MoA&A Interview #27: Emily Whitten

Hello, everyone! Welcome to July, and the Month of Artist and Author Interviews here on the website.

Today’s interview features he gorgeous and glittery Emily Whitten. (And no, if you read yesterday’s interview with Jeremy Whitley, I am NOT going in Alphabetical order. It just seems that way.)

I met Emily at Nebula Weekend last year, after she accepted the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult SF on behalf of Terry Pratchett. There was this beautiful blonde girl, walking up on stage, and I thought, “Man, it’s a shame I don’t know her. I really probably should.”

Fast forward to a large circular table at a post-Nebula Italian lunch, with a bunch of friends…and I’m suddenly sitting right next to the pretty blonde girl. I think it was awkward for about 3.5 seconds, before we realized we both loved comics and fantasy and Neil Gaiman and music and…and…and I started taking notes.

Emily writes a column for ComicMix and a comic called Ask Deadpool— if you’re into comics at all, you should read her!

But first, read this.


Author or Artist?
Author; although I do also like to dabble in tiny sculpture, which might count as Art? [Yes! ~A]

Who are your professional role models?
There are a lot of pros I admire in the creative fields, and if I were to list all of them we’d be here all day; but it probably won’t surprise anyone who knows me to know that Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman are high on the list of living authors I admire. Both have an incredible ability to not only write amazing things, but to constantly keep on writing new and different amazing things, all while juggling the demands of being a super-successful writer. I admire Terry’s sharp wit and uncanny knack for seeing into the heart of humanity and conveying his insights to us through his characters. And I’m jealous of the way he looks so amazingly right in the black hat, because I look silly in hats. I admire Neil’s flexibility in producing consistently quality work in numerous creative mediums. And I’m jealous of The Hair, which truly deserves its own capitals. If it ever met Dylan Moran’s hair, I suspect there’d be a hair fight, and I’d pay to see it.

Another author I admire is Gail Simone. She writes great quirkily funny dialogue and interesting stories, and created some awesome comics characters. And as a woman, I certainly admire her for paving the way with the success of her website, columns, and comics writing for other women looking to be successful in comics. For whatever reasons, comics creating is still heavily skewed towards the male demographic, and some people seem to think that women aren’t as good at creating comics. I’d definitely hold Gail Simone and her work up as an example of why that’s just silly. Also I love her red hair.

What’s your favorite writing/sketching weather?
I really like stormy weather if I’m inside. I live 9 stories up with big plate glass windows and a view, and I kind of enjoy being inside writing away while nature’s going crazy just outside. Also the lightning looks amazing from up there.

But I like sunny days too, so I guess I’m not super-particular.

Set your current playlist/musical device to “shuffle all” and hit PLAY. What’s the first song that comes up?
Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s – A Light on a Hill

Hey! Bonus points because most of the band is from Indiana and one of them went to my alma mater.

If you could win any award, which would it be?
One with a giant money prize attached. Hah! Honestly, I’d be thrilled to win anything. Yay, awards!

Would you rather have magical powers, or a spaceship?
Magical powers, for sure. Humanity can and has built spaceships, but as far as I know, you can’t build magical powers. Plus, then I could be cool like Doctor Strange.

What was your favorite book as a child?
OH SO MANY. You are talking to a woman who can walk while texting today because in school, I used to walk the halls with my nose in a book (and I never ran into anyone!). But I’d have to go with Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. It works on several levels, which is something I’m always drawn to. The satire and humor is great, and it also got me interested in King Arthur legends, which led me to other Arthur books by T.H. White, Mary Stewart, Stephen R. Lawhead, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and more. I never get tired of that book.

What thing do you wish you could go back in time and tell your 10-year-old self?
I have to pick one thing?? Huh. I’d probably tell Me about the economy crash, so I could have been better prepared.

Wow, what a downer I am.

