Girls Back Home, the third installment of the Ranger Paraversum series by Vesna Kurilić, now has a cover and we’re happy to share it with you! Feast your eyes on this fantastic illustration, evoking the art deco style of the book itself, featuring the main characters and the omnipresent smoke—this time joined with a major feature of the book: the dreadful northern wind bora.
The cover illustration artist is the amazingly talented Korina Hunjak, who also worked on the first two books. We spoke with her before about her work in a short interview you can read here.
What can you expect from the book? The adventures of our world hopping, mystery solving, dopplegänger lesbians, Lina and Karol, continue with the scariest situation of all—meeting your lover’s family. Especially if you have to keep the existence of the whole multiverse and multiple version of yourself a secret. It doesn’t help when dead bodies start to drop, too…
Today we have a bit of an announcement of another kind: during the next few weeks, there’s going to be a lot of interesting stuff happening on our social media. A group of first year Master’s students, from our local Academy of Applied Arts in Rijeka, have worked hard on illustrating the stories from our Mistress of Geese collection during the past few months. Through their college course “Ilustracija i strip B” (Illustration and Comics, B), under the mentorship of red. prof. art. Marina Banić Zrinšćak and her assistant Korina Hunjak, they’ve created beautiful illustrations and vignettes for the stories, and we’re pretty pumped to be able to share them with you.
We were so thrilled and honoured that the professors chose one of our books for the young artists’ practice, and we surely were more than excited to see the results! Join us on this trip around the five novelettes from the collection, all set in different parts of Croatia, in the following few weeks by checking out @shtrigabooks on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Students from the Academy of Applied Arts in Rijeka whose work we’re going to feature at this time are:
Be sure to check their other art out, too—there’s plenty of goodness where the featured illustrations come from!
Mistress of Geese, the queer folk horror collection written by Antonija Mežnarić, is now available in paperback, too! As you can see, our cover photo artist Mojca Brenko-Puzak, a folk horror aficionado and an amazing photographer, took the opportunity to do a bit of a ‘coverception’ with her copy of the book.
The book collects 5 novellettes about isolation, loneliness, terrible folklore, and insatiable nature. Inspired by Croatian folk heritage, these stories delve into fears and anxieties of queer characters while they’re fighting to survive monsters, supernatural and human alike, and getting lost in the forests, canyons, mountains or at sea.
Are you ready to follow the geese in the night? Or are you afraid of their Mistress?
Ever since Shtriga launched late in 2020, we’ve been privileged to collaborate with several pretty talented and even more hardworking artists on our covers. We’re starting the Artist Feature season with Korina Hunjak; illustrator, graphic novel artists, art teacher and cover artist extraordinaire. Korina has done the cover illustrations for both Johnny’s Girls and Girls in Black, and is in the talks to work on A Town Called River!
Who is Korina Hunjak? Tell us something about yourself.
Hello! I’m an artist focused on comics and illustration (and sometimes design). I hail from a small townlet in the hinterlands of Crikvenica but am currently residing in Rijeka, Croatia.
Tell us something about your art. What are some of your relevant works?
I mostly work in digital mediums, sometimes using a combination of traditional media and digital painting. I love experimenting with different approaches to drawing and I love writing my own stories for picture books and comics as well.
The recent work I’m most proud of is a picture book I wrote and illustrated called In the company of Light (U društvu svjetla), published by Sipar in 2020, which tells the story of a small photon of light traveling from its birthing place in the center of the Sun all the way out to the limits of our Solar system and over the edge of the heliosphere. The story is told through dreamy illustrations depicting conversations of the photon with humanlike planets and celestial phenomena. My aim was to create a modern sort of mythology using real facts as the basis for the story, to pique the interest of kids of all ages for astronomy and to get them thinking about the bigger picture of our planet, us, and the vast universe surrounding us.
