Mariko and I have a history. In 2005, we spent nine days together in a compact car, touring around the east coast to promote my anthology Girls Who Bite Back.
But I first met her through her writing. Mariko's novella Cover Me (published waaaay back in 2000) spoke to me like a good friend whispering funny, lewd secrets right into my ear. After that, I devoured everything she wrote. In fact, my little magazine Kiss Machine published a short version of her graphic novel Skim (about a teen girl who's anything but "skim"), which later went on to become a full-length book that was nominated for a Governor General's Award in the Children's Lit Category.
It's timely that I'm interviewing her right now. Her most recent graphic novel (illustrated by the superbly Jillian) was also nominated for another Governor General's Award in the Young Adult Category.
Emily: How does it feel to be nominated for a Governor General's Award? A second time.
Mariko: Thrilling. Even more so because my cousin and collaborator Jillian Tamaki is nominated.
Emily: Why do you write?
Mariko: Because I love it. I can't imagine doing anything else.
Emily: What's the hardest thing about writing?
Mariko: Making the time to do it and getting started. I'm like most writers I know, in that I have a full time job. So writing is something I do in the morning, after work, over the weekends. It's a very all encompassing thing to slot into a specific time frame. Also when I'm in the middle of writing I'm 80% in a book most of the time, which can make it hard to do anything else. Like, talk to people.
Emily: Tell me what the process of writing a novel looks like to you.
Mariko: I typically have a very strong idea of what I want the story to be about. Like I'll get the twist, I'll see the setting and the characters. I'll have a few key moments, small scenes. And then I start writing. I keep a notebook for jotting things down when I'm not at my computer. And, at some point, everything I thought was important to the story at the beginning of the process, washes away by the end. Case in point, almost every book I've ever written has started with a prologue and almost every prologue has been edited out. It's a process of reaching out and letting go all at once.
Emily: How is that process different from writing a graphic novel?
Mariko: Graphic novels are collaborative. I start with the idea, write a script, the shape of which will depend on the artist I'm working with (with Jillian it's mostly just narration and dialogue with some loose scene description). Then, once I've handed it over, the story evolves as the book starts to take shape, which is really a combined effort. We work together to iron out scenes, fix characters. Then the artist goes away and does the heavy lifting of actually drawing the book. Which is basically like drawing a thousand drawings. Which I appreciate as a tremendous effort. I know I'm very fortunate to be a part of these duos. And I love doing it.
Emily: Which other writers are most inspiring/exciting to you at the moment?
Mariko: I really dug Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. I'm a huge Emily Schultz fan. I think Emily's book, The Blondes, is just stunning. In terms of comics, I love Lisa Hanawalt (who's work you can see on Netflix's Bojack Horseman), Hellen Jo, Maurice Vellekoop, and Kate Beaton. I recently purchased Jennifer LoveGrove's Watch How We Walk, which I'm super excited to read. And of course, I love Jillian Tamaki's work. She has a hilarious and smart online comic SuperMutant Magic Academy everyone should go read.
Each Friday, while I'm the eWriter in Residence at TPL Teens, we'll be posting a brief interview with a Canadian young adult author. This first one was conducted by lil ol' me, but the others will be done by local teens. I'm super excited to read them myself, so check back!