Interview with Writer & Drag Queen Dan Clay

Dan Clay is a writer and drag queen thrilled to be making his debut as a novelist with Becoming a Queen. Until now, he focused on spreading love and positivity online through his drag persona, “Carrie Dragshaw.” His writing as Carrie has been featured in hundreds of magazines, newspapers, and television shows–from Cosmo to People to Watch What Happens Live–and his TED Talk on being your “whole self” details his first-hand experience with the healing power of drag.

I had a chance to interview Dan, which you can read below.

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

It’s an honor to chat! Thank you so much. I love what you do and the beautiful community you’ve built!

I’m Dan, and I was cruising along in a relatively traditional business career until, long story short, I started doing drag! I’d post pictures and write captions as “Carrie Dragshaw,” and it was such a source of joy for me that it motivated me to explore even more creative pursuits, which led to longer-form writing, which eventually (after a lot of studying and learning!) led to this book. 

What can you tell us about your debut book, Becoming a Queen? What was the inspiration for this book?

The inspiration was two-fold. The first I must warn you is a little heavy! I had this question rattling around in my head. The more life I lived, the more amazed I became at what people can get through. So many lives are hit hard, upended by unexpected pain and heartbreaking tragedy. It’s all around us. How on earth do we get through it? And often with so much love to spare? I wanted to zoom in on someone facing what felt like one of those insurmountable tragedies. And I wanted to try my very best–based on what I know, have experienced, have observed–to help him out of it. 

The second inspiration is much lighter! The biggest surprise of my own life has been the healing power of drag. Maybe there’s something in the wigs, or perhaps it’s just the simple fact that everything gets better when you learn to love your entire self. On the heels of my own enlightenment, I wanted to write a book where LGBTQ identity was not a source of pain, but rather, the spring of salvation. 

Put those two together, and bippity boppity boop, you’ve got Becoming a Queen! 

Since so much of the book revolves around drag, I was wondering what drag as an element personally means to you, and how you would describe your connection to it?

Yes! Well, an unexpected thing happened for me when I started doing drag, which is that I started being more myself. It’s almost ironic that dressing up as a character made me more “me.” But it just pushed me toward authenticity, encouraged me to embrace parts of myself that I was still ashamed of, pushed me toward fuller self-expression (there are confessions “Carrie Dragshaw” makes that I could never dream of making! But they are, in fact, my confessions …) 

And I learned, wow … authenticity can save you from a lot more than shame! It can be the force that propels connection, growth, healing, and most of all, love. Drag, and the authenticity that it compelled in me, has been the source of so much love in my life. 

So in Becoming a Queen, I tried to capture a little bit of that broader role that drag can play. The book—while, yes, it’s a story about drag—is really more about taking masks off than putting them on. Exploring that gnarly truth underneath the masks we all wear, the parts we think make us broken but really allow us to heal.

What’s something you might want readers to take away from this book?

Oh gosh! It’s a beautiful thing to consider. I think a big part of the journey that Mark goes through is about trying to see others as fully as he sees himself. He starts out incredibly interior, and while he certainly doesn’t get to some enlightened state of non-self, he gets on the path. I do believe that striving to give joy is the best way to get it—even if you only make it halfway there—so I’d be delighted if someone took that away from this book!! See others more fully, see the weight that we’re all carrying, the grace that we all deserve. 

As a writer, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically young adult fiction?

It really all started with the writing that I did as “Carrie Dragshaw.” I have always been absolutely obsessed and enamored with reading. I worship authors to the point of never even considering that I could be one! I thought books were born in the mind of genius and then dropped, fully formed, from the sky! 

But when the Carrie Dragshaw writing started connecting with people, when people started playing the words back to me or sharing quotes, it was a level of fulfillment that I’d never experienced before. And I knew I absolutely had to at least try to pursue writing in what, to me, is its ultimate form: the novel! 

What drew me to young adult fiction was partly functional … the story that I wanted to tell was of a teenager, and I wanted to tell it from his perspective. But it was also aspirational! I feel so very lucky that I’ve gotten to connect with folks through Carrie Dragshaw, and young adult was really exciting to me because, oh wow, maybe I could try to connect with people who’ve never even seen Sex and the City! Haha. Who don’t even know if they’re a Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, or Samantha. And are maybe at an age where certain doubts and insecurities (that I personally have spent way too much of my life focusing on) haven’t fully set yet. The idea that I could help someone, in some small way, skip faster through some of that fear … that was a very rewarding prospect to me.  

How would you describe your writing process?

A bizarre combination of diligence without structure! 

When I first started attempting longer-form writing, I was very loose and limber with the ambition, but very diligent with the time. I told myself: you have to write every morning. What you write is up to you! But you have to write. And once the story started taking shape, it got a momentum of its own, and I became nothing less than obsessed! I knew there would be a lot of challenges on the way to publication, but I didn’t want something as controllable as “how hard I was willing to work” be the thing standing in the way. 

I’d say the most rewarding part of the process was when I could carve out three full days over a long weekend, or take vacation time and fully immerse in the world of the book. The characters started to feel real then; my world started blending with theirs in this surreal and beautiful way. 

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

Oh gosh, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds! I have always absolutely loved reading. It is still a singular joy! Two particularly profound reading experiences come to mind from the “growing up” days, one I felt “reflected in” and one “touched by.” The first: Where the Red Fern Grows. The week before I read the ending to that book, my absolutely perfect family dog died. This dog was my whole entire little life! And then I read the ending of Where the Red Fern Grows (I assume we all know what happens!) and cried tears I didn’t even know I had. I was not a sobber but I sobbed on the floral couch of my childhood living room. The fact that a book could reflect, deepen, add color to something I was experiencing, help me understand my own emotions better. It was almost shocking! How did the book know? It changed my relationship with reading. Deepened it, for sure, because I felt so very seen

But I’ve also been permanently moved by books where I didn’t necessarily see me in the book, but I grew to understand the world a bit better because of the book. Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye remains one of my most profound reading experiences. I read it around my junior year of high school. I have blue eyes, and until reading that book, I hadn’t really thought too much about them. But then I read about Pecola Breedlove, a young girl who wanted nothing more than to “see the world with blue eyes.” It took me a while to understand what she was saying, but once I started to—I shifted. It has done more than perhaps any other individual thing to influence how I look at the world and how I try to interact with it. Pecola Breedlove. One of the greatest teachers I will ever know. 

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

Well, I do feel like every book I’ve ever read is rattling around in my head in some way or another, influencing the words that come out. I have particular heart for writers who bring humor to decidedly unhumorous scenarios. Edward St. Aubyn and the Patrick Melrose novels, Betty Smith in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Kurt Vonnegut, Maya Angelou, Gabriel Garcia Marquez—brilliant, evocative writers who also somehow make us laugh. Dostoevsky in Notes from Underground or Crime and Punishment—both a lot funnier than I thought they would be! This, to me, is the height. 

When I’m writing, I read a lot of poetry and listen to a lot of lyric-driven rap music, because I find the precision of language required in those forms to be particularly inspiring! 

And this sounds silly, but the biggest inspiration is the world!! Perhaps my favorite thing about writing is it makes the world more vivid. For example, when you know that you have to write a description of a tree, you start looking at trees a little more closely. And that has been very rewarding for me. 

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

Connecting one on one with readers is a gift beyond description. Much of what I write is quite personal, and a lot of it revolves around lessons that took me a rather long time to learn. When someone gets it, when it helps them in some way … well, it’s the reward of a lifetime. What a privilege to be a writer! 

On the challenges side, I’d say, really trying to embody an alternate perspective or life experience from your own. I mean, this in some ways is simply the definition of fiction, but it’s not easy! I am me! We are us! What else do we know? Colum McCann has this great little book of writing advice, and he says, “Don’t write what you know, write toward what you want to know.” Your navel contains only lint. He advises you to step out of your own skin. Explore new lands—even if you don’t know if those lands exist yet. I absolutely love that sense of expansiveness, but it’s also a challenge because of course, you want to get it “right.” You want to be true to the experience, the land, the person you’re portraying. So that, to me, is a challenge. But one I embrace with passion and humility! 

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

Well! I have two other formal jobs, one at a climate change nonprofit and one at a branding agency here in New York, and I love both! I think my absolute favorite thing about growing up is realizing that the answer to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” can be more than one thing! I love different elements of the different jobs, and what a joy to get to work on all of these interesting/rewarding challenges.  

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)?

For fear of giving a long-winded answer to a self-created question, I will leave you in the driver’s seat … 

What advice might you have to give for aspiring writers?

