Interview with Ali Hazelwood, Author of Bride

Ali Hazelwood is the New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis as well as a writer of peer-reviewed articles about brain science, in which no one makes out and the ever after is not always happy. Originally from Italy, she lived in Germany and Japan before moving to the US to pursue a PhD in neuroscience. When Ali is not at work, she can be found running, eating cake pops, or watching sci-fi movies with her three feline overlords (and her slightly-less-feline husband).

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

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

Thank you for having me! My name is Ali, and I’m a romance writer!

What can you tell us about your latest book, Bride? What was the inspiration for this story?  

When I was growing up and discovering romance, my favorite novels had werewolves and vampires (think Twilight, but steamier). My favorite authors were Kresley Cole, Nalini Singh, JR Ward, and Christine Feehan. This book is very much a paranormal romance that’s a homage to them.

As a writer, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically speculative fiction and romance? 

I started writing with fanfiction. I’ve always found it very hard to let go of characters and stories that I loved, so I found myself trying to write more about them.

How would you describe your writing process?

It’s very messy, and it’s still very much evolving. I’ve noticed that when I have an idea I have to let it mull for a while before I’m fully ready to write the story. And also that even though I hate giving myself daily writing goals, it’s the only way I get the book done.

Growing up, were there any stories in which you felt touched by/ or reflected in? Are there any like that now?

Absolutely—so many. It’s actually hard to list all of them, because the way I “bond” with characters by finding their most relatable quality, which means that I see myself reflected in lots of stories.

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

Fanfiction, romance novels, and whatever my hyperfixation is at any given time.

What are some of your favorite elements of writing? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or challenging? 

I really enjoy the initial stage of coming up with a story idea and starting the drafting process. I think the hardest part of me is having to reread a book years after it’s written to get it ready for publication, mostly because at that point I cannot really make substantive changes.

Many authors would say one of the most challenging parts of writing a book is finishing one. What strategies would you say helped you accomplish this?

Edit forward. Don’t go back and edit what you’ve already written, just finish the first draft and make notes of things to change later. You can’t edit something you haven’t written, so getting a (even very bad) first draft is the most important thing.

Aside from your work, what are some things you would want others to know about you?

I have three cats, and they’re currently all gathered around me, staring. I think they want dinner?

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’m not sure there is one. I’m pretty chatty, so if someone doesn’t ask me a question I usually just overshare? 

What advice might you have to give for other aspiring writers?

Writing can be lonely, so make sure you have a great support network gathered around you.

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

My next paranormal book, Bride, will be out in February, and my next contemporary romance, Not In Love, will be out in June.

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

So many:

Sex, Lies and Sensibility by Nikki Payne—best Sense and Sensibility retelling ever.

A Tempest of Tea by Hafsah Faizal—one of my favorite vampire books ever.

The Name Drop by Susan Lee—a fantastic YA romance with mistaken identities.

Interview with Rose Bousamra, Co-Creator of Frizzy

Rose Bousamra is a freelance illustrator and comic creator born and based in Michigan. Frizzy (with Claribel A. Ortega)winner of the 2023 Pura Belpré Award for Children’s Text, is their first graphic novel, with their solo debut graphic novel Gutless also being published with First Second. When they’re not making or reading comics they love baking sweets and playing fantasy video games.

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

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

Thank you so much for having me! I’m genderqueer cartoonist Rose Bousamra, I mostly work on graphic novels, comics, and illustration. I’m based in Michigan, where I grew up, and most of my work is inspired by forests, fantasy, and the queer gaze.

What can you tell us about the graphic novel you recently illustrated, Frizzy?

Frizzy tells the story of Marlene, a Dominican-American kid living in the Bronx who goes to the salon every Sunday to get her curly hair straightened because she’s been told that’s what is “presentable” or “good hair”. But Marlene hates going to the salon, going so far as to imagine herself as her super-hero alter ego to cope. She loves her curls, and after trying to wear her hair curly for the first time, she ends up facing bullies at school, judgmental comments from her own family members, and more. Then, with the help of her cool Tia Ruby, she not only learns how to care for her hair, but that all hair is good and beautiful, no matter what. The Spanish language edition, titled Rizos and translated by Jasminne Mendez, is out now.

What was it like working on that project with the author, Claribel A. Ortega?

Working with Claribel was a dream. I feel so lucky that she trusted me with such a poignant and personal story. There was so much love and detail that she put into the script, with such thoughtful pacing and character development, it made my job very easy. I had the privilege of going on a Frizzy book tour with Claribel last year, and can confirm she’s not just a great author but also one of the kindest, most caring and funny people I’ve met.

As a creative, what drew you to the art of storytelling, particularly to the realm of comics/graphic novels?

Growing up, I was a really shy and quiet kid, who only really opened up when talking about my art. I’ve always struggled with social anxiety, but I found art was something I could always rely on to say something I didn’t have the courage to say out loud. Through lots of stressful and dark times in my life, getting lost in a story always helped me survive. Over time I came to love comics as a way to tell stories because while I wasn’t yet practiced in writing, I could use my drawings to help tell the story I wanted to tell.

How would you each describe your creative process?

It’s different for every project, but generally starting a new comic starts with what feelings, themes, or tropes I want to explore. For example I knew for Gutless I wanted to explore the trope of a puppet being brought to life who questions their place among humans, and all the other characters, the story and world were born from there. Then I sketch character designs, places, and interactions until I have some idea of what I want the story to be like. I’ll make a story-specific playlist, and listen to it while I plot the story from beginning to end. Then I go in and write more detailed dialogue while sketching thumbnails, or layouts, because developing the words and visual flow helps me better visualize the finished page. Then it’s time for sketching and I sketch the entire thing before I go in with the line work. Then, the word balloons and dialogue are added, then finally the colors.

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

I think early CLAMP manga like Chobits and Magic Knight Rayearth first inspired my need to decorate everything with flower petals and sweeping tresses of hair, as well as a deep love for the detailed, skillful black line work manga is typically known for. My biggest inspiration currently is the manga series Witch Hat Atelier, both for the wonderful, touching fantasy storytelling and the incredible line work by artist Kamome Shirahama.

Growing up, were there any stories in which you felt touched by/ or reflected in? Are there any like that now?

As a kid I was a feral tomboy who didn’t have the word for what I felt, which was nonbinary, so I identified with stories where girls were subverting gender roles in some way. Sailor Moon was the first story like that I fell in love with, and now it’s not hard to see why the story about a girl who embraces so many traditional girly things and turns them into powerful weapons to fight for the good of the world resonated with little Rose. Princess Mononoke was another story that let me see characters who were somehow going against their gender expectations; in it, Ashitaka is a man who is tender and kind, whose strength is ultimately his compassion, while San is a feral girl raised by wolves and even denies her humanity in favor of the wolves she was raised by. Today one of my favorite depictions of a nonbinary character, as well as the experience of having a big, messy queer family that makes me feel seen is the show Our Flag Means Death.

