As required by law I’m posting on Black Friday about my newest book which you might wish to purchase. Here are a bunch of reviews!
Publishers Weekly starred review: “Ryan’s well-rounded sympathetic characterization and the scrappy energy in McNeil’s art make this a drama with true depth.”
Unshelved book club: “I’ve always thought that I could never live in a small town because I couldn’t stand everyone knowing my business. But I loved how this story unfolded to show that Failin had plenty of secrets.”
USA Today Pop Candy’s Week in Pop: “Ryan deserves props for her examination of why some people can’t let go of their stuff (physical and emotional), and Finder creator McNeil impresses me again with her ability to lure me into a comic within the first few panels.”
Reading Rants: “Each person in this intricate character-driven graphic novel will feel familiar as someone you know or love, and each one will lodge deeply in your heart…A well-told and astutely drawn story of fate and forgiveness.”
Darling Dork: “In my opinion, Bad Houses is one of the best graphic novels I’ve read in the last year, and I say that in spite of my general distaste for comics that aren’t at least a little fantastical. The writing is funny, smart and moving, and the art manages to serve the story well.”
Paste Magazine: “Bad Houses is not only notable among Dark Horse’s large catalog, where it could easily lie buried, but it deserves your attention as an excellent quarter life crisis work of graphic art.”
And because it wouldn’t truly be shameless self-promotion without links to ways to buy the book:
Thanks to everyone who’s been reading & spreading the word about Bad Houses!
Since Bad Houses is the first full-length graphic novel I’ve written, it’s likely to be some comics readers’ first experience of my work. If that describes you and you’d like to know more, a while back I had a great conversation with Sara Zarr on her This Creative Life podcast about everything from my writing routine to what I love about writing comics & collaborating with artists, to recurring themes in my work and whether or not I feel boxed in as an LGBT writer.
I also enthuse at some length about this excellent & creepy piece of art in my writing space:
Some of my other comics: a story in Hellboy: Weird Tales volume one with Steve Lieber, the only comic in the Welcome to Bordertown anthology with Dylan Meconis, a story in Comic Book Tattoo with Jonathan Case, a short-short called “Orienteering” with Erika Moen, and three stories about characters from my first novel Empress of the World, all included in the expanded reissue edition that came out last year.
Beyond that, although it is not itself in comics format, my essay in Chicks Dig Comics is very explicitly about my journey from comics reader to comics creator. Spoiler alert: it involves Elfquest. And Sandman.
Last night I went with a friend to the Rookie Yearbook Two event sponsored by Reading Frenzy, held at the Q Center. We arrived early enough to help set up chairs and observe the process of the excellent letter balloons getting inflated via bicycle pump. I cannot tell you for sure but I bet the balloons were this kind. They added a fine shiny festive quality to the stage.
There were a lot of people. This isn’t even everybody.
If you are unfamiliar with Rookie you may be wondering what exactly brought out this crowd. Rookie is a magazine for teenage girls that is okay with people who do not fit that demographic enjoying it too. The interviews are particularly good; try, for instance, The World Is Bound With Secret Knots and Girls With Power and Mystique.
Rookie has many contributors, but its driving force is founder and editor in chief Tavi Gevinson. Gevinson’s sensibility — curious, smart, and much more interested in appreciating than in denigrating — informs the magazine.
I’ve been following Gevinson’s work since the early days of her style rookie blog, and it was very cool both to see her and to see the crowd seeing her.
She read on her phone from what will be the December Rookie editor’s letter on the theme of Forever, and then took questions for a while. Yes, she’s going to college — she’s applying now. No, she doesn’t know what her major’s going to be. She regretted her inability to make a judgment call on birthday cake Oreos. Rookie behind-the-scenes involves but is not limited to long email chains, a private Facebook group and Skype sessions. To the girl who asked about finding similarly-minded friends, she recommended “everyone in this room. You have one thing in common already, right?”
In the afterword to Bad Houses, I mention my grandmother’s sewing box. That’s it in the photo above.
I don’t intend to turn this into ALL PROMOTION ALL THE TIME, but I do want to mention:
Rich Barrett at Mental Floss calls it one of the 5 most interesting comics of the week.
And Hillary Brown at Paste has a lovely thoughtful review.