I would say, be sure to find joy (or some other fulfilling emotion!) in the process. If you’re pursuing publication, it can be a long time coming, and there are so many variables that influence that outcome. But if you can find joy in the process! Well, that no one can take from you! And even finding small, direct ways to connect to people with your writing. This can be the good side of online outlets, social media.  

I made a list for myself, “Ten reasons I love writing that have nothing to do with getting published.” And it kept me going with it when the prospect of getting a book into the world seemed far-fetched to the point of delusional! 

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

Well, Carrie Dragshaw is always prancin’ around! A drag/writing project that I thought might last a couple weeks has now gone on almost seven years! And I can’t imagine stopping. I will be in the retirement home in a tutu. And I’m also in the process of seeing if there’s another book up there. TBD! You’ll find out when I do 🙂 

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

Oh gosh! Millions upon millions! What a gift it is to be a reader. Two that stick out: Maggie Nelson’s The Argonautsthe writing is so precise and fierce and the ideas of self-creation and individual freedom very powerful–and Carmen Machado’s short stories, Her Body and Other Parties—I found them surprising, even startling, and the writing is mysterious and brilliant. Oh, and for something a little back in time, Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is something I revisit quite often! And we’ve talked a lot about writing, and Patricia Highsmith has an amazing book, Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction, that I found incredibly valuable and would be useful regardless of your genre, as any story needs at least some suspense! 

What a pleasure to be able to chat with you! And thank you for such thoughtful questions. It’s really been a treat! 

Interview with Author & Illustrator Dominic Evans

Dominic Evans (he/they) is a freelance illustrator and merman based in London, from not-so-sunny Bolton, via Narnia. Growing up with a love of Buffy, short shorts, and Starlight Express, Dom, like many others, struggled to fit in at school, in life, and mainly with himself. However, he soon found his voice through his passion for illustration and stories. This led him on a path to illustrate for large brands, stores, clients, and agencies. He currently lives in East London and spends his time immersing himself in a graphic novel or an amazing book and then creating illustrations that he hopes will make your day and make you slay.

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

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

Hi Geeks OUT! Thank you so much for having me on your site, I’m made up. My name is Dom, I’m an illustrator and author and I LOVE drawing and creating art around queer icons. If there’s an iconique moment or person that is slaying, hun, you bet I’ll be drawing them. 

What can you tell us about your latest book, QUEER POWER: Icons, Activists, & Game Changers From Across the Rainbow? What was the inspiration for this project?

QUEER POWER is ultimately, one super big love letter to the LGBTIQA+ community. It’s packed full of illustrated epic humans and information and is all about celebrating queer icons, whether they’re from the red carpet to organizing a local protest to doing their activism through social media. Each of these icons through their visibility and representation are doing something to help advance queer rights and I absolutely love that we managed to give everyone a double page spread and equal billing.

This may sound cringey but my inspiration really was my community. I love seeing queer people go out there and make a change in their respective industries and completely kick-ass. It’s a massive inspiration to me. 

As an author, what drew you to the art of writing/illustrating, specifically non-fiction?

I grew up loving comic books, fashion illustration and educational picture books, so in a weird way, QUEER POWER kind of pulls all of those together. I really enjoy drawing and writing stories but I also love creating art around people and their own personal stories. I’d illustrated and written non-fiction before but this book was so unique and a totally different process pulling together icons, researching them, and then writing about them. 

With non-fiction work especially, I feel at the moment, it’s so crucial to have those books and resources out there for queer youth growing up. It’s something, I especially didn’t have and I really get a buzz seeing so many educational LGBTQIA+ picture books and resources on bookshelves out there and seeing that category expand more and more each year. 

How would you describe your writing process?

I’ve realized over the years working on different projects that I’m very much someone who has to sit down and write all of it in one go. I can’t rest or do anything else until it’s all out of my brain onto a page, so I will hyper-focus on the task until it is done. With QUEER POWER, the writing stage actually came last as I wanted to get the visual language finalized first. I then sat down and wrote it all out, every icon, then went back over them again and again and then sent it to my lovely editor. 

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

There wasn’t really much representation around growing up for me. When I was younger, I definitely felt a huge pull to the X-Men comics and cartoon, as the idea of someone that didn’t fit in saving the world looking fabulous in a catsuit was something I could relate to! Growing older I, like many gays, fell in love with Buffy. As I came out at seventeen, Will & Grace had been airing in the UK for around a year so that really helped me in terms of representation on screen. 

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

I think my greatest creative influence was and will always be comic books and graphic novels. I love that when you look at a comic shelf in a store there are so many stories all being told in a zillion different ways with a zillion different art styles and a zillion different characters. I always turn to comics for any sort of creative boost. They’re my happy place! 

I’d also say fashion illustration and costume. I really enjoy drawing outfits and lewks so QUEER POWER was a dream come true as so all of these icons look so fierce. I took so much pleasure in researching their fits or classic outfits to be worn in the book. 

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

This is such a good question! My favorite part of writing/illustrating is when a plan comes together. Kind of like a really good date – you know, that moment when the text and image have a great chemistry, it’s all looking good and BOOM, you have a cute visual moment and it all makes sense. 

The most frustrating bits are the days where my hands just cannot draw or my head cannot write, or both. That block can be a difficult space to navigate through and it’s times like that, that as a creative, you have to be very kind to yourself and go easy on yourself as if you try to force something, I’ve found personally, it will always end up getting redrawn again. 

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

That I love my sci-fi, my fantasy, my anime and manga. I live for a good comic con! I also love fashion and styling, I worked in the UK for fourteen years in womenswear fashion retail, with the final five in London and three of those being a personal shopper. The stories I could draw and write about those years helping people who were going through various life dramas whilst trying to zip them into a hot pink fitted jumpsuit for their divorce party that evening? SO many. 

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)?

What’s your favourite dinosaur? Because I really like dinosaurs. I don’t want a pet cat or a hamster, I want a feathered Velociraptor, they’re sassy and fierce but also cute and would eat anyone who tried to break into my house so I feel they’re a good investment. I grew up loving Jurassic Park so anything dinosaur-related I love and I don’t get enough dinosaur-related work. If anyone reads this please hire me to draw some dinosaurs, ok thank you! 

What advice might you have to give for aspiring writers?

Write for yourself first. You are your own reader and you know a good story or hook when you read it, so write for you. Don’t feed into comparing yourself to others, YOU are your own niche! Never be afraid to experiment and try something different. If it goes wrong, at least you tried it, and if it goes really right, even better! Also, Do Not Disturb and Airplane Mode are the best things ever if you struggle to focus hehe. 

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

At the moment, aside from the exciting QUEER POWER US release, which, has extra pages and new artwork too! Yas! I have some things that, at this stage I can’t speak but trust me, if they do happen, I will SCREAM because they have been years of hard work…

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

Oh wow, I really love questions like this!

Anything by Juno Dawson, Benjamin Dean writes beautiful queer stories, Dean Atta, Dr. Ronx, Jamie Windust, Charlie Craggs. There’s so many amazing queer authors out there and there’s also a great list of them at the back of QUEER POWER.

Header Photo Credit Buck Photography

The Geeks OUT Podcast: Strange New Daddy

Geeks OUT Podcast: Strange New Daddy

In this all new episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin (@Gilligan_McJew) is joined by NYCGaymers (@officialnycg) President, Raffy Regulus (@raffyregulus), as they discuss the Michelle Yeoh renaissance we’re living in, the new trailer for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, and what they’re getting Down & Nerdy with in pop

In this all new episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin (@Gilligan_McJew on all socials) is joined by NYCGaymers (@officialnycg) President, Raffy Regulus (@raffyregulus), as they discuss the Michelle Yeoh renaissance we’re living in, the new trailer for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, and what they’re getting Down & Nerdy with in pop culture. 



KEVIN:  Michelle Yeoh to star in in Paramount+ movie Star Trek: Section 31 & New trailer for season 2 of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

RAFFY: Cast revealed for season 8 of Drag Race All Stars



KEVIN: Scream VI, Power Rangers: Now & Forever, Gotham Knights, Love Unlimited: Gwenpool

RAFFY: Made into Abyss, Next Level Chef, Overwatch 2, Honkai Impact Star Rail

Interview with Author Lionel Hart

Lionel Hart (he/him) is an M/M fantasy romance author based out of the San Diego area.

Twitter: @lionelhart_ 
TikTok: @author.lionelhart 
Facebook: Lionel Hart, Author

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

Hi! I’m Lionel Hart, and I write M/M romance books. I write primarily fantasy romance but have plans to branch out into a few different subgenres of M/M romance. I live in North San Diego county with my partner and our dog.

