Lilah Sturges – Lumber Janes! Girl Haven!

Today Melissa is joined by writer Lilah Sturges as they talk about Lumber Janes (great series), Girl Haven and a whole lot more!

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Lilah Sturges Interview

[00:00:00] Melissa: this is spoiler country and I’m Melissa searcher today on the show. I’m really excited to be joined by Eisner nominated prison. Award-winning comic book writer, Lilah, Sturges. Welcome to the show.

Lilah Sturges: Hi, thanks for having me.

Melissa: Thanks for being here. How are you doing tonight?

Lilah Sturges: I’m doing really, really well. Getting ready for Christmas.

All the peasants are purchased. Nice. I think I’m good

Melissa: guide. You’re all prepared.

Lilah Sturges: That’s right.

Melissa: Awesome. Well yeah, let’s get started. I really appreciate you coming on tonight. I’ve been really excited to talk to you. I’m a big fan. So thank you for being here. And I, yeah, I just want to start with, you know, early on in your career, you were one of the founders of clockwork storybook.

How did that experience help shape you as a writer?

Lilah Sturges: Wow. I haven’t heard those words in a while. Your homework? Well, clockwork service is a really really fascinating thing. [00:01:00] And everyone in it sort of went on to do great things.  It was started by bill Belingham at a time where he wasn’t really doing much in comics and he wanted to start a writing group of UPROSE writers.

And we were all sort of people who knew each other through the comic book shop here in Austin. And So there were four of us and we started writing and bill was, and obviously, and Chris Robertson was another one. And I was one of them obviously, and a fellow by the name of Mark fin was the fourth one.

The case has gone on to be a renowned Robert D. Howard scholar among many other things. So it was Fruitful little bunch. It definitely gave me a taste for writing professionally and sort of taught me a lot about writing in general. We’ve met every week for several hours every Wednesday. And we had to bring something to read every week.

And so it sort of spurred us to always be writing, always be critiquing. I’m always talking [00:02:00] about writing and that went on for several years. So I think we all learned an absolute ton during that time.

Melissa: Nice. And, and during around that time and correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you were writing Midwinter and which is a novel UPROSE novel that you wrote with also a SQL the opposite shadow.

How does, how does that writing process differ from when you’re writing comics?

Lilah Sturges: It said different and I just started writing a novel recently sort of bringing back that sort of appraise way of thinking. I think for me, it’s mostly in terms of. Of space and structure because when you’re writing pros there’s no end of the page.

There’s the end of the comic. There’s no there really no limitation as to how wordy you can be except the limits of your imagination. So whereas with clinics, you’re always thinking about, you know, how much room do I have, how where’s this and on the page, is there a page turn? How long until the end of the issue, there’s so much structure and comics that [00:03:00] is.

Because comics is so much about the way in which it’s presented visually. Right? Whereas prose, you can you can read a novel, a book, you can write it on a screen, a bunch of paper. It doesn’t really matter. It’s the words the same. But you change the dimensions of a comic and everything changes, right?

Yeah. So that’s a big difference. Also, always ex complain. When I when I start writing pros and cons like, Oh God, now I have to describe stuff. I didn’t have to do that in caucus, just telling the artists, like, there’s this thing and there’s not there. And that guy over there and he’s there and it doesn’t have to be pretty.

I want it to be functional. The artists, you know, they don’t like it when you get too flowery and your panel descriptions. So, yeah, so that is, that is definitely a thing, but I’m really enjoying the book that I’m writing now. And I can just sort of write it at my own pace, which is nice because.

Melissa: Oh, good.

Yeah. I was actually going to ask you if you’re going to write anymore prose novels. So what’s like the timeline on that. Do you [00:04:00] think do you have a goal in mind of when you want to finish it by?

Lilah Sturges: I do. I’m having a pension at the end of February. It’s a it is a Y a novel and those are typically a little shorter.

And then you know, adult fiction. So hopefully by the end of February, I will have it Diane. And then. My agent can read it and tell me everything that’s wrong with that. And I can rewrite it and do it,

Melissa: do the revisions and do like nine drags. Yeah, well, that’s awesome. I’d also I know you’ve written for Marvel DC.

It’s imprint vertigo, just to name a few in. In what is still a very straight white male dominated industry. Did you, what were some of the challenges you faced during and after your transition?

Lilah Sturges: Well, I tricked them. Didn’t I like here’s another straight CIS white man. Welcome to the club, dude. Come on in.

I dunno. It’s [00:05:00] like.

Actually about it was, it was interesting, you know, there is in comics and there certainly was back then, I guess you can say back then now, has it been like 15 years? Things were more bro ish. And I remember one time talking to an editor of mine. And I said, why, you know, why don’t you hire more female writers?

And he said, I just don’t know. I don’t know any, I know where to find them. And I was like, You can do like women are like half of people at the time that you could find one, if you really tried, it was a different head space that so many people were in. And I think that the shame of it was that when you are perceived as now in that culture, that.

So much of the bad stuff that’s happening is like, you don’t know that it’s there and you [00:06:00] don’t really care either. Cause there’s there’s no, it doesn’t impinge on you anyway, you know, and it wasn’t until after I transitioned and I started talking to women who had been there. About their experiences and what they were like, but I was like shocked and horrified because, you know, women, we talk about these experiences with each other, but it’s not like you know, until sort of the me too thing happened, people weren’t going around saying, Hey, let me tell you about the horrible stuff that this guy is doing to me, like on the, you know, on the street corner.

