Maria Llovet's HEARTBEAT Reimagines High School Romance with a Taste for Blood

Credit: Maria Llovet (BOOM! Studios)
Credit: Maria Llovet (BOOM! Studios)

After breaking into the North American scene earlier this year with Brian Azzarello's Faithless, artist Marie Llovet is spreading her wings as BOOM! Studios is now bringing her Spanish-language series Heartbeat to English audiences.

Scheduled to debut November 20, the five-issue Heartbeat takes on high school romance but with a startling addition: a taste for blood. These aren't vampires we're talking about, they simply like the taste of blood.

Renfield's syndrome meets romance when a young girl who considers herself and outsider joins the proverbial cool kids table when she begins dating the most popular boy in school. How will his blood-sucking secret effect things?

Llovet spoke with Newsarama about her 2015 series coming to North America, delving into the romance of it all - blood or not.

Newsarama: Maria, how did you come up with the idea for the story?

Credit: Maria Llovet (BOOM! Studios)

Maria Llovet: The first idea I had it back in 2010, after seeing the Japanese film Kokuhaku (Confessions) by Tetsuya Nakashima. In this movie they mentioned a pair of girls that were fans of a serial killer.

They were only mentioned by passing in the film, but I remember thinking about these kind of girls and wondering how would they be like as characters, and the central idea for Heartbeat came to me; what if my main character was to see the person she liked doing something terrible, what would happen? What would she do? Which values would prevail in her life?

I wrote the story a while later and did the comic in 2012 if I recall correctly. It was originally published in Spain in 2015 though.

Nrama: Tell us a bit about the main characters.

Llovet: The main character is Eva, a lower-class teenager who attends an upper-class high school thanks to her mother's contacts with a rich family for whom she worked as a maid.

This creates an enormous insecurity in Eva who is mocked and bullied specially by another student in her year: Violetta, a posh girl who laughs at Eva and goes as far as hitting her, but is actually hiding her own motives and fears.

Credit: Maria Llovet (BOOM! Studios)

There are also the twins Amber and Mack, whom Eva knows since they were kids, because her mother worked at their house.

It is precisely Amber's death which Eva witnesses, at the hands of Donatien - a popular guy in her class that she's secretly in love with.

Donatien is aware that Eva saw him, but as she doesn't denounce him they start a relationship. He is a completely hermetic character even though Eva thinks she knows him.

He is the catalyst for the rest of the characters stories to develop the way they do, he creates a negative spiral around himself that influences everyone else.

Nrama: How did you come up with their character designs?

Llovet: I remember putting much more effort in designing the settings for Heartbeat than the actual characters. Drawing backgrounds was very hard for me so I thought I needed to focus more on them in order to improve.

The interiors of the school or Eva's house were very carefully designed. It was important for me to give the spaces personality because it feels as if they were actually characters in this story, specially the school and its grounds, that become a heavy burden for Eva.

I also was very attentive in designing the school uniforms and did many variations of it because I didn't want to get bored drawing them all in the same clothes. That's why each of them wears a particular version of the school shirts, etc. I had a lot of fun with this, but I always do, taking care of the clothes is always one of my favorite parts.

Credit: Maria Llovet (BOOM! Studios)

Nrama: Can you tease us about some of the romances to come?

Llovet: None of the romances in Heartbeat are very healthy ones, I'm afraid... all of them are twisted in one way or another, all the characters are hiding something and the choices they make regarding their feelings are biased and egotistic.

What's really interesting for me about the story is seeing this bunch of characters together, being dragged into hell through their actions and decisions, when they could choose completely different paths. All of them are free to choose to act so differently, they could be so much gentler with themselves and others, and the outcome would be very, very different.

Nrama: Will we see Eva’s life outside of the school?

Llovet: A bit of it yes, we'll see glimpses of her relationship with her mother, always missing because she's working in different jobs, partly because she doesn't make enough to pay for this particular school. The irony is that the school means hell for Eva, and while her home is her safe place, it is also a place of solitude, where she slowly falls into depression.