Since Geeks OUT is a queer centered website, could you tell us a bit about the LGBTQ+ characters featured in your books?

For sure! Well, I’m a gay trans man, so having representation that mirrors my own experiences is important to me. Not all of my main characters are trans, but they are all somewhere in the LGBTQ+ spectrum. But, I do focus mainly on male-male relationships, since that aligns with my own identity and lived experience.

How did you find yourself getting into writing fiction, particularly fantasy adventure with a side of gay eroticism?

I’ve always wanted to be an author, but had put that dream on the back burner as an adult — paying the bills and keeping a roof over my head was my primary focus for a while after getting out of college, when I came out and lost a lot of familial support. Then even when I was in a more stable place, it was hard to get back into writing. It was actually a few months into the pandemic, after I was laid off, that got me into writing seriously again. I had so much free time all of a sudden and decided now was my best chance at making writing my career. 

I did a ton of research into the world of indie publishing and decided romance was a genre I enjoyed reading, would enjoy writing, and would give me the best shot at making a living doing what I loved. I knew I would want to write gay romance, of course, and as an avid Dungeons and Dragons player and general fantasy enjoyer, I saw there weren’t a ton of the sorts of stories I liked to read in indie published gay romance. So I decided that would be the niche I focused on, and here we are!

Your book(s) tend to center around male protagonists of fantastical origins. Could you tell us about some elements of these characters you’re excited for others to see in stories?

My debut series, The Orc Prince trilogy, features an arranged marriage between an elf and an orc. I wanted something that felt like a D&D inspired world, and I thought that would be a fun pairing. And since this was going to be a spicy romance, I included some omegaverse-like elements in my lore for elves — the series isn’t exactly an omegaverse series, but there are definitely shared elements so I’d say it’s omegaverse lite, haha.

I also have a more paranormal/urban fantasy series that’s in progress, the Chronicles of the Veil, which features a trans MC with a cis male love interest. The main character Florian finds out that he’s secretly a fae prince prophesied to save the world, and falls in love with his wolf shifter bodyguard along the way. This is a different take on fae and shifters, but I really love these characters and this series, and put a lot of myself in Florian. My partner is a cis man, so their dynamic was one I loved writing and felt very comfortable with.

Lastly, I have a dragon romance duology featuring an immortal dragon with a mortal fated mate. This is a darker romance which I really loved writing, as I got to explore what morality means to an immortal, extremely powerful creature. The dragon MC does a lot of morally questionable things in his attempts to keep his mortal mate with him forever, and I loved writing a villainous character who would not consider himself evil in the least, but would gladly destroy the world for the one he loves!

Were there any books that touched you or inspired you growing up? 

Too many to name! I was a voracious reader as a child, so it’s hard to name any in particular. I re-read the Chronicles of Narnia a lot, so I’d say that really started my love of fantasy as a genre. I think that the book that made me decide I wanted to write fantasy books was The Secret of Dragonhome, a YA fantasy novel which I randomly found in the school library and loved it so much that I just never returned it… oops! It’s fairly obscure and I’ve never met anyone else who’s read it, but I read it over and over. I’d say that was my first experience with romantic fantasy, and while I’m not sure that book specifically stands up to the test of time, it definitely shaped my reading and writing habits into adulthood.

Where did you get your start in creative writing? What pulled you to fiction?

To be honest, I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first story in kindergarten — my mom still has it — about me finding a dalmatian puppy on the way home from school and convincing my parents to let me keep it. I was obsessed after watching 101 Dalmatians, but wasn’t allowed to have a dog at the time. The story didn’t convince my parents, but I never stopped writing after that. I got my bachelor’s degree in creative writing, and for a while wanted to get more into literary fiction to be a “serious writer” but honestly found I had a lot more fun writing genre fiction instead.

What magic systems/worlds/characters draw your attention?

I play a ton of D&D, specifically 5th edition, so I think that influences my magic systems and worldbuilding. For a future project I’d like to create a new magic system from the ground up, but for now, the worlds I write in have a softer, looser version of D&D’s magic system.

My partner is deep in the A Song of Ice and Fire fandom, so I know a lot about it even though I’m not nearly as big a fan as he is. I don’t know if I’d ever be able to pull off writing a world as intricate and deep as George R.R. Martin has accomplished, but I do love the idea of creating a fantasy world from the beginning, having its own mythos to self-reference and an entire history to pull stories from. I think a lot about that when trying to come up with ideas for future books, so maybe I’ll attempt something that ambitious someday!

As far as characters, that’s so hard to say! I love tragic characters and angst in general, so I think I’m drawn more to characters like that. Those who have dark pasts and carry deep sorrow or grief with them, but work to keep living until they find purpose again. I think a lot of LGBTQ+ people can resonate with those sorts of characters, because we still live in a world where just openly being LGBTQ+ means experiencing a loss of friends and family for a lot of people. That was my reality, too, so seeing characters who struggle but ultimately triumph is a comfort and an inspiration.

Is writing in the genre you have chosen difficult? Do you consider the results worth the challenge?

Fantasy can definitely be a challenge just by the virtue of how much worldbuilding goes into creating a good fantasy story, and while romance has a different reputation, it can still be a challenge for very different reasons. Putting both together creates unique challenges that encompass the pillars of both genres, but I think that when they’re done well, this is absolutely worth the challenge! I love the familiarity of romance beats contrasted to the new, unknown elements of a fantasy backdrop.

Do you have any plans to branch into other genres?

I do, actually! While I plan to stick with MM romance at the core, there are other subgenres I’d like to explore. I recently have been reading a lot of litRPG as a genre, so I have some ideas for more litRPG/progression fantasy-inspired romances, and I’d also like to dip my toes in contemporary MM romance in the future as well.

What’s something you haven’t done as a writer that you’d like to do?

I’ve never fully fleshed out a custom, hard magic system. It seems daunting from the outside, but the more I read about creating magic systems, the more I think it’s a challenge I’d like to take on at some time. So I’d like to do that in the future, especially if I decide to move forward with the litRPG-inspired fantasy ideas I have.

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

Definitely! I’m currently working on finishing my paranormal romance series, The Chronicles of the Veil. Books one and two are out, and I’m finishing up book 3 now and hope to have it published this spring. Book 4 will be the final book of the series and should be published later this year. I’ve really enjoyed writing this series and I’m eager to share it with my readers!

After that, I think I might give contemporary MM romance a shot. I’ve had some ideas for an angsty rockstar romance series, which would be pretty different from what I’ve written before, but I have three books basically already outlined so I think it would be a fun but fairly quick project to experiment with.

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

As mentioned, I play a ton of D&D, haha! I used to be a DM but when I started writing seriously again, I found it difficult to put my creative energy into two big projects, so now I’m a player in two different campaigns. I’m also a huge Pokemon fan and I play a lot of that when I have the time — I love shiny hunting, but I’m not very good at competitive battles unfortunately! I live in San Diego, so when it’s warm my partner and I spend a lot of time at the beach as well.

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

This is a tough question, haha. I think someone’s favorite food can tell you a lot about a person, so — Lionel, what’s your favorite food? Thanks Lionel, if I had to pick, it’d have to be sushi for me!

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

So many!! If you want more M/M fantasy romance, especially if it’s spicy, check out Ben Alderson’s books — he has quite a few, but I loved his gay vampire Beauty and the Beast retelling, Lord of Eternal Night

For a more high fantasy inspired omegaverse series, I’ve loved Corey Kerr’s The Middle Sea series, especially The Sorcerer’s Alpha. Kerr really nails keeping the appeal of omegaverse books in a very different setting, and the fantasy world of this series feels very expansive.

For some spicy trans rep, I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Freydis Moon, especially their novella Exodus 20:3. If you have some lingering religious trauma like me, I think you’ll enjoy this spicy story between a trans man and an angel in disguise.

And finally, for a cozy, non-spicy, sapphic fantasy, I adored Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree. I read it with a friend who’s into a very different vein of fantasy romance (cough, ACOTAR, cough) and we both loved it, so I would highly recommend it to just about everyone, especially if they love D&D flavored fantasy.

Interview with Artist Sabina Hahn

Sabina Hahn is a Brooklyn based illustrator, animator, and sculptor who loves stories and tall tales. Sabina has been drawing from before she was born; she is a master of capturing subtle fleeting expressions and the most elusive of gestures. She is a co-founder of Interval Studios. Pineapple Princess is her debut picture book.