Right. And so that sort of bro culture is kind of like one of the things great. Everything’s fine. No, one’s complaining. That’s the insularity of it is amazing in that regard. Right? Like you don’t know, you don’t want to know you don’t care.

Melissa: Yeah.

Lilah Sturges: Yeah.  So for me in that world, you know, I always felt like obviously kind of like an imposter.

I dunno, it’s felt like. I didn’t really belong. And I had this sort of like feeling of like, Oh God, what if they find out it’s there was like, no way that we’re going to [00:07:00] find out anything about me. I didn’t even really know what was going on with me in those days. You know? Like I just knew that there was something different.

I’m not like the other boys, you know, it took, we kind of went out to, to gel. And I was like, Oh, it’s cause I’m not a boy at all, a woman. And so yeah. Yeah, night and day in terms of how I experienced the industry, whether, you know, when presenting as a man and sort of doing, you know, DCU, superhero, comic, punchy maps, you know, and and being perceived as a woman and writing like Lumberjanes, you know, very different roles, maybe not really overlap.

And that’s kind of beautiful, like comics, there’s so much in comics. Now there they’re different worlds in comics. It’s not all one big plump, you know, it’s like, it used to be, you had the big two and kind of like the secondary publishers and then you’d have like indie comics play out there somewhere.

You know what I mean? [00:08:00] And then I was just like, there’s just comics everywhere who can even keep track of it all, you know, more like the two, like, I don’t know that they’re even the biggest, like Raina Telgemeier is the most successful. Comic book creator by a million, you know?

Melissa: Yeah. Well, I think they’re like the two most iconic, but yeah, I think you might be right.

They’re not, they might not be the biggest two anymore with all of these new up and coming creators and indie comics that, you know, might not be Indy for long if they keep being successful as they are.

Lilah Sturges: It’s not to say that I don’t have a lot of love for DCM Marvel. Loved them, but for a very long time, I don’t want people to be like,

Melissa: yeah, you appreciate it for what it was and, and how it helped you in your career. But at the same time you’re looking to the future.

Lilah Sturges: Yeah.

Melissa: You’ve also spoken openly about challenges you faced as a mom versus being a dad when you were perceived as male.

Do you [00:09:00] think that perspective has influenced your writing at all?

Lilah Sturges: Oh, my gosh. You’ve really done your homework,

you know, when they interviewed me and they’re like, so you wrote a book?

Yes. Well, it’s a very different it’s a very different relationship, isn’t it? I guess, you know, when I was. Pre-transition I was a much more closed off person in general. And I had trouble relating to just about everyone. You know, some of the other people that I’ve talked to were like you have before you transitioned, like, you seem like a nice person, but you seem really standoffish.

And I didn’t really know how to talk to you. And I wasn’t, I was just really uncomfortable with myself and that extended to my parenting as well. And when I transitioned, first of all, both of my daughters were amazing when I transitioned and they were just completely accepting and it was weird for them.

It was weird for everyone, you know? But they weren’t great. And you know, and they think of [00:10:00] me as one of their moms. And, and that’s what I think of myself as a mom. And it is, it is a little different, it’s more especially cause I have girls, you know, so there is that sort of woman, woman bond in a way.

I don’t know. It’s difficult to generalize because every coaching relationship is vastly different. But I think in all of those ways, it’s, it’s made my relationships more. It’s given them more depth and more new ones. And so I definitely bring that to my writing. I think in terms of the relationships that I want to see on the page, I want to focus on relationships that have more depth than they won’t that’s for sure.

Melissa: Yeah. And you, and you ended up doing that really well with Lumberjanes. Yeah, I would. I’d love to know. How did you get involved in that series?

Lilah Sturges: It’s funny. I was. Out of the blue. I got a call from an editor [00:11:00] at boom, and they were doing a Graphic novel adaptation of the magicians. And I, I don’t know why they called me.

I don’t think I was their first choice. But they did call me and and I said yes, I would love to do that. I’d love to work with Brisbane. And I started writing in the script. And I think, I think they were kind of surprised at how good it was. They were like, wow, we weren’t expecting it to be this good.

And I’m like, well, take that as a kind of an insult, you know? So it was, the script was started going around the boom offices and Jeanine Schaefer who had taken over the, the Lumberjanes. Editorial duties or, or this portion of it anyway, was looking for someone to do Lumberjanes graphic novel. And again, I was not the first person they had like quit or couldn’t do it in time or something.

And you know, and I was like, I don’t care. I’ll do it. [00:12:00] And I was, you know, I was super excited because I loved it. Number Jane’s already as a reader. And I loved that it was very queer, friendly and queer focused, and I loved it that it had a trans girl character in it. So I was, I jumped at the chance to ride it and I got to write three really fun graphic novels.

The last one just came out a couple months ago,

Melissa: colors. Right. And that completes the trilogy that started with internal compass. Okay. Without giving too much away. What made you decide to take Ripley’s story arc and the direction that you went with?

