Interview With Writer And Editor Suzanne Walker

Suzanne Walker is a Chicago-based writer and editor. She is co-creator of the Hugo-nominated graphic novel Mooncakes (2019, Lion Forge/Oni Press). Her short fiction has been published in Clarkesworld and Uncanny Magazine, and she has published nonfiction articles with Uncanny Magazine,, Women Write About Comics, and the anthology Barriers and Belonging: Personal Narratives of Disability. She has spoken at numerous conventions on a variety of topics ranging from disability representation in sci-fi/fantasy to comics collaboration. You can find her posting pictures of her cat and chronicling her longsword adventures on Twitter @suzusaur. I had the opportunity to interview Suzanne, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself? 

Sure! I’m a writer and editor based out of Chicago, IL, which means that I have very strong opinions about hot dogs. I’ve written a wide variety of fiction—short stories, graphic novels, prose novels—and love storytelling in all forms. In my spare time I take medieval longsword classes, hang out with my partner and cat, and I recently started taking aerial circus classes as well, because why not. 

Your debut graphic novel, Mooncakes, was based on a webcomic made between you and your creative partner, Wendy Xu. How did you two come to work together and what was that process like working on the comic, from its initial start in one medium (indie comics/webcomics) to another (traditional publishing)? 

Wendy and I were friends for years before we started working together—our first “collaboration” came when she drew fanart for a fanfiction story I wrote, and from there we started working on short comic ideas together. Mooncakes was originally a pitch for a 10-page comic in an indie anthology, but when we got rejected from that we decided to launch our own webcomic. And I’m so glad we did! From there we posted the first few chapters online before we were solicited by some traditional publishing houses, and the rest, as they say, is history.  

Where did the inspiration for Mooncakes come from? 

The inspiration for Mooncakes came from a variety of different outlets—we were both influenced by various witchy/fantasy stories when we were younger, including the Halloweentown movies, Practical Magic, Studio Ghibli films, and of course Harry Potter (although most of my desire there was to counter parts of Harry Potter that I found frustrating, hah). Wendy always wanted to tell the story of long-lost childhood friends reuniting, so from that basic concept we built out the rest of the story/characters. 

One of the main characters of Mooncakes, Nova Huang, is portrayed as hard-of-hearing, something that’s based partially on your own experiences. Could you discuss the thoughts that might have gone through your mind writing this into the comic? 

Mostly I wanted to create the representation that I’d not yet seen in fiction. Hard-of-hearing/deaf representation in media (comics, prose, or film) is scarce, and of those available, only Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye really resonated with me. In giving Nova a hearing loss, I wanted to show how a character works around different abilities and accommodations but still not have it define them. 

For those curious about the process behind a graphic novel, how would you describe the process? What goes into creating a script and collaborating with an artist to translate that into panels? 

Before I started working on the script, Wendy and I sat down together and had a whole series of conversations around the big concepts and characters. From there I got to work outlining the plot (both the main arc and the finer details) and wrote out the first draft of the script. Wendy and our editor at Oni both gave me notes on the draft, and from there I created the final version that Wendy began drawing. As a writer, it’s important be very visually and spatially aware, while keeping in mind what’s possible to translate onto the page, so often I would check in with Wendy to see if she thought something would work or if I needed to find another way to write it. It’s a collaboration the whole way through! 

What are some of your favorite things about making comics? 

The collaboration is a big one!! I truly feel that two minds are better than one—it gives you a chance to bounce ideas off of each other and build them in a way that you can’t when you’re on our own. I love writing dialogue and conversations between characters, and that’s obviously a huge focus of comics writing. 

What advice would you have for those who want to write and create comics? 

Practice!! Practice writing scripts on your own and then thumbnailing/drawing them out (you do not have to be a good artist, trust me). It gives you a sense of spatial awareness—what works in a set series of panels and what doesn’t. And really communicate with your artist—the best writer-artist duos are ones who really know each other and have a feel for each other’s vision. 

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet, but wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)? 

“What are your favorite things to write”? I already sort of answered this (dialogue), but I also really love writing action sequences—it always feels like a puzzle to be reverse engineered, and then you have to add emotions on top of them. And I also love writing big party scenes, which you can see in Mooncakes. The mid-autumn festival was super enjoyable to work on. 

Are there any other projects you are currently working on and at liberty to talk about? 

I’m working on two different prose novels right now—one is about mariners and sea monsters while the other is set in a desert empire where everyone rides raptors instead of horses. 

Finally, what LGBTQ+ materials would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

GENDER QUEER by Maia Kobabe; THE MERMAID, THE WITCH, AND THE SEA by Maggie Tokuda-Hall; THE UNBROKEN by C.L. Clark, THE BLACK TIDES OF HEAVEN/THE RED THREADS OF FORTUNE by Neon Yang. Just off the top of my head!

Interview With Writer and Editor Stephanie Cooke

Stephanie Cooke is an award-winning writer and editor based out of Toronto. She’s a comic book fan, avid gamer, movie watcher and lover of puns. She is a purveyor of too many projects and thrives in chaos. Her writing work is featured in Mark Millar’s “Millarworld Annual,” “Wayward Sisters,” “The Secret Loves of Geek Girls,” “Toronto Comics Anthology” and more. Her debut graphic novel, “Oh My Gods!” released in January 2021 from HMH Kids, and a sequel will follow in fall 2021. She’s also a crazy cat lady who happens to be terribly allergic to cats. As such, she settles for having just the one cat and takes a lot of allergy medication. I had the opportunity to interview Stephanie, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Sure thing! I’m a writer and editor that primarily works on comics and graphic novels. I’m based out of the Great White North (or sometimes partially south of some folks in the U.S.) in Toronto, Canada. Oh My Gods! is my debut graphic novel with Insha Fitzpatrick, Juliana Moon, and Whitney Cogar. And my second graphic novel ParaNorthern just came out! They’re both middle grade stories that I firmly believe anyone can enjoy.

