Interview with Journalist Liam O’Dell

Liam O’Dell is a Deaf and disabled freelance journalist from Bedfordshire in the UK. As well as being moderate-to-severely Deaf, he is autistic, dyspraxic and has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). He also identifies as asexual and came out in 2019. As a writer, he produces content regularly for The Independent, Metro.co.uk and The Limping Chicken, which is a Deaf news website. He is particularly interested in news stories and discussions relating to accessibility, social media, culture and politics. He can be found on Twitter @LiamODellUK.

I had the opportunity to interview Liam, which you can read below. Additionally, the header photo and photo below are credited to photographer Ant Belle.

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

Thanks for having me! Absolutely, I’m Liam O’Dell. I’m a Deaf and disabled freelance journalist from Bedfordshire in the UK. As well as being Deaf, I’m dyspraxic, autistic and I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (or OCD). I also identify as asexual.

How would you describe your line of work as journalist, and what motivated you to join the field?

So most of my work comes down to social media, technology or accessibility (sometimes all three!) I wanted to become a journalist because I just have this constant urge – even from a young age – to write and create things. I love knowledge and random facts too and so those things all kind of merged together and I realised journalism was a viable career for all that.

When did you know you were first interested in writing and disability advocacy?

It’s hard to pin it down to a specific date or time, because I’ve loved reading and writing for as long as I can remember. I guess that until I was around 13 or 15, when I was told I may benefit from hearing aids, I had mostly produced bits of poetry and fiction, but after that, I explored non-fiction writing such as opinion pieces and blogs to advocate for myself, but also write about things I was interested in (I set up a blog called The Life of a Thinker – since renamed to simply liamodell.com – in 2012). I decided to speak up on disability, I suppose, because very early on I was struggling to find the Deaf community. Eventually I found local Deaf clubs and charities to volunteer with, but when I first started blogging, there were – from what I could, or couldn’t, see – few blogs writing about life as a Deaf young person. Things have certainly changed a lot in the past 10 years. As I heard from other Deaf people, I think there was also the fact that my experience in education, for example, was rare compared to others. I was well supported in school through teacher support, seating plans, extra time in exams and so-on. It was incredibly accessible to me, but unfortunately, that isn’t the case for every Deaf person and I kind of felt obligated to do as much as I could to ensure my experience isn’t rare for Deaf students in the future.

You’ve spoken in the past before about deafness and queerness/asexuality in previous interviews, including recently in the podcast, Sounds Fake But Okay. Would you say there are any point of points of commonality between those different identifies?

They certainly cross over. Disabled people are either desexualised (the misconception that we can’t or don’t have sex) or hypersexualised, and so when a disabled person identifies as asexual, that misconception can rear its head. There can sometimes be a harmful view amongst non-disabled people that disabled people are asexual because of their disability, when that isn’t entirely accurate. The two identities can and must coexist. 

What’s something about deafness that perhaps those who are hearing might not expect? What are some things about the deaf community or deaf representation you would want others to know about?

I think while we are making some positive steps in terms of Deaf representation, hearing people are still a little bit taken aback to discover just how diverse the Deaf community is and that deafness is a spectrum. Deafness is still represented a lot in the media as something present in older people, and while it absolutely is, it’s also present in young people too. It isn’t just hearing aids which are used by Deaf people either – there’s cochlear implants, bone-anchored hearing aids (BAHAs) or nothing at all. In terms of communication, someone may use sign language, Sign Supported Speech (English grammar together with the local signs from that country) and speech. We have to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to any representation focussing on disability.

At any point during your life have you found media (i.e. books, film/television, etc.) in which you could see yourself reflected or relating to in terms of personal representation?

Books such as Loveless by Alice Oseman and The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus certainly spoke to my experience as a Deaf person and asexual person respectively. Unfortunately in film, there’s still a long way to go for both Deaf and asexual representation (recent films such as CODA and Sound of Metal weren’t that great in terms of the message that they sent – namely that music was apparently the antithesis to Deaf culture, when it very much isn’t). On TV, a big case of personal representation for a lot of Deaf people recently – at least here in the UK – was Deaf actress Rose Ayling-Ellis winning Strictly Come Dancing, which is our version of Dancing with the Stars over in the US. She did a fantastic job of showing that with the right support, Deaf people can do anything.

For those looking to support queer/disabled voices, what choices or paths you recommend for ally ship?

When it comes to asexuality, we’re still at a point where education is essential, so the best thing allies can do right now is uplift asexual activists producing educational content about our sexuality – especially from those who are a part of other marginalised and underrepresented communities such as disabled aces and Black aces. As for disability, I think we’re still seeing a difficult binary amongst non-disabled people where they are either awkward around the subject of disability (when there really doesn’t need to be, and that again comes down to education from disabled activists who have created safe spaces to learn about disability rights) or feel disabled people aren’t in a position where they can advocate for themselves. Unfortunately, I’ve seen instances in the past few years whereby non-disabled people are speaking on behalf of disabled people and spreading harmful misinformation about our communities. That then stops us from other vital work we were already doing to go and correct misinformation which shouldn’t have been spread from someone inexperienced and/or unqualified anyway. Learn when to pass the mic and platform those with actual lived experience. The other thing I’d mention is that when someone points out that the content you have published is inaccessible, know that this isn’t an attack, or being cancelled, or so on. A lot of the time this comes from someone who admires what you do and values your work, but wishes it was opened up and consumed by more people who are currently unable to access it. Acknowledge the slip-up and listen to us about the steps you can take to increase the reach on your platform, which a lot of creatives want to improve upon, of course. 

What advice would you give to aspiring journalists, especially queer and/or disabled ones?

A phrase I’ve been repeating a lot in recent months is ‘find your own space to create without constraint’, and what I mean by that is, have an outlet of some sort to make stuff without the limitation of worrying what other people think – whether that be something like a blog or a favourite notebook. If you want to open it up to other people to read, then go ahead, but as long as you have that liberty and freedom to make mistakes, experiment with form and try new things, then that’s the main thing I’d recommend right now. A careers advisor at school recommended I should start a blog to boost my potential career in journalism, and now that I’m in the industry, it helped significantly. It was a place for me to practice writing opinion pieces before I got commissioned to write them. It was a space to test out producing features, before I published them for sites such as Mashable and The Verge. It’s become my outlet to perfect the next style of writing I want to explore, and it’s honestly made me a better writer. You only learn how to write higher quality stuff if you write often, and doing that in a place where you can write whatever you want, however you want away from prying eyes is invaluable.

Besides being a writer, what are some things you would want your readers to know about you?

I’m trying to be a lot more vocal about my OCD since I was diagnosed with it almost two years ago, especially because it is such a traumatic and debilitating condition which can be incredibly difficult to talk about given the nature of a person’s intrusive thoughts. However, given there’s so many stereotypes rife in popular culture at the moment (such as saying you’re ‘so OCD’ because you’re really tidy, which is not what it means), I feel it’s necessary to do whatever I can to tackle some of that. The other thing – besides the typical facts that I’m Deaf and disabled – is that I’m asexual, as I feel we’re an incredibly underrepresented sexual orientation within the LGBTQ+ community, and there’s still a lot of education to be done both within the wider LGBTQ+ community, and cishet people as well. Unfortunately, I’m not quite as confident in my ace identity right now as I would like to be, but that’s something I try to be vocal about when I have a good opportunity to do so, such as this conversation!