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

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

My name is Sabina Hahn. I love words and pictures and clay. And cats. I moved to New York from Riga, Latvia when I was 17 and I have been here ever since.

What can you tell us about your most recent project, Pineapple Princess? What was the inspiration for this story?

Pineapple Princess first appeared as a drawing of a surly kid; then the title  “Pineapple Princess” dropped into my head like a gift. They kind of melted into one and soon I started to idly think of her and where she came from and what she liked to do. I kept drawing her and writing small snippets. Soon I felt curious enough about her to sit down and write her story. I wanted to know more about this kid who knows she is a princess and is also sticky and surly and sure of herself. 

How did you find yourself getting into storytelling, particularly picture books? What drew you to the medium?

I fell in love with books when I was 4 or 5, the first time I read “Alice in Wonderland”. The combination of earnestness and absurdity really spoke to me. For me, the best children’s books have that quality because kids tend to think in leaps and sometimes those leaps happen sideways or upside down. I like to stay in touch with my inner child and children’s books are the easiest way to do so. 

I personally started to write kid’s books when I decided to change my career from animation to something else. Books seemed like a logical place to go to. It appealed to me that I can make key frames and then the reader does all the in-between work inside their mind. 

How would you describe your creative process? 

Meandering. Very very meandering. I have a small notebook where I jot all of my ideas for stories, no matter how small or vague it might be. Generally, one or two stories are particularly interesting to me or close to my heart. And so I will start writing a little, sketching a bit and also – very important – “researching”. ‘Researching’ is what I call all the rabbit holes I jump into. It is a great joy to me. One of the best things about being a New Yorker is our library. I love working in the libraries – this year, my favorite has been the Main library with the lions. I go there and write, and when I need a break I pick up a random book to be inspired. 

I tend to alternate between drawing and writing. Then, when I have the bones of the story, I start doing both at once.  Afterwards,  I make a book dummy. It is a great way to see the flow of the story and to tighten it up where it is needed. I might have anywhere from 3 to about 7 book dummies of various degrees of sketchiness by the time I am finished with a story. 

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

Anything that makes me stop and wonder is the source of  inspiration. It is people sometimes, overheard conversations, misheard words, books, art – anything and everything.

What are some of your favorite elements of writing/illustrating? What are some of the most challenging? 

I find writing challenging. I want to use all words and no words at once and have a hard time balancing that dichotomy in my books. When I get discouraged, I remind myself of these words by Felicity Beedles from “Thud” by Terry Pratchett : “‘… how hard can writing be?  After all, most of the words are going to be and, the and I and it, and so on, and there’s a huge number to choose from, so a lot of the work has already been done for you.’ ”

My favorite things about creating (be it words or images) are the moments of wonder. Every once in a while I am surprised by what I create. It is as if it has a life of its own and I am the lucky one who gets to spend time with it.. 

Besides your work as an author/illustrator, what are some things you would want readers to know about you?

I love working with clay. It brings me joy and equilibrium. You should try it too. 

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

‘What is your favorite animal’ is a question people over a certain age (11 maybe) don’t get asked enough. At the moment my favorite animal is a hog nose snake who very dramatically pretends to be dead when it is scared. So much drama!

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

A lot of my stories I am working now are in their caterpillar cocoon form. I am afraid to disturb them while their existence is so precarious. But one of the characters that keeps showing up lately when I am daydreaming is a cat in a cat suit. What it is doing or what it wants is unclear, but it’s pretty persistent. 

What advice might you have to give to aspiring creatives, to both those interested in making their own picture book? 

Read, read, read! When you get tired of reading, make, make, make. When you get tired of that, connect with other similarly minded people. And then show your work; be present in the world you want to inhabit. 

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

I tend to read pretty widely, so here are some of my favorites from the last few years. 

Paradise Sands by Levi Pinfold (picture book)

Duck, Death and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch (picture book)

Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascot  (graphic novel)

Shadow Life by Hiromi Goto (graphic novel)

Wolf Doctors by Sara June Woods (poetry)
The Gray House by Mariam Petrosyan (because it’s one of my all time favorite books)

And all of Terry Pratchett too.

Nature of Oaks by Douglas Tallamy (non-fiction, one of the books I read for my research, so interesting!) 

Header Photo Credit Anna Campanelli

Interview with Holding On creators Sophia N. Lee & Isabel Roxas

Sophia N. Lee grew up in the Philippines. She wanted to be many things growing up: doctor, teacher, ballerina, ninja, spy, wizard, journalist, and lawyer. She likes to think she can still be all these things and more through writing. She looks a lot like her lola Benita, but she inherited her love for writing from her lola Josefina, who worked as a principal and an English teacher. She is the author of Soaring Saturdays; What Things Mean (2014 Scholastic Asian Book Award grand prize winner); and Holding On. She has another picture book titled Lolo’s Sari-sari Store forthcoming from Atheneum in the summer of 2023. She has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from The New School in New York City and works as a creative writing instructor for kids, teens, and sometimes, grownups too. 

Isabel Roxas is the author-illustrator of The Adventures of Team Pom: Squid Happens. She was born in the Philippines and raised on luscious mangoes, old wives’ tales, and monsoon moons. She learned so much from her lolas Fe and Venancia: how to shine the floor with a coconut, navigate a palengke (wet market), and make a scrumptious bowl of ginataan. You can follow Isabel on Instagram @StudioRoxas. 

I had the opportunity to interview Sophia and Isabel, which you can read below.

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

(SL): Hello, Geeks OUT! Thank you so much for having us. 

I’m Sophia N. Lee, an author of books for kids and teens. I was born and raised in the Philippines and was raised within a huge extended family so I’m constantly inspired by memories of growing up around a multitude of Lolos, Lolas, Titos, Titas, and countless other cousins. 

When I’m not writing, I teach creative writing classes for young people. 

Outside of that, I’m most often getting lost in a book, researching new places to visit, or traveling by taste through kitchen experiments. I’m currently geeking out on Kdramas, which I fell into early in the pandemic. 

(IR): Hi there! I’m Isabel Roxas, author, and illustrator of books for young readers, and like Sophie, I was born in the Philippines and raised on a steady diet of old wives’ tales and mangoes. I’m now based in Queens, New York. 

When I’m not making pictures or cooking up stories, I like to make small objects in clay, bake desserts, and go exploring. 

What can you tell us about your latest book, Holding On? What inspired this story?

(SL): Holding On is a picture book about a girl and the many summers that she spends in the Philippines with her Lola, which is the Filipino word for grandmother. 

This book is incredibly personal for me because it was inspired by my own summers spent in the province with my paternal grandparents. The story shows how a young girl learns how to hold on in different ways – first by observing how others around her do so (belting out songs on the karaoke machine, cooking favorite dishes, framed pictures on the walls), and then by teaching herself new ways to celebrate treasured memories and time spent with the ones she loves. 

The story is also deeply personal because it mirrors my own story as I learned how to navigate my own Lola’s loss of her memories after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and early-onset dementia. After all those summers of being cared for by her, I wanted to honor her and those memories of feeling so beloved by telling this story.

(IR): The images were inspired by the Philippine countryside and feature my favorite fruits and treats – Taho (a warmed tofu treat with brown sugar and tapioca pearls), fresh mangoes, pastillas de leche, and sinigang (a deliciously sharp sour soup).  

What drew you to storytelling, specifically to picture books?

(SL): Deciding to write literature for young readers came easily. I wanted to write the kind of stories that made me fall in love with reading and that helped shape my identity. I think children love the books they read early on differently – as readers, they’re still on the cusp of becoming who they are, and if you’re lucky, as a kidlit author you get to have a hand in helping shape that young mind. 

(IR): I loved picture books as a child and never stopped reading and collecting them. The fabulous worlds in those stories were intoxicating and often a refuge from the messy complexities of life. I too wanted to create neighborhoods that young people wanted to jump into and characters that they wanted to befriend. I love the picture book form in particular because it challenges us to communicate with depth and clarity with just a few words and images. 

What are some of your favorite examples of picture books growing up and now?

(SL): Growing up, I loved books that made me feel safe, that reassured me that I’d always have a place in the world no matter what. I remember reading P.D. Eastman’s Are You My Mother? over and over, and finding comfort when the baby bird finally makes its way back into the nest and finds the mother there. I felt the same way reading Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece – I was so happy after the circle could sing again because it allowed itself to let go of the piece it had sought out for so long. 

Now, I’m always looking at books that show me how to say more with a lot less. I like when there’s space left in between the lines for the child’s mind to nibble on. I love classics like Owl Moon, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by John Schoenherr, and Ida, Always, written by Caron Levis and illustrated by Charles Santoso. 

