We Interviewed Storyteller Jaqui (Littlemissleestories)!

We had the pleasure of interviewing storyteller Jaqui (Littlemissleestories) all about their incredible work. Be sure to check it out to learn more about their creative journey, inspirations, goals, and work!

1.What initially inspired you to become a creator, and how has that inspiration evolved throughout your creative journey?

My creative journey began as early as I can remember. I’ve always been an avid reader and daydreamer with a hyperactive imagination! Looking at the world and wondering what if is what sparked a lot of my written stories. Although it began as more of an impulse, finishing stories is definitely a decision one must keep making.

As a kid, I was easily bored and I doodled a loooooot in class. Eventually, I went to an art and design school for university (which I wrote about in Macleans). Creative direction in the advertising track gave me a breadth of multidisciplinary skills, though the courses I took in game design and creative writing are the ones that stayed with me most. Storytelling has always been at the heart of what I do. (Even for silly things like hosting presentation parties making poems about my cats during the pandemic.)

Now I’m proud to work in the game industry as a narrative designer, and I recently did my first Plot Unblocking Talk for VNConf 2024

2.Can you share a specific moment or experience that fueled your passion for your current creative project?

Every game or visual novel I work on has its own origin story. Currently, I am working on a mobile port of Boyband Hell supported by the Qweerty Gamers Android Port Grant. 

It was inspired by the first time I went on Wattpad and encountered fanfiction about real people in Boybands. I couldn’t help wondering how it would feel to be growing up and getting shipped with your friends or colleagues. It’s fascinating to me how invasive it can be under the public eye and how celebrities are often talked about or treated as products rather than human beings. I went down this thought experiment of how some people may play the system to stay in the limelight and the twisted marketing strategies that exist in this world. 

Fun fact: Dixon, a boyband member that I intended to be the most annoying ended up being the most beloved because of how self-aware he is. 

(Aero, Connor, Blue and Dixon in Airport Selfie by Demeru, from Boyband Hell)

3.What challenges have you encountered as an indie creator, and how have they shaped your approach to your work?

As an idealist and a story meanderer, it can be hard for me to scope a passion project when there are no constraints and infinite sources of new inspiration (or distractions). Working on jam games with a set deadline allows me to make the most of my time and put out stories in the world. 

For me, a sprint approach is helpful to get the ball rolling, especially when other artists and team members are relying on me to fulfill my part. I also invite a lot of beta readers and playtesters to try out and improve the visual novels and jam games I direct! 

Collage of 2023 Jam Games written or directed by me (littlemissleestories)

4.Are there any particular creators who have significantly influenced your style or approach? How do you incorporate those influences into your own unique voice?

My voice comes from a mosaic of muses across genres, media, and style. Growing up, I loved devouring fantasy books, Miyazaki movies, and games like Pokémon or Kirby Squeak Squad. There’s a side of me that loves cute fantasy creatures so much I even started illustrating stories about shifties on TikTok). Then there’s another side to me that is into twisted, tragicomic stories that examine new worlds and human nature. My recent favourite TV series is Scavenger’s Reign and Generation V, from the Boys Universe. I’m also deeply inspired by sci-fi books like the Murderbot Diaries, Dark Eden, and the Reckoners Trilogy. This is where the twisty sci-fi VNs like Pilla’s Paradise and Boyband Hell get their inspiration.

What has always spoken to my soul is poetic prose in fantasy books like Palace of Laughter, Strange the Dreamer, and Caraval. I am also inspired by the creative game jam community that draw upon fantastical worlds and myths. Recently, the gorgeous stories of Burdock by Butterfly Rocket Studio and Seraphim Slum by Roserot have inspired my more experimental fantasy works, like Chiamour and Angelblood

(A sensory-rich, heartwarming story with stories within, about witches and demons, winters and war…the kind that go on in the hearts of those who remember, long after history has licked its wounds. Players will meet a whimsical, forgetful book made of the magic of Chiamour.)

(A sapphic vampyric brew, with flavours of dark fantasy cozy horromance, set in a liminal dreamscape where all things strange and beautiful, beyond mortal comprehension occur)

This year, I’d like to merge these worlds together in a poetic sci-fi experience.

5. How do you navigate the balance between staying true to your artistic vision and adapting to feedback from your audience or collaborators?

I believe if your story stands for something and has a clear point of view (especially in a niched indie context), folks will understand and just help you tell your story better. My collaborators, beta readers, and playtesters have always helped me sharpen and emphasize my vision rather than change it. Getting outside perspectives is essential in order to clarify any bits that may be clear in my head but fuzzier for fresh eyes. 

My stories often feature diverse characters with a wide range of perspectives and I’m always happy to adapt them in a way that feels more authentic to those voices. (Or just to ensure I don’t accidentally portray a different message than I intended.) 

6.Can you recall a memorable success story or milestone in your indie creator journey that stands out as a turning point for you?

Career wise, working with Wizards of the Coast and getting my first full time narrative design job in the game industry is a huge win. 