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

Ha, what a great question! I suppose what springs to mind is a question I saw my partner get asked a while ago and I never really considered my response to it either (nor have I ever answered it publicly myself). That is: if you had the whole world’s attention for a couple of moments, what would you say to them, and why? I’m not quite sure if I have a big, thought-out answer to an equally big hypothetical question, but I think I would probably make the point that with a lot of society’s pressing issues at the moment – tackling coronavirus, climate change, and so on – we’d actually make a lot more progress if we listened to and included the most marginalised communities in society in our design and policy-making processes. Unfortunately, we live in a very impatient world right now which struggles to listen and/or make time for people who need a little more time to overcome barriers in society. In our fast-paced, high consumption society, we really need to re-learn the art of patience.

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

Sure. For the longest time I’ve been wanting to write a book, and after years of having this one idea banging around in my head, I’ve finally put pen to paper – or rather, fingers to keyboard – and started writing it, so I’m hoping I can get a draft of that done soon. The other main project right now is an investigation into the Spectrum 10K study on autism, DNA and genetics. It’s attracted a fair amount of controversy here in the UK amongst autistic activists, who allege it amounts to eugenics. I’ve been spending some time digging into the project to find out what’s been going on behind the scenes and that investigation is ongoing.

Finally, what disabled and/or LGBTQ+ books/writers would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

To my shame, I don’t read nowhere near as many books – let alone fiction books – as I used to, but some which immediately spring to mind are ‘Loveless’ by asexual author Alice Oseman, ‘The Perseverance’ by Deaf poet Raymond Antrobus, ‘The Reason I Jump’ by autistic writer Naoki Higashida and the last one – which I’m yet to pick up but have seen so many good things about – is ‘The Transgender Issue’ by transgender activist Shon Faye.

The Geeks OUT Podcast: Give Peacemaker a Chance

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 Teri Yoshiuchi, as they discuss their thoughts on Peacemaker, get excited about all the Star Trek shows getting renewed & coming soon, and celebrate all the nominees for GLAAD Media Awards in This Week in Queer.

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BIG OPENING

KEVIN: In an interview Joss Whedon shows his ass productions delayed due to Omicron

TERI:  Xbox is in talks to acquire Activision-Blizzard

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DOWN AND NERDY

KEVIN: Injustice, Scream, Peacemaker, Euphoria, Yellowjackets, Archive 81
TERI: The Witcher, Stay Close, Wheel of Time, D&D Wild Beyond the Witchlight

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STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER

Reports seem to suggest Batgirl will feature DCEU’s first trans character

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THIS WEEK IN QUEER

The GLAAD Media Award Nominations announced

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CLIP OF THE WEEK

Paramount+ announces premiere dates and renewals for Star Trek: Picard, Discovery, Strange New Worlds, Lower Decks and Prodigy plus a new trailer for Star Trek: Picard

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THE WEEK IN GEEK

MOVIES

• Netflix orders sequel to Chicken Run
• A sequel to A Christmas Story is officially happening
• Roku orders Weird Al biopic starring Daniel Radcliffe
• Disney developing a live-action adaptation of The Aristocats 
• Due to COVID Black Panther 2 production is paused after returning, but it looks like Winston Duke’s role is expanding considerably

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TV

• New trailer for Moon Knight
• AppleTV+ orders Monsterverse series based on Godzilla & King Kong movies
• New trailer for Severance
• The cast is revealed for Rupaul’s Drag Race UK vs. The World 
• Sadly Y: The Last Man fails to secure a new home
• Netflix makes it official Squid Game is returning for at least a second season
• New teaser for Joe vs. Carole

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COMIC BOOKS

• Marvel to release two ongoing Captain America books
• DC announces they’ll be killing the Justice League in April

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SHILF

• KEVIN: Steve & Sam & Bucky & John
• TERI: Captain America(s)

Interview with Author Preston Norton

Preston Norton is bisexual, slightly genderqueer, and married. His partner, Erin, is trying to put him on a diet, and he’s revolting (both contexts apply). He has taught seventh grade and ninth grade English, mentored drug addicts, and mowed lawns (in no particular order). He is obsessed with 2001: A Space Odyssey and Quentin Tarantino.

I had the opportunity to talk to Preston about his new book, Hopepunk, which you can read below.

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

I’m an environmental science teacher at a youth retreat facility where local private schools send their fifth graders to us for a week, and we teach them how to not fuck up the planet. (So, big Greta Thunberg fan, obviously.) When I’m not doing that, I’m writing. I’m also a nerd for lots of things: from high literature and pretentious, artsy cinema to dorky anime and video games. It’s less a question of “What am I a nerd for?” then “What am I not a nerd for?” What can I say? I like things.

How did you find yourself becoming a writer? What drew you to young adult fiction specifically?

I’ve wanted to write for about as long as I can remember. (I remember attempting to “write a novel” as early as eleven years old? I did not get far.) But the thing that draws me most to YA lit is voice, and how these young protagonists tend to feel a lot of things and very often. I am a thirty-six-year-old adult person, and it just so happens that I too feel a lot of things and very often, and I tend to get very voice-y about it. I don’t know what else to tell you other than YA lit and I tend to be a great fit together.  

What can you tell us about your upcoming book, Hopepunk? Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

It’s a story about rock and roll! And science fiction! And westerns! It’s also a story about social justice, and fighting for what you believe in. But at its deepest core, I think this story is about unapologetically being yourself. It’s about loving people and loving things. It’s about being a nerd, and being queer, and being a sister, and being a friend. But also punk rock! And sci-fi! And superhot cowboys, yee haw!

Hopepunk contains a strong music theme in its rocker elements. What music would you say you’ve gravitated to while writing this book and in general?

I mention a lot of songs and artists in the novel itself, and I don’t know that I would add any others to that already extensive list. But if you’re asking what I like generally, well: my favorite song of all time is “Wide Open” by Chemical Brothers, feat. Beck. My favorite artist of all time is Radiohead. (Favorites include “How to Disappear Completely,” “Reckoner,” and “Burn the Witch.”) My current passing musical obsession right now, which tends to fluctuate on a dime, is a tie between Superorganism (“Something for your M.I.N.D,” “Everybody Wants to Be Famous,” and “Hello Me & You”) and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (“Catching Smoke,” “Interior People,” and “If Not Now, Then When?”) Also, while I would not consider myself the most “metal” person in the world, I do have tickets with my partner and friends to see Tool this February. It’ll be the first concert I’ve been to since Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden toured together, back when Chris Cornell was still alive, may he RIP.

With that said…I issued an unofficial “contest” of sorts in an interview I gave to BookPage, and I would like to issue that same contest/challenge here. In Hopepunk, Hope Cassidy and the Sundance Kids perform a number of songs—completely original works of my own creation. However, I really struggled to write the third and final song, and as such, sort of cheated and had to use a pre existing song as a model for writing it, from the lyrical beats and the time signature down to the tune that you do not hear but was very present in my head. The first reader who calls me out on Twitter (aka, tag me) with the song I used as a crutch, I will use your name (or a name you give me) and give it to a minor character in my next book. The contest begins NOW!

An interesting part about the book was discussing the ripple effects of homophobia, how it not only affects the queer characters in this book but also those who love them, as it does the titular protagonist who initially loses her sister because of it. Would you mind speaking about that?

I grew up in a very religious household/community, so my experiences with and proximity to homophobia has always been very close and personal. I think the homophobia that hurts the most is the kind that pretends it is not homophobia at all but rather “Christlike love.” The sort that says, “I love you, but everything about who you are is a sin and wrong.” I am not a religious person anymore, and no longer feel the need to sugarcoat how I feel about this sort of belief, which is that it is fucked up, and I fucking hate it. I truly hope Christianity as a whole learns and evolves past this primitive, hateful stance. 

