Tini Howard is a fangirl, a Valkyrie and a comic book writer! Tini has contributed to The Oath Anthology, Magdalena: the Seventh Sacrament and the upcoming Poseidon IX One-Shot. Plus, Tini is also a part of The Secret Loves of Geek Girls Anthology which not only features a prose piece by Ms. Howard, but legendary writer Margaret Atwood’s comic strip debut.
Major Spoilers managed to catch up with Tini on her way back from a convention and in between scripting sessions to chat fanfiction, romance comics and the pressures of collaborating with an idol.
MAJOR SPOILERS: How did you get involved in the Secret Loves of Geek Girls?
TINI HOWARD: I follow Hope on Twitter, I think she does great work, and saw some info about the project come across my feed. From there I did some research and saw she was still accepting a few pitches. I had a confessional piece I’d written a while ago that I needed a home for – about my first love and slash fanfiction – and it seemed right. She got back to me within an hour and I was part of the coven.
MS: Why did you choose to contribute a prose piece to this anthology?
TH: It was such a rapid turnaround for me – I didn’t really get time to overthink what I’d do, or find an artist, or draw a piece myself. I had the piece I submitted just sitting there, looking for a home. And it found one!
MS: The piece that you’ve written for the Secret Love of Geek Girls deals with slash fiction – what experience have you with fanfiction or slash fiction?
TH: Oh man. Well, at the age of 7, I wrote a book about being ‘transported to Super Mario World,’ so I’d say I improved from there. Moved on from Nintendo self-insert fanfiction, at least. I definitely used fanfiction to keep me writing and reading when I may not have otherwise done so. When you’re a teenager and craving socialization and subculture, fanfiction is more than a creative act – it’s a social act and a subculture. It’s very alluring to young people for that reason, and I definitely was one of them.
MS: Do you think that there is a place in the world of writing and fandom for slash fiction?
There’s no reason not to write it if you want to, honestly. I don’t – I need all my time to write my other work! I will say this – if professional writing is a dream in your future, challenge yourself to look outside of fanfiction and slash fiction. The idea that every two characters that share a bond share a sexual
bond can be damaging to your ability to develop platonic relationships. Likewise, fanfiction is all very explicit – not just sexually, but story-wise. It’s important, if you’re looking to write professionally, to know what to leave out of a story, and one of the fair criticisms of fanfiction is that it leaves nothing out.
But there’s literally no harm to people writing whatever tickles their fancy if it’s just for fun. Have fun with it, make it your hobby, sure. I think it’s interesting that we laud people for their fanart, but fanfiction is like a great secret.
MS: Is this story something you’ve wanted to write for a while or was it specifically contrived to be a part of the Secret Loves of Geek Girls?
TH: I wrote the story some time ago when a friend challenged me to write something truly confessional, but it definitely found the perfect home in Secret Loves.
MS: Why do you think romance comics and stories are coming back into vogue?TH: Because we’ve started to scale back a little on our harshing of traditionally feminine fields, honestly. We’ve stepped back a little from the idea that anything girls like is dumb. We’ve also accepted that men can like romance, too. And they should! Man, a good romance is like a good mystery. When it all comes together it just feels right.MS: Has the current wave of feminism changed the way you approach reading and writing romantic stories?
TH: Yes! My god, yes. I absolutely buried my desire to write romantic stories for a really long time. Just smushed it down there – I wanna write Batman someday, and I’ll never get to write Batman if I write romance!
And then one day I was like “well, why not? I’m not a robot. I’m not some Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Kissing. I can write mysteries and horror and sci fi and slice of life and romance, too.”
MS: You are a Valkyrie – does that give you a different perspective when approaching your writing?
TH: Sure! I’m hyper-aware of the women that are reading comics, and also hyper-aware that you can’t pander to us with one unified idea. What one woman deems garbage another deems gospel, and you know what? We have great conversations about that.
I will say – once I’d finished Poseidon IX, I realized that aside from a cameo at the beginning, there are no women in the story, outside of a literal monster. I felt a bit bad about that, but realized that it wasn’t due to oversight, it was due to most of the characters being clones. It was still a funny moment – I felt like I was betraying my people!
MS: Do you think this anthology will be accessible to readers across genres and generations?
TH: Hope’s done an amazing job of bringing in contributors who are literally ages 16-77. I’m really excited to see the varying experiences, for example – I’m married now, but I never did a lot of proper ‘dating.’ I’ve always tended to just date people I was friends with that I found attractive. I’m excited to see the dating experiences of other geeky women.
MS: What is it like being showcased alongside Margaret Atwood?
TH: Like the floor dropped out from under me. Margaret Atwood redefined fiction for me. She’s a legend and I can’t believe what good fortune I have to be in a book with her.
MS: Do you have any advice for readers who want to create comics?
TH: So much of the common advice is ‘just make comics’ but you know what? That’s different for everyone. For me that meant ‘make scripts’ and ‘read a ton of comics,’ and I have been lucky enough to learn so much about the industry from Top Cow, who published me based on a script. For some people that means drawing storyboards or full sequentials or making friends with artists.
Read Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud and Bendis’ Words for Pictures. Find writers that write like you wanna write and read their blogs. If you’re an artist, draw constantly and don’t be shy – some writer wants to work with you!
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