By whom I mean Kaija Rudkiewicz and Silver Saarmaeel, of the comic Run Freak Run and, more recently, the serialized novel Daughters of the Witch Queen. After Emily and I signed up to be beta-readers for their new project, I learned that the authors and I happen to currently live in the same city (Berlin, Germany), and so made a time to meet.
We met in Distrikt Coffee, a hipster-ish place close to Nordbahnhof, which appeared to be staffed and visited only by expats. Even when I tried to speak German, I was replied to in English. Besides that it had brick walls, various levels, and comfy thrift store-like furniture. Oh, and really good breakfast, served at all times of the day. Kaija and Silver were waiting for me when I got there, and we all promptly ordered coffee.
It’s amazing I picked them out, considering they could be typical Berliners. Both are tall, skinny, with hand tattoos and a penchant for wearing black. Silver’s mohawk stands out a little, but not much (he joked that after moving to Berlin from Frankfurt, he had an identity crisis, as he used to be the only one with a mohawk). They were also both very sweet, which is good. I was fairly determined to hold the conversation, I had a list of things to ask…but the minute I saw them I reverted back to my usual shy self, and Silver was kind enough to coax me back out by talking about Berlin, and how we liked it, and what I was doing here.
Still, I learned quite a lot about the authors, as we were eating our breakfasts. They are both originally from Finland, where they met, although they’ve been living in Germany for the past five years for work. Their English is excellent, as you might expect, and their German is abysmal. They professed to be impressed with how much I know, which I take for kindness on their part. Both work in the gaming industry.
When asked how Run Freak Run came to be, I got quite the surprising answer: they needed a creative outlet. I personally had always thought of video games as a creative work themselves, and so Silver explained. Yes, it was a creative effort, he said, but put 300 people together working on parts of something creative and it becomes much more machine-like. Added to that, the creative tendency means that office fights are REALLY bad–everyone fights for their baby, Kaija said with a small laugh. Going back and forth, they talked about how Run Freak Run has helped them deal with their office atmosphere, by giving them something to care about besides inter-office squabbles and allowing them to feel less intense about what they’re producing at work. Daughters of the Witch Queen is just their second step, another project they’ve been working on and feel like sharing with us.
They are, quite obviously, a great team. I noticed that Silver tended to talk a little more (although perhaps that was just my impression of him as a little more outgoing, and Kaija as a little shyer), but they followed the same train of thought, passing sentences back and forth to each other. And, according to them, although they’ve worked on projects individually, they’ve never had much success without the other’s input. Daughters of the Witch Queen, for instance, was something that Silver worked on and off with for about three years, and didn’t get much until he brought Kaija in. After that, things went much more smoothly. The one problem is marketing–it is, they said, much harder to get people interested in something that’s co-authored. To compensate for that they try to always present themselves as Kaija&Silver, a single entity that happens to be two people. I’d say it works.
Speaking of Daughters of the Witch Queen, they explained some surprising differences between comic and book. For one thing, they’re not entirely comfortable with writing yet, and both feel they could make improvements–Kaija mentioned that once they have an actual novel published, they plan to go through, edit again, and wrap all of the different parts up in one book that may also include concept art. For another thing, they estimate that very few readers of Run Freak Run have moved over to reading DotWQ–Emily and I being perhaps two exceptions–and said that the readership and time commitment is quite different. Still, they’re hoping to find new readership interested in books. Fortunately for us all, they’re hoping to make at least one full book out of Daughters of the Witch Queen, and best-case scenario, as many as they can.
Tracking back to creativity, Silver urged me to find my own creative outlet, and was pleased to learn that I, too, wrote (albeit bits and pieces). Both Kaija and Silver keep other small projects on hand–for instance, Kaija apparently has a notebook full of short stories–little, welcome, creative distractions. We talked about how necessary it was to have something besides work, and how many other people their age are currently going through a ‘now-what’ crisis. Silver described it as having spent one’s entire life focused on getting a job–then succeeding, and realising that it’s nothing new. On writing, he suggested that I start publishing little things–on a blog, perhaps, citing Andy Weir’s ‘The Martian’ as a book originally published on the web. They both find self-publishing entirely satisfactory, although wish they didn’t have a specific contract with Amazon (for those who prefer other bookstores, it runs out in a few months).
Unfortunately, as one project is starting, the other one is ending. I managed to tease out of them that Run Freak Run would be coming to a close in the next six months. Sadness, because I find Run Freak Run to be one of the most delightfully creepy webcomics out there, but better in the long run–Kaija and Silver admitted to difficulties when trying to balance two projects. Besides, all of the delightful creepiness that is their hallmark is absolutely in Daughters of the Witch Queen, which I urge you all to read.
So, heading back to my own little corner of Berlin, I tallied up the results of our two-hour discussion. Nothing like a concrete interview–but I had had a great coffee, a big sandwich with avocado on it, and I now had a burning desire to go write things. The first of which is this, a presentation of Kaija&Silver to you, dear readers. I am so happy I got to meet these two authors–and surprise, find out that they were human beings. Wonderful human beings, at that.
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You can find Kaija and Silver at:
Their Webcomic’s Home: RunFreakRun.com
Their New Site for DotWQ: DaughtersoftheWitchQueen.com