How would you describe your writing process?

I drink the caffeine, and then away we gooooo!!! 

I consider myself very lucky, the writing process comes so easy and fluid to me. Not only that, but my brain often delivers a high serotonin and even dopamine-reward for my efforts, so when I’m actively writing, it is often the most enjoyable thing I do with my time. Outside of the actual writing process, however, things are tough. Selling my agent on a new book idea, for example. Selling my editor on a book idea that I finally got my agent on board with. Writing a synopsis! Fucking hell, you guys, I fucking hate writing synopses.

Growing up, were there any books or authors that touched or inspired you as a writer, or made you feel seen?

You know, as voracious of a reader as I was when I was younger, I maybe didn’t find those books as a child/teenager so much as I have found them as an adult. A little late now, but they do continue to shape me and my writing. I would argue that the most profoundly influential ones were Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt, Looking for Alaska, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the latter of which, I actually like the movie even more than the book, which was incredibly both written and directed by its author, Stephen Chbosky. No, I have not seen Chbosky’s newest, the film adaptation of Dear Evan Hanson. I’ve never heard the word “cringe” used so often in reviews. 

Hopepunk is defined as a subgenre of fiction that looks at dystopia and the world with an element of resistance, optimism, and well… hope. Where did you first encounter this world and why do you think you were pulled to use it as the title, if not the basis of your book?

You know, it’s funny because I did not hear about it until a book blogger on Twitter compiled a list of their top five “hopepunk” novels, and one of my previous novels, Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe, made the list. Upon hearing this unfamiliar word, I sort of fell down the rabbit hole of hopepunk’s birth as a subgenre, at which point I realized that hopepunk was definitely my favorite subgenre, and I had only just learned about it! Naturally, I became obsessed, not just about the genre but what it stood for, and what it said about the times we were living in. My natural state is to start thinking about book ideas and plots without even realizing that’s what I’m doing, so the cogs were already turning at this point, and it was almost inevitable that the next book I would write would be called “Hopepunk.” The trick was selling both my agent and editor on the idea…and hey, they both loved it!

Aside from being a writer, what are some things you would want others to know about you?

I am actually a very private person, so wanting people to “know things about me” is actually very low on my agenda. But with that said, I will humor you with a fun fact: I have a scar on my chin that I received from a pillow fight with my little sister that I received when she was maybe only five years old! Intrigued yet? Of course, you are. Now, I was only about six years old at the time, but the very important detail I have withheld is that she was using a couch pillow, and it had a very sharp zipper on it, and the rest is history. I’m sure my six-year-old memory is not to be trusted, but I pretty much remember blood gushing from this grievous wound like the neck stump of that guy that gets decapitated in Kill Bill.

What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Write! That’s it. The antithesis of writing is not writing—putting it off, waiting until we feel like we’re good enough, procrastinating. The only way that you will become good enough is by making a regular practice out of it. We often talk about people who are naturally good at things and people who become good at things because they work at it. I will be the first to tell you that I was not born a naturally good writer. That did not come to me well until my late 20s, and I had already written several bad unpublished novels leading up to that point. What I was born with was the desire to be a writer. I actually can remember few things I wanted to be as a young child more than I wanted to be an author. Being a teenage mutant ninja turtle was one of them. But even if being a ninja was an achievable goal for me, I think we can all agree that no amount of practice would ever let me become a mutant turtle. All that was left was for me to become a writer.

Just write. That’s my advice.

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

There is nothing official yet, but I have a full synopsis my agent really likes, and we’re just polishing up the sample chapters. Have I mentioned I love video games? I am particularly a fan of Life is Strange, which in my opinion is like the greatest YA novel never written, and there is an element of this story that is heavily inspired by my love of the original game.

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

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert—a very deserving Stonewall Book Award nominee. Kelly is also just the most delightful writer you will ever meet in person. I am not biased, you are!

Interview with Author Aden Polydoros

Aden Polydoros grew up in Illinois and Arizona, and has a bachelor’s degree in English from Northern Arizona University. When he isn’t writing, he enjoys going to antique fairs and flea markets. His debut novel, The City Beautiful, is available now. He can be found on Twitter at @AdenPolydoros.

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

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT and congratulations on your debut book, The City Beautiful? Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Thank you! There isn’t really much to tell. A couple years ago, I acquired my bachelor’s degree at Northern Arizona University, and ever since then, have been working toward becoming a professional author. In particular, I’m interested in writing stories with queer and Jewish protagonists, since I didn’t have that kind of representation growing up.

How would you describe The City Beautiful? And where did the title and inspiration for this book come from?

The City Beautiful is a queer gothic thriller that draws from Jewish folklore. Set during the 1893 World’s Fair, it is about 17-year-old Alter Rosen, who recently immigrated to the US from Romania, and after being possessed by his best friend’s vengeful dybbuk, is forced to embark on a quest to free himself from the ghostly possession. 

It would seem that a lot of historical research has gone into this book. How would you describe the process and how it intertwined with you writing the actual novel?

It was definitely important for me to get the research right. A lot of it was spent working on the timeline, trying to figure out how to link the different events in the story together. The story follows a very tight timeline, beginning on the Fourth of July and ending the same day as a disaster that occurred at the World’s Fair, on July 11th, so I wanted to keep as close to that timeframe as possible. 

The other research I focused on involved Jewish folklore and customs, as well as the evolution of LGBTQ+ rights. I wanted to figure out how Alter would have acted, talked, etc. during that time, considering both the era, the Jewish communities in Romania at the time, and his level of observance. 

As a queer Jewish person, I quickly want to say how grateful I am that more books like yours exist in the world. I feel like there’s often this gatekeeping or expectation about what Jewish stories can be, or are allowed to be, which usually involves a certain type of pain that you might be familiar with. Could you tell us how you felt writing this story into existence?

I’m not going to lie—this was a difficult story to write at times. I drew from some of my own experiences and feelings, so I became emotionally invested in the project. But it was so important for me to get it out there. Like you said—for me at least, it sometimes feels like there’s an expectation for Jewish stories to focus solely around the Holocaust, and to reduce the Jewish characters in those stories to passive victims. I grew up reading Holocaust stories, and more often than not, the Jewish characters weren’t even the POV characters. I wanted to change that.

What are your hopes for the future of queer/Jewish fiction?

I’m hoping that more queer and Jewish stories will be brought into the world. I already feel like there’s so many of them coming forward, and I’m so excited for what the future holds in publishing. I know that I’ll be working on more. 

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

I can’t really think of anything else. The only other interesting thing about me is my love of antiques. 

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

Probably: What other sort of media projects are you interested in working on? And to answer—I’d really love to someday write for video games or television, or do IP work.

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

I have a few books in the pipeline. My next YA, BONEWEAVER is a dark Slavic fantasy coming out in Fall 2022, while my MG debut, THE RING OF SOLOMON, comes out in winter 2023.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers, especially those looking to finish their first book?

Don’t give up. This industry can be difficult and lonely at times, but it’s important to keep going and believe in the story you’re trying to tell.

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

I’m incredibly excited for HELL FOLLOWED WITH US by Andrew Joseph White. I read an ARC of it, and it’s absolutely incredible. I also can’t wait to read FROM DUST, A FLAME by Rebecca Podos, which is a queer Jewish fantasy. 

