Interview With Author Robert Kirby

# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

My name is Rob Kirby. I’m a cartoonist who has been creating and publishing since the early 1990’s, mostly in the LGBTQ realm. My biweekly comic strip “Curbside” ran in LGBTQ & alternative newspapers throughout the US during most of the nineties and well into the 2000’s. In the late 90’s I won a Xeric Grant to publish an eponymously-titled collection of the strip, and in 2002 Cleis Press published the second collection, Curbside Boys. In 2008 I retired the strip in order to work on longer-form stories and omnibuses.

Since cartooning is mostly a solitary practice, I’ve also created my share of anthologies in order to interact, collaborate, and publish with talented colleagues. Building community is very important! Some of my anthologies include the Ignatz Award-winning QU33R (2014), What’s Your Sign, Girl? Cartoonists Talk About Their Sun Signs (2015), and The Shirley Jackson Project: Comics Inspired by Her Life and Work (2016). More on my current book below.

I also regularly write book reviews for Publisher’s Weekly, The Comics Journal, and Solrad.

# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

If the review is an outright attack it can be a little startling but once I stare it down, take it in, get used to it, it can be pretty funny. There’s a real dilly of a one-star review of my book Curbside Boys up on Amazon that’s just delightfully vicious. “That which does not kill me makes me stronger.” No, that’s really true! On the other hand, good constructive criticism can really be helpful if you can remain open to it. Even if it’s painful.

Ultimately, I think it’s better to have to weather some negative reviews and one-star ratings on Goodreads than to be ignored altogether.

# Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

I try my damnedest to do it for myself first and foremost but I don’t think I’m immune to filtering myself to get more people to like me. We’re all human and pleasing others and receiving validation for our work is part of why we create.

# Do you have any creativity tricks?

When I get stuck/feel uninspired I often turn to journaling, or what that book The Artist’s Way calls Morning Pages. It’s a process where you just write for three pages without stopping, generally first thing in the AM. When I finish filling the pages I actually just tear them up and throw them away, I don’t read them. There’s something about the process that unclogs the mind. It really works for me. Also recommended: going on long walks to think or going somewhere like a museum, or just any place that might take you out of yourself to open yourself up to fresh thinking. Finally, if you’re really stuck, maybe it’s time to take a good long break from your project, work on something else, or take a genuine art vacation and don’t think about it for a while. That can give your synapses the rest they need to recharge.

# What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

With Marry Me a Little, there are a few pages in which, when it came time to do them, I was somehow able to transcend some pre-written text & dialogue, throw most of it out, and render the material in a more creative way, really utilizing the art of comics and visualizing what I wanted to say—you know, showing, not telling (even though sometimes in comics use of exposition is necessary. Sometimes you have to use more text than some deem legitimate for comics). In particular, there are a few pages at the end of chapter one that I’m proud of—I didn’t know I had them in me. It reminds me of why I can’t pre-script an entire story out ahead of time. I need room for improvisation, for sudden inspirations.

# What are your plans for future books?

I’ve been working on a graphic memoir called Marry Me a Little for about four years now. Last month I signed a contract with Graphic Mundi, the graphic novel imprint of Penn State University, so I now need to finish the book by the end of March, 2022 for spring 2023. A real deadline at last. I’m an analogue cartoonist (i.e. I draw on paper and not digitally), so it takes me a lot longer than a lot of people. I tend to draw slowly anyway plus I worked on this only in fits and starts for the first couple of years.

I’m very excited to have the book out in the world at last and look forward to going out and promoting it and talking about it. Same sex marriage is a fascinating topic to me, as it is something I had never expected to be an option in my life. My initial ambivalence towards the institution butted up against some of the genuine joy I took in the experience, and that’s what the book is about at its core.

# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

In 1999 I appeared on a Canadian television show called Ooh La La (a magazine-style show about entertainment) in a segment on gay cartoonists.

I don’t brag about anything except the fact that (1) I’m a good (free-form) dancer, and (2), In 2014 I won a long-running, annual Oscar pool with a perfect score of 24/24. I won $910 but the best part was the bragging rights, which I continue to indulge in to this very day (as I just did here, naturally).

Also: it is a dear wish of mine to get to all 50 states within my lifetime. I’m up to 36, with at least 3 more to add with an upcoming road trip. Wish me luck!