Sometimes we happen to stumble upon requests from our readers: whether it is advice, proposals or applications, we try to juggle with a little attention in order to avoid unpleasant experiences. The author we are going to see today, Maria R. Monticelli, has proved helpful and cordial in sharing her work, which is why today we are talking about her new illustrated book, Asce, Ombra e Magia!

Anyone who has played has experienced, at least once in his career as a player, the absence of concreteness: well-made descriptions, voices and identification were not enough and at all costs we wanted to have something concrete in our hands. Often these are drawings, other times they are miniatures: an eternal frame that portrays our subject grappling with a situation. From this point of view, having a person capable of illustrating pieces of what is being played is wonderful: it happened to me playing Coriolis with the very good Alessia Sagnotti, and still I feel the lack of the illustrative part in the other campaigns that I carry out.

A small introduction on the author Maria R. Monticelli

Today we talk about Maria Rosaria Monticelli, an illustrator who consolidated her illustrations and the writings deriving from them in a small book, just over seventy pages, entitled Asce, Ombra e Magia. Monticelli, as you can read on the back cover, is an illustrator from an early age, and has collaborated with some publishing realities, game groups and writers. The illustrations that inspired the seven stories occupy about a third of the book, where the reading is pleasant and the style quite fluent. The only side note, perhaps, concerns the layout, perhaps too standard and not very diversified.

A familiar, a witch and an old friend

An aspiring enchantress struggling with an exam she doesn't want to pass, seemingly without any magical talent, watches her familiar speak. A hunting trip in the middle of the forest that turns into something bigger than a simple deer hunt. A friend who returns to find a partner to bring him news. A nymph chained to a dark wall, kidnapped by her sisters and carried who knows where for what obscure reasons .. These, and many others, are the stories told in Axes, Shadow and Magic; stories with female protagonists ranging from the everyday to the exception, from conflict to friendship.

It is the illustrations that act as a vehicle for the stories told here: illustrations and moments of imaginary characters used for thoughts, stories or simply for a role-playing game; Monticelli does not hide, in fact, that she has drawn part of her illustrations from various experiences in the role-playing game. Who knows that this does not push more people to take this path. Ultimately then a good product, as an approach to the world of writing combined with that of illustration. We then went to interview Maria R. Monticelli asking her some questions about her profession, idea and in general experience in the narrative and illustrative sector.

Hi Maria R. Monticelli and welcome! After reading Axes, Shadows and Magic the first question I asked myself is: where do these ideas come from? I seem to have understood that the “narrative” component plays an important role, but are there other influences as well?

Hi Yari, and thank you! Let's say that I have always loved inventing stories, and since I was a young girl I did my best to create situations and characters on which I then spread endless pages. The role-playing game was a natural evolution of my tendency which allowed me to "formalize" what I was doing in a more concrete way. RPG for me is mostly about continuing to create stories, only in a more structured way.

Returning to the topic of Role Play: are there games that have particularly impressed you, or that you carry in your heart? Are there others that you tried and didn't like?

I started thirteen years ago with Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, led by my current partner. The wonder I felt the first time I opened the manual! There were other people creating in the same way I did, and for me it was a confirmation that I was not "weird". Since then, I've played various RPGs, and my favorites are the ones with the simplest rules and the most creative freedom. I will never forget playing a Big Gay Orcs, a one-page game in which secretly gay ogres are played during a siege, which opened up an avalanche of emotions from all the participants. The premise of BGO is what inspired me the story Onore.

Big Gay Orcs has a special place in my heart too, I admit. I have read that you have had experiences with publishing houses and writers; what do you think are some good tips for illustrators who are approaching the market now?

The illustration market, especially in Italy, is saturated: you will have a hard time finding your niche. I advise you to start from the bottom with small productions of friends and acquaintances to make yourself known, and expand your network as much as possible by participating in fairs and sending your portfolio to publishing houses. Don't be afraid to show up!

Can you tell us are you working on something now? If so, what is it about?

For now I have put my personal projects aside (even if I still have one in the making) and I am collaborating with two friends on the graphic part of an RPG still in progress. In the meantime, I remain open to private commissions. For the next stories you will have to wait a little longer!

If you have been fascinated by Maria R. Monticelli, Thu e Thu you can find more of his illustrations and contacts.