Interview With Cody Daigle-Orians

Cody Daigle-Orians (he/they) is an asexual writer and educator living in Hartford, Connecticut. He is a member of The Ace and Aro Advocacy Project, a Washington, DC-based organization providing resources on asexuality and romanticism to the public. And he is the creator of “Ace Dad Advice,” an online project that aims to help young people and those questioning their sexuality find the courage and confidence to live their best ace life. An “Ace Dad Advice” book will be published in January 2023.

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

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

I’m an asexual writer, educator and content creator living in Hartford, Connecticut. Before I started this work in ace advocacy and education, I wore a lot of professional hats: I was a theatre artist for many years (playwriting and acting), I taught high school theatre, I was an arts writer, then an arts administrator and arts programmer. It all comes together in my ace-related work. I’m also a giant horror nerd (film and fiction) and a book hoarder. 

Online, are you known for Ace Dad Advice, a digital platform where you dispense advice and information about asexuality and the asexual community. Could you tell us how this project came to be and how you came up with the name?

It started with my barber telling me I had to download Tik Tok. I balked at first, because in my mind, Tik Tok was “for the kids.” But I did anyway, just for kicks. I made a video where I self-identified as asexual, and I got this flood of comments, mostly from younger ace folks, saying they’d never seen an older ace before, didn’t know we existed, that they never saw ace adults living their lives like that. It took me by surprise, and I thought, “Maybe there’s a space in this community I can fill.” 

I’ve always sort of had this “dad energy” about me, so I thought, “I’ll just be Ace Dad and give the kids advice like a dad would.” And it’s taken off. “Ace Dad Advice” is one part ace education, one part ace advice column, and one part ace pep talk from a mentor. 

As a queer person, how did you find yourself coming into realization of this part of your identity?

I didn’t come out as asexual until I was 42, and I discovered asexuality on Tumblr. I always knew asexuals existed, but (like most people in and out of the queer community) I had a skewed idea of what asexuality was. Tumblr introduced me to the nuance of asexuality and the stories of ace people. And in those stories, I saw myself clearly for the first time. 

I’d always thought of myself as a gay man, since that was the label that fit the best. But it wasn’t exactly right. So I saw myself as a broken gay man, a not-quite-right gay man. Finding asexuality helped me see that I wasn’t a “broken” anything. I was ace. And that was whole and valid. really thankful for Tumblr. 

Within the queer community, there’s almost a dearth of queer elders thanks to the HIV+ epidemic and other factors. How does it feel being seen as an “elder” in terms of being a queer ace educator and Ace Dad?

It’s amazing. When I first came out as gay when I was 18, I had some really incredible older men who helped me navigate queerness. So mentors were incredibly important for me growing up, particularly growing up as a queer person in the Deep South. (I’m originally from Louisiana.) I wouldn’t have made it through some of the tough stuff in my twenties had it not been for the elders in the community. 

So I feel like this is an opportunity for me to pay back the elders that helped me when I was younger. It’s my opportunity to assume that role and help younger ace folks where and when I can. 

As of now, you are currently working on a book inspired by Ace Dad Advice. Could you tell us how the book came to be and what readers can expect from it?

An editor from the publishing company reached out and told me they really liked what I was doing with the “Ace Dad” content and asked if I’d ever thought about turning it into a book. I jumped at the opportunity. 

The “Ace Dad Advice” book is going to feel a lot like the online video content: ace education, ace advice, ace pep talks. The goal is for it to be a resource readers can go back to for encouragement and empowerment whenever they need it. So they feel they always have someone in their corner helping them live their best ace life. 

Ace Dad Advice on YouTube

What are some basic truths asexuality and queerness you would want people to take away from this interview?

The most important thing I try to communicate in all of my content is: we are not broken. Ace folks aren’t missing something. We aren’t a damaged version of something. We aren’t a liability. We are fully valid, fully whole people living an ace experience. Our aceness doesn’t limit us. It’s just one facet of who we are and what we bring to the world. 

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

The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) is a terrific resource, as is The Ace and Aro Advocacy Project (TAAAP). I work with the folks at TAAAP, and they’re amazing. 

If you’re book-inclined, I’d recommend The Invisible Orientation by Julie Sondra Decker and Ace by Angela Chen. Both books are wonderful resources to learn about asexuality. 

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

If you’re not following Yasmin Benoit (@theyasminbenoit on Instagram), you should be. Her work is really important and her voice is essential. 

I love the folks at the Sounds Fake But Okay podcast, Elle Rose (@scretladyspider on Twitter), Asexual Memes (@asexualmemes on Tik Tok), and Gentle Giant Ace (@AceGentle on Twitter). 

The ace creator on Tik Tok that deserves a ton more followers is @visibly_ace. Her content is so thoughtful. I think she’s amazing. 

There are so many other folks doing great work. This is just a handful. 

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

Ask me about my favorite horror books of 2021! They’re not ace related, but if you want to read some of the best horror of the year, check out My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones and Cackle by Rachel Harrison. Very different books, but I loved them both. 

Can you tell us about any other projects you are working on and at liberty to discuss?

Just have to finish the book! Then I can focus on some new stuff. But I’ve got some ideas. 

Finally, what are some LGBTQ+ media (i.e books/ comics/ podcasts/etc.) you would recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

I want to shout out an amazing anthology called Fat and Queer edited by Bruce Owen Grimm, Miguel M. Morales and Tiff Joshua TJ Ferentini. I loved the pieces in it. Really moved me. I also loved the YA novel The Reckless Kind by Carly Heath, which has some wonderful ace representation. 

And while it’s not necessarily queer, it’s close enough to count: If you haven’t listened to the podcast Out For Blood, which lovingly documents the entire incredible story of the Broadway production of Carrie the Musical, you are missing out. It’s brilliant. It’s got tons of interviews with the original cast. And it’s got so much dirt on an infamous Broadway flop. It’s unmissable. 

Chef’s Kiss Interview With Jarrett Melendez And Danica Brine

Jarrett Melendez grew up on the mean, deer-infested streets of Bucksport, Maine. A longtime fan of food and cooking, Jarrett has spent a lot of his time in kitchens, oftentimes as a paid professional! Jarrett is a regular contributor to Bon Appetit and Food52, and is the author of The Comic Kitchen, a fully illustrated, comic-style cookbook. When not cooking and writing about food, Jarrett usually writes comic books (like this one, Chef’s Kiss!) and has contributed to the Ringo-nominated All We Ever Wanted, Full Bleed, and Murder Hobo: Chaotic Neutral. He is currently writing a graphic memoir for Oni Press. Jarrett lives in Somerville, MA.

Danica Brine is walking sass in a leather jacket, forged in the icy lands of New Brunswick, Canada. From her waking hours to the moment she slumps over asleep at her desk, Danica can be found with a drawing tool in her hands. Her work has been featured on the covers of Wayward, Elephantmen, Exorsisters, and Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor. She’s also contributed artwork to All We Ever Wanted, featured in the New York Times, and The Comic Kitchen. When not working as a comic artist, she illustrates children’s books for a Canadian French-language publisher. Danica lives in Moncton, NB, Canada, with her husband, Nick, and their shiba inu, Taro. 

I had the pleasure of interviewing both Jarrett and Danica, which you can read below.

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

JM: Well, I’m 36, a Leo, single, and I write comics and for food media. I love cooking, writing, video games, and, of course, comics. I wrote Chef’s Kiss, and I live in Somerville, MA with a collection of Monokuro Boo plush pigs.

DB: Thank you! I’m Danica, the illustrator for Chef’s Kiss. I’m a freelance artist living in New Brunswick, Canada with my partner Nick and shiba inu, Taro. Other than drawing I love long  walks in the woods and playing too much Animal Crossing.  

