Please be sure to check out my review of Tomboy on Grab the Lapels!
In Tomboy you depict yourself as a child drawing comics. When did you realize comics were something you could do as a job?
I’ve been pretty solely focused on drawing comics since I was 9 or 10 years old; before that I wanted to be an animator, (and before that, as referenced in Tomboy, I wanted to be a cartoon character), so cartooning in some fashion has always been a goal of mine. It’s pretty cool that I actually did manage to be a cartoon character when I grew up, by drawing comics about myself! 3-year-old Liz would be in awe (or she would insist that it doesn’t count—who knows with 3-year-old logic).
It isn’t until you’re a teenager and you attend an alternative school that you find people who make you feel like you can be yourself. Do you think people who struggle with fitting in should try alternate education facilities? Or should teens look for a group within their own schools?
I think the benefit of alternative schools is that they tend to have a smaller student body, which means that there is less chance for there to be an overarching status-quo that kids are expected to conform to. Not having organized sports and that culture of hierarchy definitely seems to keep an even keel in terms of who is valued as a student, but that isn’t to say that positive social situations don’t exist in larger educational institutions! I feel like it really is wholly dependent on the student and the situation.
You note in Tomboy that having a boyfriend makes things easier because people aren’t questioning your sexuality. Help us all out: what is it that makes finding someone to date so darn hard? Are we just looking for that validation from our peers?
Well, that was a very specific to me situation, in that because of the way I dress and present myself, people have always assumed that I date women, when in actuality I have always been romantically attracted to men (or in the case of Tomboy, boys). It felt important to point that out, because it is a very damaging side effect of our gender stereotypes, that we have stereotypes for folks who don’t fit the stereotype!
I do think that a lot of what we consider to be romantic conquest in our teenage years is based more on what we’ve gleaned from pop culture, and less on what we actually want from a partner, but that’s totally understandable because dating gets easier with experience, and most people’s experience level when they’re 15 years old is very low. Basically, I look back on my romantic experiences in my teen years as a total facepalm: it doesn’t mean I didn’t genuinely like the boys that I dated, but most of those relationships weren’t really all that beneficial to me beyond having someone to make out with (and hey, sometimes that can’t be discounted as a total PLUS).
Do you have many lady friends in the graphic novel/comics scene? What are they like?
Yes! Nicole J. Georges (Calling Dr. Laura, 2013), Corrine Mucha (Get Over It!, 2014), Whit Taylor (Madtown High, 2013), Ramsey Beyer (Year One, 2012), Raina Telgemeier (Sisters, 2014). They are all totally inspirational to me, and it’s a bummer that most of them don’t live in the same city as me, because my favorite times of the year are when we’re together at a convention.
Whom did you picture as your audience when you were writing Tomboy?
Tomboy is the first book that I’ve written where audience really came into play, since I was writing it for a publisher that specializes in books for teens. At first I was pretty stunted by the idea that this book had to conform to some sort of code of what is “acceptable for young adult readers,” but I pretty quickly decided that I would just write the book the way I wanted to write the book, and worry about what was or wasn’t “acceptable” if it came up in the editing process, and surprisingly, nothing ended up on the chopping block! That book is pure Liz, no pandering, and I’m really proud of it.
The first comic you drew that you were really proud of: what was it about?
Haha, if you ask me now, I’d say it’s called Tomboy, and it’s a memoir about my childhood and gender stereotypes.
Ok, I’m halfway kidding, but Tomboy is definitely the most important book I’ve written, but I’ve been drawing, and I’ve always felt at least semi-confident about the results. I think that I’ve probably been proud of my output all along, otherwise I might not have found the energy to keep going. Of course, in the case of some of my earliest published comics, which were in a local zine in Santa Fe, NM, when I was 13-years-old, they make me cringe now, but I was totally stoked to have had comics printed in a magazine when I was in the 7th grade: not many other kids can say that!