What are some of your favorite elements of illustrating and the creative process in general? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or challenging?

I love designing characters, especially fantasy characters because there are so many options and possibilities outside of just drawing humans. I love what a good character design can tell you about a character right away, before you even read the story. I also really love collaborating with others to make comics because every person brings something new and fresh to the table.

Many creators would say one of the most challenging parts of writing a book is finishing one. What strategies would you say helped you accomplish this?

It took a long time for me to understand that finishing something is a skill in and of itself, and it is a massive challenge. When I first was publishing Gutless as a webcomic, I didn’t have a script or outline. I was working page-by-page, and ended up writing myself into a lot of corners. When I developed it for a graphic novel format I had to rework it entirely, giving it a proper beginning, middle, and end. I studied a lot of the structures of stories I considered to be the most satisfying and provoked some kind of feeling in me. It would have been much less of a challenge, I feel, if I had started with short comics first and had more practice with crafting a story from beginning to end. A big goal of mine is getting better at editing my stories down to more digestible lengths so I can tell more of them.

Aside from your work, what are some things you would want others to know about you?

When I’m not working I play sad songs on my ukulele and play a lot of fantasy video games. I’m really into Final Fantasy XIV and Baldur’s Gate 3 right now, and if I’m not posting about comics I’m usually posting my video game fanart because drawing silly fanart and engaging in fandom is what helped me grow the most as an artist.

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 wish I had more opportunities to talk about what age I got my first real job in comics, because it’s easy to see someone succeeding at a young age and compare yourself and start to panic, thinking you’re falling behind. I was one of many who ended up going to college for something I thought would be more profitable than what I really wanted to do, which was art. When I decided to seriously pursue comics, I thought that I’d wasted valuable time getting a fashion degree instead of studying illustration professionally. The truth is, there’s never a right time to do your dream, and studying things outside of art only made me a better artist in the long run. I was 26 when I got that first comic job, a 50 page chapter of an ongoing webcomic called Ladies Book Club, and 27 when I signed on for Frizzy. I was 30 by the time Frizzy was actually published.

What advice might you have to give for other aspiring writers?

The best advice I can give is to make friends who are doing what you want to do, who are at a similar level as you in their career. The best way to network is to build a community of creatives who lift each other up. I don’t necessarily see other comic artists as competitors, because I understand there’s room for everyone to succeed and no one artist has the same perspective or experience as another. Everyone has their own unique story to tell and that’s beautiful.

Also, start with small projects! You learn a lot about yourself as a storyteller with each project, and starting with many little projects instead of one big one will help you better understand how you function creatively, both practically (ie how long it takes you to sketch a page, or write 2000 words) as well as the content you like to write most.

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

Sure! I’m currently in the sketching phases of my first solo graphic novel Gutless. It’s a YA fantasy graphic novel about three outcasts who have to break free from their isolated lives to find community and belonging. Milo, a wooden knight brought to life by a lonely witch princess named Juniper, seeks what it means to be truly alive. Along the way they befriend the last mermaid in the world, and together the trio navigate friendship, the trauma of isolation, and just might be the only ones who can stop a deadly blight from destroying all natural life on Earth. It’ll be out with First Second books and is also being edited by the wonderful Kiara Valdez. I can’t wait to share it with you all when it’s finally out in a couple of years, but I promise it’ll be worth the wait. I regularly share sketches and development work on my socials, so you can find more about Gutless there.

Finally, what LGBTQ+ books (comics included)/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

Genderqueer by Maia Kobabe is a beautifully honest autobiography that touched on a lot of similar experiences I had growing up as a nonbinary person. Ay, Mija! is a lovely middle grade autobiography by nonbinary cartoonist Christine Suggs about growing up queer and Mexican-American. I recently read Other Ever Afters by nonbinary cartoonist Mel Gillman, a collection of short fairytales that explore themes related to queerness and it’s one of my new favorites.

The Geeks OUT Podcast: X-Meh From the Ashes

In this episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by GLAAD Media Award winning artist, D.J. Kirkland, as they discuss drag queen vampire slayers in the trailer for Slay, breakdown the reaction to the X-Men’s post-Krakoan Age reboot, celebrate the DC Pride announcements, and catch up on what they’re getting Down & Nerdy with in pop culture. 

*Video & Audio edited by MJ Martinez



KEVIN: The first reveal has been made for the next era in X-Men comics

D.J.:  Nintendo announces a new movie set in Super Mario Bros. world is coming



KEVIN: Damsel, Shogun, Hannah Gadsby’s Gender Agenda, Suicide Squad: Dream Team, Washington’s Gay General

D.J.: Drag Race S16, Survivor 46, Traitors S2, Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, Rewatching Avatar: The Last Airbender 



Neve Campbell to star in Scream 7 directed by Kevin Williamson


A Rachel Pollack tribute and more planned for this year’s DC Pride launch



New trailer for drag queens vs. vampires movie Slay




• KEVIN: Apollo & Midnighter  
• D.J.: Nightwing

Interview with Maurice Vellekoop, I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together: A Memoir

Maurice Vellekoop was born in Toronto in 1964. After graduating from Ontario College of Art (now OCADU) in 1986, Maurice Vellekoop joined Reactor Art and Design, an agency for illustrators. In a more than thirty-five year career, Maurice Vellekoop has worked for top international editorial and advertising clients, published numerous zines, comics and books, created art for animation, and participated in art shows around the world.

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

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT!

Thanks, what a pleasure to talk to you!

What can you tell us about your new graphic novel, I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together: A Memoir? What inspired you to create this project?

My graphic memoir operates on two levels: on one it’s a fairly straightforward story of a queer person growing up in an intensely Protestant community, and the resulting rift between a son and a loving mother who can’t accept her son’s sexuality because of her beliefs. On another it’s about a lifelong love affair with making art and delighting in cinema, books, music and theatre. It’s about the intense joy that can be found in art, but also the pitfalls of sublimation. That is, trying to find sexual and emotional fulfilment in fantasy and culture, rather than actual human relationships.

I was inspired to create this book, to paraphrase Quentin Crisp, for three reasons: I needed the money, I felt I had something unique to say, and it was something to do to pass the time!

How did you find yourself getting into storytelling, especially comics/graphic novels and memoir?

I was never a huge comics nerd as a child. I liked Mad magazine, and Illustrated Classics, but I was not into superheroes at all. In the 1980s I discovered RAW magazine and it blew my mind. I started drawing comics because of artists like Joost Swarte, Charles Burns, Sue Coe, Mark Beyer and Jerry Moriarty. 

How would you describe your artistic background?

I grew up in a house where art was revered. My parents had an art library that I grew up studying. I learned art history from a very young age by looking at picture books. Later I went to art school for illustration, inspired by older my sister, Ingrid. I idolized her. She wanted to be an illustrator, so I did too. Since graduating from Ontario College of Art (as it was known then) in 1986 I have worked mostly as an illustrator. I published short comics and zines in my spare time. The graphic memoir is my first full-length work.