Where did the impetus for Chef’s Kiss come from and how did the two of you get paired together for this project?

JM: Danica and I had been friends for about four years when we decided to collaborate on this book. We’d been talking about trying our hands at making comics and sharing a ton of interests, like BL manga and anime, food, beautiful men—all the best things. At the time, you didn’t see a ton of queer romance in western comics, and we wanted to change that. 

DB: Jarrett and I have been friends for almost a decade now, and we’ve always wanted to collaborate on something together. Chef’s Kiss came from Jarrett watching me draw cute boys for commissions at conventions and him saying, “hey, I should write a comic and you should draw it”. Chef’s Kiss was the result of a faithful meeting at a Boston Comic Con years back.

How did you get into writing/ illustrating? Were there any books/stories growing up that made you think “I want to do this myself one day”? 

JM: I’ve been writing stories since I was a little kid. English was always my strongest subject in school, but it wasn’t something I saw myself doing as a grown up. It wasn’t until I was in college and read Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami that I started considering writing as a career. I think that was the first book that made me cry, and all that raw emotion rekindled my love of writing. 

DB: I’ve loved drawing ever since I can remember. My favourite thing of all time as a kid was  colouring books! Growing up in a bilingual community, I was exposed to French bandes  dessinées (comics) like TinTin, Spirou and Astérix & Obélix as well as French translated manga. I always loved Disney movies too, and thought of pursuing animation. When I finally attended animation college, that’s where I discovered I wanted to draw comics! My partner Nick, who is also a comic illustrator, has also been a strong influence on me getting into drawing comics  professionally.

Were there any queer narratives growing up that stuck out to you and/or left an impression?

JM: Gosh, not really. It wasn’t really common to see queer folks in mainstream media when I was little unless it was mired in tragedy, like the film Philadelphia. Apart from that, stuff like Will & Grace and Queer as Folk were probably the first overtly queer pieces of media I was exposed to and, honestly, had the biggest impact in terms of making me realize it was okay to be queer.

DB: As a hetero female, I never thought of seeking out queer narratives in particular. I think being exposed to things like manga, I just love the thought of beautifully drawn male characters? Maybe it all spun from that?  

Jarrett Melendez

Cooking and writing about cooking can be two very different things. What’s the appeal of both to you and what drew you to them?

JM: I love cooking for loved ones, and I love getting people excited about the things I love so, for me, the two go hand in hand. Writing about cooking gives me the chance to get others excited about cooking, whether it’s a recipe I’ve developed, or a piece of kitchen equipment I particularly love using. When I’m really in a groove in the kitchen, I lose myself in the process. I can hyper fixate on things sometimes, like a particular food craving. This one time I had a huge craving for meatball subs, but none of the spots near me were quite right, so they couldn’t satisfy the craving. So I spent 12 hours making rolls, slow cooking sauce in the oven, and roasting meatballs, then braising them in that sauce to make, for me, the absolute perfect meatball sub. And I’d do it again.

How did you come to find yourself becoming an illustrator and could you describe your artistic background for us?

DB: I’ve always been drawing. In high school, I took a fine arts mail correspondence course and the  same time. In my 20’s it took me going to college for animation to figure out I wanted to draw  comics, so here I am today in my 30’s doing what I love best! Through the years, I’ve work for several indie publishing companies in the US, Canada and France as well as illustrated children’s  books for a small publisher local to me. Chef’s Kiss is my first fully published graphic novel. 

I’m very curious to know where the pig character comes from? Was there a real life inspiration for Watson the pig?

JM: I’m just obsessed with pigs! I think they’re super cute. There sort of is a real life inspiration, actually! So, all of the plush pigs in my collection have names, and one of my favorites is named Watson. 

DB: Pigs are Jarrett’s favourite animals. Dogs are mine (but I love baby boars too!). We knew we  wanted Watson to not be your average pig…I drew him to look like a pig and act a bit like a pet  dog. We both wanted to make him win every reader’s heart. I hope we’re successful!  

How would you describe your writing/ illustrating process? What are some of your favorite things about writing/ illustrating?

JM: It’s a lot of staring into the middle distance thinking about characters, settings, action and dialogue. Just a lot of daydreaming, almost. Once I have a good framework for a story, it becomes very mechanical: outline, page breakdowns (deciding the key moment for each page, and how many panels it’ll take to get there), then scripting the action, followed by dialogue. My favorite parts are the sitting and staring—it’s very nostalgic, like being a kid trying to cook up the next scenario in your game of pretend—and then the dialogue.

DB: I love being able to tell a story using pictures in harmony with the script. My favourite part of the  process has to be inking. Storyboarding and pencilling takes a lot of concentration. Inking is so relaxing, you’re just following your lines and filling in your blacks. I love watching repeats of shows like The Office when I ink. 

Danica Brine

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

JM: Is that full head of salt and pepper, daddylicious hair natural? Why, yes. Yes, it is.

DB: Bagels with butter and cream cheese? Or just cream cheese? The right answer is the first one.  

JM: Also, Danica is 100% correct: butter, then cream cheese.

What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives?

JM: Say yes to things, take chances, and don’t wait to try and publish your work, whether its a webcomic, self-publishing, or pitching to publishers. The first thing you create and put out into the world is not going to be your best work, and you can’t be afraid of that.

DB: 1.) Either it’s drawing, writing, creating music..If you love it, do it. 2.) Try not to let the number of followers on social media dictate what is success. I’ve noticed this trend for the last while and it can destroy you as an artist. 3.) Nothing is simply handed over either, you need to put in the mileage.

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

JM: Yes! Danica and I are currently developing a post-apocalyptic Mexican fantasy graphic novel, and I just turned in a script for my graphic memoir. I have about six different projects in various stages of development, all coming out over the next few years. Buckle up!

DB: Other than being quite busy with a backlog of commissions, Jarrett and I are starting  development this year on a new graphic novel featuring Mexican folklore and adventure! 

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

JM: Commanders in Crisis by Steve Orlando and Davide Tinto is a great superhero book, but I’m also a huge fan of Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu, and Heartstopper by Alice Oseman—both are super wholesome queer romance graphic novel series. I’m also a very big fan of Casey McQuiston’s books—Red, White and Royal Blue made me cry like a gigantic baby, and I loved every second of it. Horror fans should also peep Orlando’s Party and Prey, which he co-wrote with Steve Foxe, with art by Alex Sanchez. 

DB: Since I’m always so busy drawing, I rarely get a chance to sit down and read something other than for research…All I know is that there should be more books out there with content catered to the LGBTQ+ community! Especially for younger readers that are looking to identify with characters  in those stories 🙂

The Geeks OUT Podcast: My Safeword is The Batman

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 the return of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by Geeks OUT President, Nic Gitau, as they discuss the toll Omicron is taking on tv productions & the Grammy Awards, the new trailer for The Batman, and celebrate record making and current Jeopardy Champion, Amy Schneider as our Strong Female Character of the Week. 

