Q | How did you become interested in drawing and writing comics?
A | I watched a ton of cartoons growing up, and that influenced the stuff I liked to draw: cartoony characters, animals, kids. I started reading comics when I was nine, and it wasn’t long before I began creating my own.
Q | Were there any special teachers who inspired you?
A | My first-grade teacher, Miss Stoopenkoff, kept an exchange journal with each student. She would ask us to write entries in letter format, then she would write a letter back, asking questions and setting up the next writing prompt. I was allowed to illustrate my entries, which I hugely enjoyed.
In Ms. Mitchell’s creative writing class in high school, I keyed in to how the students who wrote funny pieces got the best responses. I strove to make my writing funny and personal.
Q | What is Drama about? Is it autobiographical?
A | It’s about a group of kids putting on a play at their middle school. It’s told from the point of view of seventh grader Callie, who works backstage because she adores theater but can’t sing a note! Then, she meets twin brothers who turn her world upside down.
Unlike Smile, my last graphic novel, Drama is not autobiographical, but it does have roots in real life. I became a low-key theater geek in high school, singing in ensembles and crowd scenes. I spent a lot of time in the wings, observing the dynamic between the actors and the stagehands. Through this community I met two of my best friends, a charismatic set of twin brothers. Our friendship felt pretty epic at the time.
Q | Why do you think graphic novels appeal to kids?
A | Words and pictures together are powerful! And so much fun. When I first started reading comic strips, it was only a matter of weeks before I began making my own. Any kid can pick up a pencil and paper and create a short comic. Do it once, and you’re empowered to do it again.