Interview with Mariko Tamaki for Reading Matters 2017
Mariko Tamaki is an award-winning Canadian writer best known for her graphic novels Skim and This One Summer, with Jillian Tamaki. Her most recent YA prose novel is the wonderful Saving Montgomery Sole. Mariko will be appearing at the Reading Matters conference from 1-7 of June, including two events at the Reading Matters public day on Sunday 4 June: ‘Speculative Fiction’ with Rachael Craw and Jay Kristoff, and a free writing workshop for under 20s, ‘Comics!’. Click here to book your tickets now!
Inky: If you could have anyone read your books, who would it be and why?
MT: I hope all my high school and university English teachers have read my books, because they were so crucial in getting me to where I am. I guess that’s sort of the equivalent of wanting your drawing pinned up on the fridge. Beyond that I hope lots of funny and interesting people read my books.
Inky: Are there YA novels you’ve read as an adult that you think would’ve been a vital read for you or your peers when you were a teen?
MT: I think every kid should read Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, but that’s MG. For YA we should all probably read S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and I think everyone should read Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye at least once. That’s some Canadian YA.
Inky: What are you currently reading, loving and recommending?
MT: I just finished How to Survive a Plague by David France, which I can’t recommend enough. I’m reading Sarah Manguso’s 300 Arguments and Douglas Adams’ The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, which are very different and both amazing.
Inky: What are you working on right now and when can we expect it out in the world?
MT: I’m currently writing the Hulk series for Marvel and a MG series of prose books based on the Lumberjanes comics for Abrams. I have a graphic novel I’m working on with Rosemary Valero-O’Connell called Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me that’s in process as well, which should be out 2018-ish.
Inky: This One Summer has been challenged and banned at a few schools across the US. What are your thoughts on censorship and gatekeepers?
MT: I am not a fan of censorship. I think every person has a right to not like or not read a book. But I think removing a book from a library or school because it has content you have deemed inappropriate is problematic. The top 5 books on the list of books challenged in 2016 were challenged for LGBTQ content, which is a way of labelling LGBTQ content, and LGBTQ people, as inappropriate. Which we are not. I think there needs to be more discussion about how we approach content we are uncomfortable with, and schools and libraries are the best place for that discussion to happen. I want that discussion to take place. Like, now. Now and MORE would be good.
Inky: For Supergirl: Being Super you work alongside illustrator Joëlle Jones. What was the process of reinventing and bringing Supergirl to life for DC Comics like?
MT: I really didn’t think of it as reinventing. I thought of it as a chance to tell a story about being a teenager, who happens to also be able to fly and crush rocks with her bare hands. So a really cool teenage story. Joëlle Jones is a dream to work with.
Inky: What are some of the similarities and differences between comic writing and prose writing?
MT: Prose writing takes considerably longer. You’re solely responsible for the whole world with prose, so it takes a lot more effort.
Inky: What do you love most about collaborating with others and does the process differ depending on who you’re working with?
MT: It always differs. I love collaborating. A lot of the great art you see in this world was made by a lot of people working together. Television is like that. Movies are like that. Theater is like that too. Books are like that, because books, even when one person writes them, have editors. I love the part of making comics that involves other people telling a story with you, it makes the story bigger, for me.
Inky: Why do you write coming-of-age stories for young adults?
MT: Why not? It’s super fun. Teenagers are really interesting. And coming of age just means time. It’s teenagers in time. You could probably do the same thing with adults. We’re all coming of age too.
Inky: What are you most looking forward to about coming to Australia?
Meeting amazing Australians.
Inky: Thanks for chatting with us Mariko! We can’t wait to see you in June!