Lilah Sturges: What was it? I think, you know, are a couple of reasons.

One is that each of the three books focused on two of the main characters, right? So the first one was Mel and Molly and their relationship, which was very sweet and fun. And the second one was Joe in April and that’s sort of their friendship. And then the third book that [00:13:00] sort of left Jen and Ripley I was trying to think, well, what can I do with Jenna Ripley?

Like what would be interesting, you know? And excuse me, the, the thing that sort of peaked my interest was that Ripley has always been this kind of nutty person, you know it’s very much herself, very You know, happy to be different, happy to be kind of out there and wacky. And she was she’s the youngest of the group.

And so the expectations on her are a little different. And so I thought, well, what if Ripley suddenly started to become self-aware and that way that would become self-aware in middle school, like, Oh wait, like, how does my behavior actually affect the opinions of people around me? You know, and that was sort of a watershed thing for me.

Being, being a kid I was a very wacky kid and and then all of a sudden I was in middle school and everything was different and it’s very confusing and there were hormones and feelings and I didn’t. But I never, I just kept being that black kid. At some point I realized like, Oh, everyone thinks I’m really [00:14:00] weird.

And so that was kind of what I projected onto a Ripley. It was like this, this feeling like, Oh God, everyone thinks I’m weird. What do I do? You know? And so I thought it would be, I thought it’d be funny to sort of you know, have her meet this. You know, so often there’s like a helpful animal character, you know, in a story, he sort of shows you the way I thought it would be funny, a helpful animal character who was absolutely wrong and just had gave the completely wrong

Melissa: message.

Lilah Sturges: That’s what Z required is. He he thinks that fitting in is super great and you should not be yourself

Melissa: God.

Lilah Sturges: And of course Claudia AKA poultry, Inc. Does such a good job drawing those stories. It was such a treat every bit of that. Because it sounds so cheesy, but in writing my, it never felt like work. It was always just like, it was just like having so much fun.

Melissa: Yeah, I think that’s how it should be.

[00:15:00] Like, you should be loving every minute of, you know, what you’re doing and not being like, Oh, this, this work, or this is a chore, you know,

Lilah Sturges: ideally right.

Melissa: Yeah. I mean, that’s the dream

Lilah Sturges: anyway, right? That is the dream. Yes.

Melissa: Yeah. Well, and when you’re prepping, you know, to write Lumberjanes the Lumberjanes story, do you like, do you do a ton of research on previous incarnations of it or interviewed a ton, a ton of like outlining.

Lilah Sturges: I have sort of a two prong approach, right? So what I do is, and this is with anything, anything I’ve ever written is that I’ll do a bunch of research, right? Like with Lumberjanes I read all the existing issues. So I knew sort of like what was Canon and what the relationships and what the voices were like.

And I did a bunch of that, so I’m like, Hey, like in my head, you know, so I was like, I could imagine scenes, and this is, this is what I always have to choose. Like I have to get it to where I can just imagine conversations in my head between the characters and like, What would she say? What would she say?

You know, [00:16:00] how does that work? Right. And then I sit down and I write a very detailed outline. And I actually, it’s so ridiculous. I do it as an Excel sheet and nice night I spent, I spent a lot of time making this. Stupid spreadsheet. Right. And then once it’s all done, you know, I show it to my editor and they’re like, okay, that’s great.

We’ve got changes, whatever it gets approved. And then I start writing in the minute I start writing completely forget the spreadsheet is there and I just write whatever, but it’s always like, it’s close enough to. So what was this a spreadsheet that that no one ever complains. Right. But yeah, so like there’s the part of me that is like researcher librarian, you know, with the glasses and the hair and a little button.

And then once I start writing the script, I’m like pulling up the hair band and like ripping off my glasses and like, Ah, and I just write just whatever pops into my head. It’s a messy strategy, but it works for me.

Melissa: Yeah. If it works. [00:17:00] Excellent. Hey do you think there are like challenges in writing in a already established universe versus like writing your own material?

Lilah Sturges: Oh, my gosh, this is so this is a question I’ve been asked like a million times and I was trying to try and find a way to like, answer it, like in a different way. Cause I don’t answer this question in a different way, which I get it’s like, it’s an obvious, like it’s an, I was like, how was that different?

Right. W I mean, and, and obviously the, the, the main difference is that, like, when you’re writing someone else’s stuff, they have rules. No, you can’t break them like writing superhero comics. Especially is, Oh, it was such a pain in the ass because you can’t like at the level I was at writing superhero comics, you’re like writing blue beetle and stuff.

Right. You could only do so much. A lot of times had to be kind of like a sit-com where it’s like the You know, the, the, the order of the universe has to be [00:18:00] restored at the end of 22 minutes. Right. You can’t like, and so it was always like, what kind of story can I tell where, you know, the status quo never.

Changes. That was

Melissa: always the

Lilah Sturges: predictable question. And that sounds, and you know, the nice thing about Jamie’s Lumberjanes books was that we, we wanted to tell a slightly more mature stories than what we’re being told in the comics, a little more nuance. So sort of the, the premise is that You know that the girls are starting to mature a little bit as they’ve been in camp.

