A Way anthology. Visit the landing page for more information on the project.

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What’s your name?

Kelly, but my artist name is scarlet wings kaili (or SWKart for short) because my real name is far too common to use.

What’s your artistic background?

I’ve always loved creating art so I started drawing from a young age and was always determined to become an artist. I’ve graduated from Emily Carr University last year and kickstarted my first graphic novel: Halfsoul

What comics/comic creators inspired you to make comics?

The creator(s) that got me obsessed with comics was CLAMP. I started reading “Tsubasa” and before long, I was making my own in grade 8. It wasn’t any good though *cringes*

What about Life Finds a Way caught your imagination enough to submit a story?

Writing about tragic stories has been my default for a long time, but recently in the past year- two years or so, I’ve developed an interest in writing endings that have an focus towards recovery or hope. So when “Life Finds a Way” were looking for submissions, it felt like a good opportunity to explore those ideas further.

On our theme of hope, what did you find fun about creating stories within this framework? Furthermore were there any unexpected challenges?

I’m a lot better at creating long stories about despair so it was fun trying to think in a different way. It was also the challenge as well, but where’s the fun without the challenge?

Part of the fun of Post-Apocalypse is the worldbuilding, how do you deal with the limitations of the short story format with that in mind?

I think when you don’t have a lot of space for world building, ditch the complicated and show what you can visually. Not everything needs to be explained in detail so as long as there isn’t anything too inconsistent, readers are willing to suspend their disbelief. I think.

What’s your favorite post-apocalypse media, and why? (Games, Movies, Books, etc.)

Ironically, I’m not super invested in a lot of post- apocalypse media. I think the zombie craze directed me away from that genre.

Although not technically post apocalyptic, the first thing that came to mind was “Made in Abyss” which is an animation about a girl searching for her mother with the help of a robot (?) human in an abyss where everything tries to kill you. Even gravity tries to kill you. Basically, a trip with no return kind of thing with a lot of post-apocalyptic elements and attitudes in a creatively messed up world.

Clichés, our editors outlined some that we did not want in our stories in our narrative guide. What elements about post-apocalypse media do you think are over-done?

Zombies. Please stop the zombies. Any other monster or horror concept I’m cool with but for some reason I’m terrified of zombies.

Post-apocalyptic fiction can often be a reflection of anxieties that occur in contemporary society, does your piece reflect any societal anxiety that you can identify?

There’s definitely the theme of environmental destruction in mine. Actually, for “Life Finds a Way” I was inspired by the smoke from the wildfires (I have asthma so I ended up coughing up blood) and started thinking about how the blue sky can represent hope because I was sure hoping for a blue sky.

In my story, Cirrus and Hue were looking for the mythical blue sky in a smog dominated world. While that served as a symbol of hope, in the end they found something else much more valuable: adaption and the courage to start anew.

Do you think you could survive a week in the wild with a knife, a poncho, and a fishing hook?

Nope. I don’t know my plants well enough.

Where do you look to find hope for humanity’s future?

To be honest, I think it’s a little hard to find hope nowadays especially with the current political climate but I try to find hope within the small things and the people around me. Sometimes, the little things people do are overlooked but a lot of little things can become big hopes. That sounded a lot more cheesy than I wanted!

Do you have any projects you’d like to plug?

Yea! I’m working on Halfsoul Part 2. Halfsoul is a four part series exploring what it means to lose part of yourself and if it’s possible to gain it back. Each part has a different mental health theme. Part 1: Tale which was recently released in print was about trauma and recovery, and Part 2: Nalia is about invisible disabilities, isolation and anxiety.

So while it’s talking about some really heavy stuff, it’s placed in an alternate reality with fantastical elements. Which makes it a little bit of fun too xD

Part one is available to read on Tapas as well on sale at the Cloudscape shop.

Part two is available to read on Tapas.

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Click here for more updates and behind the scenes content for the Life Finds A Way anthology.

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