The other project which I’m really proud of is my first longer comic Animosities (Zvjerinjak), which I managed to draw and self-publish over the course of several months in 2019. It marked the beginning of my more serious involvement with drawing comics and set me on a path I’m really glad to be on today, creating personal comics and being actively involved in the Croatian (and European) comics author community. The story itself deals with the themes of otherness, acceptance and rage, questioning how far we should go seeking justice for the wrongdoings dealt to us by fate and circumstance.
You did covers for Johnny’s Girls and Girls in Black (and sketches for a few more). Can you tell us something about the illustrations and your creative vision for the covers? How did you choose these particular motifs, how did you choose what to portray and what not?
I always prefer to read the material I’m illustrating beforehand so I can get to know the content in depth and previsualize certain images before even starting to sketch. It was possible to read Johnny’s Girls at the time, so while I was reading it, I took notes of interesting visual details peppered throughout the book, such as the changing appearance of the characters, details from their environment, the general atmosphere and so on, and made a list of things that would be interesting to depict in the illustration. Following Vesna’s guidelines for the time period and general historic feel of the picture, I decided to depict the two main characters in clothing from a defining event of the book, and around them stylized buildings which reference various posters from the Art Deco era. I also added a decorative border containing a subtle hint to an important story element. The drawings were rendered in a style reminiscent of lithography to further visually connect them to the era in question.
Does it often happen that you find details in the books which the authors weren’t even aware of themselves? 🙂
It does happen sometimes! I guess I have a knack for noticing certain things, or maybe I’ve just gotten used to looking for the imagery in everything over the years, whether written or otherwise. 🙂
What is important for you when you make illustrations or covers for books?
It’s important to hear from the authors about the intended feel of the content, what kind of emotion it should convey or what kind of visual style is best suited to its needs. I prefer when I can illustrate scenes with emotional impact, but it is equally nice simply to create visually appealing images without worrying too much about the message or emotion of it.
What are some of your future projects?
I would love to dedicate more time to creating longer graphic novels and writing and illustrating more of my own picture book stories. Maybe the biggest project I’ve got waiting on the back burner is a science fiction omnibus comic following the inhabitants of a future colony on Mars and the fate of a hyper-technological Earth. The other project waiting on me to sit down and start sharpening pencils is a fantasypunk graphic novel of the road dealing with the themes of moving on and the meaning of life. I hope I’ll one day have enough willpower and discipline to see them both through. :,)
Tomorrow is the first day of Pride month so we would like to celebrate our books with queer rep (which is… most of them!). If you’re still searching for something to read, you can check out our recent releases in queer horror, fantasy and romance.
There are a few titles of queer horror we have to offer, from a free story to a whole collection.
Of Monsters and Dogs, by Antonija Meznaric
Of Monsters and Dogs is a free short story you can read here, on our site. This sapphic horror story has an opposite of the meet cute—it’s more of a meet with… a lot of blood.
During a completely ordinary night walk with a dog in their park, Danijela suddenly hears a shriek. Rushing to help, she meets a young woman who was attacked by a vicious doghead – a violent creature from local folklore that shouldn’t have been anywhere near their hometown. But it hurt Nana’s dog, so now she’s ready to get some revenge on. And Danijela can’t very well leave her to deal with a dangerous supernatural beast on her own…
The Gentlemanis a short story in which our geeky narrator enjoys some time on a sci-fi convention. What was supposed to be a fun cosplay show soon turns into a bloody affair when he ends up at the wrong place at the wrong time… the toilets.
What do Nightmares Dream of is a sapphic horror comedy novella. Sanja is a tired teacher who finally bought an apartment—a place to call her own, away from her abusive grandmother. She only had to get indebted to the bank for the next thirty years, which turns out not so great when she learns she’s not alone there.
She’s ended up with a supernatural roommate—one hellbent on playing around with her nightmares. In a world that doesn’t believe in magic, it’s up to Sanja to find a way to deal with the creature, before it sucks her dry.