What’s your favorite constellation?
I like the Big Dipper because it’s so easy to find, and I can always look up and see it wherever I am. Also you can find Regulus and Arcturus through it (and of course Polaris) and I like those names. I mostly like stars and constellations because of their names. I like Orion because I like the name (and Betelgeuse and Bellatrix, both stars which are part of the constellation). Also it points to Castor & Pollux, which I love from the use of those names in The Once and Future King. And in nerdy things, I also like Orion because of how it was used in the TV show Chuck (Spoiler? Has anyone not seen Chuck? Don’t read this bit.) Orion was the code name Chuck’s dad chose as he tried to help his son and find out what had happened to his wife. It was appropriate because he was technically hunting his wife (but not in a bad way). And also I love Scott Bakula, who played Chuck’s dad, so that makes me even more fond of the name.

What’s your favorite fairy tale?
You ask me all the hard questions. Do I really have to choose?? Fine. The Ugly Duckling.

What thing are you most proud of?
I’m pretty happy that I helped make two Discworld conventions happen in the U.S. I’m sure there’s some other stuff, too.

The Colin Harvey Memorial Question: Name 3 things on your List of Things to Do Before You Die.
1.) Finish drafting the first few issues of the super-fun comics series I’m working on with Ben Fisher, and start getting that published. We’ve already come up with an epically massive and comprehensive backstory, a great cast of adorably awesome characters, and several complex story arcs, and plan to launch a Kickstarter soon so that we can publish without losing the rights to a fantastically fun story. [I, personally, can’t wait for this! ~Alethea]
2.) Have a family. With at least one kiddie, because I love kids; and also a great big Great Pyrenees sheepdog.
3.) Go traveling overseas again, possibly to Italy.


Emily S. Whitten has written articles and webcomics for MTV Splash Page,, the Tonner Doll Company blog, and other publications. You can read many of her comics here: By day, she is an attorney and a freelance writer. By night, she amuses herself by writing and tweeting (unofficially) as Deadpool. She is a member of The National Press Club, and a co-founder and organizer of The North American Discworld Convention for bestselling author Sir Terry Pratchett. She also has a tiny hamster named Izzy (a.k.a. Ysabell Sto Hamsterlet) who is secretly a superheroine.

She is currently working with fellow comics writer Ben Fisher (author of Splitsville, Hexen Hammers, and Smuggling Spirits), on an epically complex new comics series that pairs post-apocalyptic problems and furry cuteness, and hopes to be able to say more about it some day very soon.

Stay tuned for Ben’s interview…here, tomorrow!

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Nebula Princess

The Prez & The Princess

Juggling is a precious talent. It’s so much fun to see so many things flying in the air over your head. You feel so giddy when they’re up there, so proud of yourself that you have come so far and are able to do so much. In that moment, you’re on top of the world.

God have mercy on your soul if you ever fall behind.

What with pushing myself to the edge and trying to be everything (and almost succeeding) I needed some time to recover that didn’t include new jobs and sick children and dusty to-do lists…but I don’t get to choose that part. Instead, I write notes to myself on the iPhone while I’m half-blind on the elliptical machine in the morning and I keep everyone hydrated and full of vitamins and I wash my new apron and stay until midnight to unload the truck if that’s what needs to be done. And if I don’t get to write about this past Nebula Awards weekend until Thursday (while I’m supposed to be recording another Fairy Tale Theatre podcast), that doesn’t make what happened there any less special.

I have this saying — I don’t remember when I came up with it, or to whom I said it first, but I’ve been saying it for a few months now: Strangers are just best friends I haven’t met yet. I do, in my heart, honestly believe that each one of us is special. Optimistic and crazy, oh yes, I am fully aware. But as a princess, that’s my prerogative.

It’s so easy to turn away from the stranger on the train, so easy to scream at the idiot driver in the car that just cut you off. We know fully well that inside each sack of flesh we encounter is a living, breathing soul full of life and love and complex beauty…and yet we do it anyway. It’s so much easier ignoring all that. It’s so much easier not to know. It’s so much easier managing a small group of friends. It’s so much easier to juggle fewer flaming batons. It’s so much more forgiving for someone with a lengthy, never-ending to-do list.

