Mikki Kendall is a writer and feminist activist. Her writing can be found on Hood Feminism, XO Jane, Salon, and the Guardian. In 2014 she created the hashtags #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen and #FastTailedGirls. A life long SFF fan, in 2015 she makes her debut as a comics writer, contributing to Storm of Sorrows for Dynamite. We caught up with her recently to talk comics, career, and cupcakes.
Thanks for taking time out of a much-deserved binge TV break, life, and, if Twitter is any indication, a very busy schedule.
First and foremost, congratulations on Swords of Sorrow from Dynamite. We at WWAC were thrilled to hear your news, and it’s already on our pull lists!
You’ve never been shy to tell the story that you’ve been an appreciator of books since childhood. Was there one thing that set you on the path of writing science fiction and fantasy?
I love speculative fiction. From fairy tales to adventure stories to Ray Bradbury’s books, you name it and I read it as a kid. I started making up little stories for myself, and then in school I was lucky enough to get into a creative writing class. Third grade creative writing is mostly “Write what you know” and most of what I knew was fantasy or sci fi. I really like making my own realities so I’ve stuck to it.
Getting support at an early age is vital when you’re starting out young. And speculative fiction really opens up the writer’s gateway to go anywhere she pleases. The Dynamite project is just another example. Pulp genre. Can you go into what you’re doing or do you have to keep it under your hat a while longer?
I can say that I’m working with some great pulp characters. And that it’s a wild ride. Swords of Sorrow is going to be a real roller coaster of a series. With some amazing artists.
Just from the previews and Gail Simone’s enthusiasm, it looks really exciting. How did you and Gail come to work together on the project? I hear there were baked goods involved!
LOL. We met originally online, and when she was in town, I made her cupcakes.
We wound up talking at her signing, and she asked if I wrote fiction. I thought she was being nice, but she really did read it. And asked if I was interested in comic writing. When Gail Simone asks if you’d be interested in a project the answer is yes. The answer is always yes. I didn’t even know what I was agreeing to at first. And I didn’t expect Dynamite to say yes when I found out what it was.
Your kitchen skills are legendary, if Twitter’s response is anything to go by. As for Gail Simone asking if you’re interested, I’d have to agree. Wow, so the ride’s been a roller coaster for you on a personal level as well. Is it very different for you, writing a comic as opposed to writing straight prose?
Yes. We won’t discuss my first draft of this story. Writing so that artists can understand what’s in your head is a very particular skill. I hope I did a good job. And that the book is as fun for people to read as it was for me to write.
That old saying, “a first draft doesn’t have to be good, it just has to get done” exists for a reason, I’m told. But clearly you got all those rough edges filed down to a smoothness you can live with. So aside from the natural hopes you’ve just shared, what are you looking to get out of this creative venture? Plans for more comics, dare we hope?
I really want to do more comics. Both for existing characters and selfishly for a graphic novel idea that I have.
Great to hear. We remember your first go at self-publishing with Verb Noire. That didn’t pan out precisely as planned, but what lessons did you take away, and do you have plans or interest in applying them toward another publishing startup?
I learned that I need to study the business side of writing more. And that I can’t do everything at once. I do want to revive Verb Noire some day, but not until I have much better resources and a deeper knowledge of what I want it to be.
So you have learned you still have a lot to learn. That’s an important lesson no matter what you’re doing. So sometime in the future, but not just yet.
Getting back to comics, if the universe turned just right and you were given the opportunity to do anything you wanted with any character or property you wanted—would be your dream comic project?
I’d want to revamp Harley and Joker’s back story. It irritates me that we don’t get to see what would make her want him or be loyal to him. And we don’t see really why he takes up with her either.
That’s an interesting one, given the fact that their relationship goes from silly-wacky-cute, to damaged, to outright abuse. The animated series made it look like he just did it to mess with her mind. But seeing a whole story or series about the process of what it took to take Harleen from where she began as a doctor to where we know her, in detail, would be fascinating. Any other projects, while we’re blue-skying, that you’d love to give the Mikki Kendall treatment?
Oh, I totally want to do a steampunk Jazz age fairy tale.
And create a bunch of new characters of color in all the comics universes.
Also, if I ever got a chance to write Storm I’d explode.
Now that is intriguing. Jazz music, piano bars, sultry chanteuses, and the Underhill. And it’s no secret all the comics ‘verses could use a little—or a lot—more diversity. You writing the Windrider (no disrespect to Greg Pak, who’s doing a bang-up job on the Storm title now) would be something to behold, no doubt.
Wrapping up, then, with the old chestnut: have you got any advice you’d want to share with old and new writers, especially given you’ve crossed from prose to sequential storytelling?
Don’t be afraid to try. You’re going to fail sometimes. And not everyone will like what you write. But you have to write anyway
Another old saying: “writers don’t write because they want to, but because they have to.” But your point is a vital one. Fear of rejection can be a tough obstacle to overcome. Any advice on shouldering and soldiering on through it?
Be open to broadening your horizons. Reading new things, writing in new styles is a lot of fun. And don’t get in your own way. Submitting is so scary. But you’re going to be a day older either way. Either you’ll age that day of your life and have submitted something or you won’t.
Practical and solid. Are there any other upcoming projects from you we should be watching for?
I have an essay in Bitch Planet next month, I’ll be paneling at C2E2, WisCon, and Readercon this year. As always I’m working on a bunch of stuff. So look for a pretty broad mix of fiction and non fiction to come spilling out with my name on it.
We’ll be watching and signal boosting, I’m sure. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us.