That’s right, I’m honestly, truly, starting a book. Can you believe it? I sure can, because it’s been the only thing I’ve thought about for the past freakin’ year.
It took me a whole lot of time to just get to this planning stage of writing the book, mostly because the way I talked to myself and others about it was so…negative. I was so afraid to start this book because I didn’t talk myself up enough, didn’t show enough of what I was capable of to those around me, and eventually, started seeing myself as someone who couldn’t actually do it.
But no more! I’m a whole new woman, now! I had to work through a lot of thoughts that said I wasn’t good enough, and I still have those self-doubts, but they’re now a small voice in the background instead of an obstacle in my way.
As some of y’all may have seen, I have been very inspired by magical girls/Sailor Moon lately, so the book I’ll be writing is very much that sort of direction! However, it’ll be a bit more modernized, and it’s going to be deeply queer. I loved the queer aspects of the original Sailor Moon, but I’m going to be adding so many more central queer characters, because listen, it can always be more queer. I’m all about putting the kind of content in the world that I want to see (and that I hope others want to see), so why not write that story full of magical queer people? I think it’s time.
I’ve been doing a world-building questionnaire to help me flesh out the magical concepts in this world, starting character sheets so I can fully understand each character in the story, and will eventually do some sort of loose outline that will help me stay on track for events in the story. I go back and forth between thinking I just need to jump into the novel and go, and knowing that I might need all of these planning materials to stay on track, because the longer I go without actually starting, there’s a less chance of me, y’know, actually starting the damn book. Ultimately, the planning materials are good for me, and have been getting me more excited for starting the book, while helping me explore more concepts to put in it than I originally thought of.
So, yes! Expect me to be getting more neurotic and more over-the-top artsy-fartsy as I dive into the grueling, but rewarding process of starting and finishing a novel! I will still try to work on some shorter pieces while working on the novel, as well as regularly updating y’all on here.
If you’d like to be a little more involved in the novel planning/writing process, I encourage you to check out my Patreon page! There is where I will be posting all of the character sheets, the world-building doc to explain how magic will work, and a slightly more detailed summary of the plot of this book. As I begin the writing process, I will also be sharing excerpts of the book, so this would be the best place to see it unfold as it’s being written. Your support would mean the world to me, and to thank you for this, you’ll get to see so much of the behind-the-scenes work that will go into writing this book! Neat!
I am super pumped to start this journey. I am elated that I’ve finally found the drive to finally start this novel that has been playing out in my head over and over, because it’s a story that I cannot wait to get out into the world. Be ready for more posts about the strenuous and emotional process of writing, Instagram posts of me at various coffee shops to get writing done, and a whole lot more ecstatic talk of magical things! This is essentially my brand, though. So…nothing new, there!
Being an online content creator immediately opens you up to this world of people who are so talented and inspiring, to the point where you just think “how are you not super famous?” In the very baby years of my vlogging endeavors, I came across the channel of a wonderful lady named Paige Lavoie, whom I later found out was way more than just a talented vlogger. She creates comics, she writes novels, she looks flawless pretty much 100% of the time, and every bit of her talent inspires me to do more with all of the content I create. Not only has she published a novel (a feat I have yet to accomplish), but she regularly creates comics, vlogs, all while continuing to put out more novels. How does she do it all? Well, she’s also a magical girl, so there’s that.
Because she’s such an inspiration to me, I asked her if she would be willing to answer several questions I had for her. I was thrilled when she agreed to it, because I knew her infectious charm would appeal to all of you, as well! So without further ado, let’s get into these questions!
When did you first start making web comics?
It had to be around when I was fifteen or sixteen, (It’s so crazy that that’s more than ten years ago now.) It was back in the Yahoo Geocites days. I remember scanning my super rough drawings and posting them for friends to check out, and trying to promote it on Myspace! It feels like a million years ago, now.
Is Pumpkin Spiced your first big comic, or were there others that came before it?
There was! I kept my webcomic from when I was a teenager going for a long time. It was called “The Graveyard Girls” and most of the characters from Pumpkin Spiced started in that gag-a-day comic strip. A lot of the humor was really sarcastic and fun to do, but I got to a point where I knew so much about these characters and I really wanted to share more about their stories and how they all came to get to know each other. They’ve changed and grown so much since then!
I absolutely love the character designs in Pumpkin Spiced. How did you come up them?
Oh wow! This is such a good question. Growing up I was really inspired by Tim Burton, and I think that still shines through in the comic. Edward Gorey has also been a huge influence. I feel like that combined with my love for Manga and cutesy street fashion ended up creating the creepy/cute look that you see in the comics.
Pumpkin Spiced has been with you quite a few years! How has the art/story developed as time has gone on?
