Interview with Author Nafiza Azada

Nafiza Azad is a self-identified island girl. She has hurricanes in her blood and dreams of a time she can exist solely on mangoes and pineapple.

Born in Lautoka, Fiji, she currently resides in British Columbia, Canada where she reads too many books, watches too many K-dramas, and writes stories about girls taking over the world.

Her debut YA fantasy was the Morris Award–nominated The Candle and the Flame. The Wild Ones is her second novel.

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

Hello! My name is Nafiza Azad and I’m still navigating my many identities. I like to call myself an Indo-Fijian Canadian Muslim. I was born and grew up in Fiji and immigrated to Canada with a whole lot of emotional baggage when I was 17, along with my parents and a very tattered copy of Anne of Green Gables. I write female-centric books that celebrate life in all its messy (and often violent) glory. In the times when I’m not plotting or daydreaming, I watch Kdramas, embroider, and read.

How did you find yourself getting into writing fiction, particularly Young Adult? 

As I often tell people, writing isn’t something I choose to do. It’s more of a calling than a carefully chosen career. I have been writing (not very well) for as long as I can remember. I started with these particularly atrocious poems when I was still living on a sugarcane farm in Fiji and hadn’t begun school. For a long while, I thought I wouldn’t be able to write anything but poetry. I have taken many writing classes that have, whether intentionally or accidentally, shaped my writing, but almost all the professors who taught them told me that I had no future in writing. So, of course, I had to prove them wrong. I write YA because when I was a young adult, I never could find the books that I saw myself in. I want to change that for other young adults like me who are searching for reflections not just of their faces and persons but of their lives. I want to write a book that is a friend, a home, for someone who might not be welcomed elsewhere.

Where did the inspiration for your latest book, The Wild Ones, come from?

The Wild Ones is fueled by anger. It came from the girl in the mirror who was determined to take the awful experience she had gone through and create something out of it that would render her more than just a victim. THE WILD ONES is a scream out in this world where women are considered expendable, dismissed, an afterthought. Women, especially POC women, are constantly fighting to be heard, to be respected; we put our dignity on the line, we put our lives on the line, every time we step out of the door. The Wild Ones is an explicit call to arms and also an invitation to a sisterhood. A sisterhood that’s often denied and denigrated. 

How would you describe your writing process? Are there any methods you use to help better your concentration or progress?

The first thing I learned after writing my first book is that no, writing one book does not automatically mean you know how to write books. Every project is a different beast and often requires a different set of processes. However, there are certain ones that work for me. I start with a question and then elaborate on that question. I do a lot of work before I start writing the novel. A notebook accompanies me as I write and I fill it with character profiles, book aesthetics, research, plot, questions so that at the end, I end up with two books instead of one: the actual novel and a book that documents the journey that led to the novel. Drafting is the most difficult step in the process for me. Every word feels like it’s torn from me so when I’m drafting, I write a maximum of 2k words per day every day. It’s the longest process and the most painful one. I like to work in complete silence so I end up working late nights. I only work on one book at a time because I immerse myself completely in the world to the point that I feel like I miss entire seasons and months when I’m writing.

What do you wish you had known at the beginning of your writing journey? 

This might sound odd but for all writers looking to write professionally, understand that writing is a business. Yes, it is art but it is also a product to be consumed. Don’t be too attached to your way of doing things. Your way of doing things might make artistic sense but if it doesn’t make retail sense, you will be in for a lot of heartache. I wish I had understood that at the beginning. Sometimes success does not depend on the quality of your prose but on how saleable your story is. 

As a writer, who or what you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration?

There are so many. I gravitate toward female writers like Kate Elliott, G. Willow Wilson, Alison Croggon, Stephanie Burgis, Sylvia Plath and poets like Pablo Neruda, Warsan Shire, Safia Elhillo, Fatimah Ashgar. I am also inspired by my fellow writers like London Shah, Julian Winters, Adib Khorram, Axie Oh, Kat Cho, Karuna Riazi amongst many others. Their passion for their stories, for their works, inspires mine.