As for my indie creator journey, I believe there’s no single moment, but just wins that build momentum and push me forward. For instance, I always adore comments and feedback from the community. After I wrote Marigold’s Mannequin for Cygni, we received a lot of feedback about how relatable, real, and personally touching it was! When a creator I look up shares that a story I wrote will stay with them and change the way they look at their choices in the future, it is a meaningful milestone to me!

Similarity, it felt super validating when Boyband Hell got featured on Boys Love Universe as a must try yaoi game. Wow, this weird shower thought idea we turned into a visual novel is deemed worth experiencing and even recommended!

We were also encouraged by a beta reader and fan to apply Boyband Hell for the Qweerty Gamers Android Port grant. It was an honour to be accepted as a candidate. This was the second visual novel I ever directed and I experienced lots of doubts along the way, but it’s awesome that we pushed through and even received funding to polish the experience for mobile!

Finally, I’m grateful to have my Plot Unblocking storytelling talk publicly voted in for VNConf! I’m happy to pay it forward and help storytellers who feel stuck finish their story. It’s especially meaningful to me since I was able to reference the projects I worked on and use their promise, progress, and payoffs to help lost stories find their way.

7.What role do setbacks or failures play in your creative process, and how do you overcome them to keep moving forward?

Sometimes if I feel stuck telling a story, I just take a break and come back to it with fresh eyes. It can help to get some space to see things more clearly. In the light of the day, after a good night’s rest, it feels much easier to see what is and isn’t working. To move forward from a block, I remind myself why I started a project and the message I wanted to tell, which helps me to rework passages, and avoid meandering or getting lost in the weeds.

As creators, we may have a higher standard for ourselves than an audience realizes, which is why we may see something as a failure that no one else realizes. The good news is no one can read your mind and see the difference between your final product and what you originally imagined. They are just happy to experience your story.

Honestly, there were projects I directed that I initially thought were failures due to setbacks, but they turned out to be great opportunities that helped me learn. Then when we eventually finished, it brought about more opportunities for the entire team involved. You never know where a project will lead you if you just show up and do your part even if things happen outside your control. ❤️‍🔥

8. How do you manage your time and energy to sustain a consistent creative output while juggling other aspects of life?

I’m fortunate to have a partner that often cooks for me (or orders food for me) and a charmed life where I work fully remotely, allowing me to pick my own schedule. I would say my problem is putting too much time into creative output and sometimes neglecting physical exercise or being present in the moment. I tend to go all in with projects or all out with relaxing, but maybe I will aim for a more balanced approach.

If I am juggling a lot of things (like when I was moving to a new place), I set aside days where I plan to be busy and block off time for when I can create in my calendar. I also have a phone lock to keep the distractions at bay. 

Me my first night moving into a new home

9.Have you found any unexpected joys or rewards in the indie creator community, and how has it contributed to your overall experience?

I recently had loads of fun watching streams of Angelblood with my team/coven! Just today I joined Moon Bunny’s stream and it was an absolute delight.

It was also such a blast to give my VNConf talk, and rehearse with past collaborators who also want to tell their own stories. (Special shout-out to Belle who listened to my first super long version and Scout for the enthusiasm for all things stories and my bonus slides.) I was able to pick the minds of other writers and directors, as well as other presenters I look up to! I’ve also reached out to creators of Visual Novels that inspired me and I’m so grateful for the feedback and support they’ve given me. 

What could be more wonderful than discovering new pockets of community, like the Mystery GameDev discord server? I enjoy experimenting with different genres and learning from connoisseurs in those areas. I realized after joining that there’s always an element of mystery in my stories, even if it’s not “fair play” (a concept I learned from this server.) It was a delightful surprise to see Boyband Hell mentioned in one of their newsletters after rehearsing with Kinjo Goldbar.

I was also recently invited to the Hong Kong Visual Novel Devs discord server which is super cool since I left HK when I was 6 and have been wanting to connect with the culture. It was a serendipitous moment where I asked Noir about a bug in his Hong Kong themed visual novel and he realized I was also the one who left a heartfelt love letter on roserot’s Seraphim Slum (another HK dev). Noir is also responding to an interview with All Ages of Geeks, and I’m looking forward to reading his responses! 

10.If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring creators, what would it be based on your own lessons learned?

Finish something small just to show yourself you can! You learn so much more from finishing something than just half baked ideas. And don’t be afraid to experiment with different genres and styles. You can bring different parts of yourself into a project with your own unique twist.

11. What are your thoughts on All Ages of Geek? What are some things we should change/do? What are something you enjoy about our website?

It’s awesome that All Ages of Geek is spotlighting creators and their journey! I’d love to have fun with some virtual drawing game nights and Q&As with other creators in a group setting, maybe a chill hangout podcast with games.

12. Goals for 2024?

Swim twice a week + keep sharing stories, collaborating, and connecting with the greater creator community! I’m also learning a bit of programming to create more cinematic experiences and sharpen my directing chops 😄

I’m super psyched to go to GDC as a Dames Making Games scholar and meet more industry and indie folks! If you’re there, give me a shout.

Feel free to connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn


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