It has changed so much from the beginning! Originally the story was going to revolve a lot more around Skarlett, and while she still has some major plotlines I want to follow in the future, what’s currently going on in the comic has her less at the center of it than readers might think.
I don’t want to give away too much- but somehow the story began to pivot away from Skarlett and more towards Penelope. I wrote about how she came to live with the girls in my short story “A Pumpkin Spiced Christmas” and I started to realize that so much of what’s going on in the comic right now revolves around her origin story. I’m getting closer to jumping into a small flashback arch, where readers will be seeing her pre-zombie for the first time ever, and I cannot wait! Plus, every time I get to draw her and Helga together I swoon. They are my personal favorite ship ❤
It’s all practicing, jotting down notes, and figuring out the characters. I still sketch while I write, and sometimes things pan out, and sometimes they get scraped. I have been seriously stuck to the past trying to figure out what to do next. It’s been challenging, and I’ve gotten sidetracked by little side stories. I have a whole stack of papers somewhere of story arches and plotlines I never ended up following. But all and all, I’m really happy with how the story has shaped up over the years.
You’ve also published a novel called Confidence: The Diary of an Invisible Girl, which is such an amazing feat! What was the process like of writing/publishing this novel?
It’s so hard for me to sum up. I wrote it during National Novel Writing Month, and it was a mad-dash of word-sprints, self-doubt, excitement, and tears. It sounds so dramatic, but Confidence was the first novel manuscript I had ever finished. It was scary, but also one of my proudest moments. I hit the end of the story on the very last day of November, and just barely reached 50k before I was out of time, and I’m glad I pushed myself so hard to finish it (even though at the time I was convinced it was terrible.)
It took me about a year to share it with my husband. I remember watching him like a hawk as he read through it- I wanted him to like it so badly! I questioned every raised eyebrow, smirk, and chuckle. I’m so thankful for his support. After the post-NaNoWriMo feelings settled in, I knew I liked the story, I knew I wanted to do something with it, but I honestly don’t know if it would have happened without his encouragement. I feel really lucky to have him on my team.
After that and reading it over a billion times, I hired my editor Jen Juneau Haupt (who is generally just an amazing person and so talented) she did fantastic at pointing out places for me to fill in plot holes, fixing up my crazy grammar and giving me fantastic feedback. I worked with her on my upcoming novel as well, and I love working with her.
I decided to self-publish, and went through Createspace. My husband and I worked together to design the cover, we thumbnailed a million designs, I put up polls on Facebook to get votes, and we ended up landing on the journal/convention design. He did the artwork on it and I’m so pleased with how it turned out (he also did the formatting, because he is a superhero. Haha! I’m going to make him blush when he reads this.)
We learned a lot through the process, It took a long time and was fun, frustrating, and scary. It’s such a cliché but all of the stress and long nights felt worth it when I got to hold the finished book in my hands, and flip through the pages. My heart was racing when we clicked the “publish” button to make it go live on Amazon ❤
How would you compare the experience of writing novels vs. the experience of creating comics?
They both have their challenges, but I can write a lot faster than I can create comics. Whenever I’m working on either I try to get sucked into the story, and picture all of the details like I’m watching a movie. translating that into comics can be a little harder sometimes. Both definitely have their pros and cons.
Would you say that one is more challenging than the other?
Comics Is more of a challenge for me. I’m not the fastest artist, and I struggle with trying to get the comic page to look how it does in my head, But with writing, that’s something that I feel like, even if I get stuck, generally, I can fly through. Yes, there are still tricky scenes to workout, I’m going to need to step away, rethink, and organize my thoughts, but when I write, I don’t have to worry about drawing hands!
Just because I’m curious…which of the characters that you’ve created (in your novels or comics) do you relate to the most?
Barbara Jenkins from Confidence: The Diary of an Invisible Girl all the way! I didn’t realize it when I was first writing the story, but a lot of her awkward quirks, like leaving sing-song voicemails and generally overthinking are very inspired by myself.
On top of all of this talent you have, you also run such an entertaining Youtube channel (which I watch religiously). What kind of content do you enjoy making for your channel?
Recently, I’ve been really enjoy doing the webcomic Q&A videos. It’s a great way to interact with my community and share the tidbits of knowledge about topics I know they’re interested in. I also like how it’s a little bit more causal feeling than my “How to Make Webcomics” videos.
I do feel some pressure in speaking so directly to my viewers, I always want to make sure the advice I give is clear and helpful. But, I think that, for me, it makes it feel really rewarding to create and post those videos. We all go through creative slumps, but it’s humbling whenever someone says a video of mine helped them through a bad day of writing or drawing. Sometimes I can’t even processes that a video I made could do that for someone. It’s mind-blowing, and right now as I type this I’m having a hard time summing up the feeling with words.