New favorites are Big Mean Mike, written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Scott Magoon, about a tough dog who discovers that he doesn’t have to be tough all the time, and The Ocean Calls, written by Tina Cho and illustrated by Jess X. Snow, about a young girl and her freediving grandmother in Korea. It’s such a beautiful story, and an excellent study on how a topic that’s culturally specific is able to also feel universally relatable, because of how the intergenerational bonds in the story are depicted.    

(IR): The first book that I remember loving was A Light in the Attic.

The picture books I love now include: It’s Useful to Have a Duck by Isol, which is an accordion-style board book that you read from two distinct points of view. It’s an inventive and playful book that encourages empathy in a very simple, creative manner. Another book that I’m currently loving is The Way Home in the Night by Akiko Miyakoshi.

How would you describe your general writing/drawing process? What are some of your favorite/most challenging parts for you?

(SL): For me, so much of the work behind my own writing is mental. I’m most challenged when facing the blank page, and trying to figure out what kind of story I want to tell, and the best way for me to tell it. 

When I get inspired by an idea, I’ll often obsess about it in my head for a really long time. When I do, it often feels like I’m walking into a messy room, and it’s on me to figure out which mess to sort out first.  I’ll start making a mental list of things that would be interesting to put together. I’ll think about how to rearrange every memory I want to reference, every inspirational peg, every plot point that I know so far, until it feels like something that I can picture more fully – almost like a room or a space where my main character can walk into or exist in. 

And then, I’ll think about how best to get that story on the page. That to me is the most painful/challenging part: finding the right structure to hang your story on, whether it’s a theme I want to run throughout the story, or a form that I want to experiment with, or an idea that I want the reader to be consumed by. But honestly, it’s also the most thrilling part of writing for me. 

(IR): If I am drawing from a manuscript (by another author), I usually go through the entire story and try to sort out the rhythm of the book with thumbnail sketches. Then I try to find out who the characters are – I develop their personalities which then informs what they would wear, how they move, and what the palette will be. Then I fill in the rest of the world. When I am illustrating something I am writing myself, it usually starts with a piece of inspiration – either a news item or something I observed on my way to the train (or ON the train). I make a few sketches and sometimes dialogue comes along with it, other times it’s just a mood. 

My favorite part of book creation is making a big mess in search of the look and heart of the book. It is probably also the most challenging part of the process. 

Aside from your work as a writer/artist, what would you want readers to know about you?

(SL): That I love learning! I really enjoy teaching, but I think I’m happiest when I’m in a classroom setting figuring out things and learning about how other people go about their lives and solve the problems they encounter. If I could figure out a way to be in a class of some sort learning something forever, I would! If you’re reading this and looking for a sign to take up a class in that (obscure or otherwise) interest, this is it! 

(IR): Like Sophie, I love to learn too! I am curious about the world, people, and making things. Making books is the perfect excuse to explore new things because every project requires research and following new leads whether it is an educational book about race, a book about voting, or a humorous book about pigeons. 

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

(SL): A question that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is: What’s the closest thing to real magic in our world? 

I think it would still be our capacity to hold on and to celebrate and pursue the things we love, and even the things we dream of. I think it’s that part of us that pushes us to create new things – whether it’s a candle scent to remember someone or something we miss, or it’s a story to immortalize a shared history, a song to commemorate a heartbreak or a book that imagines a world that’s far better than the one we have. I hope we never run out of that stuff. 

What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives, especially those who may want to write/draw a picture book themselves one day?

(SL): Read a lot, and read widely! That’s the best way for any type of creative to discover the kind of stories they want to tell and even the tone in which they want to convey their story. Also: read closely. When I find an amazing book, I’ll read it several times to see what parts of that work I’m responding to the most – is it the world-building? The cadence? The dialogue? The authenticity of the characters? Being able to identify those and studying what makes them successful is so helpful for my process as a writer. 

(IR): I second Sophie’s advice and would add: Follow your instincts, embrace your faults and weirdness, surround yourself with good people, don’t give up, and always have snacks handy. 

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

(SL): I’m so excited to share that I’ll be coming out with another picture book titled Lolo’s Sari-sari Store, illustrated by Christine Almeda in the summer of 2023, also from Atheneum. This book is so special to me because my huge extended family co-owned a sari-sari store (similar to a convenience store, often operating out of one’s home) in our village, and my cousins and I would take turns working at that store every summer. 

In the Philippines, sari-sari stores offer more than just convenience for the people they service – often, they’re also community hubs where people go not just to get daily essentials, but to share stories, eat together, and just be among friends in the neighborhood. It was a great place to spend the summer and a great place to learn about people and about life. 

(IR): I’m working on the third installment of my graphic novel series The Adventures of Team Pom, and this time the girls will be trying their hand at archaeology! I am also working on a small exhibition of the art behind Team Pom that will open this summer at the Youth Wing of BPL’s Central Library. So visitors will get the chance to see how a graphic novel is made form its inception to publication. The series is really a love letter to neighborhoods and New York, so it will also feature things like bodegas, the underground newsstands, and of course, pigeons. 

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

(SL): Hello, readers of Geeks OUT! Here are some titles I’m excited about right now. I hope you check these out and find something in them that sparks excitement in you! 

Arnold Arre’s Mythology Class

Eliza Victoria’s After Lambana

Alternative Alamat: Myths and Legends from the Philippines, edited by Paolo Chikiamco 

(IR): Here are some books I highly recommend: 

The Queen and the Cave by Julia Sarda

The Paper Flower Tree by Jacqueline Ayer

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny View

Alison by Lizzy Stewart

Interview with Webcomic Creator Achiru et al

Born to immigrant parents from Hong Kong, Achiru et al (1988) is the creator of UNSPOKEN, the Myth of Eros and Psyche, and the Mann and Lucky Channel. Growing up watching anime and reading manga from Japan, Achiru was inspired to make her own comics. Since 2002, she’s been collaborating with her characters, or “cast members,” acting as the researcher, artist, writer, director and publisher of her own meta-physical comic production studio. She resides in a tiny home studio in Calgary Alberta with their spouse and dog daughter @Vanilla.Almond.Biscotti on Instagram (Biscuit for short). 

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

CW: Discussion of parental mortality

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

Thank you, Michele, I’m happy to be here! I go by Achiru (she/they) and… I don’t have parents anymore. My mother lost her life to cancer and my father died of heartache two years later; they were both great teachers and loving parents. From the start of the pandemic, I retired from teaching due to health reasons, while also marrying my partner. So yes, a lot has happened!

These days, I do my best to focus on my creative work. I don’t plan on having kids of my own, besides my dog, so my legacy will be to teach through my comics.

What drew you to storytelling, particularly to the medium of comics, particularly webcomics? Were there any writers or stories that sparked your own love and interest in storytelling?

Digimon Adventure was the main spark that led me to fall in love with what storytelling could achieve. I re-watched it during the pandemic: the arc where the Digi-destined travel to the human world to stop Myotismon still holds up—I had never before seen a story aimed for kids with eight protagonists handled in such a way that each child got a unique family circumstance such as being adopted, or divorced parents, or was chronically sick, or had siblings that outshined them, or was an only child, all juxtaposed to each other and framed as normal. Some parents also were involved with the plot and weren’t just background props in this storyline. Sacrifices were made and death was mourned. We have more of these stories today than back in 1999, but it made me desire to extend that kind of normalization to the diverse queer experience. 

As a webcomic creator, you are known for your webcomic, The Mann and Lucky Channel. What was the inspiration for this story?

The conversations with my partner was the inspiration for this spinoff. Matt Drawberry and I had been dating for four years at this point. I had just finished crowdfunding and printing my first self-published book, The Myth of Eros and Psyche: Eros’ Plan. I was doing a series of portrait illustrations when Mann and Lucky met in my head for the first time. I didn’t realize they had never met before this point in the meta-universe, as UNSPOKEN was on hiatus and their roles in Eros and Psyche did not overlap. The two started talking in November of 2016 and I began recording their conversations and we never stopped. The storyline was ready to be born, I believe because I finally had enough relationship experience to be able to relate to Mann’s struggles and emotions.

I’d never dated anyone on the ace spectrum until I met Matt, and his genuine reaction to everything sex-related and relationships was something I found really endearing and charming. I wanted to share that charm through Mann, Lucky, Kevin, and Andrew. While Kevin was as allo as can be and couldn’t relate to being ace at all, he shared with Matt other attributes like anxiety and panic attacks, as well as no desire for offspring. It’s been said when the world is ready for an idea to be born, multiple iterations appear—so I consider works like Heartstopper and The Owl House to be among the first of a wave of new LGBTQ media. My comic is just a more not-family-friendly version of similar themes and ideas that came out of a reaction to 90s homophobia.