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

I get inspiration from nearly everything! I love just walking down the street and observing how people present themselves visually. Beyond that I love and am inspired by the classic New Yorker cartoonists like Charles Addams, Mary Petty and Peter Arno. Classic Hollywood has always influenced me; everything from really cynical black and white film noir, to the saturated colours and high camp drama of 1950s Douglas Sirk ‘women’s pictures’. As a young man I gorged on world cinema from the 20th century in Toronto’s rep theatres. Fellini, Visconti, Renoir, Bunuel, Ray and Antonioni are my gods. I listen to a lot of opera while I’m working too, I love getting lost in long, dramatic music-narratives. I’m sure opera has informed my work. Figuring out how the composer tells the story in music is more exciting to me than the singing!

Maurice Vellekoop Photo Credit Lito Howse

Growing up, were there any stories in which you felt touched by/ or reflected in? Are there any like that now?

If you mean was there a lot of queer examples around, hmm, not really, you really had to dig to find them, and they weren’t usually very positive. What I did have were all the 1960s and 70s supernatural TV sitcoms, with their casts of freakish outsiders. Shows like The Addams Family, The Munsters, Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie were inspirational because of all the outrageous situations, and the idea that the weirdos were the normal ones, and normal people were dull and boring. Oh, those fabulous character actors too! 

The first positive representation of a healthy, self-accepting gay man I encountered was Michael York’s character in Cabaret. My sister took me to see it when I was around sixteen and I still treasure everything about that film. Today we are so lucky to have so much great LGBTQ2S material, thriving despite all the book-banning.  

Besides your work, what are some things you would want readers to know about you?

Ha! Audiences will find out plenty when they read the book!! Seriously though, I am a very dull, old, happily partnered person who is very fortunate to be able to go to my table every day and make art.

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

What’s with the colour in your book? Why are some of the chapters in a limited palette, and some in full colour?

“I’m So Glad” you asked me that! The limited palette refers to my childhood consumption of children’s books. I bitterly resented books that were printed in duotone because I thought the publishers were just being cheap, and I only wanted to experience the richness of full-colour printing. As a grownup I now love the look of those books, and so most of the chapters are in two-colour. Also, a large part of the book deals with depression, and the world can seem flatter and less colourful when you are depressed. The full-colour pages occur whenever something really great occurs, just like when Dorothy lands in Munchkinland in The Wizard of Oz.

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

Hmm, taste is so personal, and as someone intensely fascinated by history, I tend to skew to writers from the past. I reread Noel Coward’s and Tennessee Williams’s stories regularly. I love Christopher Isherwood, who wrote Goodbye to Berlin, which Cabaret is based on. Cecil Beaton is a personal hero, his diaries are wicked fun. More contemporarily, I love Edmund White, Alan Bennett and and Jeanette Winterson. Lauren Hough’s recent essay/memoir book made me laugh and cry. Oliver Sacks’s On The Move was fantastic. The writer Colm Toibin is a great favourite. In comics I love the incomparable Alison Bechdel, as well as Jillian and Mariko Tamaki.

I would strongly suggest to every queer person that they read a biography of Oscar Wilde. (I love the Richard Ellmann one.) Not only will you be entertained by Wilde’s wit and seduced by his charm, but you will discover the roots of modern queer activism. His sensational trial for sodomy, and his passionate, public defence of homosexuality shone a light on what was, in the late 19th century, an illegal and secretive world. His imprisonment and early death were the tragic consequences of the cost of his sacrifice. It would be decades before the sodomy laws would be abolished, in the UK and elsewhere, and many more gay men would suffer, but we all owe a great debt to Oscar. He was one of our first heroes.

X-Men ’97: A Blast of Concussive Energy from the Past

This week was what many of us have been waiting for, the release of the first two episodes of X-Men ’97 on Disney Plus. Don’t know what I’m talking about?

Check This Out

This was very much like a nice warm soup for my soul on a rainy New England day.

So I’ll say this if you watched the original animated series, you’re definitely gonna like this and if you didn’t, you will also like this, I think.  Here’s an in-depth review on Rotten Tomatoes. TLDR? It’s rated at 100%.

The story begins where the previous series left off, Charles Xavier, having been assassinated, and with human/mutant traffickers wearing FOH armbands (Friends of Humanity) and armed with portable sentinel blasters that make them look like a weird GI Joe/ Mega Man crossover, a charming rich kid with yet to be discovered solar powers, who hits the message on the head when he says “I was born this way”.

Anyway, the FOH folks have a lot of new tricks, gadgets, and are playing very, very dirty. You can tell by their motto ‘Tolerance is Extinction’ that they’re basically espousing the Great Replacement Theory.

So we kick off with Jean very pregnant, the X-men in somewhat of a rough spot following Xavier’s death, but everyone doing their best. Meanwhile a bunch of bigots have been amassing sentinel tech (in this case literally stockpiling arms?) in the desert.

There are several twists and turns in the first two episodes. Outstanding action sequences including some freaking amazing combination use of powers and definitely more violence than the original. Most of the original (might I add epic and the voices of my childhood) have returned. The writing is solid, and there isn’t a moment to breath during the episode.

There are some laughs, some groans, and a few moments that absolutely gave me the feels. If I try to give you hints I’ll just end up giving you a play by play of all my favorite moments so instead, please just go watch it and let me know what you think.

I will absolutely be eagerly awaiting the next episode (weekly on Wednesdays). Join me!

Cover Image is Official X-men ’97 Promotional Art provided by Disney+

Interview with Anna Kopp and Gabrielle Kari, Creators of The Marble Queen

Anna Kopp is a children’s author who lives in Ohio with her husband, two boys, and two cats. Anna loves creating fantastical stories for children of all ages, from Minecraft picture books to young adult novels. When she’s not writing she’s playing video games or reading the latest books about lost princesses.

Gabrielle Kari is a northern California-based comic artist and illustrator with her weenie dog Pumpkin. She loves creating sapphic stories depicting morally questionable women.

I had the opportunity to interview Anna and Gabrielle, which you can read below.

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

AK: Thank you, I’m so excited to be on here! My name is Anna Kopp and I’m the author of THE MARBLE QUEEN. I was born in Russia and immigrated to the US when I was 11. After serving as an IT specialist in the US Army, I settled in Ohio where I now write books. Aside from being an author, I’m the local Pokémon GO Community Ambassador and currently heavily involved in the world of 3D printing and design.

GK: Hello, thank you for having me! My name is Gabrielle and I’m the artist for The Marble Queen. I’m a lesbian artist living in California and I graduated from college in 2018. Since then have been honing my craft to create stories I want to see in the world.

What can you tell us about your latest book, The Marble Queen? What was the inspiration for this project?

