Interview with Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks, Creators of Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

Please give Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks a warm welcome! They are visiting the virtual offices to chat about their graphic novel Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can each of you describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

Prudence Shen is a caffeine-addicted, camera-toting work in progress. She’s never met a library book sale that wasn’t her jam.

Faith Erin Hicks is a small human from planet Earth. She is addicted to diet coke and making comics. She is always sleepy. Also hungry. Cats

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong?

Pru: Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is about loving your friends even when they’re jerks, building robots, and how through teamwork and car theft, anything is possible. Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is also about how everything goes completely and totally wrong, and how sometimes that’s okay.

Faith: Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is a graphic novel about Nate and Charlie, childhood friends and (in Charlie’s case, unwilling) adversaries in a school election gone horribly wrong. There are geeks, cheerleaders, evil plots and it all climaxes in a 50 page battle bot fight scene. You must read it to believe it.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

Pru: Nate and Charlie are basically the worst parts of my personality split across two people. The idea in general came from watching way too many battlebot highlight reels on YouTube, and having a deep fondness for teenaged romps and road trips.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Charlie?

Pru: Hesitating, uncertain, improving.

Faith: Tall. Depressed. Sweaters.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Nate had a theme song, what would it be?

Faith: Haha, I’m just going to take a wild stab in the dark and say Anna Eng by They Might Be Giants. I’m curious what Pru’s choice would be …

Pru: I personally think Marina and the Diamonds, "Oh No!"

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Charlie is never without.

Pru: $1 in change; something drilled into him by his dad in case he needs to make an emergency pay phone call, nevermind he has a cell.

Faith: His legs. … oh, that’s two things. His right leg.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Nate’s backpack?

Pru: I feel like Nate’s that kid who never has any cash, a working pen, or clean paper to write on. Probably all of his schoolwork is just filled with marginalia from incidental writing needs.

Faith: Probably a sports team uniform or some kind of sports-related magazine. A complete DVD collection of Saved by the Bell (although that would be hilarious). A note to his parents apologizing for his behavior. ;)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

Pru: The news, insomnia, and books I read as a kid. I was just rereading Farmer Boy this morning, actually.

Faith: My top three cartoonist influences are Jeff Smith (Bone), Naoki Urasawa (Pluto) and Hiromu Arakawa (Fullmetal Alchemist). I also like animated shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender and Gravity Falls. Authors I like are Maggie Stiefvater, Lloyd Alexander, Diana Wynne Jones and Stephen King.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to work?

Pru: I have to write at a desk or table, must have music, and it usually helps if I’m supposed to be doing something else that’s due on a really tight deadline, because that seems to be the magic bullet for actually getting me to write.

Faith: Diet Coke! My drawing desk! A good audiobook to listen to while I draw!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

Pru: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. If you haven’t read it, you absolutely must.

Faith: I blubbered like a baby throughout Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. That was an amazing book.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

Pru: Little House in the Big Woods is the first one I remember vividly, although almost everything I read between the ages of 6 and 8 were foundational things that would build into a lifelong love.

Faith: I was a pretty voracious reader as a kid due to growing up without a television. I honestly can’t remember what books really sparked my love of reading, but I remember what books really inspired me to want to create my own stories and especially stories starring awesome girl characters: the Vesper Holly series by Lloyd Alexander. They’re fun, awesome, Indiana Jones type adventure books, starring an amazing heroine, perfect for nerdy 12 year old tomboys like me.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

Pru: I’m lucky enough to travel quite a bit. This year I’m hoping to get to Morocco and Shanghai.

Faith: … or drawing? ;) Draw and write more, I guess! I definitely should try and develop more hobbies. When I’m not working, I try and go outside (I like running), explore the city I live in (Halifax), and get fresh inspiration for more stories. I should maybe take up knitting …

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below:

About the book:

You wouldn’t expect Nate and Charlie to be friends. Charlie’s the laid-back captain of the basketball team, and Nate is the neurotic, scheming president of the robotics club. But they are friends, however unlikely—until Nate declares war on the cheerleaders. At stake is funding that will either cover a robotics competition or new cheerleading uniforms—but not both.

