5 from 35: Author Q & A with Elly Lonon

LononElly Lonon, 42, published Amongst the Liberal Elite: The Road Trip Exploring Societal Inequities Solidified by Trump (RESIST) – a graphic novel, this fall with powerHouse Books. 

Read more here.

How long did it take you to write your first (published) book, start to finish?

I’d estimate I spent about a month pulling together an outline and researching the route for the road trip. After that, the book mostly wrote itself and I was able to finish the text in under three weeks. Joan then took that text and wrote a script for the illustration process. I think we spent about two weeks on that. THEN the illustrating! I still can’t believe we pulled that off so quickly, but part of our agreement with our publisher was that we had to turn everything in early enough that they could get the books on the shelves before the midterm elections. So, we put together a team of amazing artists and tackled each page like an assembly line – one artist to create the thumbnails, another to do the pencil sketches, then yet another to do the inking. 

What kind of work did you do to earn money while writing your first book? Lonon_9781576879054

I am really, really lucky to have a supportive husband. About ten years ago, I quit my job to start my own business. Life, as usual, had other plans and I ended up spending a couple years beating and recovering from Lymphoma. We figured out that by giving up a few things, we were able to make a single salary work. Then I spent the next several years having and recovering from kids. I really wanted to be home full-time in the early years, but when my youngest turned two my husband handed me a laptop and said, “It’s time. Get back to writing.” Paying for childcare really isn’t an option for us, so he and I carve out a schedule each week where I can do my work and he juggles kids, then we swap.

What compelled you to write your story?

I am these characters. I write to process. After November 2016 I had a lot to process, then I had to process what happened in 2017, and what’s STILL happening to our country. I can’t process anything without humor. My anxiety went off the rails after the inauguration and I had to find a way to step away from that – so I found a way to laugh at myself and my search history on “GO-BAG ESSENTIALS” by writing that first McSweeney’s column. Afterwards I started getting comments from people about what a relief it was to laugh and how it dissipated some of their anger. Never their resolve, mind you. That’s not the intention of these characters at all. It’s my hope that when you see how earnest Alex and Michael are, how deeply driven they are to do and be better despite all the mistakes they make and challenges they face, you’ll want to do better, be better, too.

Did you ever want to quit? If yes, what kept you going? If no, what kept you going?

No. Quitting never felt like an option. Look, I’m not saying this book is going to save our democracy. But I like to think that this book just might provide enough levity and encouragement to give those that ARE going to save our democracy the energy to keep going.

What are you reading right now?

I have three or four graphic novels on my nightstand that I dive in and out of at any given time, but I’m currently forsaking them to read an advance copy of I Am Number 13, from my friend Andra Watkins. I sort of hate her for her ability to capture tension and suspense, that bitch.