AK: THE MARBLE QUEEN is what an author would call ‘the book of my heart’. It’s about a princess who accidentally accepts a marriage offer not from the prince of a mysterious country, but his sister, and must navigate both a dangerous alliance and a confused heart. When I was a queer teen, the only sapphic media I had available to me was anime and manga. Revolutionary Girl Utena carved a place in my heart and inspired me to create a queer fantasy story with princesses, ballgowns, swords, and magic that I could only dream of. Now that dream has come true and I can share it with the world!

GK: Anna and I are both huge fans of Revolutionary Girl Utena. The anime series was huge part of my college years and made me want continue to pursue art as a career

As a writer, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically graphic novels/comics?

AK: I’ve written stories for as long as I can remember, but learning a new language was a big roadblock for me in terms of prose and finding the right words to describe the images in my head. When my agent, Claire Draper, proposed that I turn the traditional novel manuscript of THE MARBLE QUEEN into a graphic novel script, it was like the puzzle pieces slid into place. It was the perfect format for the way I think and create, I just didn’t realize it until then.

As an artist, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically graphic novels/comics?

GK: My dad used to talk about reading superhero comics growing up. It made me want to read all the thing he was interested in and from that it graduated into graphic novels and manga. I loved the way the stories melded word and illustration together and read anything I could get my hands on.

Anna Kopp

In addition to being a Sapphic romance, The Marble Queen also features some evocative representation when it comes to anxiety. How did you go about trying to represent that in your story?

AK: Anxiety was something I struggled with as a teen, but I didn’t know what it was, so I just thought there was something wrong with me. As I got older and had to navigate an array of physical and mental symptoms that impacted my life in various ways, I wanted to weave my experiences into my main character, and I hope at least someone out there feels a little less alone reading it.

GK: I wanted to depict Amelia’s anxiety as a creeping entity, a monster that follows her constantly whether she acknowledges its presence or not. Despite its oppressive force I wanted her to learn to coexist with her inner demons and overpower them.

How would you describe your creative process?

AK: I always start with a twist and build the story around it. I don’t even write anything down until I know the flow start to finish. Then I outline the chapters with names like ‘This is where x happens’ to make sure the main parts of the narrative arc are on track. Things move around during the writing process but organization is important to me so I don’t get overwhelmed.

GK: I have a lot of trouble illustrating chronologically. Most of the chapters in The Marble Queen were done out of order. I would work on pages I knew could be reasonably finished faster than pages that I could end up spending days on because a line wasn’t working out that day.

Growing up, were there any stories in which you felt touched by/ or reflected in? Are there any like that now?

AK: Sadly, I can’t say there were many stories I could see myself in growing up. Where would I find a queer Russian girl who would rather rescue the princess in the fairy tales? The only one that I really connected to was The Little Mermaid (the version she actually died in) and I didn’t understand why until much later in life. Luckily, now that queer books are all around us, I am finally catching up on all my childhood reflections, and it’s wonderful!

GK: When I was younger I read a lot of straight media and while I did love the stories I realized over time I was mostly obsessing over the female lead and her female friends. Most of the lesbian media I found was during the height of my anime obsession in high school. Today there’s a much broader selection of lgbt media and it makes me happy to know more is being made every day.

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

AK: Aside from other books and my own experiences, it’s definitely rock music. I have a soundtrack for every book I write, and when I listen to it, I can see the story play out along with it in my head. For THE MARBLE QUEEN, Bring Me To Life by Evanescence is its’ theme song. I even made an OMV for it with the graphic novel panels I might share one day.

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

GK: I love Mary Blair’s concept art for Disney’s Alice and Wonderland, I love the bright colors and expressive silhouettes. I have the Magic Color Flair: The World of Mary Blair in my book collection and its an immediate grab for any artistic slump.

What are some of your favorite elements of writing? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or difficult? 

AK: I love brainstorming because it’s like watching a movie where I control the characters. The most difficult part is making big decisions like who dies. I still argue with myself about certain character deaths and whether I should have done something different, but I know it’s out of my hands now.  

Gabrielle Kari

What are some of your favorite elements of drawing? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or difficult? 

GK: I love drawing hair, long tendrils, and swirls. Organic shapes are comfortable draw, but I hope one day I can master drawing backgrounds.

Aside from your work, what are some things you would want others to know about you?

AK: I love being creative outside of writing too. I make bookmarks, bookshelf signs (like THE BIG GAY SHELF for my own bookshelf), and other fun designs for 3D printing. If you want to check them out, you can find me on Makerworld under Kopp3D and on Etsy under BookshelfShowcase.

GK: I puppy fold my favorite parts in books so I can reread them later. One book I liked so much I ended up puppy folding a quarter of the pages…

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)?

AK: What’s your favorite Pokémon? It’s Snorlax (he likes to eat and sleep, say no more).

GK: What’s your favorite minion in the hit MMO series Final Fantasy XIV?

It’s the Spriggan! I look forward to every easter event for their Spriggan themed quests.

What advice might you have to give for aspiring graphic novelists?

AK: Art is hard. It takes time. It takes so much effort. Whether you’re just the author or also the illustrator, try your best to not get hung up on the details. Capture the feel of your story without having to draw so much that it takes up a ton of time and doesn’t have significant impact. Give those wrists a break.

GK: Don’t give up. Keep working on the story you love, your personal passion and dedication to your story will be acknowledged and celebrated as long as you keep going. No one can tell a story like YOU can.

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

AK: I am (hopefully) going out on submission with a new project soon! It’s a graphic novel about a rock band that must perform as tribute to the god that protects their home or be sacrificed. And yes, it’s very queer!

GK: I’m working on an adaptation of one of my favorite classic novellas. I hope I can bring a story that impacted me deeply to more readers.

Finally, what LGBTQ+ books(including comics)/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT? 

AK: I recently finished SO LET THEM BURN by Kamilah Cole and it was fantastic! If you like dragons in your YA, this is definitely one to pick up. For a darker, adult read, I always recommend THE BOOK EATERS by Sunyi Dean, because how can you not love the idea of eating books giving you their knowledge? For graphic novels, I just discovered ATANA AND THE FIREBIRD by Vivian Zhou and it is so sweet!

GK: Fun Home is a wonderful biographic novel by Alison Bechdel that you should read at least once in your life. Also recently I’ve started to read Kingfisher by Rowan MacColl on Tapas. I love the characters and I can’t wait to see where the story goes!

Interview with Mimo, Illustrator of English Translations for Thousand Autumns

Mimo is an illustration artist based in Bangkok, Thailand. After obtaining a B.Ed. in Art Education from Chulalongkorn University, she began working for her family business.
Yet, painting remains the individual’s true calling, and she has been exploring fresh methods to showcase her creativity on canvas ever since. Bringing stories to life through art is more than just a source of joy; it is her deep passion, and every opportunity to do so is truly cherished.

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

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

Nice to meet up here! I’m Mimo, Thai illustrator and the cover and interior artist of Thousand Autumns English edition by Seven Seas.

How would you describe what you do professionally and creatively?