Small spoiler alert: One thing that intrigued me about The Mann and Lucky Channel was the way the comic relationship explored an intimate relationship between an allosexual character and an asexual character, particularly one who is more sex neutral. Could you talk about how you explored that in the comic?

The entire plot of the series is tied to one of the first things Mann (crudely) tells his best friend in the first episode: “I’m not tying any knots until he’s willing to learn how to f*cking f*ck.” Lucky is a virgin and—up until Mann convinced him to be in a relationship—had every intention of being so for the rest of his life. He doesn’t think he’s missing out, doesn’t know what he likes, or how to start exploring. Sex is just what other people choose to do with their time.

Mann, on the other hand, has never had to take the lead with a man before. He’s used to being the one chased and solicited; the role reversal is making his head spin. He wants to maybe marry this man, but he’s also not sure if this will work—he’s pretty sure he can’t be chaste for the rest of his life. He’s worried that Lucky is possibly sex repulsed, he doesn’t want to be a creep or force the subject. However, it’s been four months and he’s also fighting his own desperation on the matter. How should he initiate the conversation? Can he get his needs met in this relationship? Is it going to be another disastrous breakup over this one aspect, when everything else seems compatible?

Q&A is also a fun aspect of the webcomic—readers can ask characters directly in the comments about their thought process and feelings, including meta questions like “Is Achiru sharing this with your informed consent? Isn’t this embarrassing for you?”

I realized most people of my parents’ generation didn’t have the tools to talk about intimacy; the best way to illustrate what it looks like is in context for that dialogue. It doesn’t work to preach “healthy communication” to someone who has never experienced it. There’s no emotional anchor in the body for that term. So Mann and Lucky—and their friends Kevin and Andrew—give us that window to see into how they talk things out. The contrast between each character’s history, their personal style, and combined preferences of each couple is its own learning by juxtaposition. It’s always organic to who they are and what’s coming through, based on who they were and how they want to show up to grow as a couple. There are some commonalities you can find between people who can make a long-term relationship work, but how it plays out also looks different because every couple brings with them unique tastes and personal life circumstances. 

What are some of your favorite parts of the general creative process? What do you find to be some of the most frustrating/difficult?

The creative process is fun when you’re in the flow and the ego is absent; it’s just the story and art being channeled onto the page. When the ego is loudest—usually when I’m tired, hungry, and/or stressed—that’s the most frustrating part. Ego wants the story to be done faster, the praise of millions of fans, the promise of riches and material wealth to reflect its genius; it wants things that are completely outside of my control. 

A huge part of the creative process is simply to keep Ego in the backseat and coax it to be quiet. It’s the voice of fear: you’re getting too old, you’re not healthy enough, you’re too poor, too invisible, working in too niche a genre, too NSFW, not NSFW enough, not being paid, working for free, and therefore not legitimate. 

What is the point of making something with no guarantees? Where is the proof that this journey will be worth it?

If you are building a universe and writing something long and epic that could possibly span several books, taking over a decade to make—it’s a long time to be working for free with possibly no audience. It’s a long time to be worried about whether the art is good enough, or the story is solid. If you are only in it for egoic reasons, it’s better to quit. 

I began this universe in December of 2003 in my early teens; it’s been almost two decades now since I’ve been developing this web of characters and their histories. When I’m serving them, with the promise of telling their stories to a satisfying conclusion, I’m not concerned about my identity in this reality; I’m not concerned about what my family thinks of me, how I’ll be judged for not earning a living wage, how I can’t afford to hire anyone at this time and how I don’t know how to market this thing that’s still being made. None of that matters. My art makes me a better person—I wouldn’t be as empathetic and compassionate without being open to learning about all the different ways there is to be human.

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

Story wise:

My parents’ relationship was the greatest influence for the current story I’m telling. My mother and father were smart in polar opposite ways. My mom was intuitive and feeling, while my dad was logical and deductive. One was almost a high school dropout, the other could have gotten a Ph.D. if desired. One loved teaching toddlers, the other instructed adults. Each thought of the other as stupid, because they didn’t have the ability to tune into the other’s point of view. They showed love in different ways and despite all the arguments and incompatibilities, chose to stay together. I learned a lot from observing both their strengths and weaknesses, especially as each of their health deteriorated with different afflictions.

I learned I couldn’t fix someone that wasn’t interested in changing. You can’t force growth where undesired. I learned how gender stereotypes hurt straight couples with reverse assertive/passive energies. I learned that shame, resentment, and regret kills you slowly from the inside. They taught me how to live life fully because they tried and came a bit short; they taught me not to be afraid of my dreams because they were and only got so far. I could see farther because they pointed the way to me.

Art wise:

The Slayers, written by Hajime Kanzaka with art by Rui Araizumi, was a great influence. It reads a little dated now, but it tried to tackle the misogyny of its time. Plus, I LOVE how the television series has a cross-dressing episode every season. The main character is embarrassed by any thought of romance and shares a rather ace relationship with her “bodyguard” by today’s standards.

Ituko Itoh’s Princess Tutu—which aged phenomenally well considering it came out in 2002—is also a major influence. How many stories exist about a duck who gains magical primadonna ballerina powers with the help of a dead author to save a prince from a story come to life? Just this one masterpiece: it’s a one-of-a-kind experience and that’s what I wish to deliver with my art as well.  Cute, pretty characters with deeply philosophical undertones about fate/destiny? Sign me up!

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

I paid a lot of money for two Bachelor’s degrees—my first degree was in Socio-Cultural Anthropology and my second degree was in Primary Education. Between these two degrees, I was struggling with undiagnosed Chronic Fatigue where I only had enough energy to use the toilet and eat and spent two years practically bedridden and exhausted. I couldn’t even draw, so my identity as an artist was forced to die. I know I’m more than that now. It’s not as disabling being forced to rest, compared to when I was fighting to hold onto a past identity. It’s one thing to be in pain and another thing to be mentally beating yourself for not being able to conquer that pain. Decide on your good enough bar and commit to the idea of done being better than good or perfect. Just keep finishing small things. They add up.

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

How do you tell the difference between inspiration and fear disguised as inspiration? (Because fear can absolutely do that.)

Inspiration doesn’t make logical sense—it’s a leap of faith. I was once paralyzed from the neck down, but I knew in my heart I was totally ok. I told my parents not to call an ambulance and to give me an hour or two. I gently focused on just trying to move a finger at a time, wiggle my toes, chatting with my dad next to me. Eventually, I was able to regain all movement one small digit at a time. It never happened again. Life is stranger than fiction; there is no one with a life quite like yours, so use it in your art as much and often as you can.

Fear disguised as inspiration feels more like wish fulfillment. It’s the toxic positivity where you are mentally trying to force a good outcome or prevent a bad outcome. You might be “inspired” to take a course (because you don’t feel good enough as you are) or to go to the gym, or to invest your money, or anything that logically improves your life by society’s standards. If you can reasonably predict the outcome, it’s fear in disguise. If you think, “This is it! This will be the solution to my problem!” and it makes perfect sense, it’s probably fear disguised as inspiration. You can still follow it because it’s there to teach you something; just be aware it’s not actually inspiration.

Inspiration is the now and fear concerns the past or future.

The Mann and Lucky Channel was absolutely inspiration at work. I was working on two other comic series at the time; one was finally going to be a five-book series, but they both had to take a backseat. I had no idea where this story was going, but it felt like being drunk on first love. I had to give it my utmost undivided attention. Did it make any sense to abandon what I was previously working on? Wouldn’t that upset the fans of those stories? Why was I madly scribbling with no thought as to backgrounds or panels or even speech bubbles? Why was this so much fun? How is it over twelve volumes long already? I never expected any of it. I didn’t expect to be here, telling you how I had no idea this was gonna become something at all.

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

I’m currently working on the Genderbend Sapphic Spin-off—My Girlfriend is Ace, now updating monthly on GlobalComix.

I have an aesthetic preference for women, so redrawing the whole story and rewriting it for a female perspective was something I actually really enjoyed. It’s a bit shorter than The Mann and Lucky Channel, so I’m excited to be wrapping it up soon at seven volumes. 

Our Sapphic Kickstarter Campaign can be found here

What advice might you have to give to aspiring creatives, particularly those who might want to work on their own comics someday?

