Interview with The Big Bath House Creators Kyo Maclear & Gracey Zhang

Kyo Maclear is a critically acclaimed author whose books have received starred reviews, appeared on numerous “Best of” lists, and been published in multiple languages around the world. One of her picture books, Virginia Wolf, has been adapted for the stage, and another, Julia, Child, is currently being adapted into an animated television series.

Gracey Zhang is a freelance illustrator and animator. She graduated with her BFA in Illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design. Her first author-illustrator picture book, Lala’s Words, will be published in 2021 by Scholastic.

I had the opportunity to interview both Kyo and Gracey which you can read below.

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

KM: Thanks so much for inviting us. I’m Kyo and I live in Toronto (Tkaranto) where I write books for big and little people, across genres. 

GZ: Hello! My name is Gracey Zhang and I’m an illustrator, originally hailing from Vancouver, Canada and am now based in New York.

How did THE BIG BATH HOUSE come to be? Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

KM: The story came from childhood memories of hanging out with my Japanese family in Tokyo. There were lots of aunties, cousins and an incredibly strong and kind obachan (grandmother) whom I adored. Every visit would begin with a trip to the local sentō (bath house) where we would disrobe and catch up. I wanted to share this magical matriarchal world with kids. 

GZ: I was passed along the manuscript for THE BIG BATH HOUSE and fell in love with it immediately. My mother had spent her university and young adult life in Tokyo, Japan so she often brought me there when I was younger to revisit her friends and life there. I remember a memorable trip to a bath house with my mother, younger sister, and a family friend. It was such a nice change to openly soak in the nude without embarrassment, something that wasn’t readily available growing up in a small town in Canada.

How did you each get your start in children’s literature? Do you remember any stories that resonated with you growing up?

KM: I wrote my first kid’s story as a chapbook. It was stapled paper in an edition of 30 copies. It was called “Spork” and I created it with my partner for friends and family to celebrate the birth of our first child. Spork is a hybrid—part spoon, part fork—and imagines a multi-cutlery world. It’s a parable about the limits of categories and it eventually became a published picture book, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. So, my entry into the world of kidslit was unplanned but, looking back, it makes so much sense. I’ve always loved visual storytelling. My faves as a child included the Peanuts and the Moomin stories. I love Charles Schultz for the small but profound way he captures big existential questions. And I love Tove Jansson for her trippy world of protean creatures who are always willing to extend a welcoming hand.

GZ: I recently published my first book last summer, while working on it I also had the opportunity to illustrate the stories of so many amazing authors. It’s been exciting to see them being put out in the coming months! 

One of your previous books, the graphic novel Operatic, discusses queerness with a gentleness I really appreciated (and an element that seems to permeate throughout your work.) Could you discuss some of the inspiration and craft process behind that book?

KM: Thank you. That’s nice to hear. Operatic was sparked by my sons’ middle school music teacher. He ran the LGBTQ+ lunch club and rock band club and created a canopy for a lot of students who were coming out and/or transitioning. He also introduced my sons to a broad history of music. 

I knew I wanted opera to be a theme in this book because I think it stokes such strong reactions in people. As someone who generally tends to veer toward the spare and lo-fi, I used to find opera over-the-top. The performances seemed almost laughable, like badly acted musicals with people shouting into each others’ faces simultaneously. But my partner loves opera and over time the form’s strangeness and unlikeliness has receded. What I like about opera is how it gets to emotional essence and deep feelings as quickly as possible. Wayne Koestenbaum has been so brilliant at capturing the affinity between gay men and opera and celebrating the oversize, lavish, ‘too-muchness’ of the genre. So, anyway, opera seemed a perfect backdrop for a story set in middle school where passionate emotions are the norm, where days are mini epics. Opera is basically social realism—I mean, who at age 13 or 14 doesn’t kind of feel like dropping to one knee and announcing a crush in a yelly voice? 

The character of Maria Callas intrigued me because she did not have a conventionally beautiful voice. The Callas voice was considered too melodramatic, too imperfect, even “too manly”. She was thought to wobble on her high notes. I thought she was a great figure to think about what it means to be ‘flawed’ or ‘too much.’ I’ve always been drawn to historical figures who test boundaries and who can’t be tamed into easily acceptable categories. 

I worked with an illustrator, Byron Eggenschwiler, who did a great job translating music into a visual language. We also knew the story would not resolve in a traditional way with a couple riding off into the sunset. It ends with an ensemble of characters to celebrate the power of friendship.