What inspired you to create comics? Were there any comics or artists you believe who inspired you and/or influenced your style?

I’ve been reading comics for most of my life, so it’s a medium that I’ve always loved and been drawn to. I’ve also written in some capacity or another for as long as I can remember. As to what inspired me to write comics specifically, I’d been podcasting, reviewing comics, writing articles, etc. for entertainment websites, and during a convention I was attending (after having been in the industry already for five to six years), someone asked me why I didn’t write comics. I knew other creators, publishers, the ins and outs, etc. and I didn’t have a good answer for that. Why didn’t I write comics? It changed something in me and pushed me to start. It turned out to be a perfect medium to channel my creativity into and I love it.

I think there are a lot of things that inspire me, not necessarily always comics. Some of the things that I think I aspire to are things I’m just generally a big fan of like Lumberjanes and Nimona. I also love Cucumber Quest by Gigi D.G., The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks, and Hark, A Vagrant! by Kate Beaton. Plus, I’m absolutely in awe of everything Raina Telegemeier is doing. And outside comics, I think a lot of animated shows have inspired me, too, like Gravity Falls and Star vs. the Forces of Evil.

I don’t think any one of those directly influenced my style or voice, but rather they helped me figure out the things I wanted to include in creating my own unique voice.

Where did the inspiration for ParaNorthern: And the Chaos Bunny A-hop-calypse come from?

I think it’s a mish-mash of things but definitely one of the big bits of inspiration was Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog was a big reason why I wanted to incorporate mischievous rabbits into the story here and have them be part of the overall mayhem. I really loved the idea of something innocent and sweet seeming to be a thing that causes so much damage and destruction! But then more generally, I love supernatural stories and was a big fan of the TGIF programming on ABC when I was growing up. Sabrina the Teenage Witch was something I watched at just the right time of my life to really stick with me and heavily influence my humor and brand.

ParaNorthern: And the Chaos Bunny A-hop-calypse looks perfect for those who are fantasy/Halloween fans of Scary Godmother (Jill Thompson) and Moonstruck (Grace Ellis/ Shae Beagle). Would you say there are any stories that inspired these comics or speak in conversation with it?

ParaNorthern has been in my head for a really long time and it’s definitely influenced by a lot of different things, again not necessarily all comics (despite how much I adore comics). As I mentioned, Monty Python is a big one as well as (probably obviously) a love for Halloween. Sabrina the Teenage Witch has stuck with me over the years, too; both the sitcom show as well as her stories from the Archie digests. I’ve always been really interested in the idea of magic in our own world and then in other supernatural parallel worlds, too. So, I guess in that regard, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Golden Compass, and Tamora Pierce’s epic series are all things that helped influence me too.

A lot of stuff has come out since I originally sold ParaNorthern though, and I think graphic novels like Snapdragon by Kat Leyh and The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner and Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner are all titles that are a few of its wonderful kindred spirits.

What would you say are some of your favorite craft elements to work on?

Creative procrastination. As in working for two minutes and then going on Twitter for 20. Okay, but seriously, I love practicing short stories and testing my boundaries for what I can do and what I enjoy (or don’t enjoy) working on. Short stories are such a fun challenge and flexing those muscles where I play around with different voices, styles, and genres are really rewarding and help to keep me growing as a creator. I especially love a good silent comic where you try to write a story without any dialogue or narration and just provide the best art direction possible to let that tell the story. Someday I want to take that over to a long-form project.

For those curious about the process behind a graphic novel, how would you describe the process? What goes into creating a script and collaborating with an artist to translate that into panels?

It varies from creator to creator, but I think the big thing to always remember is it’s a collaborative medium. It’s really important that you think of your entire team throughout the process and how everyone can shine. For me, I always start with really extensive outlines that break down the story into point form beats. This helps me work out plot holes, further develop characters, and answer questions that will help make the story more satisfying to the reader in the long run. Figuring that out as much as possible in advance of scripting helps to solidify the story in my mind, give me a guideline to work off, and helps narrow down the number of script drafts I’ll ultimately have to do.

I’ve been really into art for most of my life, and I draw for fun and have always been a pretty visual person. For  me, when I do go to the scripting phase, I’m able to really see the page and panel layouts as I write. With middle grade stories, it’s important to keep the panel count low to 4-5 panels per page to help keep the attention span of young readers. You go in with that in mind and how many panels and pages it’ll take you to convey certain beats. The important thing is to make sure you’re not writing multiple actions in one panel. If you’re writing “and” in your panel description, you have to check yourself to make sure it’s not describing something else the characters are doing. 

In a more general way, I try to give as much description as needed without over directing. I want the artist to be able to interpret the page and add their own spin on it or feel that they can change things up to an angle or shot that might be better suited. Typically though, the artist doesn’t see the script until the final draft is done. You just have to do everything in your power to be a good collaborator in advance of that.

What advice would you give to aspiring creatives who would want to create their own comics, whether as artists, writers, or both?

Practice, practice, practice. If you keep putting off starting, you’ll never find the time for it. If you’re a writer who doesn’t draw, you don’t need an artist to practice writing scripts and telling stories. Work on short stories, pitch to anthologies, join a writer’s group to connect with other creators and get inspired (this bit all applies to artists, too!).

It can be a hard industry to break into, but the good news is that these days, you’re not beholden to publishers to find your way in. You can make zines, webcomics, or you can self-publish or crowdfund a project. Don’t wait for someone to discover you; take your creative dreams into your own hands!

