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Interview with Artist, Illustrator and Writer Chai Simone (illustrator of Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag: A Memoir)

Several years ago, I was working on a prose version of my memoir Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag, and although I loved the prose version, I knew deep down that the story had to be illustrated. The only problem? I had absolutely zero artistic ability.

This is where the talented artist Chai Simone comes in.

You see… I had no idea where I could find an artist to partner with for my new book. I searched high, I searched low, and then… I searched Reddit. I was browsing the Reddit sub-forums one day when I came across some of the best comic artwork I had ever seen. The colors, the saturation, the linework, even the attitude I could sense from the artwork. I was in awe of the talent. 

At the time, I had no idea who Chai was, where she lived, how old she was, or anything about her story; I just knew that she was a killer artist and that we needed to work together. Eventually, I reached out, we talked, worked on some sample pages together, and then next thing I knew we had an agent and then a book deal with the famous graphic memoir publisher Street Noise Books! And now our book is out!!!

Anyway, without further ado, here is my quick interview with the talented artist Chai Simone

Graphic Artist Chai SimoneWhen did you know you wanted to be an artist?
 
I think a part of me was always aware that no matter what it was I did, it would be done with an extreme artistic sensibility. I always figured as a kid, whether I was a baker, a mechanic, an engineer, or whatever, I would do it because it was art to me. Of course, a lot of this realization also came from my mom also being an artist and having fantastic tastes in art and film. By extension, she lent me a wonderful education in the arts, whether it was writing, film, or drawing. Growing up I played around with the idea of writing for visual media, but the two definitely came hand-in-hand as my first loves. I was guided by this passion (feeling like itches in my brain and tightness in my heart) to create images and stories with as much depth and detail as possible. Thankfully they were hobbies and coping mechanisms that snowballed into something far more productive, leading me to seek out doing things like screenwriting or commission art projects. And then I just sort of fell into it, this inevitability of being an artist, but in a much more grown-up and official kinda way. It’s silly that I only recently allowed myself the title of ‘artist,’ but I think it’s because I wanted to be one so bad I made myself work even harder for it.
 
What percentage do you consider yourself an artist versus writer?
 
This is a difficult one! But if I were being honest, I’d always consider myself a writer first. It’s honestly rare I can draw anything outside of the constraints I set for myself as a writer and storyteller, as words are always the first tool I use to flesh the story out. Rather than running to the drawing board, I head to my laptop and notebooks to feverishly write and string together notes and ideas that just pop into my brain, and I don’t believe drawing gets those ideas out nearly as fast as my brain rolls them out. Not to mention my ADHD makes it hard to focus on one thing for too long, so writing gets everything down as I’m thinking it. I’d settle with a good 65% as a writer, and 35% as a visual artist. Art is my home and my career, but writing will always be the driving force behind all my projects and creativity.
 
Who are your biggest creative influences?
 
It’s easy for me to pinpoint who my greatest influences are, and I think when people sometimes fall into the same niches as my interests, they start to realize I really wear my inspirations on my sleeve. Growing up, I loved graphic novels, specifically the nostalgic and youth-friendly aesthetic and stories by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Faith Erin Hicks, Neil Gaiman, Jillian Tamaki. My favorite painters that inspire me most often would be Edvard Munch and Zdzisław Beksiński. I’m also hugely inspired by film, video games, and television, I actually sought out to become a filmmaker after realizing that I craved certain elements that books can’t always quite deliver. I love the surreal and subversive, which also pits me into loving a hell of a lot of horror. I love the moodier works of David Lynch, the creepy themes and aesthetic of the Silent Hill games and movie, and the concerning character studies of The Sopranos. I’ll also throw in that I’ve recently fallen down the Shuzo Oshimi rabbit hole, and find that Aku no Hana is one of the greatest works of psychological horror I’ve ever read. Those are just a few examples of what are probably hundreds of titles I’ve fallen in love with and have been inspired by. On top of that I love all sorts of music and often creative extensive playlists to score my workflow and projects, and I always use it as a mechanism to set the tone. Honestly, I adore all forms of art and media and can find myself fixated with any a thing at any time, but those that I mentioned are some my long-time loves.
 