Having read previous interviews, it seems like this project is personal to you both in similar ways. Mind you discussing that a bit?

KM: The story came from childhood memories but I chose to use second person narration to immediately steep the reader in the experience and, hopefully, get away from a touristy lens that might see the bathhouse as ‘other’ or ‘exotic.’ I wrote it with diasporic, immigrant, Asian communities in mind because I think a lot of kids have shared a similar experience of bonding with family despite barriers of language and distance. I also wrote it for my mum, who has been dealing with illness. 

GZ: There’s such a strong difference in the way nudity is treated in the two cultures I grew up in. I remember seeing how many Asian aunties navigated the showers at pools in Canada and how differently it contrasted with peers of mine who grew up in Canada. As a child, it was pointed out to me by a classmate who thought the openness of nudity should be something to be hidden behind changing rooms. It was an observation I hadn’t thought too deeply of at the time, especially as a teenager who kept her swimsuit on religiously while showering and changing at the pools in Canada. Though now I’m quietly delighted when I’m at the YMCA and see New Yorkers of all ages and origins walking and talking in the nude. 

When it comes to body positivity in children’s literature, it seems we’re still at an impasse in the West when books like Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen keep getting banned for showcasing nudity. How did it feel touching this subject directly in your book?

KM: Sigh. I know. Why the impasse? Why this weird puritanism? I recently blurbed a graphic memoir called My Body in Pieces by Marie-Noëlle Hébert that delves into body image issues and what really struck me about it was how seldom I see work that represents different body types, let alone work that openly addresses the violence of fatphobia. 

In The Big Bath House, I didn’t set out to deliver any direct or grand message about body positivity but I realize it’s there unapologetically, particularly because of Gracey’s amazing art. I love seeing Asian bodies take up space on the page and seeing Asian women caring for each other. We live in a culture that promotes beauty dogma and body hatred from such a young age so I am always looking for ways to challenge ideas of what beauty is. I want us to embrace and show all the parts of ourselves.

GZ: One of the first questions I asked when I received the manuscript was “Can I draw the people fully nude, front and back?” It felt important to me to show the bodies without having to hide or sneak in ways of censorship. The bath house is such a place of communion and relaxation and having to cover any part of the body felt antithetical to the spirit of it.

As Geeks OUT is an LGBTQ+ website, I’d feel it be remiss not to mention that when it comes to spaces like hot springs and open baths, there’s still much anxiety for many in our community, though some spaces have been becoming better. What are your thoughts on this and how inclusive these spaces can be in general?

KM: Thank you for raising this. It’s so important! The world I wrote about in our book is an old one and it has been a while since I visited Japan. I hope that the onsen and sentō are becoming more hospitable places for LGBTQ+ visitors, especially those who identify as transgender and nonbinary. Bath houses could and should be places of healing for bodies that have borne so much, over centuries and lifetimes. (The history of backlash against queer bathhouses is a whole other issue but maybe not unrelated to the way marginalized people have been denied spaces in which to self-tend, flourish, and practice community sexual health.)

GZ: I try to show and illustrate stories based on lived experiences and memories but also worlds that I want to see and live in myself. The hope is that they give a sense of belonging to those looking for it or give a wider lens to those unfamiliar to it.

I hadn’t known of the The Rainbow Furoproject (mentioned in the second article) but was so happy to see this initiative! Unfortunately in many cases, familiarity comes before inclusion but it gives me a lot of hope that there are many putting in the work to foster safer and inclusive spaces, especially in environments like a bathhouse that are supposed to nurture and heal.

For those curious about the process behind a picture book, how would you describe the process? What goes into writing one and collaborating with an artist to translate that into art?

KM: Writing children’s books, I realize, isn’t just writing words that go with pictures on each page. I need to imagine the entirety of the book as part of the experience of the story. All of the visual elements (images, lettering, endpapers, etc.) are an important part of the narrative and I always want to leave room for the illustrator to do at least half of the telling too. This means I try to pare my words back as much as possible. Sometimes I write brief art notes but I try to do so sparingly because I don’t want to over-direct things. Part of the joy is surrendering to the collaboration.

GZ: I like to let a manuscript sit with me for a bit and let the imagery ruminate before I commit anything to paper. The sketch process changes for each project, I like to do research and find references for objects, environments, (looking up clothes from different years and eras is also a minor obsession). Certain scenes feel concrete to me as soon as they’re sketches out and some are constantly changing, though sometimes you realize that initial sketch was the one that worked the best!