Are there any project ideas you have that you are at liberty to discuss?

GOSH, I WISH I COULD TALK ABOUT NEW THINGS! But hopefully soon. That being said, something that is announced is my first YA graphic novel called Pillow Talk with art by Mel Valentine. It’s about an underground pillow fighting league and how a self-conscious young woman finds it, falls in love with it, and uses it to come out of her shell. I’m so proud of it and it’s not out for a little while still (fall 2023) but I really hope people will check it out when it gets here. It’s full of beautiful diverse characters, body types, sexualities, and more! Mel is a master at that, and I can’t wait for people to see their amazing work.

Finally, what queer books/comics would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

YES! Okay, here we go: 

THERE ARE SO MANY THAT I LOVE, I could honestly go on forever! But those are a few more recent ones that I thoroughly enjoyed and wholeheartedly recommend.

Interview with Author Ryan Douglass

Ryan Douglass is an author, poet, and freelance writer from Atlanta, Georgia. His work on race, literacy, sexuality, and media representation has appeared in The Huffington Post, Atlanta Black Star, Everyday Feminism, Nerdy POC, Age of Awareness, and LGBTQNation, among others. His debut novel, The Taking of Jake Livingston, is a YA horror out now through G.P. Putnam’s Son’s Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group. I had the opportunity to interview Ryan, which you can read below.

First of all, congratulations on your debut book, The Taking of Jake Livingston! Could you tell us a little about yourself and the book?

Thank you! The Taking of Jake Livingston is about a teen medium named Jake who has the power to see ghosts live their final moments of death on repeat. He’s trying to fly under the radar as one of the few Black students at his prep school, but then the ghost of a school shooter starts haunting him, and he has to develop his power in order to banish the ghost before it possesses his body. As for me, I’m just a Millennial from Atlanta who’s been writing books since he could tie his shoes. Most of what I know about writing has come from studying poetry, film, theatre, music, and SFFH books throughout my life. 

What inspired you to become a writer? Were there any stories that inspired you to tell your own stories?

Neal Shusterman and Rick Riordan turned me into a writer. The Everlost series and the Percy Jackson series were my two favorites growing up. But I was also inspired by traditional gothic horror by Edgar Allan Poe and more modern classics by Stephen King. There’s been a focus on diversifying literature in YA in recent years and some of the newer stories like The Hate U Give and More Happy Than Not gave me the confidence to put my identities on the page more. I combined my love of horror with the stories that meditate on identity and out came The Taking of Jake Livingston. 

The Taking of Jake Livingston is a take on the literary sub-genre of Dark Academia from a Black, queer horror perspective. What inspired you to write this story and how did the book come to be?

I wanted to look at themes of isolation and toxic cycles through an entertaining ghost story. Being a Black student at an all-white school was the perfect backdrop for the tale of a white person invading a Black person’s body. I was consumed by questions about what a kid would even do in that environment, what kinds of traumas and self-doubts they’d develop, how those traumas would be elevated if they could communicate with the dead. So, there’s the contemporary horror and the ghost horror. I think the layers are what give the story its punch. 

Did you draw on any resources for inspiration while writing the book, i.e. books, movies, music, etc.?

There are subtle nods to horror writers like R.L. Stine, Stephen King, Darren Shan, and Dean Koontz, all of whom I read growing up and couldn’t help bringing into the text. And then there’s name drops for other horror writers I respect—Tananarive Due, Stephen Graham Jones, and Octavia Butler. James Wan, Hitchcock and Jordan Peele were my biggest inspirations on the film side when it came to evoking the more cinematic elements of atmosphere. As for music, my publisher published an official playlist for the book on the Penguin Teen site. The most notable artists I returned to while writing were Sega Bodega, Amnesia Scanner, Shygirl, and LYZZA.

Speaking of academia, two academic disciplines, Monster Theory, the study in which the monstrous body is viewed as a metaphor for the cultural body, i.e. monsters as symbolic expressions of cultural unease, and Queer Theory, have often been closely tied together. What are your thoughts on this?

I think monster stories are an ideal way to explore what it means to be “other” to society. Monster representation is about as diverse as human representation in that they can technically fall anywhere on the spectrum of good and evil, but there’s often a perception that is at odds with the truth of what they are. The whole monster theme leaves a lot of room for ambiguity, especially when building a villain. I enjoyed highlighting Jake’s internal thought processes as he experienced racism and homophobia, tracking the effects of violence on a boy who is soft but has to exist in a body seen as inherently aggressive. We’re seeing vulnerability underneath perceived monstrosity, and how the perception of monstrosity can potentially aggravate and bring out monstrous behavior. 

Aside from writing, what are some of your other hobbies and interests?

My two favorite hobbies are hiking nature trails and perusing bookstores. In addition to that, I love candle collecting, and finding new mood lighting and art to add to my living space. I’m a huge introvert and am probably inside when I’m not with nature. So, it’s all about the Zen for me. 

What advice would you have to give to aspiring writers hoping to enter the field and working on their craft?

Be as self-disciplined as you are daring. Read a lot, write even when the words aren’t great, and lean into the style that feels natural. Honor your voice rather than try to follow a formula. The market is always changing so you just have to know what you’re good at and develop that thing.

In a recent essay you wrote about how books can and should contain “radical” potential in our current age of activism. Could you expand your thoughts on this?

