Ngozi Ukazu is an award-winning and New York Times bestselling graphic novelist.
NGOZI UKAZU is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author and the creator of Check, Please!, an online graphic novel whose printing campaign remains the most funded webcomics Kickstarter ever. She graduated from Yale University in 2013 with a degree in Computing and The Arts, and received a masters in Sequential Art in 2015 from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Since 2020, her cartoons have appeared in The New Yorker.
When and how did you start writing?
Coming up with sentences and paragraphs is very difficult for me, so I had to use pictures to tell my first stories. It's so much faster, in some respects. In middle school, I drew my first comics on wide-ruled notebook paper with mechanical and colored pencils.
Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?
My classmates growing up had longer attention spans and larger appetites for prose than I did, so a book truly had to be glittery and silly to grab me. An author either had to string me along with jokes or reveal a breath-taking world that I could get lost in. The Roald Dahl books with the lovely Quentin Blake covers offered the necessary whimsy and world-building that drew me in. Also Hank the Cowdog might have been my first interaction with satire.
Describe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organize your time? Where do you look for inspiration?
The process of writing and revising and editing happens in cafes or in my studio. I always print out my scripts because reading and revising on a monitor is very distracting. This writing process is intermingled with thumbnailing, so I'm usually writing and drawing at the same time. The drawing—the pencils and inking and coloring—demands the most work by far and that happens in entirely different parts of a year. I might write for two months and then draw for six or seven. Comics is a profession characterized by what I like to call joyful toil. You're often at your monitor or your drafting table and your task is to finish a page or work out a pose. For me, my schedule is different every day.
Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers who are looking to get published?
Self publish and do small zines before committing to an enormous graphic novel. And if you can, make a few comics with friends first.
Can you describe three aspects of writing craft that have been most important as you’ve developed as an author?
1) Learn about the character's internal world as quickly as possible. This makes writing scenes infinitely less excruciating.
2) Every story is just practice for the next one.
3) Finished is better than perfect.
Which favorite authors would you invite to a dinner party? What fictional character do you wish you’d invented?
I'd invite P.G. Wodehouse to my dinner party. I heard that he wasn't a great conversationalist, even though he was apparently pleasant enough. Wodehouse populated the Drones with goofy aristocrats with silly names and I wish I had invented all of them: Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps (pronounced "Fungy-Fips"), Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright, and of course, Betram Wilberforce Wooster.