What are some of your favorite elements of writing/drawing?

KM: Leaving things unfinished so the illustrator can come in and work their magic. I like watching the chemistry that occurs when word and picture meet in unexpected ways.

GZ: Being able to create a world that exists beyond yourself, just like Sims but limitless character options.

What advice would you have for aspiring picture book creators? 

KM: What I love most about picture books are their outlaw possibilities. I think children’s publishers, or at least the ones I work with, are willing to take risks. I encourage creators to test cultural conventions, marketing expectations, literary prejudices, narrow preconceptions of form and audience. I have always been drawn to work that jumps fences and am happy when my picture books appeal to adults, too.

GZ: Create for yourself, be critical but don’t let that hold you from getting separate eyes on it. Reach out to others (publishing people are extremely nice), take some time away from the work and sometimes the blur becomes clearer when you’re a few steps back.

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

GZ: What my favorite toppings are for shaved ice in the summer! I’ve been craving it as well as warm humid summers—my favorite toppings are mung bean, chewy glutinous rice and taro balls, sweet stewed peanuts, and barley. 

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

KM: I just finished a picture book called Kumo, illustrated by Nathalie Dion, about a shy cloud who, one day, is called upon to take the main stage. I also have a picture book coming out next year about cities, both real and imagined. It’s called If You Were a City and it’s illustrated by Francesca Sanna. On the adult side, I am completing a hybrid memoir about plants and family secrets.

GZ: Something with lots and lots of yeowling, howling, furry four legged friends.

What books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

KM: I am a huge fan of Shadow Life by Hiromi Goto and Ann Xu. It’s a beautiful and fierce graphic novel about an older queer Asian woman named Kumiko who is being stalked by death. Kumiko is tough and ingenious and the story moves between literary realism and poetic fabulism with hints of Miyazaki and mukashibanashi. But Hiromi makes the story entirely her own. It’s so, so good. And it’s a portrait of aging I’ve seldom, if ever, seen.

GZ: My choice of literature has been a little all over the place as of late, I recently read Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi that I never wanted to end. All of Taro Yashima’s picture books are beautiful and I’ve been attempting to collect them all. I’ve also been finding solace from the cold in a lot of YA romance fiction. Penelope Douglas has been sustaining me and a few friends for the past few months.

Interview with Author Gabriela Martins

Gabriela Martins is a Brazilian kidlit author and linguist. Her stories feature Brazilian characters finding themselves and love. She was a high school teacher and has also worked as a TED Ed-Club facilitator, where she helped teens develop their own talks in TED format. She edited and self-published a pro-bono LGBTQ+ anthology (Keep Faith) with all funds going to queer people in need. When she’s not writing, she can be found cuddling with her two cats or singing loudly and off-key. Like a Love Song is her debut novel. Find her on Twitter at @gabhimartins and on Instagram at @gabhi.

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

Thank you so much for having me, friends! I’m super excited to be here! I’m Gabriela Martins, a Brazilian author, and LIKE A LOVE SONG is my debut. I was an English teacher for ten years and I’m also a linguist, now writing full-time while my cats cuddle on my lap.

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

I’ve always written fiction. My first-ever book was a rip-off of one of my favorite books at 11 years-old, only it was a lot gorier, and the protagonist was suspiciously like me. From then on, I wrote fanfic for many more years before starting to try to get published traditionally. And I tried and tried for a decade! I queried a handful of books, and they were all YA. I was always drawn to narratives that explore firsts, and being around teenagers for such a long time as a teacher has also definitely helped.

Your debut novel, Like A Love Song, features a Brazilian protagonist along with a variety of queer characters. As a queer, Brazilian author yourself have you ever felt like you were writing yourself, or parts of yourself, into this story? Also, was the title inspired by the Selena Gomez song?

I think we all write parts of ourselves in our stories, but being queer, especially so when we’re writing a story about finding out who you are, and having the courage to own up to it. My main character in the book isn’t queer, but she faces her own issues with self-acceptance throughout the book, more in relation to her heritage.

While Natalie, our main character, isn’t queer herself—which is also a conscious choice, as I grew up with the social and cultural message that queerness was contagious, and not truly who I was, just a product of being around so many queer people—her two closest friends and love interest are. I align way more with chaotic bi and sweatpants-loving Brenda than with all of Nati’s glamour in being a pop star, but I think there are bits and pieces of me in all of them in different ways.