And so they’re having these slightly more mature thoughts and feelings. So it felt like they were growing as I was writing them. And so I guess it kind of veers away from the. Know, not that anyone cares about an established Canada, the Lumberjanes universe, but but maybe in that regard. Yeah. And then of course, you know, when I’m writing my own things you know, the sky’s the limit and I could do.

Literally whatever I want, which is also scary because you have to come up with everything cause it’s like, you don’t have this whole well of [00:19:00] Canon to delve into. It’s like, Oh, I have to make it all up myself. Like a lot of work. But I, I do enjoy it and I I’ve got I have a graphic novel that Is is being drawn right now.

It’s called the science of ghosts and it’s coming out from the legendary next year. And. Thinking about hopefully doing a sequel to that book. And thinking about like, Oh, well now it’s like I’m writing and there is a Canon, because there’s this whole first graphic novel, you know, like, it’s like, how can I take, what’s been established and expand on, you know, so it’s kind of like, huh.

Melissa: Awesome. Yeah, no, I’m excited about yeah, the science of ghost it’s coming out in the fall of next year. And what can you, I was gonna actually ask you if there was gonna be more than one book. So you answered that question. That’s awesome that you’re possibly going to be doing SQL to it. What can you tell us about you know, for our listeners about the premise of that story?

Lilah Sturges: The science of ghost is it’s based on [00:20:00] an idea that I, I had like five years ago, it’s like, I was. It was reading about forensic psychology like you do. And I’ve always been real interested in ghosts. And so I was like, what if you had a forensic psychologist at Fergus and that would be a forensic pair psychologist and just that title for a depressed psychologist.

I just loved it. Yeah. So much. And so I was like, Oh, well, what if you had someone who was a forensic psychologist and they studied ghost behavior and they analyzed the behavior of ghosts and solve crimes. Like, that’d be really cool. And then I, I fought all that before, like everything became like abolish the police.

Hmm.

Melissa: Oh,

Lilah Sturges: Hmm. Okay. So police, maybe not. So that’s what F

Melissa: yeah,

Lilah Sturges: so she’s not a cop. Just in case anyone is concerned, she’s not on a call. She used to work for the cops. She she [00:21:00] quit. She’s a trans woman by the way. And that kind of comes into it a little bit. It’s not about her being a trans woman. It’s about her being a forensic psychologist and a loving girlfriend among other things.

And but the fact that she is trans. Is a thing in the world, you know, like when you’re trans and probably any other marginalized identity, you know, you don’t ever get to stop being that. And certainly I don’t get to stop being trans. And so my, my character joy. Never does either. And so it affects her, you know, it sort of affects her sort of like here and there in her daily life.

And it also has, it informs what she does for her career on this sort of like deep but subtle level. But it is not about her being trans, you know, and I think it’s important that we have stories where you know, the trans person, the queer person and the gay person was you know, it’s not about them having that identity.

Right. As I [00:22:00] said you know, on some other. Like on a panel. I think I said, you know, we don’t just sit around all day having traumas, like do other stuff. Right. And and so I wanted to focus on the other stuff and not the traumas.

Melissa: When you, when you look at, you know, a show like Schitt’s Creek, for example, and they have a brilliant way of. Storytelling to where it doesn’t like you just said, like tick, put the focus on this, like trauma, you know, of being part of the LGBTQ community. It’s just, they they’re having their life and they have their things that are happening.

And yeah, I think it’s important that more of those. Types of stories get told as well, you know, on top of,

Lilah Sturges: can we just spend the rest of the interview talking about Schitt’s Creek? Absolutely. For me,

Melissa: absolutely. It’s like my, literally my favorite show.

Oh my God. Yes. And I’m happy that they won all those awards. I was like, literally scream

Lilah Sturges: YouTube. Yeah. It’s one of my favorite things and I’m, I’m watching it. My girlfriend has not watched it. That’s, I’m watching it with her [00:23:00] as she watched it the first time. And so every episode I’m like, Oh, Oh, this is such a get upset.

This is like every episode. I was like, that’s not helpful.

Melissa: Who do you think is your favorite character on that show?

Lilah Sturges: That was David. David is so great. And I I think in some ways I’m a little David E and my girlfriend is Patrick. He really like, I’m kind of a brat and shoots like sort of like grownups sometimes, but it works, you know, it works and that’s what, that’s what matters.

And we love each other.

Melissa: Yeah, no, that’s awesome. And I F I feel like I can’t send a text or post anything now without putting like a David meme in,

Lilah Sturges: you know,

Melissa: so many to choose from that I’m like, Oh, this sucks. Every mood I have.

Lilah Sturges: Yeah. Express that way.

Melissa: I know I’m starting over. I wish they would continue it in some way in the future, but yeah.

Well, I want to talk about another book that [00:24:00] you’ve you’ve written that’s out now, the magician’s new class. So can you expand a little bit about what kind of like inspired the story and the concepts of hedge magic, which I find really cool and interesting.

Lilah Sturges: Yes. So the magician’s new class, it came out of I wrote.

A book called the magicians Alice’s story, which boom. I had love Grossman, loves comics, the author of the magicians, but and he really wanted to see a comic book adaptation of the magicians. And when they they brought me in, I said, yes, I would love to do that. But I’m not going to do a straight ahead adaptation.