You can expect:
awkward lesbian flirting
an exasperate priest (he just wants to do some illegal exorcism, okay)
loneliness, depression, anxiety and existential dread.
Mistress of Geese is a collection of queer folk horror tales about isolation, loneliness, destructive powers of nature, magic and creatures lurking in the dark.
This collection contains five novelletes, set in remote areas of Croatia, inspired mostly by Croatian/Slavic folklore.
You can expect everything from trans women, lonely sapphics to wlw/mlm solidarity, all of them trying to survive creepy cults with their “old ways”, disturbing events and monsters. You can check blurbs for individual stories here.
CW: everything you could expect from a folk horror; from animal death, gore and violence to body horror.
Ranger Paraversum is a queer romantic suspense fantasy series set in an alternate World War II aftermath, with some parallel universes, bountiful happy queers, world hopping and murder!
In Johnny’s Girls we meet Lina—an apprentice cartographer who works for a secret society that holds the keys to the multiverse. In her world, fighting has just ended in the City of Rijeka and WW II is finally coming to an end. But before she gets to celebrate, a visitor from another world, another Rijeka, comes looking for her in search of help. Because the visitor, Karol, needs to find out what happened to a missing colleague, but doesn’t trust anyone else with the task than, quite literally, herself—her otherworldly doppelgänger.
Lina follows Karol to a golden version of Rijeka set in a world where the World Wars never happened. Even though everything is shiny, there’s still a darkness lurking below. As the two women team up, they will soon discover there’s more to each other than the surface likeness which the eye can see—making this, unfortunately, a matter for the heart to resolve.
This steamy dieselpunk with vintage lesbians will try to answer a complex question: could you fall in love with someone who looks just like you?
Set in the aftermath of Johnny’s Girls, we follow new adventures of Lina and Karol, this time in Lina’s world. In a newly freed Rijeka problems are starting to brew. New governments, new leaders and, on top of it all, a new murder; this time in a very old place filled with some old friends. Tensions, suspense and romance are all tangled in this fast paced LGBTQ+ alternative history murder mystery novel. You can get it here.
Freddie and Ivan go Ice Skating Togetheris a standalone gay romantic suspense novella, set in an alternative mid-twentieth century, right between Johnny’s Girls and Girls in Black, that can be read and enjoyed without knowledge of the main novels.
Freddie and Ivan went on a holiday retreat, hoping for some romantic fun and a bit of ice skating. They even packed Freddie’s drag armoire, Madame Frederique’s wardrobe, and left Ivan’s mysterious day job at home, trying to distance themselves from the gruesome affair of Freddie’s last party.
But they’re soon interrupted with a very cold murder in the middle of the snow-covered mountain, and end up roped into trying to find out who could’ve done something so awful.
Continuing where Johnny’s Girls left off, Girls in Black is the second novel in the Ranger Paraversum Series. This queer, retrofuturistic romantic suspense follows Lina and Karol in a mission in Lina’s world. What was supposed to be a romantic vacation soon turns sinister when Lina’s old orphanage asks her for help with a dead body. Aftermath of war, soldiers, possible witchcraft, confused nuns, and some steamy fun awaits you in the pages of this book.
Ranger Paraversum is a queer portal fantasy full of parallel universes, vintage lesbians, and a forbidden doppelganger romance. Perfect for fans of His Dark Materials who never get over the bench scene in the last book, and avid readers of Agatha Christie’s.
If you still haven’t read the first part, Johnny’s Girls is available on most major stores.
Krasna zemlja, a continuation of the award-winning historical fantasy Krsnik, is now out and available in print and ebook. Krsto od Kastva is still trying to get to his missing wife, in the midst of the war between the Republic of Venice and the Uskoks over Istrian land. And while everyone begs for help with their problems and suffering, Krsto just tries to deal with his issues. But as a krsnik – a magical person who can heal wounds and fight for the good of the people – he has bigger responsibilities than just his marriage vows. Gritty and dark, this series portrays the horrors of war and how there are never good decisions to make when caught in its claws. Perfect for fans of Witcher. Available only in Croatian.