It’s only going to get worse: after both parties are stripped of their funding on grounds of abominable misbehavior, Nate enrolls the club’s robot in a battlebot competition in a desperate bid for prize money. Bad sportsmanship? Sure. Chainsaws? Why not. Running away from home on Thanksgiving to illicitly enter a televised robot death match? Of course!

In Faith Erin Hicks’ and Prudence Shen’s world of high school class warfare and robot death matches, Nothing can possibly go wrong. 

Review: Peanut by Ayun Halliday & Paul Hoppe

 

 

Title: Peanut

Author: Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

"Before you write me off as a delusional psycho, think about what it’s like to be thrown into a situation where everyone knows everyone . . . and no one knows you." Sadie has the perfect plan to snag some friends when she transfers to Plainfield High—pretend to have a peanut allergy. But what happens when you have to hand in that student health form your unsuspecting mom was supposed to fill out? And what if your new friends want to come over and your mom serves them snacks? (Peanut butter sandwich, anyone?) And then there’s the bake sale, when your teacher thinks you ate a brownie with peanuts. Graphic coming-of-age novels have huge cross-over potential, and Peanut is sure to appeal to adults and teens alike.


Review:

When I received this book, I was a bit mystified.  Why, oh why would anyone pretend to have a fatal peanut allergy?  Baffled, I dug right into this graphic novel, intrigued to see if there was a compelling reason for Sadie to fabricate such a serious health issue.  After finishing the book, I have to say that I didn’t find it.  While the characters are likable, the rationale behind Sadie’s pretend illness just didn’t cut it for me.  Sadie’s little white lie, which quickly spirals out of control, is spun in an effort to be more popular at her new school. 

After talking to a girl about her medical alert bracelet, Sadie is so fascinated by the thought of having a severe peanut allergy that she orders a bracelet of her own.  I wanted to question how she was able to accomplish this, online, without a credit card or her mother’s knowledge, but I didn’t.  I just followed along with Sadie as she experiences the unintended consequences of her little lie.  A concerned teacher has her freaked out because she hasn’t turned in a health form, signed by her mother,  to the school nurse, and that EpiPen that she’s supposed to carry with her at all times?  Yeah, she needs a prescription to have access to that prop.  When a new friend asks to see it, she flips out on him.  When her new boyfriend thinks that she’s eaten a chip cooked in peanut oil, she realizes that living with this lie isn’t going to be easy.

The thing that kept me engaged in the story was Sadie’s fear of discovery.  Afraid to fess up to her new friends, she just keeps digging herself into a deeper and deeper hole.  She is terrified that the truth will come out, and when it does, that she will lose all of the friends that she’s made.  When reality does come crashing down around her, it is every bit as awful as she feared.  I think that the fallout was shortchanged, and that mending her bridges went too easy for her.  From her first day of school, the image of herself that she projected was all based on fallacy, and the small amount of page time given for her repentance was disappointing.

The art is quirky and it works well with the tone of the story.  I loved the splash of color from Sadie’s clothes. 

Grade:  C+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Paradise Kiss Vol 1 by Ai Yazawa

 

Title:  Paradise Kiss V 1

Author:  Ai Yazawa

Publisher:  Vertical

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Yukari is a spirited high school senior in the process of studying for her college entrance exams. Sadly the prospect of subjecting herself to a meaningless dull life leaves her feeling depressed about the future.  In a bout of frustration, Yukari begins to ignore her courses and she begins to hang out with a group of fashion design students. But what Yukari doesn’t know is that this circle is known as Paradise Kiss, and they are run by a pair of young designers already making their mark on the Asian scene. Furthermore, while her life is going to soon change, it will not be due to the elite political or commerce based future her family may have hoped for, instead her life may eventually be set in a world of high fashion, with her strutting down the catwalk as the face of Asian fashion!


