- Tell us about the featured book. What is it about, and why did you choose to write this story?
The Last Pick Trilogy begins with an alien invasion where they take everyone away between the ages of 16 and 65. They leave behind the ones they believe to be too young, too old, or too "disabled". Under the aliens’ harsh authoritarian rule, humanity’s rejects do their best to survive. Their captors never considered them a threat―until now.
I have been teaching in special education for over two decades now. Much of that work has been trying to help my older students prepare for the work world and to bridge connections between them and the businesses that need to hire.
Unfortunately, this is often more difficult than you would think. We often talk a big game when it comes to disability inclusion, but the reality is that many places of work consider any adaptations that they might need to make to help someone be successful at the job to be too intrusive, and they often never give the neurodiverse an opportunity at all.
We have a long way to go as a society when it comes to equity and inclusion. I wanted the aliens in LAST PICK to represent the very worst of humanity while those rejected by the aliens would represent all the wonderful diversity on this planet that is often overlooked or ignored.
- Tell us a little about your writing process. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
I often get a tiny idea that gets locked in my brain and keeps me awake in bed a bit each night. It just sort of lives there for weeks or months until it starts to take shape and spread out a bit. Once it seems like it wants to get bigger than just floating around in my imagination, I start writing down ideas and seeing if I can whip it into a story I'm excited about telling.
Since I also draw all my work, I can keep the details in my outline and script simple. It's just really important that the skeleton of the story is strong because once I start drawing, it can waste a whole lot of my time if I'm moving toward something that just isn't working out. This traditional writing part of the process is always the most difficult for me, and I'm always trying to hurry it along so that I can get to the drawing part.
After my editor has helped me whip the script into shape, I hunch over the drawing table and get to work. This is the only way that I really know how to tell the story well. Up until then, it's just me trying to convince other people (and myself) that it will all work out in the end.
- Are there any writers or authors who have influenced your writing? If not, who are some of your favorite writers?
I grew up on comics, but as a kid I was never aware of who wrote or drew what. I just followed storylines that I liked. So let me cheat this answer a bit and say that the Spider Man comics in the 80s really shaped my story telling. His stories that worked best balanced humanity and heart with spectacle. I try really hard to do the same each time I'm telling a story. Character always comes first for me.
Currently, I know that I love a graphic novel or comic creator because their work makes me way more jealous and angry than I should really admit. While I'm reading them there is a constant voice in my head asking "How come I never thought to do that?", or "How did they do that?" Here's a short list in no particular order: Craig Thompson, Zoe Thorogood, Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, Neil Gaiman, and Brian K. Vaughan.
- What inspired you to start writing? What is your favorite place to go for inspiration and/or your favorite place to write?
I've been making comics for as long as I can remember. I'm not sure if inspiration started me on this path or if it just fit who I was as a kid. I had to go to church FOUR times a week, and I was always painfully bored doing it. Luckily I was always allowed to bring paper and a pencil. I also grew up in the country without many neighbors, and I was never really into sports. Drawing and creating stories was how I passed the time.
These days I hope that an inspired idea pops into my brain while showering, walking, or just daydreaming, but once it's there and it's time to do the hard work of creating a book, I don't wait for inspiration anymore. I make myself sit down every weekday and get 6-8 hours of work done each time. If I only worked when inspired, I would never get anything done. I treat comic making like a regular job.
- When you’re not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Being part of a family means there's always something going on. We keep REALLY busy. My spare time is often after my boys get to bed. If I'm free to do whatever, I usually choose to stream or read science fiction.
I can also do a mean Etch-a--sketch if left alone long enough.
- Favorite place to go to in Minnesota?
Agharta Records or Source Comics and Games. Should I have listed a museum or state park? Once an indoor kid, always an indoor kid.
- Where can readers find you online?