I’m speaking to the YA market when I emphasize the need for radical fiction because recent stories in this age category are politically safe. They are very moderate. I’m a radical leftist and I know teens have a need for radical books that make bold choices in what they portray, and the conclusions they draw, which go beyond surface level representation. In adult fiction, we engage with the weariness we feel as overworked citizens who aren’t listened to by officials, bosses, significant others who have power. And teens need the same thing, but reflecting the adults in their lives who are oppressive, power hungry, and politically regressive. We need art that is dramatic and risky. Our world is dying due to climate change. The capitalist economy is falling because empathy and compassion have been eroded by corporate greed. Our most relevant work should be looking into these issues, the reasons for them, and preparing us for what comes next.

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet but that you wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?

I’d love to be asked more about food I’ve tried recently that I loved. I recently tried alligator and it was delicious—tasted like chicken. And my stomach had no idea what to do with that meat coming down the tubes but it was worth it. The next weird food I want to try is shark. Food is another one of my passions. 

Are there any projects you are currently working on that you feel free to speak about?

I’m going through this period where I’m trying a bunch of different things just to see what I can do. I will likely settle on horror again but right now I’m sorting through the lore I’ve been developing for the past few years and forming a plot that works for my next book. I know it will be good bloody fun that critiques academia and the patriarchy. I think I’m in the stage of my writing where I can kick off a series opener, so fingers crossed that a tentpole series works out.

What LGBTQIA+ books/ authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?
I highly recommend Rivers Solomon and Akwaeke Emezi, and basically anything they write. I have Bath Haus by P.J. Vernon on my tbr and I’m dying to read that soon. Also, TJ Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea is great if you like superhero fantasy with wholesome vibes. I’d also recommend The Unbroken by C.L. Clark for lovers of epic fantasy.

Interview with Author Daisy Hernández

Daisy Hernández is the author of The Kissing Bug: A True Story of an Insect, a Family and a Nation’s Neglect of a Deadly Disease. She is also the author of the award-winning memoir A Cup of Water Under My Bed and coeditor of Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism. The former editor of ColorLines magazine, she has reported for National Geographic, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and Slate, and she has written for NPR’s All Things Considered and CodeSwitch.

Her essays and fiction have appeared in Aster(ix), Bellingham Review, Brevity, Dogwood, Fourth Genre, Gulf Coast, Iowa Review, Juked, and Rumpus among other journals. A contributing editor for the Buddhist magazine Tricycle, Daisy is an Associate Professor in the Creative Writing Program at Miami University in Ohio.

I had the opportunity to interview Daisy, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT. Could you tell us a little about yourself? 

Sure! I am a queer Latinx author from Jersey. I’ve been writing and editing work about the intersections of race, immigration, class, and sexuality for almost two decades. My first book was the anthology COLONIZE THIS! YOUNG OF COLOR ON TODAY’S FEMINISM. I’ve also written a memoir and my new book, THE KISSING BUG, is about science, medicine and public health. I live in Ohio where I’ve just adopted my first (and probably only) puppy named Lula! 

Could you explain to the readers of Geeks OUT where the unique title of your books come from? 

Some people are born with a talent for writing titles, and then there’s the rest of us. In my case, titles “find” me. So, COLONIZE THIS! is actually the title of an essay in the anthology by the incredible Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez. A CUP OF WATER UNDER MY BED is the title of my memoir and refers figuratively to the resources that my immigrant mother and her sisters had while raising me in the United States. My new book’s title is THE KISSING BUG, which is an insect, only found in Latin America and the US, that can transmit a deadly disease that disproportionately affects Latinx people.   

In the book, you navigate through your writing the complexities of your intersectional identity, from your Cuban and Colombian roots to your queer identity. Has that ever felt like transcribing a spiderweb, in which each tread can’t be untangled from the other?  

What a beautiful image! Even though I wrote a book titled THE KISSING BUG I am not a fan of the insect world so I don’t usually reach for analogies like this but you are so right and I’ll keep going with this — if you touch one part of the spiderweb, one part of your identity, you feel the vibrations elsewhere on the spiderweb, for all other aspects of your identity. So a situation that touches on issues of ethnicity also brings up emotions in terms of gender and sexuality and class.  

While reading your book, one of the quotes that most stood out to me was the one where you describe your bisexuality, “As if I am learning that I can shift my weight from one leg to the other, that I have a second leg. Kissing women is like discovering a new limb.” Could you expand on this? 

At the time I felt that I had representations of lesbian identity, narratives about lesbian identity and life, but I didn’t have narratives or language about bisexuality. Movies or TV shows often just represented us in love triangles. So I wanted new language and started thinking about what bisexuality felt like in my body and that image came to me — probably it came to me because when I was fifteen I was in a terrible car accident and ended up breaking my left leg in a bad way. I was hospitalized for weeks, had to get a blood transfusion. It was bad. Then I was on a walker, then crutches. Healing took months which for a teenager is years. But I remember slowly being able to bear weight on my left leg, and it was felt like a new limb to me, like I had never thought about my leg until that moment and how wondrous it was. And I guess I think of bisexuality and pansexuality like that: wondrous.    

One of the most prominent parts of the book was you exploring your family’s belief systems, including Santería, including the reconciliation between the hidden and the open. Would you mind discussing that a little here and the relevance of your decision to include that?  

I often find myself obsessed in my writing with what is hidden, forgotten, or silenced. People tend to hide what is tender, vulnerable, wounded and also powerful….I knew that I had to write about the Ocha religion because after I left home the religion became more important to me as a way to stay connected particularly with my father. And in the memoir I realized that showing readers my father in a spiritual context would help somewhat in having empathy for him despite the alcoholism and abuse.

In an interview you’ve done with Ms. Magazine, you had mentioned this really cool thing about how writing empowers you, saying “people can ignore me for whatever reasons—’cause I’m Latina, ’cause they have ideas bout me—but when I’m on the page, no one ignores the page.” What do you think about the written word and why it holds so much power?  