Review:

How lovely to see Paradise Kiss back in print after so long!  This series,  Peach Girl, and Marmalade Boy  are directly responsible for my love of graphic novels.  During the hey-day of the US manga craze, there were so many wonderful books being released that it was hard to keep up with them all.  There was also a lot of garbage hitting store shelves, in such an overwhelming wave, that buyers couldn’t keep up.  Then the recession hit, and it was bye-bye to several of my favorite publishers.   CMX’s demise hit me the hardest, because DC’s imprint had licensed some unique titles, and many of the series that I followed were being released by them.  When Tokyopop shuttered, I actually became so discouraged with comics that I started reading prose books again.  Am I bitter that I will never see the end of I Hate You More Than Anyone or Kamui?  Am I upset that Silver Diamond and Demon Sacred were never competed?  You betcha! That’s one reason why I was so happy to see ParaKiss back in print with a new publisher.  This is a timeless story of a high school girl’s coming of age, with fun characters and gorgeous illustrations.  It deserves to stay in print, and since it’s been ten years since it was last published, there is a brand new audience out there just waiting to discover it.

One thing that I love about Ai Yazawa’s storytelling style is how she sprinkles humor into her plot when events get emotionally intense.   There is so much drama, drama, drama, which I love, and then all of a sudden there is this marvelous little blast of humor – either a joke from one of the characters or a humorous visual to ease all of that tension, just a little bit.  It is more evident in NANA (speaking of which, what happened to NANA?), but there are small glimpses in this first installment of Ai Yazawa’s classic romance.  I enjoy the contrast to the heart-stopping tension, and look forward to seeing how she’ll maneuver her characters from emotional trauma to eliciting an chuckle from the reader. 

In ParaKiss, Yukari is a high school senior with a lot of her mind.  She is cramming for her college entrance exams, and she doesn’t have time to get involved with a bunch of weirdos from the local fashion school.  Once she meets charismatic George and is caught under petite Miwako’s charm, she has no choice but to model for their fashion show.  There is so much change in Yukari from the opening chapter,  where she is risk adverse and single-mindedly intent on her studies, to the end of this volume, where she is fabricating lies for her parents so she can spend more time with her new friends in their basement studio.  She is finally starting to assert herself, and to reject her mother’s stranglehold over her.  Finally, there is something that she cares enough about to fight against the carefully planned path her parents have laid out before her.  Is it in her best interests to get caught up in the lives of these creative and impulsive people?  Probably not, but the rush of being with them is intoxicating, and she’s not willing to let it go.

George is so far over her head that I worry for Yukari.  He is jaded and worldly, while she’s lived a very sheltered life.  No friends, no boyfriends, few connections outside of her family.  George is like a blazing torch, and she is drawn, against her will,  to his brilliance.  As I read the book this time around, I sympathized more with her confusion over her feelings for George.  She’s not accustomed to expressing her feelings or hanging out with a guy, and everything that George does sets her world on end.  He is intense and self-confident, and he rushes head-first into everything that life has to offer.  Yukari isn’t prepared for a guy like George, and now that she’s caught his attention, she isn’t sure how to keep it fixed firmly on her.  All of the emotional ups and downs of that first relationship are intensified by George’s vivid personality.  She doesn’t stand a chance against him, and I kept wondering if he was just dicking around with her from the moment he met her.

I love the art.  Ai Yazawa’s delicate, detailed character designs are distinctive and beautiful.  The clothing is also stunning, but how can you possibly have a story about fashion designers and have everybody wearing ugly clothing?  You can’t, and the clothing take on a life of their own.

If you enjoy drama and that pulse-pounding confusion of first love, give this series a shot.  If you enjoy comics with beautiful clothes and beautiful characters, give this series a shot.  If you are interested in manga and haven’t read any of it yet, this is a good, short (3 volume) title to get you started.  It’s still as pretty and as moving as it was 10 years ago.  As always, Vertical’s presentation is top notch, with a new translation and a bigger, bolder trim size than the previous version.

Grade:   B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Limit Vol 1 by Keiko Suenobu

 

 

Title: The Limit Volume 1

Author:  Keiko Suenobu

Publisher: Vertical

In stores October 9, 2012

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Mizuki Konno is your typical high school junior at Yanno Prefectural High School. Like many teens her age she is studying hard for college and when she has some down time she likes to fuss over fashion and make-up. While she may not be one of the class elites, Mizuki is fortunate to be on the right side of her class’s idols. But that might not settle well with those who are in a similar academic status but not so lucky with their social lives.

Mizuki really isn’t a bad person. However she understands that she is one of the haves. And even if she only has so a strand to hold on to, that’s much more than the introverts or the socially inept.
On the day of the field trip, Mizuki’s position with the cool kids cannot be better. But now a good portion of her class are now firmly against her. While this "lower" clique may not be united, their hatred is much stronger than their differences. Unfortunately tragedy strikes in the form of a traffic accident. And now the class is split into two new groups…the living and the dead!