The title actually came way later! The book’s initial title was You Can Call Me Nati, but our publishing team wanted that could tell you right off the bat that it was a romcom book and also showcase the musical aspect with a song as the title. I absolutely loved their suggestion, and we ran with it!

How would you describe your writing process? What do you wish you had known when you first started writing?

I wish I had known that revision is a biiiiiig deal. Before the shift from aspiration to day job, I am embarrassed to admit that… it’s not even that I wasn’t good at revising, I simply didn’t do it. I queried lots of books without having properly revised them. I didn’t even know how to. I write relatively clean drafts, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need tons of revisions! Working with skilled editors—my agent has a decade of history working as a RH editor prior to becoming an agent—helped me understand where my weaknesses are, so I can do a slightly better job at self-revising before I show anyone else my work. But I will say that I won’t be caught dead sharing a first draft with anyone, ever! That baby needs to sleep for a few days before I read it over and convince myself it’s not as bad as I think it is before I can even share with my critique partners. lol

Aside from your own book, is there any Brazilian media (i.e. books, movies/TV, music, etc.) you would want people to know about?

There are so many good things. Brazilian art is deeply prolific, and some of my favorite medias of all kinds are Brazilian. My favorite romcom movie of all time is Brazilian (“O Homem do Futuro”, a romcom/scifi crossover that is hilarious, nostalgic, and ultra-swoony). My favorite pop singer, IZA, is Brazilian, and I grew up with rock stars who were out and proud and defined rock’n’roll in Brazil: names like the late Cazuza, Cássia Eller, Renato Russo, but also Lulu Santos. Netflix recently released a Netflix Original called “Cidade Invisível” (Invisible City), a crime/fantasy show about Brazilian legends with a new spin.

Since your debut book is obviously inspired by music, did you listen to any specific artists while writing it? And who would you say are some of your favorite artists?

The album “Lover” by Taylor Swift had just come out, so I had that on repeat while I was drafting and revising. Funny thing, then “SOUR” by Olivia Rodrigo came out earlier this year, and I’ve been listening to that non-stop ever since! I feel like “Brutal” is just perfect for the book. I wish that song had been around already before the book was published, so I could add it as an epigraph. It’s just perfect. 

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

I read a lot and across a lot of different genres, so I feel like I should say books, but I do that for pleasure. What fills my well and ignites my veins really is music. Even little sparks of a story—a trope, a character name, the idea of a situation—only really take shape once I start listening to songs that fill in the blanks, and it snowballs from there. Some of the albums on repeat on my Spotify lately are SUNMI’s “1/6”, Taemin’s “Advice”, Olivia Rodrigo’s “SOUR”, Sum 41’s “Underclass Hero”, and Kid Abelha’s “Educação Sentimental”.

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

In summer 2022 my sophomore book comes out, also with Underlined/PRH. It’s called BAD AT LOVE and it features Daniel, a rocker with a bad rep of being a player—but who’s actually super shy and only suffered a million tabloid misunderstandings—and Sasha, a stubborn and cynical teen journalist with no chance of going to college… until their paths cross. Daniel is challenged by his bandmates to date Sasha for the whole summer on a bet, and she’s offered a chance at a scholarship if she can find the dirtiest dirt on L.A.’s favorite bad boy. He is demi and she is pan, and I can’t wait for you to meet them too!

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

Adiba Jaigirdar is one of my favorite authors of all time, and she has a new book out this year, called HANI AND ISHU’S GUIDE TO FAKE DATING. It also features fake dating, and Adiba’s wonderful prose!

Interview with Chad Sell and Barbara Perez Marquez

Chad Sell‘s first children’s graphic novel was The Cardboard Kingdom, which he illustrated and co-wrote with a team of ten collaborators. This same team came together again to create The Cardboard Kingdom #2: Roar of the Beast. Chad’s first full-length solo project, Doodleville, is set in Chicago, where he lives with his husband and two cats.

Barbara Perez Marquez was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, now she lives in the USA. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Manhattanville College. She writes short stories and fiction, usually using coming of age and LGBTQ themes in her work. During her career, she has also been an editor for several publications and projects. Her work was first featured in a student collection in the 7th grade, the same year she decided she wanted to be a writer. Since then, she’s been featured in a number of literary journals, as well as anthologies. Her latest works include The Cardboard Kingdom and its sequel, The Cardboard Kingdom #2: Roar of the Beast.