For the just starters:

Trust your art to teach you as you go along. Your art will not look professional. Your story isn’t going to be flawless. Silence the critics. Make bad comics. Stop starting over; commit to the current version evolving with you for a long time. Buffer, buffer, buffer—I know it’s tempting to share straight away, but you need insurance for when life gets in the way in order to have a seemingly consistent, scheduled release to build an audience. Build at least 3 months’ worth of episodes before launching, then focus on maintaining that buffer. Some of us build a year’s worth of buffer—you’ll get faster at it as your muscle memory kicks in with practice. 

For the long haulers:

Take breaks. Go outside. Drink water. Stretch. Follow what feels light, fun and arouses your curiosity. Detours, plateaus, and hiatuses will happen; don’t be emotionally attached to your ideal work schedule, just go along with grace and humility. Graduations, weddings, and funerals—be present for your milestones and for the loved ones in your life. Your life must come first before the comic can continue. Prioritize sleep. Whatever hustling you could get away with in your younger years won’t be sustainable forever. Sometimes you have to kill a past identity and start over. But every time you return to your art—you will come to it with a renewed perspective and appreciation. It will also have new things to teach you too.

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


For those of you who, like me, are a fan of Japanese style art: I Want to be a Wall by Honami Shirono is an ongoing slice-of-life series following an ace BL fangirl who marries a closeted gay man with a crush on his childhood friend. As the story expands, there are other queer characters who take part in their lives. 

Another ace-centric story: Is Love the Answer? by Isaki Uta, follows a young woman exploring her aro-ace identity. She’s trying to make sense of her memories and past interactions as well as find friends who will accept her for who she is.

Our Dreams at Dusk is a 4 volume series by Yuhki Kamatani with a highly praised realistic portrayal of the Japanese queer experience as a young high school boy confronts his own prejudices regarding his homosexuality and the diverse identities of others “like him.” Trigger Warning for suicide attempt.

On a fluffier note, Manly Appetites: Minegishi Loves Otsu is a 3 volume BL series by Mito about a cynical office worker, Otsu, who doesn’t believe he’s getting hit on by a more conventionally attractive co-worker. Minegishi, on the other hand, thinks Otsu is the cutest when he’s eating and keeps supplying him with offers of snacks, treats, and meals.

The Bride was a Boy by Chii is an autobiography of a transwoman’s life leading to her wedding. X-Gender by Asuka Miyazaki is a memoir about coming to terms with being non-binary. It’s similar to The Girl That Can’t Get a Girlfriend by Mieri Hiranishi, another autobiography manga regarding how difficult it is to be a butch girl trying to date another masc-presenting woman. Another memoir story is My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Kabi Nagata. 

If you want something more fun and comedic involving ladies that like ladies, ROADQUEEN: Eternal Roadtrip to Love by Mira Ong Chua is absolutely hilarious and will forever be my go-to example of the term “useless lesbian.” She has many other titles too if you love her art and story style.


Amongst Us by Shilin Huang has gorgeous art and is both a GL webcomic and a book coming out this July from the Seven Seas + Hiveworks Comics team-up!

Night Owls and Summer Skies by Rebecca Sullivan with art by Tikklil and other team producers follow teen girl Emma Lane as she is forced to attend a summer camp with the attractive camp assistant counselor Vivian Black.

If you are a fan of men who like men: Ham & Matt by Sensaga is an absolute riot. His use of endearing, vulnerable characters and over-the-top slapstick comedy is top-tier. There is also a mermaid AU story on his Instagram account.

Faroff by Lennon Rook is another romantic comedy webcomic where two soldiers are stuck guarding opposite sides of a wall in the middle of nowhere and only have each other for company. They also unknowingly share a cat. 

If you’re looking for younger protagonists for a teen reader, Daybreak by Moosopp is a slice-of-life BL romance following two really cute black students Marcus and Cog. Clearly, a running theme in my choice of BL is one who likes to cook and one who likes to eat.

If you like action fantasy, REEDS by zzsleeps is about a Hmong prince who doesn’t want to be seen as a girl and his older brother who falls in love with a mysterious man withholding a ton of secrets. Also, there are dragons, magic, and political intrigue between royal families.

I could go on, but I think fifteen recommendations is a good place to stop. There are so, so many queer comic titles that are ongoing and coming out; it’s a really exciting century to be in!

Rebelle Re-Views: ‘Centaurworld’ and The Discovery of Self through Found Family

Being alive is a trip. There is no beauty, horror, and ass-kicking quite like navigating a lifetime. I don’t have much else to compare that to because, as far as I know, I haven’t not been alive, but one thing that seems apparent to me is that we all get put through our paces at one point or another. We fall on our faces, experience unimaginable traumas, we stagnate, we grow, we repeat cycles, and sometimes we break them. For me, when anxiety begins creeping up my spine or dissociation swoops in to take me out of my body and place me somewhere else, I typically turn to places I know are safe: Bob’s Burgers, Schitt’s Creek, and the show that not enough people seem to know about, Centaurworld. Centaurworld is the story of Horse (Kimiko Glenn), a warrior deep in the trenches of an endless conflict, who magically leaves her world and lands in a bright, musical, bizarro one. Desperate to return home and reunite with her Rider (Jessie Mueller), Horse bonds with a magical ragtag herd of “half-animal, half-man things” and sets off on a journey of self-discovery and home. Created by animator Megan Nicole Dong (also the voice of anxiety-ridden and klepto gerenuktaur, Glendale), the story is about embracing the unexpected and changing in ways previously not thought possible. It could not have entered my life at more prescient time as my own self-concept and sense of my world had just fallen apart.

In May 2021, I was informed I needed to leave my home of three years so the landlord could move back in. Shortly after selling or storing my belongings and driving my self, Gatsby, my cat companion of 15 years, and a couple of suitcases the 6-8 hours from Tucson, AZ, to Los Angeles to stay with my aunt and uncle, my said beloved companion died of stomach cancer. Wound, meet salt. Unlike our hero, Horse, I was not feeling ambitious or focused on a goal of any kind. I felt completely and utterly lost. But similarly to Horse, I was in the beginning stages of finding my herd amidst what felt like insurmountable obstacles, trauma, and grief. Less than a month after the loss of Gatsby and only about two since losing my home, I was sitting in a friend’s living room in Hawaii. Surrounded by my friend’s family and other friend’s visiting from New York, Yahtzee dice and random toys settled on corners of the coffee table and kitchen counters, it was a moment of relaxation and fun that had been difficult for me to cultivate at that time. We all probably had a beer or seltzer in hand, lost in laughs and conversation while on the TV screen, a giraffe with a toned human torso and pear-shaped humanish face appeared, screaming dramatically at a freaked out horse. The horse was also screaming. Through the immense fog of grief and autopilot human-mode, a thought emerged from the depths: “What the fuck am I watching?”

Durpleton (Josh Radnor) and Horse (Kimiko Glenn) meet in ‘Centaurworld’ on Netflix

This, my friends, was Centaurworld. I can’t remember if I finished watching season 1 with my friends or if I decided to watch it on my own (season 2 would not come out until the Fall) but an impression was made. Centaurworld is full of topical absurdist humor, first-class talent from Broadway, Pop, YouTube, and the Film/TV worlds, and a soundtrack that will make you want to embark on an epic adventure in one turn and hold your loved ones and aching heart close the next. “I tried to draw from my own emotional experiences… The whole [story] is based on me going through high school, getting ready to take all these [AP] classes and then ending up in a show choir because the only available extracurricular was show choir… Being from one world, thinking that there was one way to do things, and then ending up in this really musical, silly place and having that really change her [Horse] as a character,” said Dong in an interview with the LA Times about where the concept for Centaurworld originated. The relatability of Horse’s story arc, as well as those of many of the secondary character’s, is what keeps the show anchored enough to allow the this place to come alive in all its saturated, hills and moons with butts, shooting-tiny-versions-of-themselves-from-their-hooves glory.

The first season centers on Horse’s trek across Centaurworld to find the missing pieces of a mysterious artifact, and the shamans who hold them, that will help her return to her world and Rider. Accompanied by Wamawink (Megan Hilty), Durpleton (Josh Radnor, and the aforementioned beefy giraffetaur), Zulius (Parvesh Cheena), Glendale (Dong), and Ched (Chris Diamantopolus), this unlikely herd get mixed up in all sorts of shenanigans all the while helping Horse navigate way outside her comfort zone and discover and embrace previously uncharted aspects of her identity. Face-offs with taurnadoes, standing for trial for falling down a moletaur hole, competing in Johnny Teatime’s cattaur competition, ugly crying, and learning the unfortunate origins of glue are all par for the course when going on a herotaur’s journey. All leading to a more connected herd and Horse who becomes more unrecognizable, yet more herself. 