Almost the entire class has been wiped out and the five remaining girls are injured and lost in the wilderness. They also hate each other, and in a mix of Lord of the Flies with Heathers these girls begin to assert their wills against each other to try to survive while enacting a new class structure where looks and style is no longer the definition of influence.


Review:

When it comes to manga lately, I feel like I’ve been living under a rock.  I received this review copy, and wasn’t familiar with the title at all.  I love the cover, though, with the main protagonist standing defiantly, yet a bit battered, and staring boldly ahead.  The cover is very simple and eye-catching, and I immediately sat down to read the book.  Keiko Suenobu is also the author of LIFE, which was being released by  Tokyopop before they shuttered their offices.  I haven’t read any of that series, but after reading Limit, I am tempted to track it down.

Limit is a Lord of the Flies type story.  After their school trip goes horribly wrong and their bus crashes, Kanno and four of her classmates are stranded in the middle of the woods with only their wits to aid in their survival.  With their teachers and classmates dead, the five girls must juggle their fear and panic with their feelings for each other.  This is a diverse group of personalities, from the bullied Morishige, who has the only weapon and is brimming over with hate and resentment, to Kanno, who was part of the popular clique who made Morishige’s life hell at school.  Sakura, the ringleader of the clique, is dead in the bus, and Haru, one of the survivors, isn’t dealing with her best friend’s death very well.  This is a powder  keg of emotions just ready to blow, and only Kamiya realizes that it’s going to take more than luck to survive until they are rescued.  She immediately attempts to use diplomacy and get everyone to work together to ensure their survival, but she’s not having much luck.  There is a lot of resentment and so much ill-will to overcome, that things look bleak for our intrepid cast.

Limit focuses on the complex relationships the girls have formed over the years.  Angry Morishige is delighting in her sudden ascent to the top of the food chain; she’s got the weapon, and she hates everyone enough that she won’t hesitate to use it.  She casts everyone else in the pyramid beneath her, leaving Kanno and Haru to battle it out for the bottom rung of the ladder.  With the weapon, Morishige also controls the meager food supply the girls have foraged from the wreckage of the bus.  After being a bottom-feeder for so long, she is ecstatic to feel some kind of empowerment over the girls who constantly picked on her and made each school day so horrible. 

I thought that this was a great introduction to the series.  I reached the end and wanted more.  The relationship dynamics bubble with emotion and kept me engaged in the book from the first page.  Kanno isn’t an extremely likable character because she always takes the path of least resistance.  She’s a sheep to Sakura’s domineering personality, and once Sakura meets an untimely end, Kanno realizes how meaningless her other relationships truly are.  Avoiding confrontation, kissing up to Sakura, and trying to hold a middle ground so she wasn’t bullied didn’t endear her to her classmates, she is learning the hard way.

I love Keiko Suenobu’s expressive artwork.  I never had to guess how her characters felt as they were maneuvered from one panel to the next.  Emotions are deftly rendered here, and the visuals are as compelling as the prose.  This is a great start to a series that will appeal to fans of conflict driven stories.  I don’t know how the girls are going to reconcile their feelings for each other and still survive all alone in the wilderness, with no food and only a cave for shelter.  I am looking forward to the next volume!

Grade:   B

Review copy provided by publisher

Waiting on Wednesday–Paradise Kiss by Ai Yazawa

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Ai Yazawa is one of my favorite manga-ka, and Paradise Kiss is one of my favorite manga, so I am super excited to see that Vertical picked up the license.  This series deserves to be back in print, and I’m eager to see Vertical’s always classy presentation of this epically awesome story. 

In stores next week.

 

Yukari is a spirited high school senior in the process of studying for her college entrance exams. Sadly the prospect of subjecting herself to a meaningless dull life leaves her feeling depressed about the future.  In a bout of frustration, Yukari begins to ignore her courses and she begins to hang out with a group of fashion design students. But what Yukari doesn’t know is that this circle is known as Paradise Kiss, and they are run by a pair of young designers already making their mark on the Asian scene. Furthermore, while her life is going to soon change, it will not be due to the elite political or commerce based future her family may have hoped for, instead her life may eventually be set in a world of high fashion, with her strutting down the catwalk as the face of Asian fashion!