I had the opportunity to interview both Chad and Barbara, which you can read below.

First of all, congratulations on your latest book, The Cardboard Kingdom #2: Roar of the Beast! Could you tell us a little of what the book’s about?

CHAD: Thank you! ROAR OF THE BEAST follows the Cardboard Kingdom kids as they get ready for Halloween. But something is amiss in the kingdom–the kids start seeing a shadowy monster lurking through their neighborhood at night. No one can agree on what the monster looks like and what to do about it: hunt it down, study it, trap it, or simply stay far, far away! Because we have an enormous cast of characters, we were able to explore the many different approaches that the kids take in facing their fears and solving the mystery.

How did The Cardboard Kingdom series come to be? What was the impetus for the project?

CHAD: I love creativity, comics, and costumes–at its heart, The CARDBOARD KINGDOM series is all about how kids use all three to explore aspects of their identity. What does it mean for a boy to dress up as a glamorous sorceress? Or for a little girl to dress up like a mustachioed mad scientist? How can play and make believe help us explore and express new aspects of ourselves that would otherwise stay hidden? 

The Cardboard Kingdom is an anthology of different stories from different kids set in the same neighborhood. What was it like collaborating with other artists and creatives on the project?

BARBARA: I think we owe a lot of its seamlessness to Chad, whom really endeavored to bring our team together and as a leader, keeps it all cohesive. It’s an extraordinary opportunity to be able to tell the stories in The Cardboard Kingdom as a collaborative effort, since its a perfect reflection of what’s going on in the book too.

Chad Sell

How did you find yourself getting into comics? What drew you to this medium?

BARBARA: I started pretty late in comics myself, and it wasn’t until graduate school when I properly started to look at comics as a creator as opposed to just a reader. As a storyteller, comics provide a unique approach to telling a story that can draw in any type of reader. Being able to capture a reader is super important for me as a writer and comics make it that much more simple. 

CHAD: I agree with Barbara–comics are such an inviting form of storytelling! I love that a kid who can’t even read will pick up CARDBOARD KINGDOM and still get totally engaged with the story, even if they’re making up a lot of it on their own! That’s the appeal of comics for me.

One of the characters in The Cardboard Kingdom is an aspiring gender-bending Dominican American mad scientist. As a queer Dominican American yourself, would you say you incorporated any of your own experiences into this character or other parts of the story?

BARBARA: I think the short answer is yes, but I think if we were to put our experiences side to side, then they’d be much less alike. As a writer, I always strive to fill in the gaps from my own experiences, so for me, it was more important to present Amanda in ways that I wouldn’t have necessarily done as a kid myself. I think in that way, it becomes a more robust effort towards bringing to life stories that I wish I’d had as a kid. I think especially in a moment where we still need to push for representation, we have to continue to look at our experiences and not just reflect ourselves, but also the tools that would have been useful to us and to potential readers. 

What are some moments/characters within the book that you most related to in regards to your own experiences as a kid?

CHAD: The CARDBOARD KINGDOM character I most relate to is Jack the Sorceress, and he continues his journey in Roar of the Beast, exploring how to imbue more of the Sorceress’ fabulous magic into his everyday life. But he also wrestles with a lot more: his little sister is becoming her own person, developing sinister new schemes instead of serving as his helpful little assistant. And Jack also has a powerful moment of recognition and connection with another young queer character, Miguel the Rogue. I remember as a kid how powerful it was to encounter other children like you, but also how scary it could be, too! We wanted to capture all  of that complexity in their scenes together.

BARBARA: I was definitely one of the kids that bounced around different friend groups, so seeing The Knight’s journey throughout the book really resonated with me as she continues to find her own place in the Kingdom and what that means. I think with the book as a whole we definitely pushed further our efforts to create spaces for everyone, even when we are scared to look for that place.

What advice would you give to aspiring young artists/writers working on their craft and for those who wish to work in the field?

CHAD: We’re living in such a fascinating time for comics, in terms of webcomics, the booming kids’ market, and the countless new ways to find and support creators. It’s kind of overwhelming, particularly for young artists–you can’t be good at EVERYTHING, and you can’t possibly appeal to EVERYBODY. There’s no one way to be a successful artist, and so it’s up to you to figure out where you fit best, what approach works for you, and what work you want to make. Try to find peers who are doing what you’re doing, seek out resources to learn more about the industry, and look into the different kinds of mentorship opportunities that have been emerging online!