When it comes to things I truly obsess about or work on, I’m a perfectionist. If it’s a novel illustration, I generally read the entire novel first, or at least half of the novel with lots of references, to immerse myself in the story, comprehend it, and choose the perspective I want to present or think about the picture that the reader would like to see. I am willing to adapt my style to fit various story themes.

What drew you to illustrating? Could you describe your artistic background for us?

When I was very little, my parents worked full-time, and I had to spend the entire day with mom at her desk. To keep me from playing around with them, Mom gave me children’s books with gorgeous pictures. After a few hours of reading, I got bored and started to use my mom’s recycled papers and her color ballpoint pens to write fresh stories and have fun. I’ve been doing this until now.

As someone known for their work illustrating the English translations for Thousand Autumns by Meng Xi Shi, what draws you to this author’s work?

During lockdown, I randomly bought the danmei named ‘The Fourteenth Year of Chenghua’ ‘by MXS and fell in love with the author’s writing style; they’re not only lovely moments that shoot immediately after long-lasting slow-burned but something that lingered with me for a while. They also do an excellent job of blending historical elements into the plot.

How were the illustrated scenes selected (i.e. did you get a say in which moments to illustrate?)

I couldn’t say much, but sometimes I do have requests. PLEASE ALLOW ME DRAW THIS SCENE!

What are your thoughts on the current danmei (Chinese genre of literature and other fictional media that features romantic relationships between male characters) publishing field and fandom?

Danmei is getting more popular with international fans than in the past; therefore, there is a strong possibility that the English edition will present a wider range of Danmei themes in the future. However, we have to understand that the current situation for Danmei in the mainland has been worrying due to strict censorship, so I am unsure whether this will have an impact on overseas licensing.

What are some of your favorite danmei or queer Chinese titles in general?

Excluding Thousand Autumns, it is ‘The Fourteenth Year of Chenghua’, ‘Winter Begonia’, and Lu Ye Qian He’s writings.

As an artist, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration?

I enjoy going to art and comic events to recharge my creativity the most, but I don’t have much time these days, so I usually end up going to the bookshop once a week and watching related documentaries on Netflix or YouTube while drawing.

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

Q: How many years have you been creating artworks and attending comic events?

A: Well, I was a bit shocked when I found my very first copies; they were Harry Potter fancomics released in 2003, so around 20 years ago. Haha

Aside from your work, what are some things you would want people to know about you?

My major job is not in the art field, LOL. Most of my artwork is done at night when I get off work or on weekends, which may appear overworked, but I like it since I appreciate my life as an illustrator so much. 

As a creative, what advice would you give to aspiring creatives/illustrators? 

I’ve seen many young or new artists worried about their distinct style and needing to succeed immediately, but I believe everyone has their own way and time to shine. Your experiences and efforts are your best allies.

Are there any projects you are working on or thinking about that you are able to discuss?

I’m working on new projects that may be released this year, and I have a plan for my original book project at the end of the year. I have many ideas but haven’t decided yet. 

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

What Did You Eat Yesterday?/ Kinou Nani Tabeta by Fumi Yoshinaga, very soft and gentle story. I love both comic and live-action adaptations

Momo to Manji by Sakura Sawa, the art is extremely gorgeous, full of detail, and very well researched for the Edo period.

Interview with Sarah Kuhn, Author of Girl Taking Over: A Lois Lane Story

Sarah Kuhn is the author of the popular Heroine Complex novelsa series starring Asian American superheroines. The first book is a Locus bestseller, an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award nominee, and one of the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog’s Best Books of 2016. She also penned the beloved YA rom-coms I Love You So Mochi and From Little Tokyo, With Love, and a variety of short fiction and comics, including the DC Comics graphic novels Shadow of the Batgirl and Girl Taking Over: A Lois Lane Story and the Star Wars audiobook original Doctor Aphra. Her books have been Junior Library Guild Selections and nominees for YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults and the Golden Poppy Award. They have also been featured on Best of… and Most Anticipated lists in People Magazine, Barnes & Noble’s Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, Book Riot, Amazon, the AV Club, Nerdist, Entertainment Weekly, the New York Times, and more. Additionally, she was a finalist for both the CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) New Writers Award and the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. A third generation Japanese American, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and an overflowing closet of vintage treasures.

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

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

Hi! I’m Sarah Kuhn, a writer of prose and comics. My stories are often about Asian American superheroines and nerds in love—sometimes in the same story, sometimes not! And I like to say my general writing focus is Asian Girls Having Fun. I wrote the Heroine Complex series, which was all about Asian American superheroines in San Francisco—fighting evil things like demonic cupcakes and gigantic porcelain unicorns, falling in love with wild abandon, singing bad karaoke and eating worse junk food, and just generally being complete messes. I also wrote the YA rom-coms I Love You So Mochi and From Little Tokyo, With Love, and I’ve done a fair bit of licensed work, like the DC Comics graphic novel Shadow of the Batgirl (with amazing artist Nicole Goux) and the Star Wars audiobook original Doctor Aphra (which is all about the best Star Wars character ever: queer, chaotic, morally gray space archaeologist Doctor Aphra). And now our book, Girl Taking Over: A Lois Lane Story! I’m also a bisexual, biracial third generation Japanese American, a proud Angeleno (transplanted from the Pacific Northwest), and an enthusiastic enjoyer of fashion and food and art.

What can you tell us about your latest project, Girl Taking Over: A Lois Lane Story?

Our book follows a biracial Japanese American teenage Lois Lane as she embarks on her first big internship in the big city (National City, which is kind of DC’s version of LA). It’s the summer before college, and she’s full of fire, raring to go, and keeping track of everything in her extremely detailed Life Plan notebook, which I believe we described as “your bullet journal on steroids.” But a bunch of obstacles immediately block her perfect summer—an unexpected and annoying frenemy/roommate, a dream internship that morphs into a nightmare when the hip website she was supposed to work for is acquired by a huge media conglomerate. In true Lois Lane fashion, she refuses to give up without a fight. This book is bursting with so much color and joy and movement thanks to Arielle Jovellanos’ jaw-droppingly beautiful art, Olivia Pecini’s vibrant colors, and Melanie Ujimori’s dynamic lettering. It’s so delicious, I want to eat every page.

What was the inspiration for this story?

After I finished writing Batgirl, I really wanted to keep working with my incredible DC editor, Sara Miller. Sara is everything you could ever want in an editor and creative partner—kind, clever, passionate, empathetic, and up for fighting the good fight right alongside you. We talked about a few possibilities, and we really loved the idea of exploring Lois just as she’s falling in love with journalism and finding her voice. I drew a lot from my own experiences as a young journalist with fire in my belly. And I’ve always been a huge Lois Lane fan, going back to the Christopher Reeve movies with Margot Kidder. She was such a force.

Asian American identity is a big facet of Girl Taking Over: A Lois Lane Story. Could you talk a bit about what it meant for you to write/illustrate a story discussing that subject?