How do you find the time to write/illustrate/create while working full time?
 
Ohh it’s difficult! But I prefer doing the day job thing and working at my own pace with my projects than enforcing myself to monetize all the work I do. I’ve learned from previous experience that while it is possible to work as an artist full time, it also takes up a lot of creative energy that I can’t always keep up with, and that definitely affects the quality of work and leaves less for the personal projects that I had started with in the beginning. But to find the time to create and do my projects definitely requires a LOT of consideration for my well-being, meaning trust and forgiveness. The process of not having to force these images and ideas from myself I find is far more important. Wearing different hats definitely makes it easier to keep my creative mind space freer and motivates me to make better use of my time. That being said, I also make at least two to-do lists a day, that helps to nail what I need to do in my brain!
 
What advice do you have for your fellow illustrators, artists, and writers? 
 
Take care of yourself, it’s okay to be protective of your creative environment. Sometimes we take ourselves to more challenging spaces in order to create our art, and that can be hard on the psyche over time. Overworking oneself can wear you down and leave less room and energy for the projects that you want to work on, so it’s important to be gracious to yourself. I believe it’s sort of a myth that artists have to suffer for their art, seeing that suffering in life is already guaranteed. The space to cultivate your art should be what makes you the most charged and electric. It’s difficult to communicate what is desired or to be interpreted when it’s too hard to even bring yourself to work, right? You can’t always be an assembly line of productivity. It’s for that reason I also try to gauge how much I surround myself by art and influences. I’m known for creating extensive mood boards and playlists to translate what I desire to convey through my art, but I’m learning more and more there’s also something to be said for silence and emptiness, and above all else: boredom. My advice is, allow yourself to be bored, to feel or not to feel, or even to be in ruts, in a space that respects you and your needs. It’s good to challenge yourself and something you’ll have to do time and time again, but conquering so many hurdles, whether internal or external, also means you’ll have to become more considerate towards yourself as a human being. Trust that the art will come, and put out your work, even if it isn’t perfect. 
 
What are the next projects that you’re working on?
 
Thanks for askin’! I always put too much on my plate, but there’s nothing wrong with being advantageous. I have several stories and collaborations right now in the works, the kind of stuff that people haven’t really seen from me yet, namely because these things typically take years and years to develop and branch out. Currently, my main focus is my upcoming comic series run HOLY UNDERGROUND, a project that I started in 2015 (in high school) and just could never shake as it kept getting bigger and crazier and cooler. It’s an offbeat action-horror that combines gothic elements and takes inspiration from surrealist, psychological works while also including lots of creative gore, unique mythology, and scares. It follows Evan, a young woman struggling with mental illness, addiction, systematic abuse, and poverty, who is brutalized and killed in a traumatic string of events and is subsequently resurrected by a demon in the condition that she takes the perceived “evils” she encounters in the world and react to them with ultra-violence. It considers a wide range of themes, including how cycles of abuse and violence are perpetuated by different factors, the minority-female experience and pain that comes along with it, and horrors our minds are capable of under the impression of justice and hatred. A lot of it will be based on real-life events that cause us, and myself, to question what is right and what is justified. To put it a bit derivatively, it’ll be quite a bit like a Lynchian DeadpoolThe Crow, or Punisher, also with elements of dark comedy, and character study drawn in a sketchier, grittier, expressive style. 
 
Where can people follow you and see more of your work?
 
People can find my artwork, photography, and links on my Instagram @limina_1999. I also encourage them to check out filmsnobreviews.com, an outlet I’ve been writing film reviews for since 2018. We also have a podcast, Snobcast, on Spotify, Apple Music, and Soundcloud.
Blogishness, Just Another Meat Eating Dirtbag

Official Publication day of “Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag: A Graphic Memoir”

graphic memoir cover with tom hart of rosalie lightning
Order a copy!

I can’t believe my third book, Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag: A Memoir, has finally reached its publication day! 

