Shauna J. Grant is a cartoonist born and raised in the Bronx. She specializes in comics and illustrations that are full of colorful cuteness and diverse characters. She has done work featured by BOOM! Studios and in anthologies produced by Dirty Diamonds.
Today Shauna stops by the Griotvine to tell us about her comic book series, Princess Love Pon!
Greg: Hey, Shauna J. Grant! Welcome to (Heard it Thru) The Griotvine! Awesome having you. How are you today?
Shauna: Hi, Greg! Thank you for having me! I'm doing fine.
Greg: So you are the creator of Princess Love Pon. Can you tell us about this book? What is it about and how long have you been working on it?
Shauna: Well Princess Love Pon is my web comic that I've been working on for over a year now. It's a cute magical girl series centered around feelings of love in all forms— romance, friendship, self-love. It stars protagonist Lia Sagamore as she navigates her relationships and searches for what she's meant to do with her life, which for now she believes is being a magical girl.
Greg: What inspired this story?
Shauna: I've had many ideas for a magical girl story that I tossed around in my mind for ages. What eventually settled me on Princess Love Pon was the thought of hearts. Like, what if you could just get have your heart taken from you, and all the emotions that came with it? What if someone had to protect that heart? Then if they were so occupied worried about the hearts, the emotional well-being of others all the time, how would that affect their own life? Their relationships with those closest to them? So it pretty much went from there.
Greg: Tell us a bit about the protagonist, Lia Sagamore. What brought about her creation and her bubbly personality? I feel her characterization bursts off the page and she's so much fun to read. Reminds me a little bit of Sailor Moon.
Shauna: Haha! Sailor Moon is pretty much what made me fall in love with animation and comics, so that would make sense! I always enjoyed characters with bubbly personalities, I can be pretty bubbly myself, but it was important for me to make Lia a cute and bubbly person. I feel like most black female characters in media aren't shown as being able to just be happy, cutesy, bubbly people. They're often the cool, hip friend. Maybe they're super smart. A strong protector. I wanted to show a black girl being soft, cute, and overly emotional. She's not as mature as other people her age may be. She's still figuring things out and that's okay! She is still strong in her own way.
Greg: One of my favorite things about reading this was the interaction between Lia and her best friend, Rachel. It was really cool reading and seeing these two girls geek out about video games and geek stuff.
Shauna: Oh, I'm glad you liked that so much! Haha, when I write the friendship between Lia and Rachel I kind of think of my own friendships and how I was when I was younger. I was always into games and geeky stuff, so it felt pretty natural to give Lia and Rachel those interests. It's funny, when I was thinking up Rachel's character she was originally more bookworm-ish in my mind until video games came into the picture. Then she morphed into her own being. And with Lia's love of comics it's been fun getting to draw an extra little magical girl story within the story.
Greg: Haha. One thing that also stands out is that she is such a bubbly geek that as soon as she's given these abilities of being a magical princess, she's all in with no hesitation. Especially when she meets Hunnie. What's the deal with Hunnie and how does this character fit in with the narrative you're telling with Lia?
Shauna: Every magical girl needs their magical mascot! Hunnie is a mostly kind creature on a mission who expects a lot from Lia. For a fairy of light and love, Hunnie isn't super in tune with how Lia works, and she'll eventually learn that there's a lot that Hunnie knows and isn't telling. It adds to the theme of communication being very important in relationships.
Greg:At the end of the first chapter, it appears that we meet the main antagonist. Can you tell us about her and what's to come with her in association with Lia and her newfound abilities?
Shauna: The Dark Queen is on a never ending quest to satiate her hunger for hearts! As far as Love Pon and Hunnie are concerned, this is very bad. Love Pon will eventually become acquainted with the Dark Queen and her associates, which may lead her to questioning a lot things.
Greg: Tell us about your art style and art process in creating this world within your comic. Also, why the specific choice of white and pink?
Shauna: My art style can be summed up in a few words: Cute, bubbly, and round. As for creating the world within my comic I mostly draw in inspiration from series I liked growing up and how my high school life was. I am still learning as I go! And for my color choice I really wanted Princess Love Pon to look like a shoujo manga that's printed in a weekly collection. Each story was printed in a different monochrome color and that's really stuck with me. I figured it's a great compromise between black and white comics and full color!
Greg: Given that this is a web comic that you've been posting for about a year now, how many print collections can we be looking at and will we be seeing more in the near future?
Shauna: Well so far I have the first chapter printed and I'll be putting together the second chapter soon. I am still undecided if I want to make a printed copy for each chapter though, because I like the thought of a full volume more.
Greg: What's been one of the most surprising responses you've received from this book and character?
Shauna: I've gotten so many responses to my comic so far, it's really overwhelming! I am just amazed with how many people have read it so far! I would say some of my most touching and favorite, though, was when a fan saw my table at a convention and realized I was the creator of Princess Love Pon. She was nearly in tears when she told me how much she appreciates seeing this series and seeing a character like Lia, a person of color, having her own adventure. I was really moved! I never imagined touching people like that, but I am so grateful for everyone that enjoys what I do.
Greg: That's absolutely beautiful. What's been some of the challenges you've faced being a comic creator and releasing this series or any other work out there?
Shauna: I'll always say that right now is an amazing time for cartoonists. There are so many ways to get your art out there thanks to the internet and social media. You don't have to rely solely on going through publishers. That's great! Plus there is a huge audience hungry for more diverse stories. So I think the hardest thing about getting your work out there is just overcoming your own fears. I think it's something a lot of artists struggle with– I know I do! You can be your own biggest fan and your own biggest hurdle. If you keep faith in yourself and love what you do I think you can make amazing things happen!
Greg: What else are you working on while we're on that subject?
Shauna: Right now I am mostly traveling to conventions to showcase my illustrations. But I've also had the pleasure of doing cover work for publishers like Boom! Studios and being a part of great anthologies like Dirty Diamonds. After some life stresses I am just getting refocused to dive back into more Love Pon and develop a cute journal series on the side!
Greg: Oh nice! Congrats on all of that. Any plans to take Princess Love Pon differently places besides web-comics and the prints?
Shauna: Gosh I don't know yet, haha! When I started it I thought this would be my practice comic before I do something else, but as I kept going it really grew into something more! So who knows? Haha!
Be sure to check out Princess Love Pon online HERE!