I was tagged by Rob Kirby to participate in a “writing process” blog tour. Before I start answering any questions, let me tell you about Rob Kirby. Rob is a cartoonist, a reviewer of comics, and the prolific editor of myriad anthologies. Before I ever even considered drawing comics, I used to read his “Curbside” autobio strip in the funny papers (this was probably in the mid-nineties). I grew attached to his sensitive, quirky characters drawn with a loose, vibrant line. His work made me want to be a gay boy in NYC. Many years later (2006 or so?) I saw him speak on a panel, and I completely fan-girled out on him afterwards. Not only was he gracious and not scared off, but he started corresponding with me by email, and I discovered that he’s kind, witty, inclusive, and one of the nicest people I’ve ever come across. Today he is one of my closest comics buddies. And even though I consider him a friend, I still have the occasional moment of fan-girl freak-out (Sorry, Rob!). Like when he says something nice about my work, or when he sends me doodles of his adorable dog, Ginger. I feel so lucky. How many people get to meet their heroes, only to find out that in real life they’re actually superheroes?
You can visit Rob’s Tumblr here: http://robkirbycomics.tumblr.com/
Okay, now here comes the Q&A part:
1) What am I working on?
I’ve got two freaking books coming out in the next year, so I’ve been scrambling to get all that stuff in order, with the help of my lovely publishers: promotional stuff like scheduling book readings, placing ads, setting up web stuff and animated book trailers to hopefully create a “buzz.” (I put “buzz” in quotes because it hurts my soul to use that word unironically.)
When I’m not working on promotions or other side jobs (LARB), I’ve been slogging away at my next project, which is a deviation from all the memoir I’ve been writing. I’m not saying a lot about it just yet, but I can say that it’s a fictional piece that involves a mystery about aliens. I should be done with it in, oh, about forty years. (Kind of joking.) It’s a good thing people live a long time in my family.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
One of the great things about working in the comics medium is that there is so much territory that hasn’t been explored. So unless a cartoonist is biting the style of another, chances are that they’re doing something that has never been done.
With that said, it’s incredibly difficult for me to talk about the uniqueness of my own work. My hero Rob Kirby, however, once called me a “master of minimalism,” and that made me very happy.
3) Why do I write what I do?
My first book (Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0 to 22 ) was about me figuring out my issues with commitment and love. The next book (Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories) was inspired by the writing of Cheryl Strayed as the advice columnist Dear Sugar. Her work on the Rumpus moved me to dig deep into my emotions and tackle difficult truths. My book next year, Turning Japanese, was more about an interesting experience I had than any sort of catharsis. I thought a book about Japanese hostess bars and exploring a cultural identity would be interesting to people.
(You can read more about these books here: http://marinaomi.com/comics.html)
The book I’m working on now was originally started as a way to work through my issues of betrayal with a former friend. Through fiction, I was trying to look through her eyes. But then aliens got involved and it turned into something else.
4) How does your process work?
1: I let an idea percolate in my brain for a while (a month or twenty years)
2: I jot down ideas and sketch out what they might look like.
3: I write a short description…
4: …which turns into a detailed synopsis…
5: …which turns into a full-blown script.
6: I make a bunch of revisions to this script, often with the help of others (e.g., my agent, my husband, my writer friends).
7: When the script is as polished as it can be, I thumbnail each page.
8: Using the thumbnails as guidance, I pencil out all the pages at their final size using graph paper (graph paper is especially helpful for lettering).
9: I scan and enlarge each page to as large as will fit on a 8.5×10 piece of copy paper.
10: I print out the scans.
11: Using a light box, I ink the comics onto nice paper.
I know it sounds like a lot of steps, but ultimately it saves me a lot of work. Drawing takes an excruciating amount of time, so I take measures to ensure I don’t have to do a lot of redrawing. Also, penciling on a different sheet of paper than the final removes some of the anxiety I used to have about ruining a precious page. If I spill tea on a final page, I can just go back and re-ink it without having to also pencil the whole thing again. Or if I crumple up a penciled page, it doesn’t really matter, since that won’t be the final anyway.
Recently my friend Lisa came over and was nervous drinking coffee near a stack of my work in progress. I noticed this and had a little fun with her by grabbing one of the penciled pages and crumpling it up. The horrified expression on her face was just fantastic.
Okay, that’s it for my Q&A. Here are the folks I’m tagging: Yumi Sakugawa (http://acrosstheyumiverse.tumblr.com/), Myriam Gurba (http://lesbrain.wordpress.com/) and Melinda Boyce (http://www.melindaboyce.com/).