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BIG OPENING

KEVIN: The Grammy’s along with numerous tv productions delayed due to Omicron

NIC:  According to rumors Okoye will be in queer relationship in Black Panther 2

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DOWN AND NERDY

KEVIN: The 355, The Book of Boba Fett, Superman: Son of Kal-El
NIC: Power Born of Dreams: My Story Is Palestine; Alice in Borderland; Dafne & The Rest (Todo lo Otro)

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STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER

Trans Jeopardy champion Amy Schneider making history

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THIS WEEK IN QUEER

New merch seems to confirm America Chavez will be queer in Dr. Strange 2

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CLIP OF THE WEEK

New trailer for Moonfall

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THE WEEK IN GEEK

MOVIES

• Director of Luca toyed with making it explicitly queer
• Pixar’s Turning Red now to debut exclusively on Disney+
• Sony delays Morbius yet again until April
• Newly added to the public domain, Bambi and Winnie the Pooh
• New trailer for The Batman and new looks at The Riddler/Penguin

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TV

• New trailer for Archive 81
• New trailer for Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness
• Netflix developing a Scott Pilgrim anime series
• The SATC revival And Just Like That… becomes a queer meme
• New trailer for season 2 of Resident Alien

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VIDEO GAMES

• Sony announces the new Playstation VR2
• President of Square Enix espouses the greatness of NFT’s & blockchain

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SHILF

• KEVIN: The Riddler
• NIC: Selina Kyle

Interview with Author Kosoko Jackson

Born and raised in the DC Metro Area, and currently living in Brooklyn, Kosoko Jackson is a digital media strategist for non-profit organizations; which enables his Twitter obsession. Occasionally, his personal essays have been featured on Medium, Thought Catalog, and The Advocate. When not searching for an extra hour in the day, he can be found obsessing over movies or drinking his (umpteenth) London Fog. He is the author of Survive the Dome and Yesterday is History.

I had the opportunity to interview Kosoko, 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! I’m so excited to be here. I’m Kosoko Jackson. I’m an east coast native, author of Survive the Dome and Yesterday is History. I’m a Scorpio sun, Virgo Moon, Scorpio Rising (fun fact, I have a triple stellium). I love to write, watch far too many movies (in 2022 I’m trying to watch IMBD’s top 100 movies by the end of the year), and I love indie folk music. I say that without any shame.

How would you describe your upcoming book, Survive the Doom? Where did the inspiration for the story come from?

Survive the Dome is basically Black Lives Matter meets Internment by Samira Ahmed. I came up with the book in 2020 during the George Floyd protests. I was in NYC, during the height of COVID, unable to protest with my fellow Black brothers and sisters, and I wanted to come up with a way to resist. I always have believed writing is a form of resistance, so I put my pen to paper and got started. I’m a huge science fiction nerd, and believe science fiction is the perfect grounds for dealing with complex world issues on a grand or microscopic scale. And thus, Survive the Dome was born!

What do you do to help yourself as a writer? Any tips to spark or help creativity?

Most of my books, honestly, come from movie or TV show inspirations. It can be a simple shot, one line, or something I wish the director/writer did differently and wanting to explore that. I get a lot of inspiration from music, too. I listen to soundtracks and albums when writing, and sometimes just one well played line can inspire a whole scene, or book. 

How did you get into writing, and what drew you to young adult fiction and speculative fiction specifically? 

I’ve always loved writing. When I was young, I used to write stories and have my parents listen to them during commercial breaks or shows. I fell in love with writing young adult fiction because, as a team, I didn’t see a lot of positive Black queer characters. When I decided that I wanted to be a writer, I knew that I wanted to fix that and add to the tapestry of diverse authors who are helping to diversify our literary canon. When it comes to science fiction, I think I just started writing that because it was a lot of the entertainment that I absorbed when I was younger. Stories, books, movies, TV shows about fantastical worlds where anything was possible, but rooted in science, always interested me the most.

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

Personally, and I think it’s a bit of my writing crutch, I really like dialogue. I think you get the most characterization in the most understanding of the world and the internal motivations of said characters through their dialogue. How they talk, what they omit, unique ways to create differences in two different characters simply by their word choice is the most fun part for me. and I’m a big fan of banter also period there won’t be a book written by me, no matter the genre, that doesn’t have at least two or three good solid banter scenes.

Were there any stories or authors that inspired you as a writer coming into your own?

The Pendragon Series by DJ McHale. It’s an epic 10 book series that I encourage everyone reads. I ADORED it and it was probably the series that made me want to be an author. 

Besides being a writer, what are some things you would like others to know about you? 

I’m obsessed with movies! Like, before the pandemic I used to see 100 movies a year in theaters. Starting in 2022, I’m going to try to get back into that, but using more streaming services to watch more movies. By the end of the year, I’m hoping to see the IMDb top 100 movies. Interview me in 2023 to see if I actually achieved it!

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

I never get asked if I could have one superpower, what would it be? And this seems like a pretty easy question, but if you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’m kind of obsessed with DC and Marvel Comics and I just feel like it’s such a lowball question. The non-nerdy answer would be phasing. If you’re a fan of Marvel Comics then you know of Katherine Pryde, AKA Shadowcat, and I’ve always found her ability to be the most interesting. The nerdy answer would be telepathy, with a focus on psychic surgery and skills augmentation through precise psychic manipulation.

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

I think the hardest piece of advice to follow is to understand that your writing will change. I never thought 5 years ago I’d write adult rom coms, but I’m loving this journey for me. You do not have to stay in the genre, or field, you started in, just because you think that’s right or where you belong. Allow yourself to grow. The worst thing that can happen is you don’t succeed.

Are there other projects you are working on and at liberty to discuss?

I cannot discuss some of the cool things I’m working on YET, but I am working on my second adult rom com that I’m very excited about, and something secret!

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

I’m a big fan of anything by CL Polk, Sam Miller, Ryan La Salla! I’ve learned so much about writing from reading their work.

Interview with Author Alechia Dow

Alechia Dow is a former librarian and pastry chef living abroad with her partner in Germany. When she’s not writing, you can find her having epic dance parties with her daughter, baking, reading or taking teeny adventures around Europe.

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

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

Hello! Thanks for having me! My name is Alechia Dow, and I’m the author of The Sound of Stars, The Kindred, Just a Pinch of Magic, a couple of short stories, and more to come. I’m also a former pastry chef, and youth services librarian. 

How and when did you know you were first interested in writing, and what drew you specifically to young adult fiction and speculative fiction?

I started writing very terrible stories when I was five years-old. My teachers would write reports home that I wasn’t paying attention in school, but they liked my creativity. I wrote stories about cats in trees and one called Princess in a Jar, where a princess was––you guessed it, trapped in a jar by a wicked sorcerer, ha! Truthfully, though, it was the town library that inspired me the most. I considered the town library my home and the librarians my friends. One day I was going through their MG/YA section and I stumbled upon X-Men comics. I devoured them. I fell in love with the themes, the characters and especially the powers. From there, I read Star Wars books, R.L. Stine, anything compelling, but almost always scifi-fantasy. After baking school, I went into library science, specifically for teens. I’ve always felt that the library and books saved me and that MG/YA fiction is *the* place to inspire a lifelong love of reading. When I started writing stories again, that’s where I found my voice and where I thought I had something to contribute. And I have to say, it’s an absolute privilege to write in this age group and about children and teens. I know how impactful a good book can be at that age, and I hope, somehow, my books inspire compassion, empathy, and future writers!

How would you describe your general writing process?

Straightforward, ha! I sit down and I write. I have a clear idea of what I’m doing or what I’d like to accomplish and I do it. Also, I stay excited about my projects, I visualize them like movies. As I see particular scenes unfold, it not only helps me write them, but also get really pumped about the overall story. Basically, I get excited, I visualize, down to as many details as I can, and then I write it. Sometimes I’ll outline, but not until I’m about 3-4 chapters in. 

Where did the inspiration for your first book, The Sound of Stars come from?

