The course of true love never did run smooth — but then again, that makes for a much more interesting romance comic, doesn’t it? In Heartstopper Vol 2 by Alice Oseman, out November 10th, 2020, Nick and Charlie must deal with the fallout from the climax of the first book.
To find out everything we could about the upcoming release, The Beat caught up with Oseman over email and asked about queer rep, Heartstopper‘s unusual journey to the bookshelf, and where she hopes to take her supporting characters in the future.
AVERY KAPLAN: Heartstopper has enjoyed a singular creative journey! Can you tell us a bit about what it was like to adapt your webcomic to be released as a graphic novel? Was it a straightforward process, or were there any particular challenges?
ALICE OSEMAN: It has been a long and strange journey! Heartstopper began as a webcomic in 2016, and then in 2018 I decided to self-publish Volume 1. I didn’t think it had a chance at traditional publication! I took a lot of trips to the post office to get those books out in the world. Fortunately, after the self-published edition did really well and sold out fairly quickly, I was contacted by my UK publisher Hachette, who made the offer of traditional publication.
It was a fairly straightforward process from there! Not a huge amount has changed between the published graphic novels and the webcomic – just a few panels tidied up here and there, plus some bonus content! I’m a big perfectionist and a bit of a control freak, so letting other people take control over certain aspects of Heartstopper was scary at first. But I’ve been working with some amazing people on the Heartstopper books and I’m so glad I don’t have to take all those trips to the post office all over again!
KAPLAN: One of the many interesting things about Nick and Charlie’s relationship is that readers first got a glimpse of them as supporting characters in your YA novel Solitaire before Heartstopper told the story of their relationship. What made expanding their story so irresistible? Was there a reason you chose the medium of comics for their story?
OSEMAN: I loved Nick and Charlie in Solitaire, but we don’t learn much about them in that book. We know they’re in a great relationship, but we don’t know anything about how they met, how they got together, and what their lives are like outside of the scope of Solitaire’s pessimistic narrator, Tori. Immediately after writing that book I knew I wanted to tell Nick and Charlie’s story somehow. I tried for a long time to plan it as a prose novel, because that was what I knew! But it wouldn’t work. I eventually realised that Nick and Charlie’s story just wouldn’t work for a typical novel story structure. It doesn’t have a beginning, middle, and end like a novel – instead, it’s a long, ongoing, episodic journey that takes us through various segments of their lives. And the perfect medium for that? A serialized webcomic! Fortunately, I loved drawing too, so Heartstopper was born.
KAPLAN: Does your process for writing comics vary significantly from your process for writing prose?
OSEMAN: Yes! Writing prose is so much harder – for me, anyway! Before I get started on a prose novel, I spend months, if not years, planning ideas and forming a very detailed plot plan. Only then can I start writing! But with Heartstopper, it’s much more of an ongoing process. I’ve very roughly planned the plot of all five volumes, but I only plan in more detail when I reach each chapter, and I only write scenes a few scenes in advance. Maintaining that creative process keeps me really excited about the story. I still get to brainstorm and daydream about what might happen in Heartstopper!
KAPLAN: In Heartstopper Volume 2, Nick and Charlie go bowling with some friends, including Elle, who moved to the all-girls school after coming out as trans! Was there a particular reason or inspiration that motivated you to include trans rep in Heartstopper? Can readers expect to see more of Elle in future volumes?
OSEMAN: I always knew I wanted to fill the Heartstopper world with all kinds of LGBTQ+ characters. I felt that it was important to have a really wonderful group of LGBTQ+ friends at the heart of the story because, contrary to what some TV shows and movies seem to believe, LGBTQ+ people often find each other and enjoy hanging out in groups! So Elle is just one of a big group of LGBTQ+ friends who are slowly introduced as the books progress. It was very important to me that transgender characters were a part of that, and I hope there is room to introduce more trans characters – most likely in the fifth volume! And Elle will most definitely be appearing in Heartstopper again!
KAPLAN: One of the very cool inclusions in the release of Heartstopper Volume 2 is “The Practice Room,” a mini-comic that gives some insight into Jonesy and Darcy’s relationship! Was there a particular reason this story made sense to include in Volume 2?
OSEMAN: One of the more frustrating things about creating Heartstopper is that there just isn’t room to tell everyone’s story in great depth. Graphic novels move so quickly and need a lot more pages than prose novels, so I can’t really delve into too many sub-plots (although we definitely learn a lot more about many of the characters in future volumes!). In Volume 2, we see a bit more of girlfriends Tara (or ‘Jonesy’, as Darcy calls her!) and Darcy, but we still don’t learn much about their own relationship story. So I wanted there to be a comic at the end of the book just focused on them so I could tell a little bit of that story!
KAPLAN: Is there any chance that we’ll see some of the supporting characters in Nick and Charlie’s story headline their own spinoffs in the future?
OSEMAN: I would absolutely love that. I’ve mentioned to my editor that I’m very interested in creating a spin-off graphic novel solely focused on Tara and Darcy – perhaps about their ‘getting together’ story, or perhaps set after the events of Heartstopper… who knows! Maybe it’ll happen someday…
KAPLAN: Your books have resonated with many queer readers (and with good reason)! Is there any message you’d like to share with queer readers who may be facing challenges in their life right now?
OSEMAN: Firstly, to all the teens – things really do get better. It’s cheesy, I know, and you’ve probably heard it a hundred times before, but it’s true. As you grow older, it gets easier to find people who are like you and you love you for you. There’s so much magic waiting for you.
Secondly, to anyone struggling with their identity like Nick is in this volume – it’s okay to not have things figured out. It’s easy to feel like you need to know exactly who you are when people online and in the media can seem so confident about their identity, but it’s totally okay to be unsure, to feel uncomfortable, and to be figuring things out. You’ll get there in time.
You can follow Oseman on Twitter to keep up with her latest updates, and be sure to get Heartstopper: Volume 2 at your local comic shop, bookstore, or library beginning November 10th, 2020.