Interview with Jen Wang

First off, congrats! In Real Life is a fantastic graphic novel. Could you tell us a bit about how the book came to be?
JW: Sure! I’d previously done a book for First Second called KOKO BE GOOD, and sometime after that had come out and I was in between projects that weren’t working out, First Second approached me about doing an adaptation of Cory’s short story, ANDA’S GAME. I read the story and found it super interesting, so I said yes!

The novel started out as a short story by Cory Doctorow, but you did most of the adaptation, no? How did the collaborative process work?
JW: I would write a draft of the graphic novel, then Cory would look over it and make notes. We went back and forth like this a couple times. The first draft was almost a straight adaptation of the source material and each new draft I took it a step further and added some new ideas that Cory would approve.

The art is fantastic; we really enjoyed the differences between the world and Coarsegold. We also really enjoyed that you drew Anda realistically. What were some of your inspirations in approaching the art?
JW: Well I wanted Coarsegold to feel like it could be a real game, so I loosely based it on World of Warcraft. I also took inspiration from Final Fantasy Online, Second Life, and Animal Crossing. Basically games 15-year-old me would’ve been obsessed with. But actually the real life scenes were my favorite to draw. I think it’s just a personal preference that I get to play around with more observational things, like what a classroom or Anda’s room might look like. Real life Anda herself was my favorite thing to draw in the whole book. She just looks like a real girl!

You’ve drawn a lot of on-line comics, as well as written another graphic novel How did the process for In Real Life differ from what you’ve done in the past? Did you set out to write something for young adults?
JW: IN REAL LIFE is the first time I’ve adapted a story and worked with another author. Previously I’ve only written for myself, and right now I’m working on a project where I’m writing for someone else to draw. As far as audience goes IN REAL LIFE was pitched as a Young Adult novel, so that was always on my mind from the beginning. I think more than anything else I’ve done I was thinking more about what a teenage me would’ve related to or found interesting and tried to mold the book from that perspective.

If you don’t mind telling us, what’s next for you?
JW: For comics I’m working on a new graphic novel which hopefully I’ll be able to talk about soon! I’m also writing an Adventure Time mini-series for BOOM! Comics. In my free time I do a webcomic called THE WHITE SNAKE which I update by chapter periodically. I’m also a co-founder and organizer for the annual Los Angeles based indie comics festival Comic Arts LA. We just had our first show in December which by all accounts was a smashing success. We’re just getting started with this coming year and hopefully it’s going to be even better!

Thanks, Jen! Be sure to follow her on Twitter, or find her at her website.