I don’t know if I can even express how meaningful this was—at least not in mere words. Possibly some exhilarated screaming would do it? Since I’ve always loved Lois, it meant so much to me to be able to reimagine her in this way, and to think about what this might have meant to the child I was. Like our Lois, I grew up in a really small, really white town and I was always dreaming of what a bigger world would be like. I hope young people of color get a kick out of seeing a legendary legacy character like Lois depicted in a modern and inclusive way. Everyone deserves to see themselves as this kind of larger-than-life hero—and it was wonderful for Arielle and me to be able to include a wide range of specific cultural references drawn from our own lives. Also, apparently a lot of Asians of my generation always thought Lois was Asian. Well, now she is!

As a creative, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically within the comics/ graphic novel medium?

I’ve always been obsessed with comics—I used to haunt those spinner racks at the grocery store like a tiny, superhero-obsessed ghost. There is something beautifully unique about the ways in which comics can tell a story—images and words together, layouts that feel like actual movement, page turns that make you gasp. I love the visual language of comics, and I feel like I’m constantly learning new ways to tell a story through the medium. And I love the collaboration of it—comics are all about teamwork, writing little notes back and forth to each other, getting excited about what your other talented teammates are doing. It starts to feel a bit like you’re all working on a big, shared fanfic—you’re fans of both the story and each other. I guess what I’m trying to say is there’s lots of (joyful) screaming. I don’t know how screaming became a theme of this interview. Arielle and I screamed a lot.

How would you describe your creative process?

I feel like it’s different every time and it depends on the specific project. I suppose the part that is a constant—and maybe the part I love the most—is when you’re really intensely in it and you are just totally obsessed with the thing you’re working on. You hear the characters in your head, specific lines pop up in your dreams, images rotate through your brain on a constant cycle. I’ve always been an obsessive person, so I think that feels like a good outlet for that. I don’t know if it’s a healthy outlet, but I do enjoy it. And while I’m happy to finish a project, I also tend to feel a little sad because I have to say goodbye to hanging out with those characters every day and hearing them in my dreams.

For those curious about the process behind a graphic novel, how would you describe the process?

I think this is highly dependent on what kind of graphic novel—licensed, creator-owned, traditionally published, self-published, print, digital, etc.? So many possibilities! For Lois, editor Sara and I went through a long pitch process before the book was approved. Then we did a few versions of the outline. I think it was around this time that Arielle came onboard and she started doing character designs and figuring out the visual style of the book. The script was written in four parts, so sometimes Arielle was working on Part I while I was writing Part III—which was pretty cool because we could really start playing off of and responding to each other as a creative team. I love the way she does body language and expressive movement, for instance, so I felt like I tried to write even more fervently toward that as we progressed. And then once we got Olivia and Melanie, we started seeing pages at every stage for every step of the creative process before the whole thing came together.

And as a team, how would you describe your collaboration style for this project?

It was a beautiful thing. Arielle and I have been wanting to work together forever—we both had our first official comics gig in an anthology called Fresh Romance, which focused on modern romance comics. We were on different stories, but I keep saying we saw each other across the pages of the book and developed artistic crushes on each other. So it just felt like it was meant to be. When I was writing the script, I had Arielle’s art style playing out in my mind—imagining how she might bring it to life was so exciting, and definitely shaped the overall voice and tone of the script. I think it was Judd Winick who said that he envisions a script as a letter to the artist, so I felt like I was basically writing Arielle total fangirl letters on cute stationery the whole time. And the more we worked together, the more it felt like we were sharing a brain.

Growing up, were there any stories in which you felt touched by/ or reflected in? Are there any like that now?

I was a story devourer, so there were many I was touched or moved by or that stick with me to this day. There wasn’t as much that I felt truly reflected in, though—when I was younger, the casts of the sci-fi, superhero, and fantasy stories I loved so much were usually still all or mostly white. Perhaps the earliest reflection of myself I saw was Claudia Kishi in the Baby-Sitters Club books—she wasn’t like any Asian American girl character I’d seen before. She was artsy and creative and an incredible dresser and really bad at math—truly relatable. And like me, she was Japanese American and growing up in the suburbs. She’s still an icon to me and many others, and I think she showed a lot of us that being an artist was possible for an Asian girl. And now we have many more Asian American storytellers getting to write narratives that truly reflect who we are, in so many different genres and mediums—I love seeing that and am grateful to be part of it.

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

I have a short story in the anthology From a Certain Point of View: Return of the Jedi. This is part of a series of books telling stories about various supporting or background-type characters in the Star Wars movies. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it helped me heal a very specific childhood trauma. And last year, I wrapped up the Heroine Complex series, which was very satisfying. I’d been with those heroines since the beginning of my career, and it felt wonderful to be able to give all of them much deserved happily ever afters.

Interview with Junghwa Park, Author-Illustrator of Wish Soup

Junghwa Park [juhng-hwa bahk] is a Korean-born immigrant artist. She graduated from BFA Illustration School of Visual Arts in 2014. Her illustration is warm and whimsical. Also, it is interesting to find hidden stories. She does not only show her whimsical imagination on illustrations, but she also applies it to diverse arts with her boundless craft skill as well.

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

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

Hi Geeks Out! My name is Junghwa Park, Author-Illustrator of WISH SOUP. I am a Korean-born American immigrant living in Jersey City, New Jersey. I graduated with a BFA in Illustration from SVA in 2014 and was the Grand Prize Winner of SCBWI’s Winter 2020 Portfolio Showcase. I have illustrated While Grandpa Naps by Naomi Danis and 12 Days of Kindness by Irene Latham. I wrote and illustrated Bunnybee published by Korean publisher Who’s Got My Tail’s. Wish Soup is my North American author-illustrator debut. 

What can you tell us about your latest project, Wish Soup? What was the inspiration for this project?

Wish Soup is about Korean Lunar New Year Seollal. It is based on my youth memories. I was the second oldest in the whole family. Though I was young, I knew I needed to help to prepare Seollal. I mostly help to make mandoos and jeons. Setting up table was always my and oldest cousin’s job.

Getting older by eating more tteokguk was a real joke between me and my cousins. Whenever we eat tteokguk together, we made a joke that one who eats more dishes will get old. The joke didn’t get old. We enjoyed this joke every year till we grew up.

The background is based on 1990 years of my youth. Utility pole, kid’s trikes, 1980 multi house and small details from my youth memories. It is built of red brick and a big house gate. Through the gate, there was a small outdoor space and kimchi jars and laundry hangers. Someone else lived on the first floor. We had to go up side stairs to visit grandpa’s place.

As an author/illustrator, what drew you to your medium? How would you describe your artistic background?

Practical reasons drew me to use watercolor and color pencils. Watercolor can be done fast and easy enough to submit editorial illustrations. It dries quickly and is easy to scan. 

I had very supportive parents, lots of technical practice and various experiences in my artistic background. 

I was very lucky that my parents appreciate my work ever since I created art. My dad hung my artwork at his office. My mom made journal files of my artworks since I was two. They still take care my baby works preciously.