I’m going to tell the story from the point of view of Alice one of the other main, main characters, cause I didn’t just want to do a straight up adaptation. That just didn’t seem fun to me. And so they’re like, yeah. Okay. I guess that could be good. And then it turned out to be like, it worked out really well and everyone was really happy.

So they were like, we should do more magicians comics. And I said, yes, that sounds great because I love this world and I love getting. Paige white comics [00:25:00] and that’s all good. So I the take there was that if you look at the, the magician’s books, it’s kind of like it’s sort of comes from this place of kind of privilege.

Right. And I think that that is deliberate on Love’s part. But it’s it’s for the most part, it is, it’s pretty white. It’s pretty straight. Like there’s a gay, you know, it’s like, you gotta have a gay in this day and age. Right, right. But, so I was like, well, you know, and then, and then in the second book I think he talks about it in the first book too.

There’s this whole concept of hedge magic, which is like these people who they don’t get to go to the fancy school. They kind of have to learn magic by themselves, sort of like in them, you know, in the gutters

Melissa: and on the streets,

Lilah Sturges: then the old fashioned way, you know, I picked it up in the gutter and I thought, well, that’s really fascinating.

And then I thought, well, what would it take to make those two worlds? Collide, what would that be like? And I, I, I like the whole idea of [00:26:00] like, like classes, the clash of like different like social classes and and sort of like, there’s a queer element in there. That’s pretty heavy. And so I just, I just wanted to put those two groups together and sort of like, See what would happen and if there were, and there was lots of yummy conflict.

So we went with that and I think that, you know, what I wanted to do for that mini series was I wanted to have just the craziest final page for every issue. Okay. Like to be like, what just happened? And I wanted it to be on every single issue and I did it, and that was like my favorite thing. Every, every time you got to the last page, you’re like, okay, I know what’s going on.

No, I do not know what’s going on. Okay.

Melissa: So they, they ended like a major cliffhangers.

Lilah Sturges: Everyone. And this is like an enormous cliffhanger. I was very, very happy about that. And now it’s out in trade, so you don’t have to wait a [00:27:00] month. Like like people who read the series to find out what happened. You could just turn the page and it’s right there.

Melissa: Yeah. I just got it. And I just started reading it. And so I’m really excited to see what happens because I find that like the, you know, the outsiders, so to speak that come in and, and learn from, you know, the gutter. I feel like. And, you know, don’t give me any spoilers, but even the worst my country I feel like they’re going to almost be like more powerful for some reason, because I think it’s more, you know, they had to like learn in a grittier environment.

And they’re not as polished as, you know, these like fancy privileged students. So that’s what I’m predicting.

Lilah Sturges: Yeah. Well, I, you know, I think you’re, you’re not, not right. I, you know, I think the thing is like the, my editors, you know, God bless them. They were like, you know, and so we’re going to we’re going to show how they, like, they learned to work together to solve their problems and get along.

Right. And I was like, I don’t want to do that. That’s not [00:28:00] real life. Like,

Melissa: that’s not reality. Yeah. 

Lilah Sturges: Cause they made me, but like My, I think that the end of the story definitely sort of shows where I’m, what I’m thinking. And I wish that we could do more. I don’t know, like we, we finished the first art and then the pandemic happened and then I never heard another word about it.

So like I had people ask me like, is there going to be more new class? And I’m like, yeah, I don’t know, I don’t, I just work here. I was like, I would love to do more if someone at boom is listening to this and like, Hey gosh, that’s a comic book we put out. We should totally do more of that then. Yes, that would be good.

Melissa: Yeah. And for our listeners listening, you know, fans of, of the book, like yeah, if you want more. Everybody bombard. Boom.

Lilah Sturges: Now that’s right.

Melissa: I’ll have to learn Twitter. Yeah. That’s so funny. When, well, I want to talk another comic book. You’re you’re very busy. Another comic book you have coming out in [00:29:00] February is girl Haven.

Lilah Sturges: Yeah, that’s definitely.

Melissa: Yeah. And I read a little bit yeah. About what, what that’s going to be, but can you tell our listeners what it’s about and just from what I’ve read in some of the commentary how cathartic was that for you to write.

Lilah Sturges: Okay, great question. I, what the story is about is a kid named Ash who was assigned male at birth and raised as a boy.

So we’re going to use he, him pronouns for him.  He Sort of joins this pride club at school, which is like their GSA and middle school like that gay, straight Alliance or whatever they call it now. And mainly because he’s kind of infatuated with this girl that he wants to meet and be friends, these three really cool girls who are in the pride club and

I’m pausing because like there, there are two roads that can go down. Now. There’s like the long, like very descriptive ride and there’s like a shorter road and I’m trying to. [00:30:00] Decide which one I want to pick. I’m good with it. That’s the difference? So basically what we find out is that ashes mother has created this very elaborate fantasy world in the shed, in her backyard over the course of her entire life.

And Ash wants to show this to his new friends and that there’s novels and stories and paintings and costumes and all this stuff. And there was one of the things in the shadows, a spell book that will take you to the land of portraits, which is where all these stories are sad. And chorus is it literally means in Greece, the place of a girls, and it is a girls only magical land where boys are not allowed.