Aside from writing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

I read webtoons! Korean webtoons are a whole new level! I watch dramas, accompany my mom while she gardens (I have a cherry tree I call Gerard). I returned to embroidering during the pandemic and I enjoy creating explosions of colour on fabric. I bake cakes and play with my niece and nephew who think that like them I’m also under ten. I take pictures of flowers and dream up more stories I want to tell.

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

I just finished a draft of my second novel for S&S and all I  can say about it is that it’s a faery tale. I’m also working on an adult fantasy which is a whole new ball game as I’m discovering. I have many more stories planned. Hopefully I get to write a good lot of them.

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)? 

“Is there really a sugar festival in Lautoka (the first city the Wild Ones visit)?” Answer: Yes, there is! I was born in a village a few km from Lautoka and the sugar festival which takes place in August (or took place in this Covid-fested world) was one of the highlights of the year. I have many fond memories of attending the festival. 

What advice would you have to give to aspiring writers? 

You’ve already made the decision to be a writer and it’s probably because writing is in your blood. The bad news is: success the way it traditionally looks doesn’t come to everyone. The good news: we live in a new world and you define what success is. So the only thing between you and success is your grit and your willpower. Write every single day. Read everything, even books that don’t speak to you because those are the ones you will remember longest. Share your work with people whose criticism won’t cripple your creativity but also know that writing as a craft is one you will be working on forever. Learn to do close reading. Write in different styles. Be bold but also be respectful. Some stories you can tell, others you don’t have a right to. Respect that.

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

Instead of books, I will recommend authors whose books are lovely in their exploration of romance. Mason Deaver, Julian Winters, Adib Khorram, Zen Cho, Benjamin Alire Saenz.Tasha Suri‘s newest book is amazing in its representation. Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé is also great. 

The Geeks OUT Podcast: Queen of the Universe – Revelation Part 2

The Geeks OUT Podcast

Opinions, reviews, incisive discussions of queer geek ideas in pop culture, and the particularly cutting brand of shade that you can only get from a couple of queer geeks all in highly digestible weekly doses.

In this week’s episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by J.W. Crump, as they discuss the new Masters of the Universe: Revelation trailer, The Eternals getting #reviewbombed, and celebrate the judges announced for Queen of the Universe (Eurovision for drag queens) in This Week in Queer.



KEVIN:  Anti-LGBTQ review bombs begin for Eternals
JW: Brendan Fraser joins Batgirl as a villain



KEVIN: Last Night in Soho, Midnight Mass, 4400, Star Trek: Prodigy, Inferno
JW: House of Ashes, Chucky, Harley Quinn, Jahara Jayde



New trailer for Masters of the Universe: Revelation Part 2 centers on Teela’s journey



Judges announced for Queen of the Universe



New trailer for Black Friday




• After a “big” opening Dune 2 is official
• New teaser for Lightyear 
• Disney announces new Avengers show coming to cruise ships
• Rumors leak about future MCU movies/shows
• New trailer for A Boy Called Christmas
• VH1 releasing The Bitch Who Stole Christmas



• New trailer for The Real World Homecoming: Los Angeles
• New trailer for Harry Potter: Hogwarts Tournament of Houses
• ABC gives The Wonder Years reboot a full season
• New teaser for season 3 of Servant



• Due to paper shortages Image is ending 2nd and more printings for now
• Image releasing bound edition of the print-only Razorblades anthology
• Marvel introducing a new and less problematic? Iron Fist



• KEVIN: Teela & He-Man
• JW: The Holy Trinity of David, Brendan, and Nathan

Creator Spotlight with Lego Artist Supreme, Sam Hatmaker.

For this installment of the Geeks OUT Creator spotlight, we’re going to speak with someone who’s comic’s adjacent, Samuel Hatmaker, the world-famous Lego artist. 

Sam first got noticed when images of the Golden Girls house set they built out of LEGOS hit the interwebs. It immediately became a viral sensation picked up by The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, Yahoo News, OUT, Today, and The Ellen Degeneres Show! It became the most supported non-Lego project in LEGO IDEAS history.

