Johnnie Christmas is a #1 New York Times bestselling graphic novelist. Best known for co-creating the series Angel Catbird with celebrated writer Margaret Atwood, he has adapted William Gibson’s lost screenplay for Alien 3 into a critically acclaimed graphic novel of the same name. He was nominated for the Outstanding Cartoonist 2019 Joe Shuster Award for his graphic novel Firebug. He also co-created the series Sheltered.
A graduate of the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, he earned a BFA in Communication Design/Illustration. He currently lives in Vancouver.
Author Q&A with Johnnie Christmas
Where do you find the inspiration for your books?
I constantly find inspiration in day-to-day things: on a walk, chatting with friends. The seeds of great stories are everywhere. A lot of times they come in the form of a question. Sometimes the answers lead to more questions and those questions are kind of a story in themselves. So mostly the inspiration comes from inspiration.
What were your favourite books when you were a kid? As a young reader, did you see yourself in the books you read?
My favourite books were comic books or Greek mythology; I loved fantastical tales. But no, I didn’t see myself reflected much in those stories. Over time it did become a source of bewilderment and frustration, because I thought, “Well, I exist and my friends exist and my family exists—why aren’t we in these stories?” It’s part of what I enjoy most about being a storyteller now, a) because I like telling stories, but b) I want to help fill the void, show kids stories where they see themselves reflected.
What’s the most surprising thing you have learned when creating your books?
Maybe the most surprising thing I’ve learned when creating books is how much the story changes from draft to draft. How there are many new surprises, even for the writer of the book, with every draft. It’s like magic every time.
What is a challenge you have faced as a writer?
Mostly the hurdle of getting an editor or publisher to understand the importance of stories they haven’t heard of before. Especially aspects of the Black community or experience that they aren’t aware of, so they give less credence to their importance. It can be very frustrating.
What advice do you have for kids who are interested in writing?
Don’t be afraid to do a bunch of iterations. With each iteration, every time you draw that subject or rewrite that story it gets better. Don’t be afraid to do it multiple times or even multiple versions. I would also say finish what you start. If you start a drawing or story see it all the way through. Improvement comes from doing a thing many, many times.