Actually, after the party it’s the collapse.
Last night was the Bad Houses early release party and it was swell.
A friend brought flowers.
There was a nice mix of YA authors, library types, comics people, otherwise-unaffiliated friends & some folks I did not know (always exciting!). It was fun to play comics and neighborhood tourguide for attendees unfamiliar with either or both; among my recommendations: Equinox and Saga.
Today the crud I’ve been resisting has fully taken over.
Fortunately I am equipped with a stack of books and a television and the cat:
But if I were going to go out to a Halloween party, which I am not, I would emulate these ladies.
One of my favorite L.M. Montgomery lines — Philippa Gordon, describing her state of mind in Anne of the Island, says that she’s not blue, exactly, just a pale, elusive azure.
It’s a fair evocation of my mood as I write.
Now if you look at the post immediately preceding this, you may find that surprising.
Yes of course I’m still thrilled that Bad Houses is about to be on the shelves of comic shops and bookstores and libraries, and I’m so excited to celebrate with folks at Bridge City Comics on Friday.
But I’m also…azure.
Publishing a new book is a milestone, and I’m really glad it’s happening.
But it also makes me think about where I was in 2007, when the book before this one was new, and the people who were in my life then.
Some of them are gone now, and by gone I mean dead and I miss them and I wish they weren’t.
It’s tempting to end the post right there.
But I’ll bring it back around.
I’m also grateful for everyone who’s still here, and everyone who’s come into my life since; colleagues, readers, friends. (Some of you fit in multiple categories.)
Even after reviews have started coming in, it’s hard to believe a book exists until you have it in your hands.
Now I have it in my hands.
I couldn’t come up with a little song about it though.
Maybe I will by Friday?
I didn’t know a lot about Sirens when I made my reservation several months back.
I mean, sure, some of the books that were most formative for me as a reader and writer are fantasy, and yes, they’re by women authors, and so the notion of a gathering honoring women in fantasy literature did, in fact, resonate.
But I decided to go mostly because friends were going to be there and it was an easy drive.
What I thought I’d get: some time with said friends, in a setting that makes me feel smug about living in the Pacific Northwest.
What I actually got: That.
Plus provocative, passionate, just flat-out smart presentations by the guests of honor, thoughtful and intense conversations both inside and outside of the official programming, new friends, a vastly expanded to-read list, and twenty-four pages of notes in the notebook I cadged from the dermatologists’ conference just down the hall. I’ll spare you a complete transcription of said notes, but here are Seven Things I Wrote Down (and I hope I remembered the correct attributions for the quotes):
- Caroline Stevermer: “Match the character’s appearance to the skills they are alleged to have.” If character is wielding a giant sword, for example, they should have appropriate strength & reach.
- Delia Sherman: “The people who really understand how an oppressive system works are the ones oppressed by it.”
- Ysabeau Wilce: “Wear the clothes and do the jobs.” Understand how particular clothing enhances or impedes freedom of movement, know how long it takes to build a fire, prepare a meal, etc., in a setting close to the one you’re writing.
- Alaya Dawn Johnson: “When do people have their big meals? When you eat implies how you organize time as a culture.”
- Malinda Lo: “Investigate yourself/your own culture as though you’re a stranger.”
- Kate Elliott on gender roles: “We need to ask the classic question ‘Who benefits?’”
- Ellen Kushner on the need to posit different gender & sexuality norms in literature as a way to move toward a more progressive society: “You cannot enact something until you can imagine it.”
And yes, I’m planning to go next year.
I’ll be at Wordstock tomorrow, moderating the So Much For Normal panel with S.A. Bodeen, Anne Osterlund, and Keary Taylor, and generally lurking around in graphic novel & YA sessions. If you see me, ask for an invite to the Bad Houses early release party! (You don’t actually need an invite to go, I just happen to have some nice cards with the book cover & event details and am enthusiastic about distributing them.)
And a few days later, I’ll be at Sirens for the first time, speaking on a panel about diversity in YA along with Malinda Lo and Guadalupe Garcia McCall.
Excited about these events! But my brain keeps turning Wordstock into Woodstock and picturing something like this:
You know, what with things.
It’s a little hard to tell from the photo at that size, but the K nicely incorporates a chimney.