Sam’s work has been featured in galleries, books, and television. They even competed and became a finalist on LEGO MASTERS Season 1, which aired on FOX in the USA. Samuel’s latest collection of STAR TREK-inspired art commissioned by Roddenberry has been the subject of many interviews and was one of the highlights of the biggest all Star Trek Con in Las Vegas this past August, The 56 Year Mission

Photo by Sam Hatmaker

CHRIS ALLO: So tell us a little bit about how your love of Lego’s came about?

I kept getting LEGO my whole life.  My 21st birthday was spent drinking with friends in my living room and building LEGO creations.  We built the Salem Witch Trials with a place to dunk the would-be witch in water, and a stake to burn her.  The LEGO collection kept getting bigger and bigger, but it was always in buckets and it made it really hard to find pieces to build anything specific or in a certain color.

The LEGO collection kept getting bigger and bigger, but it was always in buckets and it made it really hard to find pieces to build anything specific or in a certain color.

CA: Do you have a favorite set in terms of what LEGO itself has put out over the years?

SH: My favorite set LEGO produced itself is the Monster Hunters Haunted House.  It opens like a doll house and has a lot of play features.  I really enjoyed building it and it’s the only LEGO set that I have kept together and still sits on my shelf.  

CA: What was your first “custom” LEGO?

SH: I was at an antique shop with a boyfriend and I found a 7 ft tall metal industrial shelf system with 88 drawers.  I fell in love with how it looked.  I had no need for it and I left without it.  As we were walking home, my boyfriend said “You know, if you sorted all your buckets of LEGO by size and color, you could actually build new stuff.”  I went back the next day and bought the drawer system and spend the next 6 months sorting parts for a few hours each night.  The first MOC (My Own Creation) I built as an adult was The LEGO Golden Girls House.  

CA: You garnered some recognition when you made the Golden Girls set of LEGOs.  What was that like? 

Golden Girls Lego Set

SH: I posted it online and within a few days, Ellen has reposted it, Yahoo’s Main Page, Huffington Post, Today, and many other news outlets picked up the story.  I got phone calls and interviews about the piece, and it was very surreal.  Something I made for myself, had made so many people happy.  I felt very honored.  It was the first time I realized the power of the brick.

CA: And you reached out to LEGO about working for them?  Good for you! What was that experience like?  How did it differ from other job interview experiences?

SH: worked in toy development for almost 20 years.  After the Golden Girls set went viral, I reached out to LEGO about working as a set designer there.  Their interview and audition process is amazing.  All of their development and design jobs are in Billund Denmark.  I traveled there for a few days and went through a very extensive audition and interview process.  There are daily build challenges as a single person, then with a group, drawing and design challenges, and presentations to the hiring teams.  It was exciting and fun.  I was very qualified to work there and understood the development and the product.  Ultimately it wasn’t a good fit for either of us.  I had been living in New York City and I have a large personality.  Billund is a tiny town and the work environment is very quiet and reserved.  Being single and gay there would be very lonely for me. 

Wonder Women-photos by Sam Hatmaker

CA: Ultimately, you didn’t get the job, but that didn’t sour your love of the brand, you seemed to hunker down and become a full-time LEGO artist.   What came next?

SH: No, I didn’t end up working at LEGO HQ, I knew I wanted to continue using the system to make art for myself.  As I made more and more, it led to people buying my art, gallery shows, and ultimately let me to the LEGO Masters TV show.  Filming a tv show is a crazy experience.  It is emotionally, physically, and psychologically exhausting.  It is like being in a traumatic experience and you bond with everyone else there in a way that isn’t usually possible.  I feel very honored to have been able to show my abilities to the world.  
I have had a very crazy year through Covid, producing a lot of art and commission pieces for a variety of clients.  Sculptures of people’s pets, portraits of celebrities, and giant mural pieces.  The current one I am working on is 6 foot 8 inches tall and 4 foot 2 inches wide.  It was revealed in Mid August and hopefully gets shown at some conventions for people to take pictures with.(I’ll include a link to the article.)