What are you waiting on?

Review: Graphic Biographies: Steve Jobs

 

Title: Steve Jobs Graphic Biography (Saddleback’s Graphic Biographies)

Publisher:  Saddleback

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Fast-paced and easy-to-read, these softcover 25-page graphic biographies teach students about historical figures: those who lead us into new territory; pursued scientific discoveries; battled injustice and prejudice; and broke down creative and artistic barriers. These biographies offer a variety of rich primary and secondary source material to support teaching to the standards.
Using the graphics, students can activate prior knowledge–bridge what they already know with what they have yet to learn. Graphically illustrated biographies also teach inference skills, character development, dialogue, transitions, and drawing conclusions. Graphic biographies in the classroom provide an intervention with proven success for the struggling reader.


Review:

When I first received this review book, I wasn’t impressed.  At 25 pages, it seemed skimpy, and I didn’t think a graphic novel about Steve Jobs would hold my attention, even at such a low page count.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  If you know me, you know how much I love gadgets, most of which Steve Jobs was directly responsible for.  He had such a vision of what technology would and should be, and he had the drive to make his ideas transform the world.  His contributions to technology have touched the lives of almost everyone, and there aren’t many people who can make that claim.  To me, Steve Jobs is a lot like Walt Disney; he saw a void in the entertainment world, and he aggressively moved to fill it, despite set backs and the skepticism of others.  When he passed away last year, I was surprisingly upset, and I was left to wonder what other wonderful ideas he might have had, what other ways he could have changed my world. 

This graphic biography is part of Saddleback’s collection of fast-paced and easy to read glimpses into the lives of famous historical figures.  It’s marketed to struggling learners, and because everyone is aware of Apple products and almost everyone owns at least one, I think that this book will appeal to even the most reluctant of readers.  It would also be appreciated by Middle Grade readers.  It is a very easy to read book, and it is packed with the highlights and even the rare failures that made up Jobs’ career.   I found the material extremely compelling, as I was there for many of Steve’s product launches.  My mom had an Apple computer, and I wasted many, many hours playing Tetris on it when I should have been doing homework instead.  I still love Pixar movies, and I wonder how different Disney would have been without Toy Story and Monsters, Inc to enrich both their movie catalog and their theme parks.  Where would I be without my iPhone and iPad? Probably reading more, but most assuredly Tweeting, texting, and blogging less.

While I enjoyed the written material, I found the artwork functional at best.  These are no frills illustrations that follow along with the text, but offer nothing more.  The prose was occasionally stiff and unnatural.  At 25 pages, the $7.95 price point is also exceptionally steep, so you might want to check this out of the library.   Despite these nitpicks, I thought this was an informative and interesting read.  I am definitely in the minority about this, so you might want to sample a copy at the bookstore before you purchase.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Polterguys Vol 1 by Laurianne Uy and Nathan Go

 

 

Title: Polterguys Vol 1

Author: Laurianne Uy & Nathan Go

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Bree is a smart but socially awkward college girl who ends up moving into a house that’s haunted by five ghost guys. She’s the only one who can see these ghosts so she has to help them resolve their unfinished business. 

Review:

I haven’t been reading many graphic novels lately, and I’m at a loss as to why.  I think I was getting tired of the episodic formula, and more specifically, I was getting burnt out on waiting for new installments of my favorite series.  Throw in the number that have been canceled over the last few years, and well, I kind of lost any enthusiasm I had for comics.  I have received a few that looked very promising, though, so I started picking them up again.  So far, I am glad that I did, because I did miss the storytelling style.  I love the marriage of art and words, so I am slowly wading back into the world of graphic novels.

