This week, in the days leading up to Kawaii Kon Day 0, I’m publishing excerpts from my conversation with manga artist/blogger/Princess of Tennis author Jamie Lano, who moved to Oahu last year and will be hosting three panels at Kawaii Kon. In case you missed it — and you’d better have been out claiming Ingress portals in the name of the Enlightened if you did — and subscribe to the Star-Advertiser, you can check out my profile of her that ran in Sunday’s paper. You can also check out the other parts of the series below:
In this installment, Jamie talks about her manga assistants, how she’ll treat them differently from how Prince of Tennis artist Takeshi Konomi treated her and his assistants, why The Princess of Tennis will never be printed in Japanese … and a certain Konomi character that bears a striking resemblance to her.
Jason: So, of course, Kawaii Kon is later this month…
Jamie: It is! Oh my God. (laughter)
Jason: Are you ready? I’m not.
Jamie: Nope! Nope nope nope nope nopenopenopenopenope. (laughter) I’m still working on a commission I took two months ago, that was supposed to be finished at the end of last month, but she wasn’t really hard on the deadline, so thank God. I’m still working on that before I do all these other commissions that I’ve taken recently. Then I will get to my comics and I’ve been thinking, what do I want to do for Kawaii Kon? I probably won’t have anything ready ready. I’ll have my book, my first book, and I was probably just gonna do flyers, I think. I’d like to have my manga, the first chapter, done, but I really don’t know if that’s gonna happen yet.
Luckily I was able to find some assistants here, some girls that were willing to help me out. I don’t have any money to pay them, so I said, “I will teach you all the stuff that I learned and the techniques that I learned, and you’ll help me do these things.” And they were totally gung ho for it, and they’re both students, so hopefully we can help each other out and that will balance out. They might be able to help me make it finished. But there wouldn’t be any time for printing, so I was thinking I would just give out flyers for samples of the work, and then like those little QR codes and things like that.
We’ll see. I might have something there. But I’m not sure quite yet, so.
Jason: Where did you find your assistants?
Jamie: I’m on the Quidditch team here, and one of my … teammates, she said she knew some girls — she goes here to UH — that might be interested, so she hooked me up with them. I’m excited to work with them.
Jason: Yeah, I mean, we’ve got a really good artist community here, too.
Jamie: Yeah! Well … I talked about it on my Facebook, I was like, “Does anybody know anybody who wants to draw manga and wants to learn about the techniques? I can’t pay them, but I’d be willing to teach you what I’ve learned in return for helping me finish my comic.” All the backgrounds and objects and things that take a long time. She said she might know someone, and it turns out they were totally into it, so.
Jason: Well, that’s good.
Jamie: Yeah! I mean, I’ve never really worked with assistants before and I’ve never really finished a whole chapter, because I’m too much of a perfectionist, I’m like, “Guhhhhh, I hate this.” And looking back I had some pages that I found the other day of stuff that I had already worked on, and I was like, “That was pretty good. Why did I throw that out?” It was certainly better than a lot of what’s out there, so it was good enough, right? Just … not to me, it wasn’t good enough.
I don’t know. Either way. This will be my first finished work, but that’s my goal, you know? I’m starting the company, so I will do it, force myself to do it, even if I don’t have any time to exercise and get all fat and I just eat sugar all the time so I break out, I don’t care. I will get in shape later, I will just spend all my time drawing. It’s worth it to me, I think it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make, as long as I don’t have a heart attack or something. The 30 or 40 pounds I’ve gained since I got here are totally worth it. You gotta make some sacrifices, right?
One day … you know what, I’ll just make enough money someday, get really rich and just pay for a really nice place. I just don’t have the time for everything.
Jason: Yeah, I know, gotta prioritize and all that …
Jamie: Yeah, I know, right? My roommates are so chatty and they’re so nice and friendly, they always want to talk, and I’m like, I want to talk to them, but I also want to work. And my cat loves me and she wants to play all the time, but I gotta work! I have to do both. So I’m like *draw draw* and then play with the cat on a string on the other end. And she likes to cuddle in the morning, so that makes me not want to get out of bed. Because you go to bed and she’s still huffy and puffy somewhere doing her own thing, and you wake up and she’s like, “Oh, you’re awake! *purr purr purr*” and then come and cuddle. Ohhhhh. It’s crazy.
Jamie: I know now what to not do! Don’t call your assistants over when you don’t have anything for them to do. That’s a big one. Don’t leave them alone all night without giving them any direction at all. Don’t disappear for days on end while they’re stuck in your apartment. None of that’s going to happen.
Do be structured. Do be sure that you have clear work that you can let them do on their own without a lot of supervision before you ask for their help. That, I guess. They haven’t come over yet, so I don’t know yet. Hopefully, it goes as smooth as it appears to in my head.
I’ll have to get a few desks and all kinds of stuff. I don’t have any this stuff!
Jason: So you’re not going to call them over and go out for mini-golf, then? (Jason’s note: One of Jamie’s recurring stories in The Princess of Tennis was how Konomi would call over his assistants, then go out for a round of mini-golf or a fancy dinner.)
Jamie: No, yeah, exactly! I don’t have the kind of budget we had. I actually thought it was kind of fun back then. I thought it was WTF back then, but looking back, it was totally fun. I can see why he did it. Well, I don’t know why he did it. But I can see that we had the time and leisure to do it.
