I want our readers to know about your connection to this place, Seattle, specifically, because you’re really tied to this community. Do you think you can be shaped geographically as an artist? And how much has Seattle shaped your artistic experience? Is place important to where you do your work?
I came here twice—once was in 1989, when I came here and I worked on a psychiatric unit right after college, where I was a psych major. I’m from Philly, but I didn’t really want to stay on the East Coast. I had never been here before. I loved Seattle, but I really didn’t connect with working on the psych unit, so I had my early midlife crisis and moved to Taiwan to live with my brother. Around that time, I decided that I actually wanted to be an artist. After Taiwan, I moved to Philly where my dad was still living, worked for a little while, then I moved back to Seattle. And one of the reasons that I moved back here is that in reading a lot more comics, and finding out more about who lives where, I saw that there were a lot of cartoonists in Seattle. So this was an artistically appropriate place to be, kind of a cartoonists’ mecca in the early ’90s. I think the Northwest in general is pretty comics-friendly and fertile for cartoonists. But I really connect with Seattle. It seems like a very broad thing, but I really love the geography. I love living in a city, I love all the water, I love the smell of the ocean from downtown. I’m a lifelong swimmer, and in the summer I can drive seven minutes and be in Lake Washington, swimming around and looking at Mount Rainier! Every now and then I’m like, God, I live in a beautiful place.
I’ve had so many moments like that here. There’s not as much struggle here as I’ve had when I lived in other cities, and I think that supports doing better work. You can be a whole person here.
I always think of it in terms of East Coast and West Coast, because I grew up on the East Coast, but I think that raw generalization about the East Coast just being a little more driving and the West Coast being a little softer—there’s a lot of truth to that. I really enjoy the sense of openness and flexibility here.
The last thing I want to talk about is a quote from the first three pages of Marbles. After getting a tattoo and walking out into the [winter] cold, and you say, “This is an elegant nod of approval from the universe.” And it resonated with me because I think we all look for those moments. I’m wondering if you still get those, if you still get those little nudges and nods from the universe that what you’re doing is good and right.
Well, sure. I mean, I think that hopefully that experience is a normal one where, you know, the stars line up. I think that the difference for me, in that scene, or in mania in general, is that it’s just how exponential that feeling is. And so I don’t have that, because I don’t get manic anymore, but that was part of the euphoric part of mania—that sense of such BROAD connection. That sense of connection is really my experience of mania. So, I guess the answer is yes and no.
Because so much of the struggle in the book is “Will I still be creative on meds?” I feel like scenes like this are part of the worry. Like, will I still have these connections, these ways to check in with the world unexpectedly or creatively or in ways that open my eyes and make me feel, without the mania.
Right—OK, so here will be my analogy. [Laughs] You know how it is when you first totally fall in love with somebody, and you’re just like still crushing, like HEAD over heels, like, Awwwww! Like, I can’t even believe this experience would be happening! Right? And then let’s say that relationship extends into years. And then, ideally, four years down the line, you have this sense of deep love. And it’s still an extremely strong sense, and you can say that it’s even stronger because your feet are on the ground, and you can say, “I have this great thing.” It’s like that. ♦