The Sound of Stars was that book that just felt right to write. Out of nowhere, I was inspired by the idea of a secret, illegal library. Which got me to thinking, why is it illegal? And then it evolved over the course of a long walk into a story about a rebel librarian and an alien who loves music. This is often how my mind works, one minute I have a fragment of an idea, and the next, it’s a full-fledged plot bunny that I tend to follow on the page.

Also, as an aspec reader, I’m always grateful for more asexual/demisexual representation in books! Would you mind discussing what it was like bringing that representation to the page?

I think writing elements of my own identity is really natural, almost easy. Sharing it with the world, though, is the difficult part! It’s so important to be inclusive and to give meaningful, unharmful representation, but my brain is constantly worried that someone might read that and be upset that their experiences weren’t similar. Or it doesn’t resonate with them. At the same time, I couldn’t imagine writing another way. So to answer your question, bringing that representation to the page means the world to me and I love writing it, but I also try to be very careful and thoughtful about how I approach it.

In addition to demisexual rep, you’d mentioned in other interviews how personal your writing was to you in terms of reflecting Black and body diverse characters. Would you mind speaking a little about that?

Growing up Black and fat, there weren’t a lot of characters that looked like me, or experienced the world like I did. And some of those that did were villains, dehumanized, and hated. When I finally saw myself on the page in a non-harmful way, that was huge for me. I felt less alone. I felt seen and heard. It inspired me. Now when I write characters––most of my main characters are Black, fat, queer, brown, experience mental or chronic illness––I take a loving approach to it. I want my readers to feel proud of who they are and their bodies. I want them to see people like us being the main love interest, having adventures, saving the world, and living their best lives not despite their identity, but because of who they are.

What can you tell us about your upcoming book, The Kindred and its inspiration?

The Kindred is a story about mind-linked grumpy duke, Felix, and commoner sunshine Joy, after they flee their home when they’re accused of murdering the royal family and crash-land on Earth. It is a love story that explores what it means to be connected when everything and everyone tries to keep you apart. I loved that aspect of Sense8; being mentally paired with someone across the world (or universe) and how this would make you feel as if you’re never truly alone. That you’re seen and loved for who you are by someone you’ve never truly met. It was a pleasure to write.  

From what I gather, food is also a big part of your books and your life as a baker. What yummy foods would you say will be featured in your writing, and what are some of your favorite things to make IRL?

Being able to combine my two careers (three?) is such a cool thing. Becoming a professional pastry chef was intense and taught me a lot about sensory details which honestly helps so much when I write about food. Whether I’m featuring a can of sweet baby carrots in The Sound of Stars or chocolate covered raisins in The Kindred, I get to have fun with how characters engage with food and describe it. In Just a Pinch of Magic, I got to include some of my favorite recipes like Should-Be-Famous Hot Chocolate and Ooo-Girl-You’re-In-Trouble Chocolate Chip Cookies! In real life, I’m always darting between the kitchen and my computer. I love making time-stealing masterpieces like baked Alaskas (making homemade ice cream is my favorite) and developing recipes for simple sweets like chocolate glazed doughnuts, apple scones, or new types of pie. It’s an absolute joy. 

What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Keep writing, even when it’s hard. Find your people. Find CPs who understand your work, and you can trust with a piece of your heart. Find friends who you can trust with your anger and who make you feel good even when you lack self-confidence. Celebrate every opportunity that comes your way. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, but be prepared to get it, and not in the ways you always want. Stay excited about your work. And lastly, don’t compare yourself to anyone else and JUST KEEP WRITING. Rejections will come and they’ll make you doubt yourself, your writing, and your future…but if writing makes you happy and you have a story you want to share with the world, please write it. There’s so much in the publishing industry you can’t control, but the one thing you can do is write. 

Aside from writing, what are some things you would want readers to know about you?

I think my writing tells a lot about me already, haha! Let’s see, I have a dog named Biscuit, I’m a mom to a very opinionated (the love of my life) eight-year-old, I will travel for food, and I listen to music probably as much as I write and bake!

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

Q: If The Kindred was a cookie, which one would it be? A: The Kindred is a story about love, friendship, and finding harmony. So I would say it’s a raspberry linzer cookie; the linzer dough doesn’t taste all that great on its own but paired with tart raspberry jam and sprinkled with a little cardamom & cinnamon sugar, it’s beautifully balanced. Like Joy and Felix, they go better together than apart.

Can you tell us about any new projects you are working on and at liberty to discuss?

Just a Pinch of Magic, my middle grade debut, comes out in Fall 2023. It’s a magical foodie book that is so much fun and has a big piece of my heart! I’m currently working on more YA scifi, middle grade mystery, a foodie paranormal YA, and so much more. I stay busy, lol.

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

I love Claire Kann’s Let’s Talk About Love, MK England’s Disasters, Rebecca Coffindaffer’s Crownchasers & Thronebreakers, everything Kalynn Bayron writes, Lora Beth Johnson’s Goddess in the Machine duology, Claire Winn’s City of Shattered Light, Aiden Thomas’ Cemetery Boys, H.E. Edgmon’s The Witch King, and Adiba Jaigirdar’s collected works as well. I have so many more!! 

Celebrating an Icon: Diana Prince, Wonder Woman-the most enduring female super hero of all time!

All-Star Comics 8, Sensation Comics 1 DC Comics

Wonder Woman was co-created by William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter. She first appeared in All-Start Comics #8 in 1941. Some of us know Wonder Woman from her origins in comic books. Stories crafted by the likes of George Perez, Jose Garcia Lopez, Phil Jimenz, Greg Rucka, and John Byrne. Others remember her from the 1970’s hit TV show portrayed by Linda Carter or from the Super Friends Saturday morning cartoon from the seventies and eighties. Younger generations remember her from the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited shows. And now a whole new generation is experiencing the Princess of Theymyscyria through Gal Gadot portraying Wonder Woman in Zack Snyder’s Justice League and Patty Jenkin’s Wonder Woman films

Super Friends, Wonder Woman and Justice League Animated DC Entertaiment.

However you’ve encountered Wonder Woman for the first time, it cannot be said enough that she has always been a hero for all of humanity and even more, a true purveyor of peace, truth, and building bridges. This may seem pretty basic, but it is still a revolutionary perspective in 2021.

Recently, I had the opportunity to ask a few of the creators who have had a hand in shaping Wonder Woman in her comic book exploits-writer Steve Orlando, artist Emanuela Lupacchino and all-around Rennaissance Woman, writer-artist, Amy Chu. And one super-fan who loves Diana more than anyone I know. But also embodies Wonder Woman’s ethics and mindset, Lego Master, Sam Hatmaker.

Comic book, Writer Steve Orlando (MIdnighter, Nightwing, Wonder Woman)

Wonder Woman DC Comics

Chris Allo: What was your first exposure to Wonder Woman?

Orlando: Undoubtedly it would’ve been the DC Cosmic Card series, which was my first exposure to nearly all DC characters. We didn’t have a comic store in my town at first, so I would get back issues at the flea market, and snag all the non-sports cards I could at sports memorabilia shows, where I’d accompany my parents. I was instantly taken with Diana. Especially, oddly enough, the elegance of her Golden Age design. And once I got into DC books in the mid-90s, when we got a Waldenbooks and a comic store, Diana was front and center — battling nazis, becoming the goddess of truth itself, and kicking the shit out of White Martians. It didn’t take long for me to be sold for life.

DC Comics Trading Card Impel

Chris: Why do you think Wonder Woman has endured for so long? Icon level achieved!