Polterguys looked cute, so I decided to give it a read.  It is cute, and the whole time I was reading it, I wondered why I never get to experience the life of a shoujo heroine.  I want a bunch of cute guys to clean my house and make me breakfast. Why hasn’t this happened yet?  I’m so jealous! Why doesn’t stuff like this ever happen in real life??  It’s commonplace in manga, but finding a guy in real life who can cook and clean – it’s about as rare as finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Bree is your typical nerd.  She is studious and dedicated to becoming a doctor.  She is awkward with others, and has no close friends.  In fact, she had to bribe some girls to pretend to be her friends so her mom could take pix of Bree and her BFFs at her high school graduation.  I was feeling a little down for Bree, because everyone deserves someone to confide in, but other than her poster of Sanjay Gupta, she has nobody.  She has also irritated the floor advisor at the college dorms because she can’t get along with her roommates.  Oh, poor Bree, just wait to see what Fate has in store for you!

When the opportunity comes to rent a room off campus, Bree jumps at the chance.  Finally, she will have peace, quiet, and the solitude that she has longed for.  Only the house is a little decrepit, and better yet, she discovers that it’s haunted!  With five hottie ghosts!  Bree quickly learns that none of them can remember much about their past, and until they can resolve the issues keeping them from  moving on, they are trapped on this plane.  Worse, they are in danger, because there is an evil ghost bounty hunter after them!  Mustering up every last bit of courage, Bree promises to help all of them find peace.

I enjoyed Polterguys because of the light tone.  While there are some dark and dangerous elements to the story, most of it is fun and humorous.  Bree’s social awkwardness is a humorous contrast to the ghosts’ charming approachability.  Only gruff Alex shows any reservation about getting involved with Bree.  As the unofficial leader of the ghosts, he feels a lot of pressure to keep everyone together and safe.  He isn’t pleased to think about the dangers and complications that Bree represents.  It turns out he was right; having Bree around is going to have terrible repercussions as the ghosts let their guard down and get a little careless.

There is some inconsistency to the art, but the style works well with the overall tone of the story.  While there isn’t really anything new here, I enjoyed the presentation, and found the cliffhanger ending more than enough to get me excited about reading the next volume of Polterguys.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by author

See Polterguys on Goodreads  Polterguys, Vol. 1

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Interview with Laurianne Uy, Creator of Polterguys

Laurianne Uy is the creator of Polterguys, a new graphic novel series with one shy girl and a bunch of hot ghosts.  Laurianne dropped by the virtual offices to chat about Polterguys, and about her road to getting her project published.  Check out what she has to say!

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Laurianne Uy] Someone who enjoys writing and creating fun, compelling stories Likes visual art analysis and bubble milk tea. Internet junkie. XD

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about Polterguys?

[Laurianne Uy] Sure, it’s the story of Bree — a smart but socially awkward college girl who moves into a house that’s haunted by five cute guys. She’s the only one who can see these ghosts so she has to help them resolve their unfinished business. From someone who’s uncomfortable hanging around boys, Bree suddenly has to live with a bunch of dead ones!

The series is informed by my love of ghost stories, reverse-harem manga and TV shows with awesome girls as lead characters. Some of my favorite movies from the ‘90s were Ghost, Heart & Souls and The Frighteners and I was always drawn to them for the dramatic storylines. But I always wanted to see one with a young girl in the spotlight (Why should guys have all the ghostly fun? XD)

Fruits Basket and Ouran are among my favorite anime/manga because they are incredibly entertaining with just the right amount of bittersweet-ness to them. Both series don’t have the “save-the-world” kind of arcs but their conflicts always felt so personal and intimate. The characters’ struggles were much more relatable that way and for Polterguys, I wanted familiar kinds of problems, too.

And finally, I can’t say enough how empowering shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars are for me as a viewer. Watching these tough girls take on bad guys, saving their friends and just kick ass inspires me to do the same (er…narratively, of course.) I like the idea that stories could inspire young women to be their own heroes in their daily lives. My favorite writers do that for me and this is me trying to pay it forward.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Laurianne Uy] Out of nowhere, I was having breakfast one morning and an idea just came to me- "Ghost harem." Somehow, my mind connected ghosts from shonen manga like Bleach and Yu Yu Hakusho to the reverse-harem shojo trope in Fruits Basket and Ouran. I usually didn’t have strong conceptual ideas like this so I knew this was special. But I did struggle to flesh out the world. My first drafts were pretty depressing and the main character was not very relatable or sympathetic. 

