Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your graphic novel, Fake Blood, through Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Whitney Gardner: It’s a “boy meets girl, boy pretends to be a vampire to win her heart, girl realizes it’s her destiny to slay him” story. It’s a story for anyone who has ever felt too young, too small, or too average. I was inspired by the idea that we all make assumptions about other people’s likes and lives before getting to know them, and, sometimes, we change ourselves to become more likeable, but in the end, maybe we’re better off embracing ourselves and all of our unique quirks and eccentricities.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in balancing the writing and illustrative duties of the project, and who or what have been some of your creative influences?
WG: I like to write the whole script first, that way my editor and I can revise it as needed. I do some character sketches at this stage, just so we can put faces to names in the script. Then, once we have the final version nailed down, I start drawing quick sketches for my editor and art director. They send me their notes, and then I move onto more finalized art. I’ve always been influenced by quirky artists like Shel Silverstein and Oliver Jeffers.
BD: Given that your previous releases - Chaotic Good and You’re Welcome, Universe - were geared towards a young adult audience, what was your experience in transitioning towards a middle-grade audience for Fake Blood?
WG: I’m having a lot of fun writing for middle grade. I get to be more goofy and playful. Dialogue has always been my favorite thing to write, so I was drawn to comics like a moth to a flame. Now, dialogue is practically the only thing I write!
BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from your work?
WG: Laughter. That’s the big one. Most of my stories deal with the intricacies of friendship and how to navigate those relationships. I hope that readers will come away feeling a little more understood and a little less alone.
BD: Do you hope to expand the universe of Fake Blood into future graphic novels or other entertainment mediums?
WG: There’s no sequel in the works for FAKE BLOOD. But I do plan on writing more graphic novels that feel like they belong in the same universe. More Pacific North West supernatural adventures. As far as other entertainment mediums go, who knows?! I’m certainly open to it.
BD: What makes Simon and Schuster the perfect home for Fake Blood?
WG: I knew I was in excellent hands when I found out my editor, Liz Kossnar, wrote her college thesis on vampires. She understood every little joke I snuck into the script and helped me add a few more. Everyone at Simon and Schuster has been so supportive, not only of FAKE BLOOD, but they are on board with my vision for carving out a space for goofy, heartwarming comics that have a tendency to go off the rails by the end.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
WG: Right now, I’m drawing the illustrations for a graphic novel titled BEOMING RBG; it’s about the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The script was written by Debby Levy, who wrote the picture book, I DISSENT. It’s been an honor to work on it.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Fake Blood and your other work?
WG: My website would be the best place to start. I’m also active on Twitter (@heywhitney) and Instagram (@heywhitneywrites).
Whitney Gardner is an author, illustrator, and coffee addict. Originally from New York, she studied design and worked as an art teacher and school librarian before moving to Portland, Oregon and then Victoria, British Columbia, where she lives by the Salish Sea with her husband and two pugs. In the rare moment Whitney isn’t writing or drawing, she’s likely to be reading comics, knitting, or roasting coffee. Her books include the Middle Grade graphic novel, FAKE BLOOD (September 4, 2018; Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers); and the Young Adult illustrated novels, CHAOTIC GOOD (March 13, 2018; Knopf Books for Young Readers) and YOU’RE WELCOME, UNIVERSE (March 7, 2017; Knopf Books for Young Readers). Visit Whitney online at heywhitney.com.