This book has truly been a labor of love that I have spent years working on and writing, and rewriting and rewriting, and changing formatting, etc. Originally, like my first two books, this book began as a strictly prose memoir, but as I began editing the story and steadily falling in love with the medium of graphic memoirs, I began to see that I had to turn the story from strictly prose, to prose and illustrated.

Eventually, after I changed my memoir into a graphic memoir, I was able to partner up with the talented artist Chai Simone and we got an agent together, the amazing Matthew Carnicelli, and then we got a book deal with the cool-as-hell indie publisher Street Noise Books!

Anyway, today is publication day for my book (or as authors call the day, their “book birthday”) and I think you should order a copy and give it a read. I know I might be biased here, but I believe it’s an interesting, humorous and informative book and that you should give it a shot. Whether you’ve read something of mine before and enjoyed it; are into graphic memoirs/novels and the comic form; are interested in the specific subject matter in the book; or just looking to try out a new book, order a copy today and give it a chance!

Graphic Memoir Book Cover
Click to Purchase!
Blogishness, Just Another Meat Eating Dirtbag

Pre-Order a copy of the graphic memoir “Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag.”

Only one day left until the publication of my new graphic memoir Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag.

If you haven’t had a chance yet to pre-order a copy then make sure to order today! Or you’ll have to regular-order like everyone else!

Seriously though, pre-orders help with some algorithm stuff on amazon. I don’t know the specifics but I do know that it helps authors rank higher in search results.

Check out the book description, our early blurbers and trade reviews. I think you’ll enjoy the book!

graphic memoir cover with tom hart of rosalie lightning
Order a copy!

 

 

Blogishness, Just Another Meat Eating Dirtbag

Amazon A+ Content for “Meat-Eating Dirtbag”

I’ve long wondered why some books on Amazon seemingly get star treatment and get to add cool photos and author Q&A’s in their book description section and others don’t; apparently, I’ve learned, it’s because Amazon has something called an “A+ program.” Amazon’s A+ program is special program that only allows select, approved, publishers to use these advanced features on a book’s page.

Anyway, I learned about this A+ program recently because my publisher is part of it and I’m excited to announce that my new book is going to be part of it too!

Check out the Amazon A+ stuff on my Amazon book page: Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag: A Memoir. (Images below too).

 

Amazon A+ Program Content

 

Amazon A+ Content Graphic Memoir

 

Blogishness, Just Another Meat Eating Dirtbag

Publisher’s Weekly Review of: Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag: A Memoir

We just got in our first trade publication review for Meat-Eating Dirtbag and it’s from Publisher’s Weekly!

Graphic Memoir Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag
Click to purchase!

Publisher’s Weekly is one of the premier book reviewers and they get sent thousands of books for possible review–not all of them get a review–so it’s an honor that they’ve taken the take to read and review my newest book. Here’s my favorite highlight from the review:

“Anthony’s cocky, chatty voice is complemented by Simone’s vibrantly colored drawings and keen eye for gesture and character detail. Whether or not this missive changes minds about meat-eating, it’s a winning argument for empathy, concluding that love can sometimes be the absolute best, too.”

Publisher’s Weekly

 

 

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Incoming Blurbs for “Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag: A Graphic Memoir”

Graphic Memoir Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag
You should purchase a copy based on these awesome blurbs just click right here on this book cover!

One of the most stressful things in publishing a book is asking other authors/writers/illustrators to blurb your book (if you’re not familiar with what a blurb is, it’s those comments that typically appear on the cover, back cover, and inside first pages of a book where other writers and media types praise the book). It always feels weird/awkward to approach someone whose work you respect and then ask them to read your work and hopefully enjoy it enough to comment positively on it (not everyone agrees, and not everyone comments positively).

Anyway, we got some amazing blurbs for my new graphic memoir Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag.

