Apt613: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started in comics?
If you go back far enough, my comics have their beginnings in Mary-Sue Sailor Moon fancomics of my grade school friends and I on magical adventures. I haven’t put the pencil down since, but the stories I tell now are darker fiction, set in reality. Whatever thing is next for me, I think I want to dig back into that grade school energy and write something playful again.
I’ve always been good at drawing and writing, so comics felt right from the beginning. I was making zines in university, began an ambitious webcomic, and now I’ve published my second book.
Is your recent work Meat and Bone similar to other works you have done?
Not really. Meat and Bone came hot on the heels of the illustrated restaurant review blog I retired around the end of school, so it’s similar in that they both have to do with food, and the latter certainly gave root to the former.
“Every time I start something new, I want to try something I haven’t before.”
Every time I start something new, I want to try something I haven’t before. This is probably bad branding, but I don’t want to churn out variations on the same type of work, over and over. Towerkind is a weird end-of-the-world sketch of a neighbourhood, Meat and Bone is a fleshy narrative, and my zine work has been everything from poetic and experimental to educational and straightforward.
How would you explain it to new readers? What makes it special?
After working on this comic for so many years, you would think I’d have my elevator pitch down! I change it every time.
At it’s core, Meat and Bone is the story of four young women living in the same apartment tower, and the support of friends in a time of crisis. It’s about big feelings, tough body image, disordered eating and thinking, queer longing and finding strength. It’s an unflinching look at the struggles we put ourselves through, and the power of friendship.
Have you always been drawn to webcomics and serial comics? What do you find are the positives and negatives of a serial?
I love reading them, and when I was younger, webcomics were my great ambition. I realise now that the way I want to write in big, gluttonous stretches is better consumed as a full meal in book form. I don’t have plans to do a webcomic again, though it could always happen. I’d like to try something in issues, though. I love the suspense of the serial.
Suspense is one of my favourite qualities of serials, whether online or in issues. I love being built up on that edge of narrative anticipation! You do risk losing readers in the interim, especially in webcomics, which are infamous for unpredictable hiatuses. It also takes a very solid understanding of pacing to make it work well, and make the beats drop at the right moment.
Is going from web to print the goal of a comics creator?
I can’t speak for everyone. There are lots of absolutely rad webcomics out there that the creators do for sheer joy, no mind to monetization or print, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I like working for print, and I gotta say, I like to get paid. I do way better financially on paper, so for my that will be the way forward for the foreseeable future.
How was having its print debut at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival 2019?
Having this weighty book in my hands after six years of it being a pixel project was really… kind of indescribable. It felt amazing to really feel I have something to show for all that hard work, and to be proud of. Feels good!
Any advice for your past self?
Don’t work horizontally, always work in CMYK from the beginning, and holy moly, have back ups!
Any advice for those who want to write?
Set yourself deadlines and hold yourself to them, even if that deadline is to write only a half hour a day, or just one paragraph. Those little increments add up more quickly than you’ll realise.
What’s next for you? Will it be another webcomic, a complete volume, or something new?
I’m still figuring it out! I took a year off after completing this big book, both to promote it and to settle into new routines in a new city. Now I’m itching to make my own work again and start pitching. I think my next story will be an adventure story.
Meet author Kat Verhoeven at the Ottawa Public Library, where she will talk about her new graphic novel Meat and Bone, a queer story about friendship, body image, and strength. Verhoeven will talk about the creative and publishing processes, her experience taking a long-running webcomic to print and telling messy stories. This will be followed by a Q&A and a book signing. Event runs 12pm–1pm on Saturday August 24, 2019. Visit biblioottawalibrary.ca more information.