Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your graphic novel, Shy Ninja! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the story’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Ricardo Sanchez: Thank you! We’re really excited to have the book come out. Shy Ninja is the story of Rena, a girl with social anxiety disorder, who has trouble participating at school, making friends, even leaving the house. She reluctantly starts attending a ninja school, and initially sees the art of ninjitsu as a way to continue to stay hidden, hide in the shadows; but as she develops her skills, she gets really good at this ninja thing and gains the confidence she needs to start addressing her anxiety. Rena’s quickly put to the test, though, when she’s given a mission that not only puts her life in danger, but her mother’s as well.
My inspiration was, in large part, an opportunity to write something with my daughter. This is our second project together and an experience I’m really grateful for.
BD: What can you tell us about your shared creative process in co-writing the book with your daughter, Adara, and working with artist Arianna Florean to bring this story to life?
RS: The idea for Shy Ninja was all Adara’s. Although the story we wrote is very different than the initial world she’d built up for the character, the basics - a girl who learns to be a ninja to avoid other people - is intact. After I pitched the basic premise, my editor at Humanoids gave me some notes, then Adara and I spent a bunch of time together working on characters, villains, and figuring out the kind of story we wanted to tell. Once we had it worked out, I started typing it up, with input from her along the way.
We were super excited when Arianna signed on to do the artwork. She’s such an incredibly talented artist. Arianna’s ability to render emotion and expression really brought to life all the characters and their unique personalities.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Rena’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
RS: I’m really drawn to characters that feel like outsiders. While most of us don’t share Rena’s level of anxiety, I think we can all relate to how she feels when kids laugh at her at school, or how she tries to avoid dealing with her fears. My hope is that kids reading Shy Ninja will see something of themselves in Rena, and maybe have more empathy for their classmate that is maybe a little weird or different. Rena is hindered by her anxiety, but, at the end of the day, she’s really a pretty normal kid who plays video games and wants to sleep in on weekends
BD: What makes Humanoids the perfect home for Shy Ninja?
RS: The editorial team at Humanoids is really amazing. Throughout the process of writing Shy Ninja, they pushed us to do better, but always with our original creative vision in mind. I think the end result is one of the best books I’ve ever written. I also love that they’ve taken a unique approach to kids books, with a focus on relatability and diversity.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
RS: A few years ago I wrote a zombie alphabet book, The A, B, Zeees. It’s kid appropriate for some kids. (They have to like zombies and gross and funny!) I’m working on a sequel now that will be done later this year. I’m also doing two graphic novels with Jheremy Raapack, the artist who worked with me on Resident Evil, but those are very much not kids books.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Shy Ninja and your other work?
RS: For Shy Ninja, you should definitely check out the Humanoids site! Adara has an Instagram account, WeirdSquidKreature, where you can see some of her other art projects. And for me, I have a Facebook page, WriterRicardoSanchez, and a website, www.ricardo-sanchez.com, where you can find my annual Halloween movie challenge!