At New York Comic Con 2016, we were able to talk to many of the contributors to The Secret Loves of Geek Girls, an anthology series focusing on female creators and their often extremely personal stories centered around love and relationships.
In part one of these interviews, we sat down with Hope Nicholson, the Editor and original publisher through her publishing company, Bedside Press, as well as a contributing writer, Megan Lavey-Heaton, a contributing writer, and Fionna Adams, another contributing writer.
Trust me when I say, this anthology is a must-read series for anyone who has ever questioned anything about relationships. It is full of female empowerment and so much geekery that I promise you’ll see something you thought was weird or unique to your experiences, only to find out that you’re not alone in those feelings at all. Check out our full review of the anthology here and see part two of the contributor interviews here.
How did you get involved with The Secret Loves of Geek Girls anthology?
Hope Nicholson: I made it! [laughter] I had the concept because I go and talk to my female friends at conventions, hangouts, book signings and often our talks would go to our thoughts on dating, our anxiety about it, and the weird situations we’ve been through.
HN: I thought it would be good and a comfort to other people if we had those stories written down. So I gathered together some friends, reached out to the internet and got some strangers, and I put together a book that was successfully funded on Kickstarter. And then took it to Dark Horse, where now it’s available worldwide.
Megan Lavey-Heaton: I was one of the strangers found on the internet. Several of my friends were already involved in the anthology and I had been loosely constructing an article talking about how I met my husband through fandom. So when the anthology came along, I thought it was perfect and pitched my story to Hope and thankfully she accepted it.
Fionna Adams: One of the contributing artists, Jen Vaughn, texted me one day and was like, “Hey would you want to be in this anthology?” I had a month long panic attack about it and then I was like yes! And now I’m in the anthology.
Did any of you have a favorite story or contribution to the anthology besides your own?
HN: I loved all of them. To me, the one I thought was really important was Megan Kearney’s story, “Yes, No, Maybe.” It dealt with her own anxieties about dating and the fact that she didn’t even know if she wanted to date. It so clearly mirrored what I was feeling when going through the same situations that I felt really good reading her story and I felt like I wasn’t alone.
MLH: In addition to Megan’s, Hope’s story on waiting until she was in her late twenties to lose her virginity –
HN: It wasn’t on purpose! [laughter]
MLH: It really touched something in me because I did the same thing. I wasn’t interested in dating, I wasn’t interested in drooling after hot guys, I wanted to make an emotional connection. Hope’s piece and Megan’s piece really drove home the concept of demisexuality to me, which I didn’t know existed before now.
FA: Marguerite Bennett’s story, “Minas Tirith,” every time I read it, I cry. I get overwhelmed with the urge to hug Marguerite. It mirrors a lot of my pre-transition experiences dating, which were not the most pleasant things, but now I have a bunch of lovely partners so that’s in the past.
If you could give advice to a new geek girl about love and dating, what would your advice would be?
HN: Talk to your friends! I think a lot of people feel so isolated going through it alone, where they don’t know something is normal, abnormal or okay, or if they’re being taken advantage of. By putting it into words and talking to other people, you can get a better sense of really what’s going on.
HN: When you’re in the midst of a relationship, no matter what’s happening, it can be so overwhelming that it’s hard to tell up and down, left and right. It’s really important to reach out and connect with your friends, even when you find yourself obsessed with one or particular people.
MLH: Really listen to your own gut. If your gut is telling you this person is not right for you, your gut is right.
FA: The advice I would give is that it’s okay for sexuality to change. It’s okay for gender to change, everything is fluid and malleable. A lot of it, especially in mainstream pop culture, is presented as being this hard line – it’s this or no other way. That’s why it took until I was twenty four to figure out I’m a girl, everything is malleable.
FA: If you feel like something needs to change about you, then talk to people about it. It’s okay to not be a guy and be a geek girl, it’s okay to not be a geek girl and be a geek guy, it’s okay to figure out that you’re not into guys or girls or anyone. It’s okay to figure out that maybe you want to date multiple people. It’s all constantly up in the air.
Hope, what was the Kickstarter process like and how was the transition from self-publishing the anthology to bringing it to Dark Horse for distribution?
HN: The Kickstarter process was fairly painless, I’ve done quite a few of them and I would say this was probably the easiest one to do and to reach out to people. The big push was the fact that Margaret Atwood is involved in the project and drew cartoons in it. That really helped us reach our goal quickly, which helped us feel a lot more confident in doing the project early on.
HN: After that, Margaret approached me to help her write a comic book called Angel Catbird. After some discussions with her, I worked with her to find an artist, Johnny Christmas, and a publisher, which I went with Dark Horse. They were really nice to deal with, our editor on Angel Catbird was Daniel Chabon. He was so nice and so enthusiastic and it very much felt like he was behind you and in your corner 100%.
HN: As a small publishing company, I’m really limited to maybe selling 4,000 copies max and having a wider distribution net was really, really important to me because these stories are so important. So when I was looking for a larger publisher to bring Secret Loves of Geek Girls to a worldwide audience, I went with Dark Horse because they have a great distribution net, they work with Penguin Random House and I had a great relationship with Daniel.
Megan, can you explain the significance of fanfiction in forming relationships, both with your husband and with your friends?
MLH: Most of my good friends, I’ve actually met through fanfiction. I work on a series called Namesake and the artist on that is my friend Isabelle Melançon, we met through fandom as well. It gives you something in common. It’s something as basic as, “I love this character! I love this ship!” and you start connecting over that.