If he had done that when we had been working there for a long time, I would have been like, I’m going home. Just let me go home. I don’t want to do this. Not that I don’t want to play mini-golf with everyone. I would rather work and get our work done, and then maybe we could go golf. That’s fine.
Or even, like, the day we come in, we go golf and then work really hard. But I knew him well enough at that point that i knew he wasn’t going to do that. So if we went out for golf, it means we’d go out for golf every day.
I’m sorry, I like golf too, it’s fine, it’s great, whatever, but we were there to do our job and I wanted some semblance of my own life. I didn’t want to have only five days a month to myself, and those five days, I didn’t even know when they would be. I didn’t want that, and I didn’t want to be stuck at work all the time with nothing to do and unable to go home.
None of those. I will not do any of those. Nope. He’s a good guy, but I do feel sorry for the other assistants he has now.
I know at least two of them still work there. I keep in touch with one and the other will probably never leave. Both of them will probably never leave … So I’m glad I got out of that. It makes me remember the reasons that I left. They do get to go do cool stuff, but it’s really not worth it. I think you have to find a good balance.
Jason: Do you keep up with what he does nowadays? With his work, and what he’s released?
Jamie: Not actively. I probably should. Sometimes I read his Twitter when it comes up, or the other assistants when they come up on Facebook. I read whatever they wrote. Not as much as I should. Certainly, I hear things, here and there.
People love to point things out to me. Especially on Twitter. They’re like, oh, you have to read this and look at what Sensei is doing. Which I definitely appreciate. I’m too scattered everywhere now to keep up actively. I didn’t even catch up on The Prince of Tennis.
He did some other things. Oh, oh, right, he did Lady Cool. It’s this sequel to this manga that he did way before he did Prince of Tennis, his other published work. I’m pretty sure he based his character after me.
I actually brought it in. I didn’t even think of it. It looks like me, the way I did back then. I had orange hair back then, well, orangish-brown. The character is tall, speaks sometimes in English, has long hair in my hairstyle, and orangish-brown. Yeah.
So I posted that on Facebook. The comments from the other assistants were, ha-ha. Whenever I see him again someday, I’ll have to ask about that. But I’m pretty sure I already know the answer.
That’s super flattering. I can’t lie about that. That’s super flattering but it’s also kind of amusing.
Jason: It’s too funny!
Jamie: I’ll definitely buy anything else with that in it, just for the fun factor. Knowing the people that made it. It’s just like, I would buy any of the things that any of my friends made. I’d definitely buy anything Sensei made. Especially if it’s about, sort of, me.
For sure. I really hope that he doesn’t know about my memoir. And I hope that he doesn’t find out. And if he does, I hope he has a good opinion.
That’s why I will never, even if someone asked and offered to pay a lot of money, I will not let it be published in Japanese. Never. Never.
I feel like, when it’s published in English, we’re reaching this major audience that will see him as this vague public figure. And I didn’t publish any details about his personal life. His home life. I made sure to keep those things out.
I felt that was too personal. It’s not my thing to say. I feel if it was published this in Japanese, it would be too much of an intrusion. “I didn’t know people did this kind of thing.” People publish that kind of stuff all the time, tell-all, but I wanted to keep it one step removed from him. Because we had our differences, but I still respect him. I admire him. I still feel like we’re family that hasn’t spoken in a long time. And I don’t want to make him feel bad, or like that he has to be upset over anything.
So I never asked him, or anyone, about it. About whether it was okay. I didn’t want them to feel awkward, or put out. Though, thinking about it, he did that manga, right? With the me character? We’re kind of even, right? (laughs)
But yeah, I won’t let it be published in Japanese, ever. Ever. It’s too much of an intrusion. In fact, that’s why I wanted to keep it small, self-published. I could have gone through another publisher, but. There was a couple that I talked to, but I didn’t want to. I just wanted it to be something that people, that wanted to know, could read about. Or people who knew me, or heard of me, were interested in me, could read about. But not something that could ever be on the New York Times. And turn the focus onto him. Which he doesn’t want.
I guess he doesn’t want. For all I know. He was a ham, so he might. He might be happy about it. I don’t know.
Jason:Was it always your idea to write a book?
Jamie: No, no. I’d written a bunch. Like half the book, as posts on my blog. Eventually, the whole thing was posted on my blog, pre-edits. It went through a lot of editing. A lot of additions.
But no, I never thought of it. Never thought about it. But some people said, hey, this would make an awesome book. Well, that would be really cool, I said. I could learn to publish things. So I went ahead and did it. Plus I wasn’t doing anything else at my mom’s. Besides getting into my parents.
I thought this was a good use of my time. She didn’t agree. But now that it’s a book, she’s all, look at what my daughter wrote! And this might seem strange, but I feel like I made it more legitimate. I had something that I made, a physical object, and actual book, and it just made me feel like it was more legit. More, I don’t know. It’s also easy to meet someone and say, here’s my book memoir. If you want to learn about this time, read it. It’s got more details, a lot more photos, than what’s on my blog.
I can also introduce myself that way. “Hi, Mr. Important Publisher, look, it’s my book.” I mean, it’s super easy, and super concise. Good publicity. It was a great stepping stone. Probably the best stepping stone to publishing my own comics and things like that. It was fun, and stressful, and fun, and stressful to make. It was hard, but fun.