On the contrary, Donatien's house will be a kind of heaven for her, a place where she'll find freedom and passion and love, or so she believes...

Nrama: Why do you think Heartbeat was the perfect fit for BOOM! Studios?

Credit: Maria Llovet (BOOM! Studios)

Llovet: I'm so thrilled that BOOM! Studios is bringing Heartbeat to the United States! It is the first of my European published works to be translated into English and this means a lot to me, as many new readers can have access to it.

BOOM! Studios covers a great and diverse range of titles and styles so I really think it's a great home for Heartbeat, I am really happy!

It's also thrilling to have the work split into issues, they've asked me to create new covers for most of them and it's been really cool to revisit these old characters in my current style.

Nrama: You are the writer and artist for this book. What is your creative process for doing both roles on your own?

Llovet: The worst thing about doing it all on your own is doubt. Doubts paralyze you and make you lose time. There's nothing I hate more than losing my time, but I guess is inevitable in some degree. I just try to minimize this as much as possible because, you know, time is short!

Bit by bit I'm dealing better with this, but there have been periods of real hiatus between projects. I'm horrified just remembering it. [Laughs]

Credit: Maria Llovet (BOOM! Studios)

Luckily right now I work quite fast, unlike when I did Heartbeat; it took me so long to finish. It was quite hard for me and at the end it felt like a point of inflexion in which I had to reconsider how and where I was leading my career to, and what I needed to change to feel comfortable with my own work.

Between the good things of doing everything myself, the best for me is the magic that happens between the writing process and the drawings: the visual narrative, that can flow without interruption or filters when you're a complete author.

When you work with another writer this process tends to get more complicated because someone else has created the story, and you need to adapt it to yourself, it's like translating it from another language.

On the other hand, if I do the script the narrative speaks directly to me, like a native language, and it flows back and forth; sometimes I write the script and I visualize a sequence or a particular shot, and I make narrative notes or visual ideas I want to try.

I always imagine scenes in movement, and sometimes I have problems with this because I want to make camera movements or things like that, that are impossible in a static comic, of course.

But basically is something natural that flows in a different way if it's a personal work. Is one of my favorite parts of doing comics. In fact when the story board is finished I feel as the comic is already finished. Now I only have to do it, haha!

Credit: Maria Llovet (BOOM! Studios)

Nrama: For fans of Faithless, what do you think they’ll enjoy the most about this title?

Llovet: I'm really excited to see what the audience will think about Heartbeat. I did it so long ago and my style has evolved so much since. It is obviously very different compared to Faithless, I hope they'll like it too.

There are elements that are consistent through time though, as the visual narrative, that I think was already very characteristic of my style despite being an early work.

The storyboard for this comic was very carefully done and I still like it very much.

Nrama: Any plans for the title past this volume?

Llovet: Not right now; even though the story ends fairly open, it feels like a real ending to me. The reader can connect the dots after the end reading through the subtext of the story, so I don't really see myself doing a sequel, especially after all this time. Never say never, though.

There are exceptions, but in general I prefer to move forward to new projects. There's always so many stories to be told, I have so many ideas and so few time that it feels crazy and frustrating at times.

Credit: Maria Llovet (BOOM! Studios)

The toughest part for me is always what to choose to do next between the many things I write or start writing to never finish.

Nrama: Would you like to do more comics as both the writer and artist?

Llovet: Of course! The reason for me to work on comics is to be able to tell my own stories, this is the way my career started and the way it will keep going. I enjoy working in collaboration with another writer from time to time, but for me is like having a parallel line of work to my actual career.

Right now, I've just finished writing the scripts of my new project for the next few months. It's set in the late 60's and is a lysergic story about immortal love, magic and alchemy. This project has mutated a lot through time and I'm very happy with the feel it has right now, can't wait to start working on the actual pages!

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