I love that you found this quote! I don’t remember saying it but it sounds like me. We are a culture that values the document. When I say “we” I mean the Western world, the United States. We value ink and paper. So on one hand, the written word has power because of historical and collective decisions, and on the other hand, I also think the page has power because whether that’s a page in a book or a page on Instagram it can be shared and so the written word can move so far beyond the community in the context where is written. And I think many of us have had the feeling when you read a page and you think: this is me, this is my life. There’s a thrill unlike any other in that connection. 

One section of the book that I’m sure many people appreciated was your internal conversation on language, on speaking both Spanish and English, and how we demonstrate different parts of ourselves depending on the tongue we use. In addition to race and class, do you believe language has any effect in how we conceive our own queer identities? 

Absolutely! When the book was translated to Spanish, I had a passionate email exchange with the translator about the word “butch”. I was trying to explain to him that the word is understood in a Spanish-language context here in the US, and I didn’t want to use the word marimacho in Spanish because I grew up hearing people say that as an insult for butch women. So I wanted to keep butch even in Spanish. In the queer spaces where I came of age, if you said “Ella es butch,” people immediately understood you — and femmes understood the desire that word invoked. 

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet but wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)? 

I don’t think that I’ve ever been asked what books I read as a child. It’s not a question that I necessarily wish I had been asked but I do find it interesting that it doesn’t come up. I might be thinking about this because I was supposed to do a podcast about young adult literature. The answer: I read a lot of Sweet Valley Twins in elementary school and I read a lot of Harlequin romance novels. In other words: all fantasy and now I write nonfiction. 

What advice might you have to give to other aspiring writers, especially those seeking to go into the field of non-fiction literature and journalism? 

You don’t need talent. You don’t need to come from a literary family. You don’t even need to have read the literary canon as a child. You just have to want it, and you have to be clear about what you want to say. That’s it. Wanting to write and that sense of purpose will keep you going through rejections and anything else that comes up, and it will also ensure that you find a community of support. 

Are there any projects or ideas you are working on and at liberty to speak about? 

I am working on my first collection of essays. At least I think I am! I always like to let a book project change over time. 

Finally, what queer books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?  

I love all of Carolina DeRobertis’s novels, and CANTORAS is the one that I would recommend as a must read for anyone queer on the planet. All of Rigoberto Gonzalez’s books too, and I’m partial to his memoir Butterfly Boy and his book Autobiography of My Hungers. I often teach We the Animals by Justin Torres. And, of course, every book by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa.

The Geeks OUT Podcast: American Podcast Story

In this week’s super-sized episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by J.W. Crump, as they discuss all the American Stories coming soon from Ryan Murphy, and celebrate DC exploring Tim Drake’s queer identity in This Week in Queer.



KEVIN: AMC works out deal with Warner Bros. for shortened releases in 2022
J.W.: There will now be two “hosts” of Jeopardy



KEVIN: Swan Song, Titans, Star Trek: Lower Decks
J.W.: Casually Comics, Magic, Glow Up



Catherine Zeta-Jones is Morticia Addams in Wednesday series



DC Comics acknowledges Tim Drake’s queer identity



New trailer for the final season of Lucifer




• Idris Elba joins Sonic the Hedgehog 2 as Knuckles
• Sony moves Venom 2 back a month
• New trailer for Night of the Animated Dead
• Emma Stone signs on for Cruella sequel



• New trailer for The Other Two season 2
• HBO renews The White Lotus for season 2
• New teaser for season 3 of Doom Patrol 
• First look at series adaptation of I Know What You Did Last Summer
• New trailer for Clickbait
• New trailer for season 2 of Kid Cosmic which is renewed for season 3
• New trailer for Q-Force
• The cast for How I Met Your Father more diverse than predecessor
• New trailer for Impeachment: American Crime Story
• New trailer for American Horror Story: Double Feature
• FX doubles down on Ryan Murphy with American Love & Sports Story shows
• New trailer for the newly renewed What We Do in the Shadows



• Batman writer James Tynion IV is leaving DC exclusive for Substack
• Comic creators at Marvel barely compensated when characters are adapted



• KEVIN: Connor Kent
• J.W.: Tim Drake

Interview with Writer & Editor Kiara Valdez

Kiara Valdez is an Afro-Dominican writer and associate editor at First Second. She was born and raised in New York City (shout out to Washington Heights) and has been an avid comics reader all her life. She graduated from Williams College with a double major in English Literature and Japanese, and spends her free time reading, writing, and enjoying a long list of other hobbies she can’t keep up with. I had the pleasure of interviewing Kiara, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Hiya, I’m Kiara Valdez. I am a proud Afro-Dominican born and raised in Washington Heights, NYC. I have a serious affinity to the color lilac and am a mom to a precious black cat named Ruthie and a pink corn snake named Posey. 

How would you describe your literary/ geeky tastes and preferences?

I have been an avid fan of manga and anime since I was young, and since becoming a graphic novel editor, I’ve become very invested in the American comics scene. I watch a wide variety of animated shows ranging from anime like my beloved Haikyuu!! to shows like Trollhunters, and I also enjoy a wide assortment of teen fantasy shows of the non-animated variety (even the ones of questionable quality). The one common thread in most of the media I enjoy is that they don’t make me TOO sad and even if they do, that they usually have reasonably happy endings.

As an editor, how would you describe your journey into publishing, specifically toward First Second Books?

I find that my journey has been quite straight forward. I knew I wanted to be an editor since the age of 16, so I did a bunch of internships throughout college, and then my senior year I applied for a position at First Second. I’ve been with them ever since.

