September 21, 2016

“This Cartoonist Perfectly Captures the Highs and Lows of Friendship.” – Los Angeles Magazine

“Fall in love with your best friend all over again with ‘I Thought YOU Hated ME.’” – Brooklyn Based

It is a privilege to work with MariNaomi. A celebrated cartoonist, she has four books of her own, over 60 appearances in anthologies worldwide, and several honors, including an Eisner Award nomination (the top prize in comics), and there’s plenty more in the works.

Her previous book, TURNING JAPANESE, is currently up for an Autostraddle Comic and Sequential Art Award (vote here!) She just received an SF Zine Fest award for her contributions to the LGBTQ comics community, and she has a new graphic memoir out today, I THOUGHT YOU HATED ME!, published by Retrofit/Big Planet.

We caught up with Mari over a cup of coffee and the Internet to talk about her new book, the comics industry, and what it’s like to write memoir professionally.

You’ve made quite a career out of autobiographical comics. What makes a good memoir, comic or otherwise?

I prefer books that lay it all out on the table: the good, the bad, the funny and the sad. Balance is important. I’m not interested in spending time with a cathartic piece if it’s essentially a substitute for the writer venting and/or getting therapy. There’s a reason therapists get paid so much to listen.

That said, I’m sure there are plenty of carefully crafted memoirs that were also cathartic for the author to write.

Does it scare you a little to write so much about your life?

I’ve always been a pretty open person. Sharing my experiences has never felt like a scary thing to me; I’m more focused on connecting with people than I am worried that they’ll judge me.

But I do get nervous by how much harassment there is towards women on the internet. As a woman with strong opinions and an internet presence, it often feels like I’m one retweet away from a life-destroying experience. But what can I do?

I THOUGHT YOU HATED ME! is the story of a friendship that spans decades, through many different phases of your life. Were there any difficulties (or especially fun parts) that came from putting that together?

It was fun revisiting my friendship, but it was also a little nerve wracking to write about someone I care for so deeply. As a memoir writer, you never know when you’re going to accidentally cross an unspoken boundary. But ultimately it made me appreciate how much we’ve gone through, through thick and thin.

You have a very distinct style that continues to change and evolve. How did you approach this project artistically?

I was inspired by old Peanuts strips for this book. It was a relief to let myself be guided by (my take on) Charles Schulz’s style. Normally I try to forge new paths into the medium, but for this book I allowed the story to lead the way, enjoying the challenge of telling it within the confines of a certain formula.

Is there anyone you want to give a shout out to, a cartoonist who you think we should all be reading?

So many cartoonists are under-appreciated! In fact, you might argue that all comics folk are under-appreciated, in the grand scale of creative mediums. Chris Adams who drew Strong Eye Contact is a notable genius who deserves more attention. I could list probably hundreds of people who deserve more attention, but out of context they’re just a bunch of names. Instead, I’ll give you this link, where I talk about my favorite cartoonists, sometimes in detail (http://marinaomi.com/bookrecs.html). I also run a couple databases (Cartoonists of Color and Queer Cartoonists databases) where I signal boost marginalized cartoonists who could use more eyeballs on their work.

What’s next for you?

I Thought You Hated Me! is out, so I’m going to promote that at a series of trade shows. I also have about five projects I’m excited about, but more on those later…

Where can we find you online?

marinaomi.com and Twitter @marinaomi. You can also find my databases at cartoonistsofcolor.com and queercartoonists.com.

That was a lot of fun. Click here to order MariNaomi’s new book, I THOUGHT YOU HATED ME!

As a reminder, Fuse Lit newsletter subscribers get extended versions of this interview series with additional tips from the author.