BARBARA: I agree that this is a great time to be in comics and publishing, but for someone that’s still looking to find their path, it’s still invaluable to stay up to date on what’s happening around you. As we create, we can often get lost in our own process or even just aiming towards the big names, but there’s new content available everyday, so staying on the lookout for works that feel similar to what you want to do is a great way to have a bit of a compass on what’s happening while you get your work ready for the world.

Barbara Perez Marquez

Previously, you had both paneled for an event at Flame Con, a queer comic con sponsored by Geeks OUT, called “Telling All-Ages Queer Stories.” Can you talk about your work and personal motivation creating inclusive stories for young queer kids?

BARBARA: That panel was so fun! I spoke a bit already on how I try to not just create stories with elements from my own life, but also with the tools that were missing when I was growing up. I think for myself, it’s always been important for my work to be inclusive because it’s the least we can do as creators. When it comes to stories for queer audiences, and I think Chad mentioned it too, it’s not about representing EVERYTHING at once. On the contrary, if that’s the main focus it can often come off as disingenuous. Instead, I often try to tell stories with the same care I would hope someone would have talking about me. With that in mind, I always strive to make space, even when the story might not reflect everything I’d want it to, I hope it provides space for ANY reader to find something to connect with.

CHAD: Yeah, as Barbara said, it’s so powerful to see yourself reflected in a story! A lot of my early conceptions of queerness and identity were shaped by the comics I read as a kid, which is unfortunate, because those early 90’s comics made it seem like coming out would literally mean getting chased out of your hometown by an angry mob! So I’m hoping that our books offer a much more affirming and inclusive sense of recognition to our young readers, and a sense that their world is expansive and multi-faceted.

Oftentimes for younger generations, knowledge of queer language, whether that referring to orientation or gender identity, is often limited. How did you set about depicting queerness in a way younger generations could access?

BARBARA: I think I’ll leave Chad to speak a little more at length on this, but comics are visual and that’s super important when there’s that lack of language. I think it’s also really important to remember that younger audiences may not have the direct terms to correlate to something, but they are still experiencing life in the same way we did and that’s universal in many other ways than just language.

CHAD: Barbara is totally right! We generally tried to convey aspects of queerness situationally and visually rather than relying on terminology or language. So in Barbara’s story The Mad Scientist, the main character Amanda’s father is confused and upset that she’s dressing up in a cardboard mustache and lab coat with her friends. But they don’t address that with an extensive discussion of gender identity and expression–instead, we resolved that chapter wordlessly with a final image full of love, acceptance…and mustaches.

Aside from comics, what would you say are some of your other skills and interests?

BARBARA: I had an interest in publishing in general when I started out, so I’m also a bit of a freelance editor in my spare time. I also grew up learning other languages and playing video games, so that’s pretty much where I focus my attention when I’m not writing. Whether it’s playing a new game or doing translation or watching content in other languages. 

CHAD: I’m also an avid videogamer, and I love a good tabletop board game, too! (I’m in the final stretch of an epic GLOOMHAVEN campaign right now!) I love cooking, too–the kitchen is a place for me to get creative and experiment with extremely low stakes involved. After all, it’s just dinner! 

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

CHAD: Barbara and I both had a really hard time coming up with an answer to this, which means you’ve asked a ton of good questions in this interview!!

Are there any other projects or story ideas you are currently nursing and could tell us about?

CHAD: We’ve been crafting more tales for the Cardboard Kingdom, and I’ve been working on a stupendously fun new superhero series with my friend Mary Winn Heider–hopefully that will be announced soon!

BARBARA: I’ve got a few stories in the works that will hopefully be announced by the end of the year.

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

CHAD: I’ve been loving Kat Leyh’s recent books–SNAPDRAGON is a fantastic, layered graphic novel for younger readers, and THIRSTY MERMAIDS is a hilarious romp for adults. THE MAGIC FISH by Trung Le Nguyen and FLAMER by Mike Curato are great picks for teens!

BARBARA: One of my favorite new reads recently was Molly Ostertag’s THE GIRL FROM THE SEA. I’ve also been working through my backlog of books and really enjoyed the graphic novel adaptation of JULIET TAKES A BREATH by Gabby Rivera and Celia Moscote.