Is there anything you wish you had known when you first entered the field?

I wish I would have known how much of editorial is balancing different personalities and knowing how to deal with other humans. If I had known that I would have started learning how to meditate back in college and maybe I would have a disciplined routine by now. (This is only a half joke). 

As someone who has had their hand in a number of acclaimed titles, among which include Check Please!, Snapdragon, Bloom, and Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, what usually catches your eye professionally and creatively?

That’s so hard to answer because SO many things catch my eye—more than I can acquire for the sake of my sanity. I think if someone goes through the list of books I have acquired so far they’d be able to tell that my taste in artstyle tends to lean towards what I personally call “eye candy”—something polished, usually leaning closer to the realistic, whose lines give you a sense of either warmth or melancholy, and with (usually) one or more lush colors. And there are times where something completely opposite of this attracts me. All and all I am attracted to projects and creatives that have a strong vision and direction. And professionally, I am attracted to honesty and clear communication.

As someone who is involved in projects from acquisition to publication, what would you share are of the hardest/weirdest/ and coolest parts of the development process?

-The hardest part is definitely the acquisition phase—whether it be participating in an auction, or even just presenting it at Acquisitions Meeting—it’s always a time of high tension and nerves. 

-The weirdest part…that must be thumbnails. Man, I have seen SUCH a range of ‘I honestly can’t read these” to “wow these are practically finished pencils” and it makes me laugh so much. Of course, I adjust how I work depending on the artist and their needs, and the variability is part of the reason my job is so interesting.

-The coolest part is that first moment of holding that book we worked on for 3+ years in my hands. It feels like Christmas every time.

As a queer woman of color, you’ve probably noticed quite a bit about the successes and failings of the publishing industry when it comes to promoting diversity. Could you share some of your thoughts on this?

I kind of feel like I am stuck in a wave pool. Like, I can see the efforts trying to be made by people around me—and so much of it truly comes from a good place in their hearts—but I of course also see the missteps. I think at least from when I first joined the industry 5 years ago, we have made some progress. It’s been slow, and it often doesn’t show up in obvious ways, but there is a slow current moving us forward. And I hope it soon speeds up. 

Aside from reading and developing books, what are some of your other interests and hobbies?

I have more hobbies and interests than I can keep up with. As said before I love watching anime and reading manga, I write, dance when I can, really love fashion, am on and off trying to learn how to rollerblade, and recently bought an electric guitar I’d love to be able to properly play one day.

What advice would you have to give to aspiring creatives, both who wish to enter the publishing field and those who wish to get publishing?

Have a lot of patience and hustle. No matter if you’re trying to break in or are just trying to survive after you “made it”, you’ll need those two things daily.

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet but that you wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?

I don’t think I’ve ever gotten asked if I love my job. And I do, I absolutely love my job and the comics community even with the many hardships and flaws. 

Are there any projects you are currently working on (professional or personal) that you feel free to speak about?

Yes! A book that I have poured half my soul into editing, Himawari House by Harmony Becker, is coming out this Fall. It’s a multilingual slice-of-lifey YA graphic novel following three girls who live in a sharehouse in Tokyo. The book is truly fantastic, and Harmony is so extremely talented and has been a total joy to work with. Everyone please go preorder it!

What LGBTQIA+ books would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

Oh my god, I have so many comics recommendations:

Classmates by Nakamura Asumiko

-Snapdragon by Kat Leyh

Our Dreams at Dusk by Yuhki Kamatani

-Given by Natsuki Kizu

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

Check, Please by Ngozi Ukazu

Seven Days by Venio Tachibana and Rihito Takarai

-Bloom by Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganuheau

Kiss Number 8 by Colleen A.F. Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw-Shadow Life by Hiromi Goto and Ann Xu

The Geeks OUT Podcast: Y It Gotta Be About the Last Man

In this week’s episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by Eric Green, as they discuss the new trailer for Y: The Last Man, the trailer for Cinderella, and celebrate Muppet Babies embracing Gonzo’s gender non-conformity in This Week in Queer. 



KEVIN: New trailer for Y: The Last Man
ERIC: NPH to star in Uncoupled on Netflix



KEVIN: The Suicide Squad, Pray Away, Why Women Kill, Lisey’s Story
ERIC: The Owl House, Chip ‘n’ Dale: Park Life, 70’s and 80’s X-Men-ish comics



New trailer for Cinderella



Latest episode of Muppet Babies reveals Gonzo as gender non-conforming



New trailer for Sinphony




• New trailer for Venom: Let There Be Carnage
• Two straight cis stars of Jungle Cruise talk about importance of queer rep
• Colin Jost and his brother to write new live action TMNT movie
• Cobra Kai star Xolo Maridueña to play titular Blue Beetle movie
• New trailer for Kate



• New trailer for season 4 of Stranger Things
• New teaser for Impeachment: American Crime Story
• Disney+ renews Star Wars: The Bad Batch 
• Disney+ announces a Halloween Lego Star Wars special
• New trailer for Marvel’s What If…?
• Comedy Central/Paramount+ renews South Park for 4 seasons and 14 movies
• Adult Swim renews Tuca and Bertie
• First look at the Lord of the Rings series coming Sept. 2022
• The queer fantasy Valdemar series is being developed into a series
• NBC outright cancels Ultimate Slip ‘N Slide before it even premieres



• Due to rising COVID risk NYCC likely to require vaccination
• New Star Wars: The High Republic: Out of the Shadows confirms ace/aro character



• KEVIN: Clayface
• ERIC: Poison Ivy from the Harley Quinn cartoon

Interview with the Gentle Giant Ace

Marshall Blount aka the Gentle Giant Ace is a Black Asexual Activist from Erie,Pennsylvania. He’s a board member for Asexual Outreach (a non-profit organization) and on the Pennsylvania commission on LGBTQ Affairs. His mission is to spread awareness of Asexuality from his perspective. I had the pleasure of talking with Marshall, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Aww thank you, my name is Marshall Blount, aka the Gentle Giant Ace, I am 28 years old, I am Asexual, Aromantic, and Greyromantic. I’m an Asexual Activist, board member of Asexual Outreach, and I’m on the Pennsylvania commission on LGBTQ affairs. I’m pretty much busy doing incredible things for the Ace community.