Orlando: I think it’s because of the clarity of her message — love over hate, peace over war…and a swift hand for those that refuse those edicts. These were challenging ideas when she was created, and they’re challenging, radical, subversive ideas even today. We know that no matter what we’ve done, who we are, Diana will be there to offer love, IF we’re strong enough to take it, IF we’re strong enough to admit our faults and mistakes, she is there with compassion. And we know for those who fall to violence and hate, the weaks ones, that Diana will be there to defend us. Wonder Woman, through a myriad of lenses, is STILL a book about the devastating, transformative power of love. And that’s a message, and a character, who will always be relevant. 

Chris: Do you have a favorite storyline and or creative team?  One that inspires your work on the character?

Wonder Woman by Phil Jimenez DC Comics

Orlando: I think the closest inspiration for me is Phil Jimenez’s run as writer and artists. Phil and I think very much along the same lines with Diana, even if he’s an angel and I’m a devil. But as a reader, I instantly loved how provocative, how radical, how strong and welcoming Phil’s Diana was. She wasn’t just a classic greek hero, screaming into battle with sword drawn. She DID draw sword, but only when there was no other recourse. And she understood that peace is radical, peace if frightening, and peace is the highest aspiration. She wasn’t naive, she knew this would anger the power structures around her, and she was ready to fight against them. These are ideas imbued in every panel and line of WONDER WOMAN when I’m working on it, and I owe that to Phil.

Chris: Since she is a comics Icon, what is one of your favorite images and or artists that have portrayed the character?

Orlando: Good lord, there are so many! Outside of Phil’s Diana, I would be remiss not to mention the incredible work of artists like Colleen Doran, Ramona Fradon, Nicola Scott, Jill Thompson, Joshua Middleton, Jenny Frison, Gil Kane, Adam Hughes, and when we’re lucky enough to see her draw Diana — Joyce Chin.

Chris: I can add a few to that amazing list! I was working with Joyce recently and mentioned to her your comment, she was so humbled and was surprised anyone even remembered that she drew Wonder Woman.

Emanuela Lupaccina-Artist(Wonder Woman, Trinity, Starfire)

Wonder Woman 67 DC Comics

Chris Allo: What was your first experience or exposure to Wonder Woman? 

EL: My first experience with the characters was 10 years ago or so, I worked on a cover with Wonder Woman and I suddenly had a great feeling drawing the character. It was a powerful action scene and I remember how naturally it came to me drawing her. 

Chris: Why do you think Wonder Woman has endured for so long? Icon level achieved!

EL: Wonder Woman is a superhero where principles and love come before the superpowers. She may change her look through the years but she keeps some good ideals immutable. I believe she touched the heart of the people as she was born as female superhero and what made her such a great character was her personality over the powers. That personality is still there as it was at the beginning. Iconic.

Chris: Do you have a favorite storyline and or creative team?  ONe that inspires your work on the character?

Wonder Woman by Jose Garcia Lopez, DC Comics

EL: My favorite creator is Jose Garcia Lopez, I believe he’s the most representative author of the character. And his art is as iconic as the character itself. 
I do love some of the covers Adam Hughes did for the series, his work was a great inspiration for me as much as Garcia Lopez. I love his touch of power on the character keeping it graceful and elegant at the same time.

Lego Artist Sam Hatmaker

Gal Gadot as Wonde Woman by Sam Hatmaker.

Chris Allo: What was your first experience or exposure to Wonder Woman? 

Sam Hatmaker: I first fell in love with Wonder Woman in 1977 when Lynda Carter introduced the character to the world.  I spent the next few years spinning around and becoming powerful when I felt weak.  I have a 2” scar across the bottom of my chin from spinning around in the bathtub.

Chris: Why has the character endured so long? She’s an Icon now!

Sam Hatmaker: The character has evolved with time, always finding a message to empower women and the disadvantaged.  That keeps her relevant.

Chris: What is your favorite storyline or creator on WW?

Sam Hatmaker: George Perez inspired my love of the character and the Greek Gods.  He made her a character of peace first and foremost.  She is one of only a few characters in comics whose first choice is defense, not offense.  Her weapons are defensive.  Bracelets to deflect attacks, and a lasso that binds the opponent so they can not fight, and forces them to communicate the truth.  My favorite stories were solved with her forcing the enemy to examine themselves and their motives.  

Chris: Any standout or favorite image/artist depiction of Diana?

Sam Hatmaker: I have a few.  I own one of the original 1980’s style guide pictures by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez.  I love George Perez and Phil Jimenez’s drawings of her.  

Comic Creator Amy Chu (Girls Night Out, Sensation Comics, Deadpool)

Greg Silber: What is your first experience or exposure to WW?  

Amy Chu: Oh you know what, I did read the Wonder Woman comics when I was a kid for sure. Because I was also watching the TV show with Linda Carter. That was huge. I would say that was formative. So there was that, and in fact, if I think harder, there was a lot of classic Wonder Woman I was reading at the time.

GS: Like the Marston/H.G. Peter stuff?

AC: Yeah. I remember because with all the bondage stuff, as a kid I was like “what’s with all the chains?” [Laughs]. Now I’m like “oh, okay.” So yeah, I would say I grew up with Wonder Woman.

GS: Why has the character endured so long? She’s now an icon of mythic proportions!

AC: First of all, how many woman characters were there like 80 years ago? She was very powerful. The character of Wonder Woman is someone we aspire to. She’s powerful, and there’s a quality about Wonder Woman that endures today. Part of it is that she’s so much of a legacy character now, right? It’s great that there are so many new female characters now, but with Wonder Woman, there’s a certain universe that owes everything to her. And she’s from that sort of Amazonian idea as a woman. It’s very appealing! I think it’s also kind of funny that… look, it’s an island full of women. The idea that they’re all heterosexual is kind of odd, right?

GS: [Laughs] Island full of all straight women.

AC: I never thought of it that way but… yeah. That sort of appealed to me.

GS: What is your favorite storyline or creator on Wonder Woman?

AC: Wow, I’m going to get in trouble here. Because there are so many good ones. I will say that working with Bernard Chang on my first Wonder Woman comic, I specifically asked for Bernard. That was Sensation Comics. I don’t want to point to any specific arc because there have been some really good ones, obviously. I will point to Gail Simone and Greg Rucka, they’re all good. I won’t point out some duds that I bought.

GS: Any standout or favorite image/artist depiction of Diana?

AC: Okay you know what, I will point to the (Brian) Azzarello/Cliff Chiang stuff. I am a big fan of Cliff Chiang’s work. It’s so funny. With Brian Azzarello, it’s not like I know him that well, but I saw him at the Comixology party and he was like “hey Amy!” I love his writing in general. I’m not going to say one over the other, but it really did make a difference when I was reading that arc.

Chris Allo: I want to add that two of my favorite artists who have drawn Wonder Woman over the years are Brian Bolland-who give Phil Jimenez a run for his money on drawing Diana’s raven locks. Bolland portrayed her as powerful and almost mythical at times. And second is Terry Dodson, one of my all-time favorite artists, who depicts Wonder Woman as with a more muscular frame than most, but manages to retain her feminine beauty while showing the powerhouse aspect that is equal to Superman.

Terry Dodson
Wonder Woman, DC Comics

I also wanted to take a moment to thank ally, Greg Silber for helping out on this interview. Gregory Paul Silber is a writer and editor with bylines at PanelxPanel, The Daily Dot, NeoText, Shelfdust, and more. His humor column, “Silber Linings,” appears every Friday at The Comics Beat. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @GregSilber.”

See you next time!