This article is brought to you by Wattpad WEBTOON Book Group.
In Snailords’s popular WEBTOON Freaking Romance, heroine Zylith decides to rent a haunted apartment. She’s trying to make it on her own as an artist, after her controlling father kicks her out, so even if her new place is haunted, she’ll take it! But when she meets the ghost who lives there, he’s not really what she expected. For one, he’s gorgeous, and if she ever makes skin contact, he disappears. When she dives a bit deeper into his world, Zylith learns that he’s actually a living, breathing person, a popstar named Zelan, who coexists in an alternate version of the same apartment.
If she can see him—can he see her, too?
The first volume of Freaking Romance is now available in print from WEBTOON Unscrolled, Wattpad WEBTOON Book Group’s graphic novel imprint—bringing the haunting rom-com to a brand new audience. Readers get a peek into both Zylith and Zelan’s worlds, seeing their struggles and why, perhaps, their two lonely hearts have connected through time and space. But as the volume concludes, there are still a lot of questions about exactly what is happening, and why—as well as how a romance between two people who only sometimes inhabit the same space could possibly work. (Nevermind that Zylith doesn’t even believe in love!) With plenty left to learn about the story, Den of Geek caught up with Snailords about the now-concluded webseries, and what it’s like to see it in print.
Congratulations on bringing Freaking Romance from digital to print! WEBTOON uses a vertical format for episodes of webcomics, so the layout is entirely different in a print book. What was it like to transition the story to the new format?
Thank you! Super happy to see readers holding the books.
WWS [Wattpad WEBTOON Studios] converted the format for me. I didn’t do anything. Since WEBTOON is a vertical scroll format, converting to print means following the horizontal layout. They’re the opposite of each other. I tried to do it myself for 10 pages. It was fun but a lot of work. I quickly surrendered. The wonderful WWS team took over and thankfully so. The book came out beautifully. Bless WWS.
The series concluded online at the end of 2020! What’s it like to revisit the characters now?
The book sits on my shelves as a reminder that dreams do come true. It’s nice seeing a physical version of the characters. I’m glad that these characters resonated with the audience. To this day, it still feels surreal. Feels like someone announced my name as a lottery winner and I’m still waiting for them to say, “Oh wait, wrong name.” Like a random stroke of luck. I’m still confused by it.
Freaking Romance unlocked doors to different opportunities for me. If it weren’t for Freaking Romance, I wouldn’t be where I am.
I’ll always be grateful when I see these characters being loved by readers.
Volume 1 of the print edition ends just as the stakes have changed for Zylith and Zelan. Given that new readers will come into the series here, is it hard to leave them hanging? (How many volumes is the complete series likely to become in print—meaning how long will fans have to wait until they find out if our heroes get a happy ending?)
There will be 3 books [Vol. 2 is scheduled for 6/4/2024, with Unscrolled still exploring the possibility of volumes after that]. I love leaving readers on cliffhangers. There are so many stories out there. It’s very easy to forget what you’re reading. I hope the need to know the ending will drive these new readers mad with curiosity. I hope they lie in bed, awake, wondering, “What happens next?” so they’ll come back for the next book. Please come back.
By the time the first volume concludes, we don’t really know for sure what’s going on and why Zylith and Zelan’s paths have crossed. Both of them have ruled out ghosts! Odds are looking good for some sort of parallel reality—which makes their romance more than starcrossed. When you started this series, did you know how and why their universes were interacting, or did you find out along with them as you went along?
I used to like paranormal/ghost stories. Recently, I started to like sci-fi. Freaking Romance is a marriage of both interests. I knew the beginning, rough plot points to hit, and the ending, before starting the series. There were a few variations on which events should take place, to play off the crossed-world events.
Initially, I wrote the entire premise keying on their first interaction, sparked by a stalker breaking into the house. The stalker waited for Zylith behind a washing machine, knife in hand, a smile upon his face. Zelan saw the stalker. His attempts to help Zylith became the first time they could interact. It would have been a hilarious “haunting” moment for the intruder, with Zelan writing “Get Out” on foggy mirrors. Slamming doors. Flickering lights. Chasing the intruder out.
However, this version leaned way too horror/thriller. It was watered down to Zelan’s stalker ex breaking in, sparking Zelan and Zylith’s interaction. Had to adhere to the romance genre.
I would know plot points to hit. Then figure out the events to hit those plot points as I went.