And so one of the girls reads the magic spell to take you to the Atlanta portraits and everything goes dark. I’m in the lights. Come up again. They are in portraits, this magical fantasy world, just for girls and now Ash, who has been raised as a boy [00:31:00] is wondering, what is Ash doing here? And there’s a little more to it than that.

This isn’t about some kind of like forced feminization. We learn has been having some. Some thoughts and feelings about gender that that he doesn’t understand. And and this experience is sort of bringing that to a head, but before any of that can happen they’re captured by some warrior bunnies.

And they’re sent off on a quest because there has to be a class of crazy story. And Ash is hoping that maybe Ash can find ASHA’s mother in this fantasy land who has gone missing. So there’s a lot happening. It’s very fun. It’s very thrilling. It is a, it is aimed at middle school kids. And I wanted to write a book that middle school kids would really like, because.

It’s a book that I wish had existed when I was in middle school, because all of the confusing thoughts and feelings that Ash is [00:32:00] having at the beginning of the story are the thoughts and feelings that I was having when I was 12. But I did not have a magical land or even a book to help me through that period.

I didn’t know what was going on with me. I was just confused and scared and, and I felt very alone. And so what my hope is with this book is that someone could read it and see themselves in the book and Come to know themselves a little better. And I, I think the world is such a much better place for transgender kids now.

Spoiler, ashes, ashes, transgender. You probably saw that.

Melissa: I kind of figured. Yeah.

Lilah Sturges: Yeah. It’s so funny like that the copy is like very coy about it. I’m like, yeah. Well, I think we all do let us have fun. Yeah, but. I just, I wanted to create this world where you know, first of all, you could be open about these feelings, right.

And ask to be open about these feelings with his friends. Especially Eleanor who is sort of like the sweet [00:33:00] sounding board character. And. And here are the things that, that you would need to hear, you know, like it’s okay to be who you are and people who love you will accept you for who you are.

And that’s so important. And I think there’s still not enough of it. And I just really wanted to create a book for. Kids that so they could have that experience. Even if they’re not a transgender girl themselves, they can sort of read into whoever I am, whatever my thing is, whatever my situation is that.

Melissa: Yeah.

Lilah Sturges: People who love me will accept me and people will encourage me to be myself. And one of the things that is repeated in the book as love is stronger than fear. And that’s kind of the message that I want people to take away is that however scared you are about who you are, who you might be like, love is more powerful than that.

Melissa: I [00:34:00] love that. That’s such a beautiful message. And I think also just for even. For kids that, you know, you know, do feel, you know, like I know myself, you know, I’m, I identify as this or whatever, but just to read, to, to understand that maybe other people don’t and then maybe kids would be kinder to each other, if they could understand it, you know, in a story sense.

Lilah Sturges: That’s good. I like that. Yeah.

Melissa: Yeah. I’m like, you know, open the minds of people, but

Lilah Sturges: totally,

Melissa: totally.

Lilah Sturges: That was my intent all along.

Melissa: Well, and I also think would be a great. Sorry to have in schools. I mean, I, you know, I, I don’t know what that process is like to, to get it into like an educational type system, if you have to submit or they request or whatever, but

Lilah Sturges: yeah, it’s a dream. Well, it’s definitely being marketed that way and which is very exciting.

And one of the one of the really, really cool things that that Oni lion porch has [00:35:00] done is they created like a study guide for it and they sent it to me last week and it was so cool because it was like, You know, like for book groups and stuff, it’s like, I always wonder one of those for one of my books.

And it was like, so cool to see like you know, and, you know, the Eleanor says love is stronger than fear. What does that mean to you? And I was like, what does that mean to you? I want to know.

Melissa: Okay. Well, I think that would be great. What do you see yourself? You know, doing like book club. You know presentations and speaking, you know, to, to schools and things like that.

Lilah Sturges: Oh my gosh. Absolutely. I would love to do that. I did. When the first time of Jane’s book came out, I did a little book tour and I spoke at a couple of schools and a couple of bookstores and and I had so much fun talking to the middle schoolers at this school and San Francisco. It was an absolute blast.

Yeah. That I love kids. I think they’re great. So it would be a huge threat.

Melissa: Yeah. And they have no filter either. They just sort of, you [00:36:00] know, ask that so different than when an adult, you know, is asking you a question that’s so sought out or whatever, versus, you know, a kid who’s just like, this is what’s in my mind and I’m going to

Lilah Sturges: ask it.

Yes, exactly. And I, you know, when I went to this book to her, I thought, well, you know, what are these kids gonna make of me this transgender woman. Right.  So never came up, never came up, never came up. Finally at the end of one of my talks, this kid raises his hand and he’s like, okay. So if you’re a girl, what bathroom do you use?

And I said, well, I’m a girl. So I used the girl’s room and he was like, yeah, That’s what I

Melissa: thought.

Lilah Sturges: And that was it. He was like, okay. It just had this one procedural question.

Melissa: He was like, I just have to know.

Lilah Sturges: I just, I just wanted to iron that out now. We’re fine.

Melissa: Well, so what does it mean to you to be able to tell your stories and like, have you, what has the response been from, you know, the LGBTQ community.

