Several years ago, a rather sad but sweet girl started appearing to me in flashes. I'd be on the Van Ness bus going to work, or simply walking along downtown. And there she'd be, quite silent but with loads to say. Back then she had on a long black coat and chunky boots. Just about everything changed about her over the years: her name, her age, her outfits. Everything that is, except her hair. I knew "my girl" would have big, frizzy, exasperating, self-esteem-destroying hair!
'Beautiful: A girl's trip through the looking glass' is a graphic novel about a young teen girl who's the victim of a bully. It seems Lily's never quite good enough for this brute: not pretty enough, not cool enough, not the right mix of skinny and shapely... you name it. So why not just ignore this unwanted visitor, or maybe deliver a swift kick to the shins?
Well, the real problem is, the bully's inside her own head.
So the book is about how Lily deals with all those messages 'out there' as well as 'in here', and how she ends up going on a bit of an existential journey to get to the bottom of things.
Some frequently asked questions
How did you come up with the idea for Beautiful?
The character, Lily, started coming to me some years ago, along with fragments of scenes, and inner dialogue – things she was saying about herself and the world. I didn't have a story yet. That would take time, a lot of input (that I learned to take or leave), and many revisions.
What inspired you to write about this topic?
They say if you write about the personal, you will end up writing about the universal. I imagine there are very few people left on the planet who've not been inundated by messages about how they should measure up, whether that's your looks, intelligence, muscles... or even how to be a nice person. It all comes down to: can I really find my self-worth in physical attributes or anything else, for that matter? Am I trying to appear to the world in a way that's much better than how I actually feel inside? All that adds up to some pretty painful internal conflicts. Once I realized I was dragging around these constant messages in my own head, it was time to investigate. What is all this stuff? And are these thoughts who I really am?
HOW DID YOU CREATE THE ARTWORK?
The final drawings were done in pencil and ink wash, using water brushes filled with various Indian ink tones. I then scanned the images into Photoshop to enhance contrast, clean up, and do final inking – and so I could move them around to create each page layout. The final print-ready book was put together in InDesign.
Are you working on any more books?
Yes! Now that Sky Orb is complete, I've started on a new graphic novel about a nerdy techy guy. I hope to publish it this year. After that may come the sci-fi trilogy that I've kept meaning to get around to. But we'll see what happens next... Could be a picture book instead. Who knows.
The first few pages of 'Beautiful'...