Then, I moved the setting from high school to the university and suddenly, the drafts were getting stronger. It was about this girl and figuring out who she was on her own. Full disclosure, I was pulling from my experiences studying at Berkeley for college after growing up in the Philippines most of my life. I felt like a blank slate coming here and that was fueling my writing much more so than if I had a younger protagonist.

Bree is the survivor out of all the protagonists we tried placing in this unique situation and I’m relieved people have liked her (so far, haha!) As for the ghosts, I retrieved all my mental files on reverse-harem stories I’ve enjoyed and devoured in the past. The boys had to somehow clue you into that reverse-harem trope but also function as believable characters in this world. So I had a football jock as the gentle giant, the kid who’s smarter than a whip and goes to a private school, identical twins with different tastes in fashion, and a cute kid in pajamas. 

[Manga Maniac Café] What three words best describe Bree?

[Laurianne Uy] Driven. Nerdy. Lonely.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are three things Bree would never have in her bedroom?

[Laurianne Uy] Frilly skirts, sports gear and green lipstick.  

[Manga Maniac Café] Why did you decide to use Kickstarter to fund this project?

[Laurianne Uy] I’ve seen Womanthology do pretty well on Kickstarter and have heard of other webcomic artists get their projects funded the same way. But to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure I could successfully raise enough money for the project. It wasn’t a question of whether the project itself was good because we had all the confidence in it. Nathan and I talked it over and we decided we didn’t have much to lose by trying. Kickstarter does streamline the rewards and pre-ordering process and there seems to be a great community of backers already comfortable with being a patron of the arts.   

[Manga Maniac Café] What’s the first word that came to your mind when you reached your campaign goal?

[Laurianne Uy] "MA~~!" (In my head, that sounded exactly like Fran Drescher.) I think my mom and my sister backed us that night when we were this close to getting funded. Haha, it would have been cool if strangers did it for us but they must have wanted the honor (and gotten a bit impatient).

[Manga Maniac Café] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Laurianne Uy] Oh, that’s a good one. Let’s see. The Disney golden years (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin), Friday night cartoons (Spider-Man, X-men and Batman the Animated Series) because I was banned from watching TV on weekdays , CLAMP manga, Joss Whedon’s writing. It’s kind of all over the place, isn’t it? 

[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Laurianne Uy] A comfy booth (because Nathan and I usually solve story problems in coffee shops so we’re not tempted to get up and check e-mail), paper for recording those sessions, and of course, Microsoft Word.

[Manga Maniac Café] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Laurianne Uy]  The Fault in our Stars. It’s not a comic but the writing and the characters are just so brutally honest. It destroyed me but I loved it so much for doing that. I have this weakness for stories about mortality and dying. It doesn’t matter if it’s a movie, TV show or comic, I will cry my eyes out if I care about a character, they know they don’t have much time left and they’re struggling with that burden. Nathan makes fun of me for it because I’m so predictable now. He eyes me from the side and prepares the tissue box. 

[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Laurianne Uy] I can’t remember if I picked this up myself or if it was given to me but the first book I remember owning was Nancy Drew: The Quest of the Missing Map. I must’ve not cared about continuity (Vol. 19? It’s okay!) or the garishly pink cover because there was a map involved! Buried treasure! I loved mysteries and Nancy was a pretty awesome gal. Looking back, she was my proto-Buffy. I was a super shy kid and felt pretty helpless all the time. She could do all these things I couldn’t. My parents forked over a lot of money to the Carolyn Keene estate. 

[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Laurianne Uy] I draw! I guess I should hand in my artist card if I don’t say that first. Lately, I’ve been challenging myself to draw more complex illustrations and using more copics. It’s hard to experiment with more expensive tools but I do want to get better at them. I also watch a lot of TV drama and try to soak in good writing through osmosis. When I read for fun it’s either the latest Terry Pratchett novel, a graphic novel I picked up from the library or a non-fiction bestseller. 

[Manga Maniac Café] How can readers connect with you?

[Laurianne Uy] I blog every week on my website at Laurbits.com. If you’re not into RSS or bookmarking the site, I also have a monthly newsletter you can sign up for so my updates and posts arrive in your inbox. I’m all over your social networks as Laurbits on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and Deviantart so you can always hang out and catch up with me on there. 

Thank you so much for having me, Julie. :)

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!

Purchase links coming soon!