As a person on the aromantic-asexual spectrum, how did you find yourself discovering this part of your identity?

I’ve spent a good deal of my early life not exploring my sexuality, I do know that this Heteronormative society impacted my view of what sexuality was. It made me unaware of how HUGE the spectrum of sexuality is. It wasn’t until my early 20’s that I REALLY started to question my sexuality, I broke my silence to my sister in law (Deja) who was (still is) awesome in helping me learn the complexities of sexuality. I googled Asexuality and was like “YEP, THAT’S ME”. And even after that, there was a lot to explore and still is.

How did you find yourself getting into asexual advocacy? Did anything or anyone in particular inspire you?

I got into Activism after some very negative experiences I’ve encountered while being open with my Asexuality. It was me not wanting those who are coming out to not have to experience the hatred I’ve experienced and sometimes still do. I want the world to know that being Asexual is NOT being broken, cold, alone and loveless. It’s a beautiful part of who we are.

As a Black asexual man, you represent a few demographics that are still underrepresented within the ace community, both in terms of your gender and your racial background. What are your thoughts on intersectionality within the ace community?

Intersectionality is KEY to the future of the Ace community and our activism. Asexuality is stereotyped as a “White thing” which as a result, Black and Brown Ace voices (activist or not) are often ignored and overlooked…Things are changing within the community however, non-BIPOC Ace folk need to listen to the voices and experiences of BIPOC Ace folk if we want to move forward as a community and break that stereotype.

How as a community can we work to do better for aces of color?

Share our work (with permission of the activist/artist and give credit to them), donate to our causes, tip us (BIPOC Ace Activist/advocates) so we can continue our work without instability.

As a representative on the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs, could you tell us about your involvement with the organization? Also, on that note, how would you describe the ace community where you’re from?

My involvement with the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ affairs is to make sure that Ace folk in the commonwealth are represented and to also check in with the well-being of the community and what we (our commission works as a team) can do to improve on the quality of life for LGBTQIA+ Pennsylvanians in general. The Ace community of Erie is small. It’s rare (not too rare) that I bump into another Ace person here. I do wear an Asexual pride pin on my shirt or hat so I can be spotted by another Ace in public. I do think eventually we will have hangouts especially post pandemic but it’s the matter of who will be the first of us to host it here lol .There will be cake though.

Besides your work online, what do you like to do in your free time?

Outside of my work online, I love to dive into photography. There is just something about capturing a moment in time and sharing it with the world that is joyful to me. You can’t really beat it. I also love to explore the varieties of coffee and teas from different cafes lol.

What are some basic things about asexuality you would want people to take away from this interview?

I want people to know that Black and Brown Asexual people exist…That our voices, our experiences, and humanity should never go unheard or overlooked. I also want the world to know that Asexual people are not broken and that we are not going anywhere. Our sexual orientation is valid and we deserve to be recognized.

For someone new to the ace community, what resources would you recommend checking out?

I highly recommend Asexual Outreach ( It’s a wonderful organization that can help you get connected to the community and provides resources so you can get educated about the Ace community. You can even search for Ace groups in your area or nearby . I am biased lol but Asexual Outreach is a wonderful team to be a part of and I’m so, so proud of the work we create so we can help our community.

What are some ways you would recommend for someone hoping to celebrate or advocate for their own ace-ness?

For starters, get you some cake lol, that is a huge tradition in our community and a must. If you want to get involved with community advocacy, I have to again recommend reaching out to Asexual Outreach, we have the steps to help you with that. Head on over to the website ( for more information.

Who are some ace activists you would recommend others to know about?

The Asexual Goddess

Yasmin Benoit

Queer As Cat

Ahsante The Artist

What LGBTQIA+ media (i.e. books/ television/etc.) would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

1.The one and only Yasmin Benoit’s YouTube channel, their content is just amazing and badass. And you get a lot of behind the scenes of the work they do.

2.The Asexual Goddess’ YouTube channel, their work is also badass and they breakdown the various subjects in our community and they never fail to deliver great commentary

3. Bojack Horsemen on Netflix, I can watch that entire series a million times and never get tired of it lol. It’s a very real show because you can relate to the various characters on it. My favorite being Todd Chavez for obvious reasons (I won’t spoil it for those who did not watch). Check it out.

Interview with Author Julia Lynn Rubin

JULIA LYNN RUBIN received her MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from The New School in 2017. A lover of film, psychology, and literature, Julia has been writing creatively since first grade, and her short stories have appeared in publications such as the North American Review. She currently lives in Brooklyn, where she is currently freelancing while working on her next book. Julia is the author of Burro Hills and Trouble Girls. I had the pleasure of interviewing Julia, which you can read below.

First of all, congrats on the release of Trouble Girls! In your own words can you tell us what it’s about?

Thank you so much! Trouble Girls is a queer, Sapphic reimagining of Thelma & Louise, following the story of two best friends sick of their Rust Belt town who set out to go on a weekend camping trip together, but that gets derailed by a night of violence at a local bar. The girls make a run for it and become the face of a #MeToo movement they never asked to lead as their journey across the country grows darker and more dangerous. It’s a love story, but also one of teen girl rage, resilience, and hope.