But I made a choice when Andre Norton died. When I got home Sunday night, I pulled Beauty & Dynamite off the shelf and read that essay again in the twilight to remind myself of the exact words.  I love having friends. I want as many as my heart can hold. I want them all. Even if it means that eventually and painfully I’ll have to lose every single one. The minutes and hours and years on the roller coaster of happiness and sadness with them are worth every second of gray numbness.’Cause when I get to heaven, I want there to be a heck of a lot more than five people waiting.

Friends are worth all the additional balls you have to juggle, and every bullet point on a never-ending to-do list.

Nebula nominee Barry Deutsch appropriately summed up the Nebula Weekend by saying that the convention was a very small group of people with a much higher ratio of really cool folks to the socially awkward off-putting variety. With that in mind, I took the opportunity to step way out of my box and introduce myself to people I didn’t know. I roomed the first night with a friend and a stranger. I threw myself into the one workshop I signed up for and the two that I audited. I sat down next to people I didn’t know and chatted with them until we stood up as friends. I was sure to gush compliments when compliments were due and asked to lend a hand if one was needed. I stayed up until way past my bedtime and I was babbling and incoherent. I took pictures whenever I remembered that I had a camera. And I wore the tiara, because Mary Rodgers reminded me that I wouldn’t be the same without it. She was right.

I would list all the new and wonderful friends I met this weekend, but I won’t — first, out of fear of forgetting someone, and second, because I need to email them all or add them on Twitter or tag them on Facebook, and I’ve spent far too much time on this blog post already. Suffice it to say that I have no idea why Kate Baker and I hadn’t met before, but I’m awfully glad we finally did. Michael Whelan is a fabulously nice guy, and far more approachable than I ever imagined. MK Hobson can seriously rock a dress, and Rachel Swirsky’s gorgeous jewelry brings out my dragonlike tendencies. Amal El-Mohtar can bring the shiny with me any day. Walter Cuirle needs to host his own radio show. Mike Zipser asks great questions. Bud Sparhawk tells great stories. Myke Cole is very good for my ego. Emily Whitten is a godsend from Geek Heaven. John Grace has great taste in comics, Eric Fullilove has great taste in t-shirts, and Shannon Rampe and Trodayne Northern have  impeccable taste in hats. Janice Shoults is a woman after my own heart. Kathy Morrow has great patience. Peggy Rae Sapienza and Bill Lawhorn can do anything, I am sure of it.

My Codex Homies

Possibly even more fun than making new friends was seeing the old ones–most especially, the Codex Writers. Every year that goes by I am so happy that the handful of us little kids with big ideas came up with that place. They are the family that gets reunited whenever there’s an event like this…even when we’ve never met in person. We still know each other. We have that much more in common. We can cheer like hell when one of us walks away with an award…and then stand up and do it all over again when one of us walks away with the next one, too.

Eric, I am so freaking proud of you. I’m still busting at the seams. When you shared your precious bag of Reese’s Sticks with me while my left leg was going numb in that hard plastic chair at Orson Scott Card’s boot camp–even after I’d threatened to slap your characters–who knew that we would be here right now? Who knew how far we would go? Who knows how far yet we still can? I hope that every time you see that shiny award you remember what it felt like…but right on the heels I hope is the memory of sitting at that lunch table with me and Scott Roberts while we each confessed to the fact that we were still freaking out inside at random intervals to the theme of “Holy crap, that’s Orson Scott Card right there!”

For me, watching Eric walk on stage and accept the Nebula Award this weekend was second only to watching Mary Robinette Kowal accept the John W. Campbell Award. It is so hard to believe that these people I love so dearly were strangers to me once. I can hardly remember a time before the Reese’s Sticks and the keys locked in the car running in my driveway (that was Mary). I know it’s true, though. We might have passed in an airport sometime in those first couple of decades, or waited in the same line at the World’s Fair. Back in those days, we were just best friends that hadn’t met yet.

Imagine what life would be like if we’d realized it then.

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