For Books’ Sake Talks To: Serena Obhrai

4th Apr 2013

serena obhrai

Serena Obhrai is the author and creator of Elysia, an urban fantasy graphic novel, about a girl who wants to be special and noticed.

Billed as an “original 300+ page sci-fi/fantasy graphic novel with angels – about self-identity, friendship and invoking awesome angel powers,” the project is currently the focus of a Kickstarter crowd funding campaign to raise the necessary resources to see it into fruition.

I’ll happily work all day, evening and on the weekend for something I really want to succeed and am passionate aboutIn Obhrai’s novel, the struggle with self acceptance is the central tenet of the story. Elysia’s story, aside from the angels, is one that resonates with us all. Gruelling challenges and new responsibilities are something we all face in life.

In fact, this is one of the reasons that Obhrai is exploring it. “I think this is a universal theme that we’ve all struggled with at some point and that’s why it’s so poignant for me to be able to tell it through the eyes of someone experiencing it to the nth degree.”

It’s been a project long in the making, but now Obhrai feels it’s the right time, for a number of reasons. Having had the story in her head for nearly 10 years, it is time to let it out. Turning thirty was also a nudge in the right direction.

“Turning 30 was a make or break point for me because I remember a conversation I had with some friends when I was 25 about where we would see ourselves in five years.

I specifically remember telling everyone that Elysia would be written and published – and here I am five years later, realising I’ve let life get in the way of the one thing I wanted to do all those years ago and it’s still not complete.”

That’s why other projects have given way to allow Obhrai to focus on Elysia. In fact she believes that hitting 29 was “almost epiphanous in that it woke me up and made me put Elysia first. So, creatively, it’s been great!”

A very busy woman, Obhrai’s talents span acting, writing, theatre and film, but she finds her real passion in “writing and creating new stories to tell for people to enjoy.”

Like many artists it is the combination of the exhilaration that results from lighting up someone’s face or reaching them in an unexpected way, that keeps her inspired, combined with the love of a world that has supported her since a child. The literary world is a place providing people with an environment to explore themselves, grapple with questions, and inspire life.

Inhabiting other worlds and immersing oneself in new things is an enormously releasing experience, not to mention enjoyable, and so it is no wonder that so many artists chose to create that space for themselves and others.

“The arts have given me a space to collect my thoughts and bring them to life in a way that no other medium is capable of. I would personally recommend to anyone struggling with self-acceptance to find others that have used the arts (whether they be written, illustrative, performance, music etc) to tell their stories of struggle and try to find similarities to help them understand how other people have dealt with it,” she says.

This deep passion has until now sustained the project. Investment for the arts is hard to come by. Enjoyment and creativity is not judged valid and quantifiable output for most investors, and government austerity measures mean that public funding isn’t forthcoming.

Until now Obhrai has been using her own savings to develop Elysia to its current stage. No small project – there will be multiple volumes – this has meant working solidly to finalise the script, the characters (circa 50 of them), going to comics conventions and spreading the Elysia love.

This is where Kickstarter has come in. Living in age where everything can happen digitally and from the comfort of people’s homes, platforms such as Kickstarter have paved a whole new way for creative people to continue doing what they love doing and to also have the world see and share it in just a few clicks.

Giving fans the opportunity to pay upfront and invest in the creation, the artist is reminded that their project affects more than just them, as well as seeing a huge acknowledgement of the value of the project.

A development of old fashioned patronage, allowing small contributions means that a  critical mass of people who are interested and engaged can contribute towards the creativity.

As with any investment programme, the more someone contributes, the more they get back – in this case it is a sliding scale from a thank you to ebooks, signed paperbacks, t-shirts, tote bags, and inclusion in the book.

It’s not an easy way to raise funds, as people still need to be convinced of the value and interest of the project, and so it is here where a real passion for her subject is a huge benefit to Obhrai.

“I’ll happily work all day, evening and on the weekend for something I really want to succeed and am passionate about,” she says. “When people see that, it’s hard for them not to take you seriously.”

For the foreseeable future Obhrai’s life is all about Elysia, and an intense work plan is in place. In fact, Obhrai says that “the only thing that can potentially stop us is illness or death and, quite frankly, we’d both need to be near death before we stop working on Elysia. We also have no plans to die any time soon.” Good news.

If you’d like to contribute to the Kickstarter fund for Elysia, you can donate here.

Francesca Baker