It makes me really happy, and I want to create creative content that makes people feel empowered to go out and create something wonderful.
What kind of creative satisfaction do you get from making videos that you don’t get from comic writing or writing novels?
It’s a overall faster experience. I can shoot a video, edit it, and have it online within the day (although let’s be honest, editing can sometimes take forever, lol.) I love how quickly I can share the content with the world.
If each of the main Pumpkin Spiced ladies had their own vlogging channels, what do you think they’d all vlog about?
Oh this is super fun!
Violett would totally have a “storytime/rant” Youtube channel.
Penelope would have a cooking channel, and try her best to leave brains out of her recipes.
Isabell would have a sewing/DIY channel.
I feel like Skarlett would either team up with Isabell for the sewing channel- or maybe make travel videos.
And Trixi would do a lot of anime reviews, unboxing and kawaii makeup tutorials….and a whole lot of shoe hauls.
(Characters left to right: Isabell, Penelope, Skarlett, Trixi, Violett)
When you’re not busy writing, vlogging, or drawing, what are some of your favorite things to do?
I love cooking. I’ve been doing more of it recently, and having a lot of fun playing around in the kitchen. We had a bunch of friends over for a Christmas shin-dig last month and I did a super cute brunch menu and made eggnog French toast and a breakfast casserole, as well as tiny chicken and waffle sandwiches that lasted…maybe two minutes? It was definitely a win!
Sometimes my kitchen experiments go well, sometimes they’re not so great. But kind of like like writing stories, everything I make is practice. You just put your heart into something and hope the people receiving it will enjoy it, and it warms a part of their soul. Oh wow, I totally sound like a shoujo manga protagonist, right now.
*strikes pose and glitter sparkles fly everywhere*
I also love exploring my city, checking out everything from themeparks to small local happenings. And if I’m having a lazy introverted day, it’s very likely I’m reading a visual novel or clicking through a otome game. 😛
Any new projects you’re working on that you can talk about?
Yes! So right now, I’m getting ready to release my second novel. It’s a modern day Frankenstein story, that I’ve been explaining to people as “My Fair Lady meets Steel Magnolias.” The story has a female “monster” as the main character, and I loved creating the person she wakes up as, and grows into as the story progresses.
Currently the story is still untitled…which has honestly been keeping me up at night. I want the name to be perfect, you know? I’m hoping it just hits me like a ton of bricks before the month is over. But we shall see? The goal is for this novel to come out in Spring of 2017. One can only hope it will have a name by then.
And I’m currently finishing up a manuscript with the working title “Broommates” about teenages who are banished from magic school to a bed and breakfast in Portland. It’s around 77k words right now, and so close to being finished and ready for revisions. It’s been a really cute YA (Young Adult) novel that ended up feeling a lot like a summercamp romance.
I received the advice on a writers retreat to let your rough draft sit for at least a week or a month before jumping into revisions/editing, and work on something else, so I have a small pile on manuscripts ready to revise and polish up that I’m hoping to jump into before the end of the month!
Now before we go, what advice would you give to anyone looking to jump into a big project like writing a novel or creating a web-comic?
Don’t wait until your art or writing is at a “certain level” to start. Jump into the deep end and just start creating. If a novel seems too scary try out a short story! Just start creating something that you can be proud of. The best way to get better, is to start practicing and what better way to practice than to start doing something you love?
There are going to be good days, and bad days, but just think about the work you want to create, the characters you want to exist, and their stories. You’re the only one who has the power to make them exist in the real world, and bring them to life through your writing and your drawing. Keep going, keep doing your personal best, and remember: you’re not alone.
Thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed by little old me! Where can people find you on the Internet?
I’ve come to a point in writing a novel that no writer really wants to come to, especially when they’re participating in National Novel Writing Month: I think I’m giving up on it. Maybe just for the time being, but also possibly because I’m not vibing with the plot, anymore.
Initially, I was incredibly disappointed when I came to this realization about the novel. Even at this moment, it’s bringing up some of those feelings of not being a true writer, because this will probably be just another conglomeration of words that I throw into the pile of other words that don’t make it to the finish line. It makes me doubt my skills as a writer, because I get so many people (myself included) excited that I’m working on something BIG and COOL and that will make me feel AMAZING when it’s done…only to get 16,285 words into it, saying “hmm, you know what? This idea just isn’t me.” Like, if I can’t even write things that I feel in my soul for a novel-lengthed period of time, what am I even doing with my passion for writing? Right? (Wrong, most likely, but still.)