MLH: Eventually, you start talking about other things, “How was your day? How was your school day?” You start talking politics or find out that you have other fandoms in common. Eventually, you’re having these really long Facebook chats with each other, waking up in the middle of the night, or being worried – I’ve got friends evacuating from the Florida coast right now. Eventually, they stop being your fandom friends and they just start being your family.
Fionna, what advice do you have for girls who are looking to label themselves?
FA: Labels are weird. I have this joke that a solid sixty percent of my tweets are just me saying, “I’m really gay.” There are labels that are applied to you and then there are labels that you give yourself. Part of the issue is that there are labels that you can’t help but have given to you. For example, there’s this issue where the mainstream LGBT movement is just called, ‘Gay Rights.’ So, you have people who complain that you’re not actually gay, you’re bisexual, and it’s like well then don’t call the movement ‘Gay Rights.’
FA: It’s this whole weird balancing act and it’s also who I’m around. There are a lot of friends of mine, who for them queer is still a slur and they can’t deal with it, so I moderate around them, but that’s my go-to label because it’s really flexible.
FA: I briefly dated someone who, at the time identified as a cis guy and then three weeks in, he was like I’m not actually sure that I’m a cis guy… It’s like every time! Every time! Literally, it’s an in-joke among my friends that if a transgirl dates someone who is not a transgirl, they’ll end up figuring out they’re a transgirl. The whole thing with labels is take what’s comfortable to you, but don’t feel restricted by it. That’s the short version.
Hope, what was the editing process like for you once you collected all of these people and projects?
HN: It depended on the project. Some came to me fully written and just required some light proofreading and work like that, others required a bit more work – especially for creators who were newer to writing. For example, there was some confusion surrounding Fionna’s story about her script script because I thought Jen Vaughn, the artist, had read her script before she started drawing it.
HN: There were some things about letter placement and things like that, where I was having trouble following and then it came to me halfway through, because I’m also not an experienced editor myself, I’m learning as I go. Jen was like, “Wait, didn’t you read the script?” and I was like, “Oh yeah, I should’ve done that!”
MLH: You did fine as an editor!
HN: Oh, thank you. I could be better.
FA: This was my first published thing, so if all of my experiences could be like working with Hope, then A+.
MLH: I was the original designer for the original Kickstarter, I was the book designer, and working with Hope was great. We actually did the cover right after New York Comic Con last year right in Hope’s hotel lobby. We did that in an hour and a half and she’s a great collaborator, she’s easy to work with and she’s always reachable.
HN: Yeah, I respond to emails very quickly. That’s my selling point.
FA: And if you didn’t respond to emails, I could IM you on Facebook and you’d treat that like texts, especially because you’re in Canada.
How do you all think the internet lends itself to relationships and dating these days?
HN: I’ve met all the people I’ve dated through the internet in some capacity, sometimes it’s just being friends before we started dating. By interacting on social media, you build up this intimacy that sometimes leads to happy feelings – and sometimes doesn’t and you still have great friends.
MLH: I think for me, the internet forced my husband and I to work through stuff that in person we normally wouldn’t have addressed in a relationship because we had to talk everything out. Being able to sit there and type out what we were feeling and the issues we were going through in a way, we still do that even though we’ve been married for six years. Some of our best conversations come when we’re in two separate locations typing back and forth what we’re feeling to each other. That’s something that the internet brought for us.
FA: I’m going to get really morbid, very briefly, but without the internet, I’d literally be dead. All of my friends – I have very few friends who actually live in New York and I’m from here. I grew up in Farmingdale, where there’s a literal field, but all of my friends are in Seattle or Portland or the Bay Area. I have five partners who are respectively in Nova Scotia, Austin, Texas, Dallas, Texas, the Caribbean Island of Nassau, and Seattle.
MLH: Oh, you’ve got more now, congratulations!
FA: It’s up and down, it’s fluctuating and right now it’s steady at five.
HN: Because everything is flexible!
FA: Yes, I’m moving in with two of them this winter. The one in Austin and the one in Seattle, I’m moving in with them, we’re going to live in an apartment together in Seattle. Literally, without the internet I would probably be dead, I wouldn’t have figured out I was a girl, and I wouldn’t be dating five awesome, hilarious, complete dorks of women.
FA: The couple in Dallas, her and her wife flew me out to the city last year and I got to see another when I was in Seattle. Without the internet, I wouldn’t be dating anyone. It’s really cool and I wouldn’t have wanted to move to Seattle without it.
MLH: And I will say too, the first time I met Fiona she was really, really quiet, kind of shy. The more I’ve seen you, the more outgoing you’ve been and it’s great seeing you blossom.
FA: It’s been an interesting three years, I can say that much. Without the internet, I wouldn’t have gotten as big into comics, I wouldn’t be published, I wouldn’t know anyone or be able to be friends with anyone. The internet is such an important thing. I’m twenty seven, people around my age, it’s like our social lives are 80% in the internet.
FA: One of the stories I’m writing is about two transgirls in a long distance relationship and half the dialogue is Twitter because that’s how we all talk to each other. The joke is a side effect of estradiol is an urge to move to the pacific northwest because all of my transgirlfriends are in Seattle. So I’m going to know thirty people going there and I wouldn’t know them without the internet.
Find out more about Hope Nicholson on her website, Twitter, and Facebook.
Find out more about Megan Lavey-Heaton on her website, Twitter, and Tumblr.
Find out more about Fionna Adams on her website and Twitter.