Season two widens the focus to ending the war in Horse’s world by defeating the big bad Nowhere King (if Adventure Time’s The Litch and Hexxus from FernGully had a baby with the voice of Brian Stokes Mitchell) while giving more backstory and arcs for the other members of the herd as they attempt to recruit other centaurs to join the fight. The fun thing about growth is we often learn swiftly about the many areas in which we fall short and the deep discomfort of trying to continue to play roles that just no longer fit. Unless you are fan faves Comfortable Doug (Flula Borg) or Waterbaby (Renée Elise Goldsberry) then you are perfection. No notes. For everyone else, falling short doesn’t always mean eventually being able to rise above and conquer the thing, but is actually in the courage it takes to feel our disappointment and grieve the person we thought we were or would like to be but aren’t. Or it’s our envy of those we love being able to do or have what we may be yearning for in ourselves. Sometimes it’s wondering about where we even fit in the world anymore. It’s frustrating feeling brain mushy where there was once a sense of clarity. Hopefully we are as lucky as Horse is to have the modeling of support and acceptance of her herd as we figure out how to answer those questions for ourselves. 

Everyone has got some trauma they are working through or from and rarely is anything what it seems on the surface. Durpleton’s distress over having mean farts, Glendale’s habitual stealing and hoarding everything into her portal tummy, and Ched’s outright disdain for horses and Centaurs™ are silly quirks at first, but aren’t most quirks little glimmers of baggage not yet unpacked? The growth from, in spite of, and the empowerment to make it to the other side of hard times is not exclusive to the hero, but is for everyone. In true musical theater fashion each moment of foreshadowing, deep discovery, and major plot twists  is punctuated by song.  Big white way power ballads like “Hello Rainbow Road” and “Who is She” propel us into action and huge moments of expansion while the contemplative “What if I Forget Your Face” and fierce “Nothing Good” (sung by the equally fierce legend Lea Salonga) are stark reminders of our greatest and most heartbreaking fears about relationships. But, it’s “Rider’s Lullaby” that we hear within the first five minutes of the series that carries us through it all. 

The herd following the Rainbow Road in ‘Centaurworld’ on Netflix

Though it’s the main theme of season one, its refrain of “you’re ok, you’re alright” lays the foundation of what the herd are able to build together. The beauty of a theme like, ‘you’re ok” is not in the upholding of ideals of rugged individualism and the notions that in order to conquer our demons, we must do it alone and be better at being alone. No, it’s about staying connected during the toughest, strangest, most surprising times. Things happening may not be ok, but as long as we’re with those who see how worthy we are of protection, growth, and love we will be ok. It’s a misguided and oft repeated notion that “things will work out.” It takes decisive action, risks, support, and a little bit of magic for life to unfold and fall into place. Whether we coincidentally wind up in a show choir class or have lost a home, the world opens up in unimaginable ways and the company we keep can keep us going. My story has yet to reach a conclusion like Horse’s as I’m sure is the case for many out there in the world right now. Whether your path is a rainbow road or a plane ticket to another continent, the opportunities to uncover ourselves and find our communities are endless.  

The Geeks OUT Podcast: Come on Barbie, Let’s Go Party!

The image is a combination of the Geeks OUT and Barbie logos. Text says "This Barbie is a queer & geeky podcast"

Geeks OUT Podcast: Come on Barbie, Let’s Go Party!

In this new episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin (@Gilligan_McJew) is joined by Geeks OUT President, Nic Gitau (@cocodevaux), as they discuss the trailer for the new Barbie movie, the new digital/print comics publisher DSTLRY, and what they’re getting Down & Nerdy with in pop culture.  BIG OPENING:   KEVIN: Comixology founder starts new digital/print comics publisher DSTLRY NIC: New trailer for Barbie DOWN & NERDY:  KEVIN: Super Mario Bros, Star Trek: Picard, Superman and Lois, Riverdale, Perry Mason, Marvel Infinity (Gwenpool, Negasonic) NIC: Yellowjackets, Shadow & Bone, Charlie Jane Anders short stories, Harry Potter re-read  

In this new episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin (@Gilligan_McJew on all socials) is joined by Geeks OUT President, Nic Gitau (@cocodevaux), as they discuss the trailer for the new Barbie movie, the new digital/print comics publisher DSTLRY, and what they’re getting Down & Nerdy with in pop culture. 



KEVIN: Comixology founder starts new digital/print comics publisher DSTLRY

NIC: New trailer for Barbie



KEVIN: Super Mario Bros, Star Trek: Picard, Superman and Lois, Riverdale, Perry Mason, Marvel Infinity (Gwenpool, Negasonic Teenage Warhead)

NIC: Yellowjackets, Shadow & Bone, Charlie Jane Anders short stories, Harry Potter re-read 

Interview with Author Melissa de la Cruz

Melissa de la Cruz is the #1 New York Times, #1 Publishers Weekly, and #1 IndieBound bestselling author of Isle of the Lost and Return to the Isle of the Lost, as well as many critically acclaimed and award-winning novels for readers of all ages. Her books have also topped the USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times bestseller lists and have been published in more than twenty countries. Today she lives in Los Angeles with her family. She is Filipina-American.

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

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

I’m Melissa de la Cruz and I’m the author of over sixty books for all ages. Sixty and counting! I’m best known for Disney’s Descendants, Blue Bloods, Witches of East End, and the Alex and Eliza trilogy.

What can you tell us about your latest novel, Going Dark? What was the inspiration for this project?

I was fascinated by how the media tends to obsess over certain missing people – specifically pretty, photogenic white women while ignoring other cases—especially when it’s a person or woman of color. So I wanted to tell a story that delved into that issue and brought it to light. 

As an author, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically young adult fiction?

The minute I started writing my first YA novel I knew this was the perfect genre for me. I think I am a kid, and a teen, at heart and I very much relate to their sorrows and anxieties and their humor. 

Growing up, were there any stories in which you felt touched by/ or reflected in, in terms of personal identity? If not or if so, how do you think this personally affected you as a writer? 

Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club was huge for me, I was a teen in the 80s it was the first time I read about people who looked like me in fiction. But I also hated the way it cemented the Asian American experience as one of tragedy and sorrow. I came from a loving and hilarious close-knit family and I wanted to write about girls like me in the way they say the Wakefield twins were written about in Sweet Valley High. 

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

When I was a teen I loved Anne Rice, Stephen King, Dune, and Lord of the Rings. Those are my primary influences. But when I got older I also loved Bret Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney. I love commercial fiction and am drawn to bestsellers, I like reading what people like to read. In the YA genre, I’m a huge fan of Holly Black, Maggie Stiefvater, and Leigh Bardugo. I’m a huge fan girl of the romantasy genre in YA.

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

I love entertaining myself and making myself laugh or being clever on the page. What’s frustrating sometimes is really trying to figure out how to tell a compelling story while still having it make sense. I think that’s one of the hardest parts. 

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

I’m also the co-director of the Yallfest book festival and the co-founder of Yallwest. Every year we bring thousands of kids to our festivals who have never owned a book in their lives and they get to choose a book to bring home. My best friend Margaret Stohl and I founded the festivals to carve a place where authors like us, who wrote for kids and teens, were respected and celebrated. We do it for the kids and for the author parties. ☺ 

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)?

What’s something you want to do but haven’t done?

I would love to write a musical! I can write the book. But I need a songwriter to do the music. I’ve been toying with this idea for a long time. I hope I get to write one!

What advice might you have to give for aspiring artists?

Never. Give. Up. Believe in yourself. Be confident in your work. Then keep knocking on that door till it opens. Also, be nice and professional. I think the secret to longevity is being reliable and easy to work with. 

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

Sure! Headmaster’s List my first YA thriller, available now, is about the truth around a fatal car crash. Snow and Poison, my retelling of Snow White is out now as well. The next Blue Bloods book: After Death is out in July. Then I have a new MG series debuting with The (Super Secret) Octagon Valley Society out in the fall, and the fourth Never After book: The Missing Sword out in December. I’m also working on The Ring and the Crown TV show for Disney+. 

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

Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace is my favorite novel of all time. I read it when I was 23 and in a deep depression and it lifted me out of the darkness. You can skip the War parts lol. It’s about family, and love between a family, siblings, mothers, and daughters, with lavish parties and swoony romances. I try to get everyone to read it. Don’t be intimidated! It is so wise. 

Header Photo Credit Maria Cina