But at the same time, this has been a pretty refreshing experience. I’m a firm believer in no word going wasted in a novel/story/blog post/whatever you may be clacking away at on your computer, because it all has a purpose, even if that purpose isn’t immediately evident. While it’s easy for me to believe that I wasted my time writing 16,285 words of a novel that may never come to fruition, there are so many reasons to believe that those thousands of words actually benefited me in my journey of writing. Without those thousands of words, I wouldn’t have learned that lovey-dovey romance stories just aren’t things I enjoy writing about. Without those thousands of words, I might not have realized that, if I told the story from the cupid’s point of view as opposed to the guy going through the motions of finding love, that the story could have an entirely different meaning.
Without those thousands of words, I simply wouldn’t have grown as a writer.
Though I’m disappointed that I won’t make it to the 50,000 word goal for NaNoWriMo, I don’t feel cheated out of finding my own satisfaction on where this month took me. Sure, hitting the goal would have been great, but not at the cost of forcing myself to write something that I didn’t feel truly passionate about. I really have to stand behind the stories writing to feel like it will be a success, and though I started out believing that this novel would be, I’m okay with the fact that it didn’t stay that way.
What matters most is the fact that I’m still passionate about writing, and like every other novel I stopped, this is just another speed bump in actually finishing one sometime in the future. I have several ideas for stories and a non-stop drive to get content out into the world, and as long as I don’t give up on that drive to create, then I can still consider myself a good writer.
So if something like this ever happens to you, just know that it’s not because you’re bad at what you do, or that you’re not creative enough to get over the block. It’s such a normal thing for creators to encounter, and I’m sure several accomplished authors, artists, photographers, musicians, and whatever type of creator you can think of would say the same thing. As long as you don’t let these blocks get in the way of your passion to keep creating, then you haven’t truly given up on achieving your goals in doing what you love.
As a quick little side note, I posted all of the 16,285 words I wrote for National Novel Writing Month this month on my Patreon page for $3+ per month patrons, so if you’re interested in taking a gander at some raw, unedited creations, feel free to head on over there! There are definitely a lot of fun moments that I’m proud of in the story, and though this particular novel might not be something I continue, I’ll definitely cherish those moments. I mean hey, I can possibly use them (or situations like them) for future stories, so that’s definitely something to look forward to!
Okay, so maybe not literal insanity, but definitely some resemblance of it.
But yes! National Novel Writing Month has started! I’m so excited to be working on a novel, and this time of the year is definitely a great way to get motivated! Essentially, the goal for all the participants of NaNoWriMo is to get to 50,000 words by the end of the month, which isn’t necessarily a full novel, but is definitely a giant start. I’ve participated twice before, and only succeeded one of those times, so let’s hope I can do that again.
I’m so pumped about this event, that I wore this shirt on the first day:
There has never been a more honest shirt, out there.
As I’m writing this, it’s day two of this month of non-stop writing, having written only 506 words on the first day. But hey, this is fine! I’ve got time, and given I work 40 hours a week and have obligations at home, even just starting is a great step! It would be nice if I could meet that daily word goal of 1,667, but life happens, so we just gotta roll with the punches and work harder when we have the time!
Something I’ll be trying to do this month is specifically set time to write a few times a week, time where I won’t go out with friends, get interrupted by TV, and just write. What I’ve learned is that, if you take your independent creative projects seriously, and set the time aside for them as if it was an actual job, then those around you will also take it seriously. Incorporating that into this goal of getting to 50,000 words by the end of the month is definitely something that will help, not just for times like this, but in a life of content creating, in general.
For all those out there who are participating, I bid you good luck, and an endless flow of coffee/caffeinated beverages of your choice! Even if you don’t get to 50k words, at least you started! Starting is the hardest part, and that’s what this month is all about. No need to feel discouraged if you don’t reach the goal; you already achieved something huge just by jumping into it!
If you’d like to be writing buddies with me, here’s my NaNoWriMo profile! I’d love to see what everyone is writing during this crazy (but exciting) month.
Also, if you want to see snippets of my novel as I’ve been writing it, please feel free to become a patron via my Patreon page! I’m doing a ~special~ where $3+ patrons will get all snippets/NaNoWriMo related content during the month of November, that way it’s a little cheaper (it’s usually $5 a month for sneak peeks of my work) to be a part of. Don’t feel obligated, though! Your support would be very much appreciated, but not required!
And lastly (sorry about all these plugs!) if you’d like to know what kind of content I’ll be posting during the month of November due to National Novel Writing Month being a thing, check out my latest video!
Happy NaNoWriMo, everyone! It’s guaranteed that we’ll all go a little bit insane during this month, but be sure to take breaks when necessary to avoid a total descent into that abyss. Again, no guarantees.