What drew you to writing, particularly queer young adult fiction?

I’ve always loved writing and anything creative! I was a voracious reader as a kid and always wanted to write my own “books” (in spiral notebooks, mostly, and some even had mocked up copyright pages!). I wrote all of the time: poems, short stories, half-finished novels. I got into writing young adult in particular through reading authors like Laurie Halse Anderson and being inspired by the voice-driven narratives. I also write general short stories and “adult” fiction, but they tend to be about younger people and often teens, so it was a natural fit. When I applied to my MFA program for Fiction, I was actually asked to be in the Writing for Children program because they thought my voice and style suited it, so I agreed!

Trouble Girls is said to be inspired by the film, Thelma and Louise, set in modern day #MeToo era. What draws you about this film, and what inspired you to make an adaption of it?

I’ve always been a huge movie fan, and when I was in high school, I’d rent at least one to watch at Blockbuster every week or every other week. Thelma & Louise was one movie I adored. It was dark and harrowing but also full of adventure and light. It championed female friendship, and was groundbreaking for its time in being one of the first “girl buddy” road movies and also one of the first to directly address the issues of sexual assault and rape.

The movie has Sapphic undertones and subtext that many people have read into it. I also love Bonnie & Clyde, and the idea of two people in love on the run. I thought it would be a really concept to piece together and adapt to YA, telling the story from the perspective of a queer teen girl while giving it my own spin, of course.

In addition to queerness, you also explore themes relating to class and mental health and how it affects the characters’ lives. Could you expand on this?

My first book, Burro Hills, is about working class kids in California. I wanted to write another story about working class teens, as I think there needs to be more of those stories in YA fiction. Trixie and Lux, my main girls, have enormous privilege due to being white, but they come from broken families, and Trixie’s mother has early Alzheimer’s dementia and she is her primary caregiver, so they don’t necessarily think of themselves that way. I wanted to show the nuances of life for queer working-class girls, and how in some ways, they are blind to their privilege as it keeps them alive on the run for quite some time. I also wanted to depict a segment of American teenage life that isn’t wealthy or middle-class. Mental health ties into everything. It affects Trixie greatly, and Lux to a degree as well. The trauma they experience from the incident at the dive bar stays with them, and leads them into a brief fantasy period in which they indulge in things they know they can’t afford, a way to escape from the horrors of what they did and what happened to them.

As a fellow student of the New School MFA Program, I’m curious about your experiences in the program. Could you describe it and some of your favorite parts of the program? Would you say it helped you grow as a writer?

I absolutely loved the program! I met some of my best friends in it who I’m still very close with to this day; many of them came to my book release party and launch. I especially enjoyed workshops and reading each other’s work and cheering everyone on; it was so fun to watch us all evolve as writers and see where each other’s stories went next (and possibly have some say in that). I also loved David Levithan and Coe Booth’s class on YA fiction, which was amazing and immersive. I won the MFA Chapbook award in my concentration in my graduating year, and that was so special. I felt so supported by everyone and it was great to be among fellow writers.

What advice would you to other queer writers, especially those trying to finish their projects?

Never give up. Your stories matter, and they need to be told and heard. They need to be shared, and they deserve to. If you can, find a writer’s group that can hold you accountable, whether it’s friends online, a workshop class, it doesn’t matter. Read widely, and read outside of the genre you want to write in. Read classic queer literature and new queer literature. Promote other writers and authors, and get involved in the community. That’s a great way to make friends and find writing buddies. Above all, know that this is a long game. Keep at it, no matter how many rejections you receive. Treat each one like a badge of honor. Persevering through rejections will often lead you to great success.

What LGBTQIA+ book/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

Oh wow, this is the hardest question I’ve had to answer, as I love so many!! Here’s a shortlist:

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales

If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich (coming in December)

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim

In Her Skin by Kim Savage

When Brooklyn Was Queer: A History by Hugh Ryan

Cover photo by Max Mauro

The Geeks OUT Podcast: The Blizzard of our Discontent

In this week’s episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by Teri Yoshiuchi, as they discuss the lawsuit (alleging widespread harassment) that is blowing up at Activision-Blizzard, the new trailer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and celebrate our first look at the Chucky series which features a queer lead in This Week in Queer.



KEVIN: With COVID rates climbing Netflix mandating vaccination
TERI: Following widespread harassment allegations, Activision-Blizzard employees walk



KEVIN: Jungle Cruise, Jolt, Evil, Icon & RocketU: Revelations
TERI: Magic: The Gathering/D&D Crossover, Manifest, RPDR All Stars



Scarlett Johansson suing Disney about Black Widow release, Emma Stone considers the same for Cruella



New trailer for Chucky series featuring queer lead character



New trailer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife




• New trailer for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
• Paramount pulls Clifford the Big Red Dog from schedule
• New trailer for Lamb
• Blumhouse producing a new trio of Exorcist movies



• A series followup to Waterworld is being developed
• TNT renews Snowpiercer for season 4
• Matt Ryan to play a new character next season on Legends of Tomorrow 
• New trailer for season 12 of Archer
• New teaser trailer for American Horror Story: Double Feature
• Disney announces November premiere for Hawkeye
• New trailer for Only Murders in the Building
• Hulu renews Love, Victor for season 3
• Netflix renews Sweet Tooth for season 2
• Netflix developing live action Pokemon series
• New trailer for Brand New Cherry Flavor



• Walmart launching “My First Comic” from DC
• Winston Duke to voice Bruce Wayne in Batman Unburied podcast



• KEVIN: Thena
• TERI: Shang-Chi