I spent lots of time practicing technical drawing and painting as a teenager in Korea. I only slept three hours everyday to get into an art high school and art college. Art exams required specific techniques. They look for technicians instead of creative artists. Though I don’t think I learn art from this experience, those practices are definitely helpful life long.

In my 20s, I experimented all mediums I can try. Performance, toy design, leather, ceramic, fashion design, pattern design, stationery, jewelry design and etc. I wasn’t afraid to fail or make a bad work. I enjoyed the opportunities of failure which is a privilege of youth.

Growing up, were there any books/stories in which you felt touched by/ or reflected in? Are there any like that now?

I spent quite a lot of time watching Ghibli animation. I was fascinated by his whimsical and hand painting works. How I love to create work by hand and whimsical details, I can’t deny that my work is inspired by him.

How would you describe your general creative process?

General creative process starts with ideas. Whenever I have a random idea, I put down on my idea note I’ve been using since I was freshman in College. Dreams are another good source. Sometimes random people’s words flash across a new imaginary world in my mind. Making a physical art is experimental and time consuming. I try tons of different ways to make the idea come true. If I can’t find the way, I leave it and glances for few years and go back again.

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

As I mentioned above, Ghibli was my very first inspiration in my youth. Edmund Dulac and Lisbeth Zwerger were my heroes when I was in college. Hilma af Klint and Florine Stettheimer influenced my the sense of color.

What are some of your favorite elements of writing/illustrating? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or challenging? 

My favorite element of writing/illustrating is communication with others through works. The work is a place where I can meet various people. For example, someone far away and speaks different languages. Once I create works with my idea and value, people interpret with your own idea. Then it becomes a whole new world with each person. That is one of the most thrilling parts of the job.

There are definitely challenging moments. When I work on one project for a long time, I can’t see my work objectively anymore. If I have time to stay away for a while, it’s great to have a break. If not, I have to keep moving forward with uncertainty.

Aside from your work, what are some things you would want others to know about you?

I am a mom and dog person. I have a two years old boy and a shiba inu (another boy). Raising two boys influences my value of life so much. They taught me endless love and the happiness of giving. My point of view on social issues changed a lot. Such as the environment, racism and animal rights. Instead I look for something I love, I tend to look for something I can do for my boys. When I don’t create art, I am a mom who cooks three meals a day, considers nutrient balanced dishes for them and makes sure they use all their energy to have a peaceful night.

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)?

One of the general questions is how to start the book making process and where I get feedback?

When I work as an illustrator and author, words and images come together. When I write a manuscript, I can see the scenes in my head just like watching movies. I imagine which composition, angle, highlight scene I will draw. So, I draw quick thumbnails on the side when I write a manuscript. 

I am very lucky that I get wonderful feedback from my agent, art director, designer and editor. When I get feedback from them, I can’t agree more than anything. They catch my self-doubt on my work clearly. And I often get feedback from my partner in crime Q. When I first met him, one of the attractive points was his critic. He can critic what he sees and think clearly. Even for an artist, critic is tough. He sees keenly and talks objectively.

What advice might you have to give for other aspiring creatives?

Believe in yourself. There is tons of amazing art in the world. But no one can be like you. When you listen to your own creative soul, that will be the most creative art.

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

I am always dreaming of collaborating with animation and fashion. Those are my life bucket lists. Animation was the beginning of professional creativity. And fashion has been my new passion since I was a teenager. When I was seventeen, I wanted to be a hanbok designer and share Korean culture with the world. I won first place in fashion college when I attended high school in MA. Though the mediums are different, I think WISH SOUP is another way I achieved the dream that giving hanbok publicity.

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

I highly recommend checking LAOLAO’S DUMPLINGS by Dane Liu, TWO NEW YEARS by Richard Ho and TOMORROW IS NEW YEAR’S DAY by Aram Kim. These books are about Lunar New Year Day that you wouldn’t be able to find in the US market a few years ago. I am so glad that it is normal to have Asian related books at bookstores for the new generation. And I AM THE SUBWAY by Kim Hyo-eun is another good book I like to recommend. It captured current Korea’s society, people and conflict poetically.

Interview with Sunny and Gloomy, Creators of RAINBOW!

Sunny Funkhouser Aka Sunny (they/them), is a neurodivergent, queer creator who has been writing ever since they were a teenager. Sunny is autistic with ADHD and likes to collect dolls, make reborn dolls, crochet, act, and sew. They love learning how to do things creatively. An avid table-top gamer, Sunny is a big fan of Dungeons & Dragons and Magic the Gathering. Musical theater is their other love aside from writing and Gloomy. They’re also an ENFP for people that like that sort of thing.

Angel Aka Gloomy has been making comics since they were 10, starting with a lovingly crafted Sailor Moon rip-off. Despite the soft magical girl influence in their work, their favorite genre is horror. Besides drawing, Gloomy loves to bake and garden (in theory, if they could only keep things alive), as well as collect merchandise from whatever is currently suiting their fancy, typically cutesy things like Ghibli or Sanrio. Opposite Sunny, they’re as introverted as they come, but consider themselves friendly anyway. They’re also obsessed with bagels.

CW: Brief discussion of post traumatic stress disorder and maladaptive daydreaming.

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

Angel: I tend to keep to myself most of the time– it can be difficult sometimes to get me out of the house and away from drawing. When I’m not drawing either professionally or for personal pleasure, I’m usually playing gamecube-era games, watching horror movies, reading webcomics or baking.

Sunny: I’m the reason Angel gets out of the house. I’m a nonbinary writer, and I love to be constantly doing things. I love theater and learning how to do things myself. I love to sew and crochet. I enjoy spending time with people. I like going to restaurants and amusement parks, and just playing Jackbox with my friends. I work at a special needs elementary school, so I’m always busy running around with the kids. I only really sit still to write and to binge shows with Angel. I’d never be able to work an office job.

What can you tell us about your debut graphic novel, Rainbow!? What was the inspiration for this story?

Angel: When we first made RAINBOW! when I was about 14, there were a lot of boys-love type comics getting popular on the webcomic hosting sites I visited, but almost no comics about girls to match them, and what little there was were usually sexualized. We wanted to see something that reflected ourselves more (at least, who we were at the time anyway), and so, RAINBOW! started. The characters were even originally based a bit on us, though I wouldn’t compare myself at all to Mimi anymore!

Sunny: RAINBOW! started as a way to explore our queer identities we were both just figuring out. Over time, RAINBOW! became a way for me to tell a story about a girl like me (though I wouldn’t compare myself as much to Boo now) finding her place in the world and rejecting the influences in her life that were hurting her. It became something really special to me. Boo is a girl that tries so hard to be good that she doesn’t really consider herself and her happiness beyond fantasies that are a way to cope with the difficult parts of her life. She learns to stand up for her own happiness and to fill her life with people that help her grow.