What comes first for you: art or scripting?
Figuring out the story first, for sure. The scripting is the structure of a house and art is how I decorate the house. I need to know the story structure before I can decorate. I’d spend 5-6 months, sometimes even a year, just fleshing out a story.The art itself is 7 days per episode.
For a WEBTOON, the art is the looks and the story is the personality. I want the art to be attractive enough to lure the readers in. But without an interesting personality (story), it’s hard making them stay.
I personally like reading well-written stories with good art. They’re both equally essential to me as a reader. As a writer, I try to create webcomics with both looks and personality. Try to.
Zylith’s kitty ears headband is super cute. Where did that part of her character design come from?
I probably saw someone wearing that and thought it was super cute. Maybe Halloween costumes or something.
There’s clearly an undercurrent of danger in the story, hinted at by the disappearance of a previous tenant from her own reality (or so we suspect by the end of Volume 1). That ghost-story vibe continues, even after ghosts are ruled out. How did you see that horror element informing the story?
I wish I could play more into that mystery element, to be honest. But I wasn’t sure how far into the horror/mystery I could take things in a romance series. I wanted to briefly touch on who/how that girl went missing. Never found the right time to explore it. Here are some incoming spoilers, or if there ever were a next part of Freaking Romance, SPOILER alert…
The missing girl fell in love with a tenant from another dimension. She crossed worlds to be with her lover. Except the lover she fell for was a monster disguised as a human. She was trapped in a different dimension.
At the end of the series, that missing tenant appeared in the mirror asking Aushi (Zelan’s brother) for help. Her world is collapsing in 30 days. The only way to rescue her is for Aushi to pretend to fall in love with her.
I’d never draw this though.
The way the characters break the fourth wall in this is incredibly fun, whether it’s seeing your name on the realtor’s contract, or Zylith’s WEBTOON contest goal, or even the callout about a WEBTOON love triangle. What made you think to include those sorts of nods?
I thought it would be funny. Honestly, it’s also to avoid copyright issues. I can’t sue myself when I use my own name. WEBTOON probably won’t sue me if I hint about a contest in a series hosted on their platform.
It was also easier to borrow from real life. Zelan and Zylith interactions were confined to the apartment. I just needed a goal for Zylith to pursue that would highlight her love aversion. Something to give the two a reason to interact romantically. To accomplish her physical goal of winning the “love-themed” contest, Zylith needs to overcome her internal disdain for love. Zelan is there to help show a different perspective of love that Zylith hasn’t seen before.
In the epilogue for the series, which is still up on WEBTOON, you confess that romance wasn’t your favorite genre. What made you decide to write a romance for WEBTOON originally, and has your opinion on the genre changed over time? (Were you, like Zylith, trying to write about love because it was a prompt somewhere?)
I wrote a romance because it’s a popular genre on WEBTOON. Honestly, it’s purely a commercial choice to get noticed by the audience. Hoping to reel them into other stories that I write.
I like writing thriller/horror. Thus, writing a romance, a genre I knew nothing about, not from reading, not from experiencing love, sounded like a hilarious, ironic, fun challenge. And I like challenges.
I still prefer other genres. But I’ve met readers who said that reading Freaking Romance brought them comfort and hope during their tough times.
Despite preferring horror/thriller, I have learned to appreciate how the romance genre positively impacts other people. Like Zylith, writing Freaking Romance made me realize my disdain for love requires therapy.
Where can readers find your current work, and what’s next for you?
Please find me on my social media: Instagram, Tiktok, and Twitter @Snailords.
My current series is Death: Rescheduled on WEBTOON. It’s about a guy being born into a world where you can kill one person a year, and he’s trying to stop it.
My other future stories are:
He’s My Empress: A gender-switching demon fox is being sold into the Palace (known as a graveyard for demon foxes). It’s doing its best to survive. (Cute, comedic, romance/fantasy.)
How Did I Die: To save all of humanity, people have to kill one person. This one person, the main character, refuses to die for humanity. One of his killers falls in love with him. (Thriller/romance.)
Dead on First Date: A normal 18-year-old guy resurrects a serial killer to ask where his dead soulmate is buried. (Thriller/romance.)
I’m not sure where these stories will be hosted yet. But I do plan on creating them. Please follow me on social media for updates. I’m looking forward to luring my audience into these whimsical worlds!