One morning earlier this month, over the usual coffee, breakfast and stationery supplies at the dining table, Emil turned to me and asked: “Are you going to write about your book?”
I laughed. “For the BK Story? No, I wasn’t planning to.”
“Oh. Why not?”
“Doesn’t that seem…I don’t know, off-topic? Too egotistical? Kind of weird?”
Emil set down his coffee and gave me that look that best friends give you when your lack of self-love has offended them. “You’re a writer. It’d be much weirder for you not to write about your first published book.”
Well, I can’t argue with his logic, bluntness or affection. Let me resist my cactus instincts, and talk just a bit about how I’ve been processing the creative and publishing journey of my first graphic novel, EIGHTY DAYS, which will be published by Archaia/BOOM! Studios on September 7th. Briefly: it is a queer historical romance epic about pilots and revolution, set in an alternate 1930s world. It was inspired by pilot autobiographies from the Golden Age of flight, Studio Ghibli’s Porco Rosso and classic Hollywood film. It is 320 pages, drawn and inked traditionally. It is the work that sustained my soul during the darkest times of the past seven years. It is a childhood dream realized—just thinking about that, I could float. It is the single achievement I’m most proud of.
And it’s incredibly difficult for me to talk about. Every single time you see me say anything about this book in public, you can be certain there was a battle in my head between one inner voice assuring me, “you’re annoying, everyone is sick of you” and another voice insisting, “you gave years of your one and only life to complete this project, owning that fact proudly and posting about it is a form of RESPECT”. I must try to favor the latter. That’s the least I can do for the past selves who worked for so long at the strange, slow analog alchemy that brought this book to life, as well as all the people who, for unfathomable reasons of their own, believed in and supported that mysterious labor. I mean. A haphazard pile of notes transformed into a towering stack of bristol boards drenched in red pencil and ink, and ultimately emerged, with the help of an entire crowd of people, into its final form: a single book, bound with a handsome white spine. Whatever shyness I may feel about that metamorphosis cannot change the fact that that’s magic.
The oldest notebooks containing work for EIGHTY DAYS are the battered, spiral-bound ones with the yellowing paper. Until recently, these had been untouched in a shoebox since 2015. Cracking one open transports me through time and space to the side of a certain stressed, insecure student. Here they sit, on a low wall bordering squat palm trees, locked by mistake out of the studio containing all their artwork. furiously scribbling, every sentence a scaffold against the crushing weight of multiple urgent due dates and the terribly uncertain, imminent post-graduate future: “If anyone can do it, it’s me. But I don’t know if I can do it…I’m scared. It’s not the end of the world if I don’t finish. But I want to finish, and I wanna make sure it’ll be unforgettable.”
Reading these words startles me, fills me with embarrassment, compassion and gratitude. The pencil is dull, the graphite is smudged. The hand of the writer is shaking. I’d like to tell them: Thank you for working so hard. Thank you for not giving up. There’s more time than you think. There’s enough. You can do it. I’ll leave out the bit about far greater tests of endurance lying ahead. Like that’d stop them, anyway.
Just like back then, I’m doing my best to stay in the present by documenting it. Already, all my notebooks are overflowing in the attempt to process this life event. There is one which I’m still curating carefully, though: the accordion fold insert. Its unique format and lovely, heavy paper simply demands “put something special in here!” I’m filling it with the most important and special memories related to finally releasing EIGHTY DAYS, a sort of foldout roadmap to publication. So far, I’ve copied down a couple of early reviews that really moved me and made a couple watercolor paintings to commemorate the day I received the first physical copy of the book from one of my editors (along with the bouquet of orange wildflowers, because she’s a total class act).
Who knows what the next entries will be? The first time I see the book in a store, probably. Or in a library. Or by chance, in public? The first time someone makes a playlist of music for it?? Dreaming big, here. Hopefully the accordion becomes something that will, at a glance, remind me of all the gratitude for the support, compassion for the effort, and joy of completion I’m feeling now. There’s enough of all that to go around for past, present, future and alternate universes, in a moment that feels so utterly abundant.
On a debut author’s publication day, two things happen: everything changes and nothing changes. So I’ve read, and I expect it’s true Come September 7th, I expect I’ll have coffee with my partner and write in my planner as usual. I’ll walk my dog. I’ll stretch my wrists. I’ll spend too much time on emails. Amidst all that, though, I’ll feel it in my gut: the clench of an airplane ascent, without the insulation and crafted metal. Only a rush of intangible wind, a sudden but long-anticipated lightness of being, and a gentle drift upwards to an astonishing view.
Text and photos by: A.C. Esguerra
Where to find A.C. : instagram @blueludebar
Read other stories by A.C. : Here
Where to purchase EIGHTY DAYS and more info: Simon & Schuster
Bk Artifacts Featured:
- Traveler's Notebook / Camel
- B-Sides & Rarities // Accordion Fold
- TN / 030 / Brass Clip / Airplane
- Engineer Pouch MINI || Spamoni
- Safari Fountain Pen / White
- Blackwing // Natural
- Blackwing // Pearl