[00:37:00] Lilah Sturges: And I, you know, so far so good. Gosh. I mean, I, I wanted a word for the For the Lumberjanes book about now, Molly, that was very nice. That was a very fun thing to have and a really neat honor to experience. Cause I’d never really won an award before, you know? And and I think it touched a lot of people and that was very rewarding to hear.

And I think that some people who have read. Girl Haven have been very touched by it as well. So I’m hopeful that when it comes out people will respond to it and it will make them laugh and cry because that is obviously the goal of every writer’s control, the emotions of strangers.

Melissa: Absolutely.

I’m sure we will. Definitely. And so this might be a tricky question just because, you know, we’re attached to all of our work, but what has been the most rewarding comic book to work on thus

Lilah Sturges: far? [00:38:00] Oh my gosh. Okay. I have two answers to that question. One is like, so like over my whole career, I think the book that, because of the amount of.

Reward. It gave me a, still stands out as house of mystery, which I did with vertigo. When it started in 2008, through 2012, I think it’s 42 issues and it was sort of a horror series based on the old house of history comics and There so much of me wrapped up in that story. And so much of me that is in the main character of fig and a lot of we working out who fig is, this character is also me working on who I am as a person.

And realizing how much I identify with this female character. And that she is me that at some point I realized during the writing of this story, that [00:39:00] I am. You know and I’m just writing like me and these, all these increasingly insane situations. And but there’s a lot of fun to be had in that book.

And one of the really neat things about it is that every issue had. A standalone story like inside of it, that was drawn by a different artist. And so I got to work with so many amazing artists during the time like Gilbert Hernandez and Darwin cook and just some of the most incredible, incredible artists.

And I mean, it’s all, it’s all out there. I think it’s out of print now. That’s, it’d be very difficult to find, but

Melissa: I will track you down if

Lilah Sturges: you can find it it’s worth a read. And I think it’s especially fascinating knowing that the writer is someone who. Turned out to be a trans woman. Like, like you can sort of see me working it out on the page and retrospect anyway [00:40:00] that said the thing that is most rewarding to me right now, I think is probably the science of ghosts.

As I feel like it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written. And I’m, it’s the kind of thing that I want to write more of and I get to write more of yeah, I think I, you know, I joke around, like if I could just spend the rest of my career writing game histories, I would totally do that. And if I could, you know, so much the better.

Melissa: Yeah, well, that’s, it’s interesting too. Cause as the writer myself, I feel like, and I want to know if you agree, there’s sometimes a story that you have in your head that at some point you’re like, I want to write this, but I don’t feel ready to write it yet. You know? And as you were saying that the science of ghost is something you feel like it’s the best you’ve ever written.

Do you have other, you know, concepts spring around in your, in your mind? Like the, I want to write this, but I want. To be at this level, you know, for myself before I approach it,

Lilah Sturges: there are, you know, I I really [00:41:00] want to write wonder woman someday. Yes. And I still don’t think I’m ready, which is funny.

Cause I’ve been writing conflicts for 15 years. But I still have, like, I still think I have like a little more to learn before I could just like, cause you know, I think every time you go into. A thing like that. Like if I was going to write a superhero book again, I’d want it to be like a career defining run, you know, like I would pull out all the stops and like swinging for the fences on every page.

And I’m not quite ready to do that yet, but give me a couple of years. We’ll see what happens.

Melissa: Okay. I would love that for you. Yeah, that would be amazing too. Just to hear your perspective and your take on wonder woman, that would be amazing. Yeah. What do you hope to see more of in the comic book industry in the future?

Lilah Sturges: Oh my gosh. I, what I’m really hopeful for is that we this is going to sound kind of cliche, but bear [00:42:00] with me for a moment. So I think I want to see more diversity and I want to see it in so many different intersections. You know, I want to see comics by. Black people. I want to see comments by disabled people.

I want to see comments by LGBTQ people. I want to see come up books written and drawn by autistic people, people with ADHD. I want to see comics by, you know, comics by Asian people from different places. You know, I want to see the Vietnamese comics that went through the Thai comics tonight. There’s such this huge world out there.

And for so long, we’ve. Limited which voices can be heard. And I want those voices to have big platforms, you know?

Melissa: Yeah, absolutely.

Lilah Sturges: I love that. We’re seeing more of that now and I think there’s still I think there’s, there’s still the sense and I know it’s true for me as a, as a trans writer.

That [00:43:00] when I write something, because there isn’t. A whole lot of trans media out there that in some way, like, I feel this pressure, like I’m speaking for trans people, even though that’s not true. Right. I don’t speak for all trans people. But you feel that kind of pressure, like, like people are gonna read this and go, Oh, that’s what trans people are like.

Right. But like there’s, there is no what trans, like we’re all different people. And so I think that there is that pressure still on the creators of all different sort of like marginalized identities, where you feel like you’re sort of representing your whole entire, whatever. And so it makes you be a little more careful about what you say and do.

And so what I want is more diversity. So everyone can kind of just like do whatever the hell they want and, and not have to be careful and not have to feel like they’re carrying a banner, you know? And then everyone gets exciting new stories. And [00:44:00] everyone wins.

Melissa: Right. And you have all these different perspectives and different worlds and characters and yeah.

All the readers when, and the creators went as well. So I like that idea.