Nakon dugog čekanja stigao je i taj dan, kada je Krasna zemlja, nastavak romana Krsnik Ane Cerovac, službeno vani i spremna za čitanje.
Ovaj povijesno-fantastični roman o krsnicima, štrigama, povijesti i ratu dostupan je u dva formata. Za one koji više vole tisak roman se može nabaviti na webknjizara.hr za 139,99 kn. Za one koji preferiraju eknjige, Krasna zemlja se može nabaviti na Kobu ili Smashwordsu za $6.99 (što je otprilike 44 kn).
Koji god oblik odabrali, želimo vam sretno čitanje!
Ovim putem vas želimo pozvati i na prvo predstavljanje koje će se održati u petak, 23. 4. povodom Noći knjige 2021., u 18h. S obzirom na epidemiološku situaciju, predstavljanje će biti online, kao Facebook live event na Shtriginoj stranici (@shtrigabooks). Vidimo se u petak, iza ekrana, u sigurnosti naših domova. 🙂
Knjiga je pisana uz potporu Grada Rijeke i objavljena uz potporu Grada Pule, Grada Opatije i Istarske županije – Regione Istriana.
A world where the Carpatia sank while trying to help the Titanic. A world where there had been no World Wars. So many possible divergences, small and big. One girl taken into the fold of a convent orphanage, the other girl adopted by a rich family; both girls with the same face, almost the same name, but different futures.
This and more is hidden in the backbone of Ranger Paraversum, a portal fantasy series written by Croatian award winning author Vesna Kurilic. She will talk to us about writing alternative history—what it is, why she loves it, how to approach historical research, what to keep, what to lose, and how to still stay sane in the process. Join us at our first Facebook live event at our page @shtrigabooks to chat about history, romance and mystery on April 8th, 8 pm CET.
Vesna is a scorpio, a ukulele player and great lover of low maintenance house plants. Her first novel (in Croatian) about a werewolf pack on the borders of the Austro-Hungarian Empire earned her several national awards and made her rethink this whole writing business. Her recent release is the #holigay murder mystery novella Freddie and Ivan Go Ice Skating Togetheravailable here.
A firm defender of all things romance and queer, she moonlights as a librarian and reverently updates her ‘Read’ shelf on Goodreads. She blogs about writing, reading and cosplaying at skirtsnwolves.com, shares her cat’s curious sleeping poses at @vesnakurilic and hopes against all odds that no one will try to reach her through her Facebook page.
Johnny’s Girls is a novel about lesbian dopplegangers traveling the multiverse and solving murder mysteries. In this alternative history adventure, Lina and Karol are a part of a clandestine organization keeping the secrets to crossing over into parallel universes. When Karol needs to find out what happened to a former colleague who’s gone missing, she asks for help from the only person she can trust—her other-world self. Set in a historical setting, contrasting the aftermath of World War II to a world where the world wars didn’t happen, this dieselpunk romance with a dash of locked room mystery is perfect for those in search of some vintage lesbians. Book two is coming in early April, so you still have time to catch up with Johnny’s Girls.
It was supposed to be a romantic retreat in the middle of nowhere, with a posh party at an idyllic mountain hut. A chance to get back into society, showing off Freddie’s glorious dresses and meticulous make up, while Ivan pursued his own secret agenda that may or may not have anything to do with ice skating. However, Freddie and Ivan’s romantic plans were soon to be interrupted with a truly ice cold murder.
This novella can be read without any knowledge of Johnny’s Girls. A perfect winter read with snow, ice, drag getups and a murder most gay.
The Gentleman is a short story with a geek at a convention who sees something he shouldn’t have. A bit of a steampunk tale, a bit of a terrified-but-horny trope, this hot short story sheds light at the fact that it’s sometimes better not to know what cosplayers do in the bathrooms.