The first is from Tom Hart, an amazing graphic memoirist who wrote the heartfelt, and heartbreaking NYT best-selling graphic memoir Rosalie Lightning (read this graphic memoir when you’re in need of a cathartic crying session). Tom also wrote the book The Art of the Graphic Memoir: Tell Your Story, Change your Life, which was a book that I devoured while writing my own graphic memoir, so it was amazing to hear that he would actually be reading my book and that he was willing to provide a blurb (truly, an amazing guy).

Tom’s blurb for Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag: “A charming, often hilarious look at how love is actually the worst.” It’s a short and sweet blurb and exactly what an author is looking for, it’s also the blurb that made it on the front cover of my book!

The next blurb is from Josh Neufeld an amazing writer and artist who wrote and illustrated A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge, and who was the illustrator of the fantastic and NYT best-selling book The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media. (Both books are quick reads and ones that I can’t recommend enough!)

Anyway, here’s Josh’s blurb for Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag

Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag offers a lot to chew on — not just the carnivore/vegetarian/vegan debate, but also questions of war, speciesism, ethics, and religion. The meat of the book, though, is a star-crossed love story, and Anthony’s confident, self-aware narration, spiced with Simone’s engaging art, makes for a fulfilling meal.” It’s another excellent blurb that made it onto the back of the book.

And last, but not least, a blurb from Global Vegan Magazine, an amazing company and magazine based out of Canada, but reaching globally, to spread the word about veganism and animal rights (two themes touched upon in my book).

Global Vegan Magazine’s blurb of Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag

“A refreshing, skillfully-illustrated novel that provoked all the ranges of emotions. Michael’s ability to write with humor quickly draws you into his personal experience as a meat-eating boyfriend learning about compassion for animals in the midst of a schemey plan. His perspective of a military veteran offers readers the opportunity to learn compassion from a different lens.” And there you have it, another great blurb that made it onto the back cover of my newest book.

I’m honored that these individuals took the time to read my work and felt strongly enough in it that they would lend their names to the blurbing and promotion of it.

If you’ve read and enjoyed any of my work before; or are someone who loves graphic novels/graphic memoirs; or are someone who loves books on veganism and animal rights (don’t need to be all three) then I think you’ll enjoy this book (and if you’re doubting it, then just reread what those blurbers had to say!)

graphic memoir book cover
Click to Purchase!
Blogishness, Just Another Meat Eating Dirtbag

New Book Coming out! A Graphic Memoir!

Graphic Memoir Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag
Click to Purchase!

I cannot believe it’s been five years since my last book Civilianized: A Young Veteran’s Memoir came out! I guess it’s time for another! This November 8th I have a new graphic memoir coming out and if you’re not familiar with graphic memoirs they’re this amazing–newish–growing medium that combines graphic novels (illustrated story-telling) with the honesty and self-reflection of memoir.

A few examples of great graphic memoirs are Rosalie Lightning, Come Home Indio, Tom Boy, I’m a Wild Seed and Fun Home

My new book is titled: Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag: A Memoir and here’s what it’s about: 

A rough-and-tumble Iraq War veteran is young and in love, and the last thing on his mind is food and the ethics of eating meat. But when his girlfriend becomes a vegetarian and animal rights activist, suddenly food is all he thinks about. 

A true story of how love and vegetarianism can triumph over all else. Love, heartache, and the rest of the ingredients that make a reader laugh, smile, stop-and-think, are all found in this enthralling graphic memoir. Amidst the stories of love and frustration, there are treatises on food, vegetarianism, and the ethics of the animal rights movement (some of it juxtaposed against Michael’s graphic wartime experiences). Told with Michael’s sardonic perspective and the delightful artwork of debut graphic novelist Chai Simone, this is a journey of true love gone temporarily astray.”

I think it’s some of my best work yet and I’m super-stoked and honored to have worked with the amazon artist Chai Simone and the amazing Indie Publisher Street Noise Books (more on them both later).

Anyway, if you’ve read any of my stuff before I think you’ll definitely enjoy this book, and make sure to pre-order it on amazon or at your local bookstore (pre-orders help with some sort of algorithm for books and stuff, so make sure to buy a copy today!) 

Graphic Memoir Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag
Purchase today!