Can you give us any trivia (that hasn’t already been given) about the characters from Rainbow!?

Angel: Way back when we created them, Boo’s fashion sense was meant to be heavily influenced by fairy kei, and Mimi’s by scene fashion. Boo has stayed quite similar, though toned down since she couldn’t realistically afford many fancy clothing pieces. Anything particularly cute or detailed in her outfits, she more than likely made or altered it herself. Mimi, on the other hand, completely changed her fashion sense since her inception. Though it happened slowly over time rather than all at once.

(Spoiler) From what I’ve seen of your comic, it appears that Rainbow! explores some elements concerning mental health, including depictions of maladaptive daydreaming. Could you discuss your decision to include this in the comic?

Sunny: While we never intended Boo to have any specific condition as far as her daydreaming is concerned, it has been very interesting to hear from people that can relate to Boo and her issues with daydreaming. Her daydreaming is meant as a coping mechanism to deal with her less than ideal life. Boo likely suffers from some form of post traumatic stress disorder at the very least, but her daydreaming represents her desire to escape from reality and enter a fantastical realm where she is something special and important because that isn’t how she feels in reality. She loses control of her coping mechanism when her real life problems become harder to ignore. A fantastical land that once brought her comfort starts to become corrupted. It takes healing her real life to heal her inner world.

As creatives, what drew you to the art of storytelling, particularly to comics/graphic novels?

Angel: When we met as teenagers, we both drew and told stories individually, each with a specific interest in anime, manga and comics. My first comic was at 10, and was essentially a Sailor Moon ripoff. Sunny would often write and was more skilled in telling a wider story, but they were less interested in drawing them, while I was more focused on drawing and better at smaller character details than full plotlines, so we decided to combine our strengths to make comics together instead.

Sunny: In a way, I think it’s magical the way Angel can take my words and paint such beautiful pictures with them. I see my own words in picture form and suddenly it isn’t something I created, it’s something we created, and it’s better for it. Angel adds so much in beautiful backgrounds and subtle expressions. It’s incredible the way they make me see RAINBOW! in a completely new way.

How would you each describe your creative process?

Angel: I’d say I can’t quite turn mine off, it’s always in the back of my mind when I look at just about anything, when I’m doing anything, it’s always churning in some way or another.

Sunny: I agree with that! My creative process is just a part of who I am and the way my mind works. If I’m listening to music, I’m imagining my stories. If I’m taking a walk, I’m stopping to jot down ideas in my phone notes app as they come to me. I like to write down every idea I have, but I don’t often look at what I write down. I see what stays with me while my ideas turn and turn like a rock in a tumbler getting smoother. I lose a lot of detail, but Angel has always been better at remembering details.

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

Angel: For me, Naoko Takeuchi and Osamu Tezuka’s art influenced me a lot growing up. Nowadays I really love the art of Leslie Hung and Rii Abrego.

Sunny: I grew up really loving to watch any anime I could get my hands on and it’s probably still obvious in what I write now how much influence anime had in my early development. Actually, the thing that has been most influential to me, Avatar the Last Airbender, was also inspired by anime.

Growing up, were there any stories in which you felt touched by/ or reflected in? Are there any like that now?

Angel: I’m sure I’ve mentioned Sailor Moon enough, but… Sailor Moon! Still one of my favorite things to this day. Also, Treasure Planet was one of my favorite movies as a kid and still is. I always found its story and protagonist to be more unique and relatable than a lot of others that I saw as a child. He quite influenced the protagonist of our next adventure, even.

Sunny: I have a bad memory, especially in the moment, but I’ve already mentioned Avatar the Last Airbender. What that show was able to do truly made me a better writer just from experiencing it. It was one of my earliest fandoms. I used to make amvs for it. I love how they were able to make something that was accessible to a young audience, but didn’t talk down to them. Avatar the Last Airbender told a story of trauma, loss, friendship, doing what you believe is right when no one else will. It is special and I aspire to make something so special. I hope RAINBOW! is also able to make certain conversations accessible to a teen audience in the same way without talking down to them.

What are some of your favorite elements of writing/illustrating? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or challenging?

Angel: I find laying a comic out to be the hardest part— just planning out the panels, where the speech bubbles will fall, etc. It can make starting an episode difficult sometimes, but it’s all smooth sailing for me once I’ve finished sketching. My favorite things to do is probably coloring and designing outfits to suit each character’s different fashion senses.

Sunny: I tend to struggle with the finer details. Some people have to take a lot out of their first drafts, but I have to add a lot in. I start out with laying out the critical parts of the story. Angel often tells me to flesh out things I gloss over so they will be easier to convert to comic form. My favorite thing is to put together the plot like it’s a mystery to be solved or a giant puzzle. I love to sort out how it all fits together into a meaningful story.

Aside from your work, what are some things you would like readers to know about you?

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)?

Sunny: I base a lot of my work on my own experiences, but usually by taking just enough of the real experience to make what I write more real, so I can make a lot of experiences work for a lot of different scenarios. If someone were to ask me if RAINBOW! is based on my life, in a way it is. Anyone that feels seen by RAINBOW! know you aren’t alone!

What advice might you have to give for other creatives?

Angel: Whatever art you want to create, start it! Planning is necessary of course, and it’s good to have a solid path laid in front of you to start with, but all of the planning in the world will be no help if you are always waiting to start because you think you aren’t ready, or you aren’t good enough. The best way to learn is to get experience!

Sunny: Always remember the reason you create. Never lose sight of the childhood wonder that causes you to pick up your creative tool of choice. I started writing because I wanted to read what I wrote. I wanted to create for me, and soon after I met Angel and wanted to create for them too. I might not be as far along with my writing if it weren’t for Angel reading my writing over and over and begging me to write more. I felt so motivated. If possible, find yourself an Angel. If you can’t, just write for you. Never lose sight of the initial spark that made you want to write in the first place. Childlike wonder is so important.

Any specific advice for those hoping to make their one graphic novel one day?

Angel: Start a webcomic! I’d suggest starting with a shorter one-shot to get an understanding of your own process, what parts you like best, what parts you struggle with, how much time you need, etc. It might be hard, but try to resist starting with a project that is your “baby”— experiment with things that you won’t stress the need to be perfect and that you can be more malleable with.

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

Angel: We have plans to begin another webcomic after RAINBOW!, and similarly, it’s also a story we’ve had together since we were teenagers. It’s a ghost story, but not one that is particularly scary despite our affinity for horror. Rather it’s about friendship, love, loss, trauma, and perseverance, and has a larger cast and story compared to RAINBOW!.

Sunny: That story has been a challenge because of the large cast! I’ve always been better at telling small stories, so I can’t wait to spread my wings and finish a story to that scope. I’m so happy when I work on it, and I can’t wait for people to read it!

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

Angel: I’m a little behind on brand new ones, but I love The Prince and the Dressmaker!

Sunny: I am a fan of The Witch Boy series by Molly Ostertag. I own those books! Love them!