I like words, but I can express a situation more efficiently & completely through a combination of art and writing.
It is more natural for me to draw a scene with four different people having facial reactions to something than it would be for me to try and find a clever way to describe each face, character and reaction using prose.
The hitch in my personal logic around the efficiency of drawing is that comics actually take way longer than writing alone! Someone said that every 1000 hours of drawing equals one hour or reading in comic form. I believe it. I worked on my book for five years, and it takes other people approximately 2.5 hours to read from start to finish.
2) Could you describe your process a bit, in terms of how you develop the symbiotic relationship between text and image? Which tends to come to you first?
As a comic artist, I do both at once. When I was writing the book initially, I thumb-nailed it out in small booklets, writing the sentence chunks at the bottom of each page and providing a very loose sketch of the characters faces and postures. I wanted to give myself a rough blueprint of what the final drawings would look like.
When the book was finished being written out in that way, I started transferring it to giant 14 x 17” sheets of Bristol board, which were a giant pain to carry around*. I penciled my drawings onto the Bristol, using photo references to fill out scenes based on my original sketches. The words stayed the same from beginning to end, for the most part.
*Whenever a friend would suggest drawing together at a coffee shop my head would fall off and roll across the room, because I could only draw in places with giant tables, and since the pages wouldn't fit in any bag with closures, the weather had to be perfect and I had to drive or be driven to the location.
3) The book is amazingly confessional, and filled with inner shames and secrets. Did it take you a long time to build up the courage to express it like this? Or was it essential for you to get it out?
I have been writing autobiographical work for about fifteen years, so I'm well-acquainted with the idea of broadcasting secrets to a larger audience. It helps to transform something from a crappy experience into something new or useful - into art. Something I can share with other people.
When I was writing the book, I tried to think of the things that made me feel the most uncomfortable, or the most vulnerable. I think that's how you genuinely connect with readers. I knew it would be important to be unguarded for the book, if I was going to write it at all. I wanted to write something honest in response to all of the secrets I've been living with my entire life.
4)Animals and pets figure largely in the book, and you’re also a pet portrait artist. How would you describe your relationship with animals? How have they helped you through your life?
I feel like one of the few people who kept the lessons from early childhood literature and films with me as I grew up. Like how in Charlotte's Web and Babe, these animals were seen as very emotional and sympathetic characters who you certainly wouldn't want to see mistreated or worse-yet slaughtered. I kept that with me. A fondness and a connection with animals. I don't anthropomorphize them to the extent that those films do, but I also don't think they are here on Earth to serve me, as a human.
I currently live with Beija the corgi/sharpei mix, who is fifteen, and two chickens, who are relatively young. I find most domestic or farm animals to be good company. That's one role animals have played in my life. Beija has been with me every since I was 16, and while the chickens are not the most cuddly (they live outdoors), they are fascinating to watch. It's like the primal feeling of watching a fire, watching chickens. They hunt and peck and take dust baths and make sweet gossipy noises. Animals liven up the conversation.
I must add that in the book I was living with five dogs at once, and that was maddening. They took over the conversation! I would not recomment having five dogs in one tiny house. It sounds like a story-book, but it feels like Hoarders. Even if you love them!
5) Do you still listen to Dr. Laura? What is it about advice shows that you’re drawn to? Do you think they actually help people, or serve more as entertainment?
I WISH I still listened to Dr. Laura. She is on Sirius Satellite Radio now, and while I do love her program, I cannot pay to listen to her program. I cannot personally deliver money I have made to Dr. Laura Schlessinger every month. But I do miss her terribly. I secretly hope someone ELSE will get Sirius, and then I can skirt my own ethics by listening to her that way.
I am a naturally gossipy person, so I like hearing other people's problems, and I like hearing useful advice from professionals on how to handle things. It's almost like a public way of teaching people how to behave. How to behave in relationships, how to have manners, what foods to pair with each other, how to save money. There are advice shows about everything, and I welcome them all. I enjoy learning how to be a better human being.