CA: Six Feet?!?! This wouldn’t be one of those amazing RodenBerry Star Trek pieces, would It?

SH: Yes it was the Gene Rodenberry Portrait, specifically.

Sam at Trek Convention in Las Vegas Photo by Sam Hatmaker

CA: How did this project with Rodenberry come about? Why did they reach out to you to work on this special tribute to Gene?

SH: I started working on some Star Trek creations I wanted to build. A mutual friend introduced me to Rod Rodenberry, (Gene’s son) and he had seen my work on LEGO MASTERS. It was Gene Rodenberry’s 100th Birthday and I was excited to be given this opportunity to celebrate his universe.

CA: How many pieces did you do in total?

SH: We collaborated on 6 pieces for the Think Trek year leading up to Rodenberry’s birthday.

CA: I’ve seen them all and they are absolutely amazing. Aside from being beautiful pieces of art, they are quite a feat of engineering and design. Can you talk a bit about the process?

SH: It was all learning for me. I learned and experimented with so many new techniques in engineering. For the “LIVE LONG AND PROSPER piece, there is an almost 2-foot tall hand floating out of the frame. It’s all built to come apart when transported. I made the “bones” out of the build Green because Vulcan blood is green. It can be reassembled in less than 5 minutes.

First InterRacial Kiss w/Sam Hatmaker. Photo by Chris Allo

CA: So these were all unveiled this past August at the big Star Trek convention in Las Vegas. How was that experience? What was your involvement?

SH: It was a huge event celebrating, what would’ve been, Gene Rodenberry’s 100th birthday and the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek. The convention was absolutely magical for me! I got to share my passion for Trek with thousands of other people passionate about the same things! I was asked to do a “live build” over the long weekend, making a mosaic while hanging out in the gallery. I barely got a third of it done because I was so busy talking about the art and the Star Trek Universe with people. I also, did an hour on-stage each day.

CA: Were you performing?

SH: No. During that time I would build a daily Mini-Build Model with the first 50 guests each day. As we were building I would tell stories, answer questions and just try to entertain the audience. On one of the days, we built a tiny Klingon Bird of Prey ship. When I had made the sets, I didn’t realize I forgot a crucial piece. All 50 people needed one. We had supplied lots of mixed brick Lego for people to play with that did not get a Mini-Build Model. They started looking through the bins and we found over 50 in the correct color. It was a magical moment! Everyone left with a complete model that day. Sharing leads to more sharing. I was given gifts by people who thanked me for the mini-builds and for sharing my creations with them.

Photo by Chris Allo

I also got to meet George Takei and Denise Crosby, to show them my creations. I got to see Ben Vereen perform, as well! I met two different groups of queer Star Trek fans and made some new friends. I just had the most amazing and magical time sharing the excitement of the event with everyone there.

CA: So In terms of the commissioned pieces, do you own the pieces or do they? How does that work?

SH: This was a partnership.  If anyone is interested in buying the creations, contact me and I can get you in touch with the broker.  If you are interested in custom creation of your own, contact me. 

CA: And what’s next for Sam, The Lego Mastestrix?

SH: I have a gallery show scheduled Jan-March in Los Angeles at Circus of Books and it’s called “Unsolicited Brick Pics! I might show up a few more places before then.  I am starting another large portrait, but it may take a while as funding becomes available for parts. 

Chris Allo: Very exciting and Great to hear! Well, let us know the details about the upcoming show, and thank you so much, Wildflower!

And if you’re interested in commissioning Sam for a piece you can reach him here.

About the Artist

Samuel Hatmaker grew up in rural Michigan, spent two decades in New York City, and now resides in Los Angeles. For years he’s designed and developed children’s toys for Marvel, DC, Hello Kitty, Nickelodeon, Disney, Crayola, Mattel, Hasbro and many more. In addition to his professional work, he creates dolls, action figures, costumes, prop pieces, lamps…