The cartoonist and comic book author’s new book, Marbles, chronicles her personal struggle with bipolar disorder.
Where do you live and how old are you? Seattle, 44
Do you need any formal training to make comic books? No. I’d be considered self-taught, though I consider all the cartoonists and comics I read as my teachers.
How did you get into this line of work? I think I’ve always been a cartoonist. I remember even when I was little, telling myself stories as I drew pictures. I drew comics through high school, college but only decided to become a professional in my early twenties, after graduating from Wesleyan University with a degree in psychology. The first comics I did with the intent of getting it published was bought by Ms. Magazine, which then opened a lot of doors.
Are you self-employed? Yes. For Marbles, I had a production assistant for six months and a couple of interns, but that’s unusual for me.
Do you need an agent to be a successful graphic novelist? I don’t know if it’s necessary, but the cartoonists I know that have put out books do have agents.
Do you make a living as a graphic novelist or do you supplement with a side job? Everything would go under the umbrella cartoonist/artist/professor. I teach comics at Cornish College of the Arts, and I’d still consider teaching comics as part of my being a cartoonist. I also do commissioned original art, illustrations. Some art miscellany, like I’m doing two large-scale murals for a light rail station here in Seattle, slated to open in 2016.
What does it take to be a great graphic novelist? Dedication, passion, and a natural storytelling ability. A willingness to work hard, not knowing what lies in store—fame or obscurity—because the satisfaction of making comics might need to be enough. And networking helps!
What’s the best part of your job? I get to make lots of comics! The creative pursuit I’m most passionate about. And getting to do them all the time allows me to perpetually hone my skills, which is very satisfying.
What’s the worst part of your job? Not much pay, no group health benefits.
Would you recommend this line of work to anyone else? I’d recommend it to people who are passionate about making comics, and probably already do them in their sketchbooks or journals. Most of the cartoonists I know just couldn’t imagine doing anything else.