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Interview: Sarah Kuhn

May 21st, 2010 (07:00 am)
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Attention, fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, X-Men, and other such things made of awesome: You should read this interview. I'm pleased to be wrapping up this year's Summer Blog Blast Tour chatting with Sarah Kuhn. After a decade of working as a journalist, mostly in the sci-fi entertainment field, Sarah has added "author" to her resume. Tune in now to learn more about the inspiration for Sarah's novel One Con Glory and her involvement with Alert Nerd Press.

One Con Glory was influenced by your love for comic books and cult TV shows, and your work as a reporter in the field of sci-fi entertainment. What have you found to be the biggest challenges facing you as a female reporter in a male-dominated field?

I actually don't think it's so male-dominated anymore! Or maybe it never was and the fangirl force has just become way more visible and vocal in recent years—either way, that's a pretty awesome development, no?

But certainly, when I got my start as a geek-centric journalist, I did feel more like an anomaly or a unicorn or whatever. I guess the biggest challenge was convincing some of my fellow journos that I was for real: yes, I know just as much about X-Men continuity as you do. Yes, I've watched every episode of the original Star Trek just as many times as you have. Yes, I am familiar with this whole "organic web-shooters" debate. Yes, yes, yes. Then again, that was probably only a "challenge" because I made it one in my mind, you know? I've hopefully learned to be a little less defensive about my nerd cred.

How long have you been a journalist?

Hmm, I guess it's been over a decade now? That makes me feel so old.

How and when did you decide to branch out into novel-writing? Tell me about publishing, and about Alert Nerd Press.

Alert Nerd Press is something Matt Springer has always wanted to launch as part of our group geek-blog, Alert Nerd. Basically, he wanted to create a small press dedicated to "geek lit" - fiction and essays aimed squarely at nerdly obsessives like us. So we started off with this little PDF 'zine, Grok, and that's morphed into a few book-like things.

As for the branching out: it wasn't exactly a conscious decision. I wrote a short story for Grok - just for fun, kind of trying to do a "here's something I would want to read: chick lit, but for geeks" sort of thing. And it ended on a cliffhanger, so I had to write another part. Then that part ended up sort of going in its own crazy direction and the whole thing just kept getting longer and longer and longer and suddenly I had something that was novella length. Matt and the other Alert Nerds - Chris Stewart and Jeff Stolarcyk - suggested that we revise the whole thing, add some bells and whistles, and collect it into one handy book. So that's what we did.

When I first saw the cover of One Con Glory, I immediately thought of Wonder Woman. Which comic books or comic book characters influenced those you created for your story, including the Periodic Seven and Glory Gilmore?

Glory and Co. are pretty obviously inspired by the comics I read growing up - like Claremont-era X-Men, where you have an equal mix of big, weird action and wide-eyed soap operatics. I think Glory Gilmore has a core of Jean Grey-esque bravery-in-the-face-of-all-odds to her. And Julie, the protagonist, has about a metric ton of Emma Frost's ice queen-style 'tude - but she'd never admit that and would, in fact, hate me for saying so.

The book comes in a protective cover with a cardboard backing board, as if it were a collectible comic. How much input did you have on the cover (designed by Chris Stewart) and the packaging?

The cover was all Chris—he's brilliant. I'd add my own two cents occasionally, which usually boiled down to: "That looks super-awesome!"

The book is split into three sections, each of which is preceded by a black & white illustration. Did you know the illustrators, Max Riffner, PJ Perez, and Benjamin Birdie, personally or professionally prior to writing this book? How did you select them, or assign the pieces?

I got to know all of them through, um, Twitter. Well, I guess you could say "the internet," but Twitter is about the greatest place for comics community-building—seriously. I was a fan of their various web comics: Birdie does The Rack with Kevin Church; Max has Lydia, also with Kevin Church, and Drunk Elephant; and Pj writes and draws The Utopian. I approached each of them and asked if they might be up for doing a small commission for me, and luckily they all said yes! They all have really great and unique ways of bringing characters to life, so I assigned the pieces based on who I thought was the best fit for certain characters in my book. They all turned out wonderfully. Pj's Layla looks so joyful and Birdie's Braidbeard is all smug and scheme-y and everything about Max's Julie - the hair and the half-smile and that little eyebrow raise - is absolute perfection. (Also: his Jack is really hot.)

Comic books - or any book or written story, period - tend to undergo changes when adapted for TV or film. Which comic-turned-movies or series do you feel best honored their origins?

I'd say the first two X-Men movies are probably still my favorites. I think Bryan Singer and Co. captured everything essential about that team. Even when they had to tweak a character - like Rogue - they did so in a way that stayed true to the spirit of the comics.

Are there any sequels or remakes you feel are better than the originals?

Oh, uh...blerg. I don't know! I suppose my thoroughly uncreative answer would be The Empire Strikes Back.

Which season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer do you feel was the best, and what were your favorite episodes?

Season 2 will probably always reign supreme for me. It has everything - action and betrayal and romantic angst and so many capital-M Moments. Like Buffy saying "close your eyes" right before she has to send her boyfriend to hell still gets me every time. Favorite episode is harder. I love "Becoming." "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" is such a perfect, funny piece of television. And I have a soft spot for "Family" because it's sort of emblematic of the whole Scooby Gang thing.

Favorite characters?

Buffy. Tara. Anya. Willow. Cordelia. Oh, maybe everyone.

What are your ten favorite books of all-time?

This is the Ultimate Unanswerable Question. But a few things I've loved recently: Libba Bray's Going Bovine, Kristin Cashore's Graceling, Molly Harper's vampire librarian trilogy, Karen Healey's Guardian of the Dead, Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson books, Jeri Smith-Ready's WVMP Radio series, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's Beautiful Creatures, Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series, Amber Benson's Death's Daughter…okay, do you see my problem? Even when I'm just naming things from the past year or so, I'm incapable of keeping it short. I'm going to end this now before I just list my entire GoodReads library.

Visit Alert Nerd Press and their page for One Con Glory.

Check out all of the stop on today's SBBT.

Comments

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: May 21st, 2010 09:05 am (UTC)
tanita says :)

I think I would read things from Alert Nerd Press simply because of the name. Add Buffy in and X-Men? Oh, we're there.

How cool is it to write collaboratively via TWITTER!?

I love the world of literature and how it so happily morphs into any available form. This is awesome.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: May 21st, 2010 01:24 pm (UTC)
Re: tanita says :)

Also, the world is small: Sarah K. has worked with Sarah S.!

Posted by: aquafortis.mp (aquafortis.mp)
Posted at: June 6th, 2010 06:05 am (UTC)
Re: tanita says :)

Yes, Tanita, I can put my copy of One Con Glory in my pile I'm saving for you, if you like!

Yay! LW, I'm so glad you interviewed Sarah K. Especially since she's a fellow Mills grad AND a former co-worker--that makes it extra cool. :) I can tell you, our nerdly work environment was definitely male-dominated, but fun.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: June 6th, 2010 06:08 am (UTC)
Re: tanita says :)

Yay! :)

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