Meet cartoonist MariNaomi! She’s the author of Losing the Girl, the first title in the Life on Earth YA graphic novel series.
Q&A with MariNaomi
How did you start creating comics?
I’ve always enjoyed drawing and painting, but writing was my original passion. I wasn’t really exposed to comics beyond newspaper funnies until I was in my twenties, and it took me a few years before I chose to make them myself.
It wasn’t until I picked up the anthology Twisted Sisters: A Collection of Bad Girl Art that it even occurred to me to make comics. Specifically Mary Fleener’s contribution, “Jelly,” was what made me think (insert thought bubble here), “Hey, I have stories like that too—and I like to draw!” and suddenly I was a cartoonist.
You’ve published several autobiographies for the adult market, but Losing the Girl is your first YA graphic novel. How is writing with a teen audience in mind different than writing for adults?
Honestly, it wasn’t much different, besides the fact that I got to revel in the minds of characters in their teenage years. Switching to fiction from memoir was the big deal for me here. It was very freeing to be able to go anywhere I wanted with the story!
Each section of Losing the Girl is drawn in a different style to reflect the change in narrator. What stylistic choices did you make to distinguish each section?
This challenge was the most fun part of the book for me! I almost felt like an actor when I was drawing—I always had to stay in character. So if, for example, in Emily’s section, she was feeling goofy, I made sure to reflect that in her perception of herself. When she sensed that Paula was being sneaky about something, it was reflected in the Pinocchio-like growing of Paula’s nose. When she felt cute, she looked cute. Etc.
In addition, I needed to find a style that reflected each character, and make sure the style evolved and shifted depending on what was going on in their lives. Again with Emily, she started off in a black and white style, as she had a very black-and-white way of seeing the world.
Whereas Brett, who has lived a complicated life up to the point where we meet him—his POV is much like his painting style, with shades of gray, and very dreamy.
Paula’s section is also illustrated in the same style she sees life, which we see a glimpse of in Emily’s section, when Emily looks through Paula’s sketchbook.
And Nigel is a stylish guy who is careful about his outward appearance, so it made sense that his section was illustrated in a careful, stylish manner.
You’re the creator and manager of two databases for comic artists of color and artists from the LGBTQ+ community. How did you start these databases?
I started them a few years ago, when I realized there was an absence of this sort of thing. I tell the whole story in this comic.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing or drawing?
Every day I make sure to spare an hour or two to take care of my body, whether that’s a run around the neighborhood, hiking up a mountain, going to dance class, or spending time at the Korean spa. On weekends I try to lay off working to spend quality time (usually involving food) with my partner. I also take breaks throughout the work day to cuddle with my dogs and cats (I have six total). I also have a podcast (Ask Bi Grlz) I do with my friend, author Myriam Gurba, where we dole out advice about feminism, relationships, multiculturalism, and more.
Losing the Girl is the first book in a trilogy. What’s next for the characters?
Book one is where I introduce the characters, their life views, and their motivations. Book two is about to get a lot weirder and more dramatic! It also gets a little bit supernatural. Stay tuned!
Where to find Losing the Girl
Look for Gravity’s Pull, the second installment of the Life on Earth series, in Spring 2019.