Lilah Sturges: Nice. And I think, I think I like to think of it from the perspective of like, There is, there is bounty, you know, there is like, there’s no limit. It’s not a zero sum game. That if we create lots of good stuff, then we attract more readers and there’s room for everyone to play and everyone can succeed.

And no one, no one gets ends up getting left out.

Melissa: And w what advice would you give to aspiring writers and specifically LGBTQ writers who might be hesitant or unsure of like, how to even get started?

Lilah Sturges: Gosh. I think, okay. You know, my, my advice to anyone is going to be this more or less the same.

Although if I were telling it to a poor person, I might use slightly different language, but [00:45:00] I think it would be to to come out of the gate saying things that only you can say too, To not try and publish the things that you make at the beginning of your career, where you’re trying to figure out who you are and trying to find your voice, but to wait until you own your voice to make a splash.

And there’s this sort of thing. It’s like, if you want to make comments, just make tonics. Right. That’s what everyone always says. Professionals always say it’s like, and to an extent, I agree with that, you know everyone should make comments, right? In order to make, that’s kind of an obvious statement.

But I think if you get your, like, if you get your break in comics, right? My like I did, I got a big break with the C and I got to write This book called what was it called? Salvation run because of a long series of events that happened. And then I, I got offered some other DCU comments.

Right. And I wasn’t sure of my [00:46:00] voice when I was writing those books. And I was like, well, what would Oh with Jeff Johns. Do you know or like what the current do you see Eric? Do you like the people whose work? I like, how would they have done this? Right. And then it wasn’t until like, I almost was like completely out of writing superhero comics that I had already found my voice.

And then I wrote all these great superhero comics that no one ever read, because at that point it was, they were like, we’ll put her on the books that are getting canceled. So.

So, yeah, so I, I wrote a lot of fun series. I wrote the last issue of several very fun theories. But some of those comments were really good cause they finally found my wife. But I’ve had already kind of shot my shot.

Melissa: That makes sense.

Lilah Sturges: So that’s probably not advice you’re going to hear every day from a comic book creator, but that’s what came out of my mouth.

Melissa: I like it. No, that’s good. That’s honest advice. That’s what I like to ask. I, you know, everybody that’s in this business just because he gets so many different perspectives and [00:47:00] takes on it and you know, we do have a lot of listeners that I’m sure are. You know, wanting to be you know, in your shoes and, and have careers in comics.

So it’s always nice to hear from someone who’s achieved success, you know, kind of their little take on, you know, advice in the industry.

Lilah Sturges: Yeah. I mean, ultimately I just, I, what I want to see, like what I always tell people, I was like, the gift that you bring is your voice. Right. Like there was I forget who it was, who said it, but it was a, a famous writer once said that every story has already been told.

It just hasn’t been told by you. And I think that’s really powerful advice. But it it’s, it’s the tail it’s in the telling and the telling is your voice. The telling is who you are, the perspective that you bring to the table and that people shouldn’t be ashamed of their perspective, or try to cover up their perspective, but like sing it, you know, like jubilantly express your perspective, however different or odd, [00:48:00] or even however prosaic.

It might seem because what to you is. Commonplace is wild to someone else.

Melissa: Yeah. And art is always in the eye of the beholder, so to speak. So you know, your story can touch a lot of people and then, you know, there’s not going to be everybody that likes, you know your work is speaking from experience.

You know, you get good reviews, you get bad reviews. But what’s important is that the people that do like it, like that’s how I always say I’m writing for, for those people. That’s the audience that you’re trying to reach is the ones that will connect and, you know, take something away.

Lilah Sturges: No, I wouldn’t know about that.

Cause I’ve never gotten a bad review, but

Melissa: of course, you know,

Lilah Sturges: universally beloved.

Melissa: I know. Yeah. Nothing can touch you. I love it.

Lilah Sturges: Well,

Melissa: no, you are. You are extremely talented. So yeah, we’re very grateful about you. Grace is with your [00:49:00] art and your work really appreciate it.

Lilah Sturges: Also thanks so much. This has been really a treat.

Melissa: Yeah, I know this has been really fun. And before we go another thing you probably won’t be able to answer, but I saw that you recently tweeted about some exciting news.

Is there anything you can hint at at all? Or is it completely top secret?

Lilah Sturges: People like get some atomy if I said anything at all, but as like, there are people. I know who will be very excited to know. I just found out yesterday. I wish I could say

Melissa: no problem. I, I thought I’d ask,

Lilah Sturges: but yeah.

Melissa: Well, awesome. Yeah.

Thank you so much for coming on the show today. Really appreciate it. Our listeners appreciate it. And you know, everyone, please go check out the magicians new class out now. The lumber Janes and for all Capus trilogy and keep an eye out for girl Haven and the science of ghosts coming out next year.

Laila cert has [00:50:00] everyone. Thank you so much for being here.

Lilah Sturges: Thanks. And you should follow me on Twitter because I tweet a lot of funny, dumb things.

Melissa: Absolutely. Yeah. I’m going to go check out your Twitter. I’ve had a blast talking to you, so I’m like, now I need you in my feed,

Lilah Sturges: right? Yeah, please do. It’s like this only like in short purse.

Melissa: Awesome. Great. Well, thank you so much.

Lilah Sturges: Thank you.

 

 

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