Look On The Bright SideHave you had the chance to check out Look On The Bright Side by Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann? In case you haven’t heard, Look On The Bright Side is the sequel to the duo’s Eisner Award-nominated graphic novel Go With The Flow.

Since both books are available from First Second now, The Beat leaped at the opportunity to interview Williams and Schneemann over email. We asked all about including the topic of endometriosis in the comics, about why it was important to include queer themes, and about any Easter eggs that eagle-eyed readers might find. And be sure and let The Beat know if you’ve had a chance to read Look On The Bright Side yet in the comment section.

AVERY KAPLAN: Look On The Bright Side is a sequel to Go With The Flow. How did this sequel come about? Can you tell us a little bit about the reaction to Go With The Flow?

Karen Schneemann headshot.KAREN SCHNEEMANN: We had always known where we wanted the girls’ story to go after Go With the Flow. Originally Abby, Brit, Christine and Sasha were in our web-comic as young adults, so we actually aged them down to write Go With the Flow. We had already given them pretty extensive backstories and we knew where they ended up, so it wasn’t difficult to fill in some of the gaps in Look On the Bright Side. In general, we have received a lot of positive feedback from readers of Go With the Flow and there were a few pieces of the girls’ stories that we didn’t get to fully explore in the first book, so we’re really happy to publish this sequel.


KAPLAN: Why is it important to include the topic of endometriosis in young adult comics? Lily, I understand from the notes in the back that you have had endometriosis surgery. Did your experience inform Brits story at all?

KAREN: I think it’s really important to show that there’s a wide range of experiences when it comes to menstruation. As kids are growing up, it can feel really isolating if no one else in your friend group is experiencing the same things that you are. We wanted to provide multiple different experiences in our story to hopefully give more people something they could recognize and not feel so alone.

Lily Williams headshotLILY WILLIAMS: I can’t write about periods without writing about period pain because that’s my experience. I didn’t know I had endometriosis until we were inking Go With The Flow and I had excision surgery on our deadline. Because of this, Brit was undiagnosed initially in the first book as I had no idea what was going on with me. We edited in some details last minute so we could allude to endometriosis in the first book and we wanted to solve it for readers in Look On The Bright Side without forcing Brit to be in pain for the whole book. I wanted Brit to have success and be able to move forward with answers at a young age, which was something I didn’t get to experience until 14 years after my period started.

KAPLAN: Look on the Bright Side includes storylines that explore queer themes. Can you tell us about including these important themes in the graphic novel?

LILY: Similarly to sharing different types of period experiences, it’s honest to share different lived experiences in identity. Like Karen said earlier, we knew where the girls story was going to go but couldn’t accomplish everything in one book… so Look On The Bright Side includes the natural progression of our characters stories. It’s important to reflect the world you live in, which for us also includes reflecting some of our own lived experiences and also those of the people around us.

KAPLAN: Are comics a uniquely qualified medium to tell stories about young adults and growing up?

LILY: Comics are an amazing medium because you get to show the issues characters are facing. I think there’s something powerful about viewing periods and the other issues our characters face, which is why we chose comics versus any other medium to tell our stories. Comics are fantastic tools of visual literacy and it goes without saying: graphic novels are books! 

KAREN: Comics are also a really exciting way to get kids interested in reading. I’ve always been drawn to graphic novels for the amazing art and the different styles of portraying characters and emotions. Having kids of my own, I’ve noticed that art and pictures are a really fun way for them to get drawn into the story. Comics can be very approachable and less intimidating than some of the chapter books, so it felt like a great way to approach a taboo topic like puberty and periods.

KAPLAN: What art style considerations go into telling a grounded” high school story, especially one that involves topics like romance and menstruation?

LILY: There was a lot of consideration that went into how to design the characters. Our characters are in high school, but the book is a middle grade book and we told the story so upper elementary readers could read it. This meant our characters had to look their age, while the art style needed to be appealing to a younger audience. I had to strike a balance between detail and simplicity. I took care to emphasize their personalities everywhere I could from costuming decisions to details in their homes.

KAPLAN: Do either of you have a particular creative routine? What does your process of collaboration look like? Has it changed in the time since you first began working together? 

LILY: Karen and I made a pact that we would always be honest with each other and we stuck to that. We write together at the same time on video call (because we live in different states) and in one document. Our words are truly written together and because of this honesty we have as friends and collaborators, I think we are able to really dig into the work. When it comes to the art, I think having a background in animation has helped me handle the sheer amount of work that’s required to make comics. I realized when I finished the art, I’d done over 1,000 pages on this book alone in a year! This includes all the rounds of revisions. I always make sure to keep Karen updated on the art as I’m going through it and she gives me feedback.

KAREN: Lily and I have always somehow managed to be in sync with each other when it comes to writing. We almost always agree on the story arcs for each character and we know them each so well by now that it’s almost as if they really exist for us. As Lily mentioned, we’re very honest with each other and it’s really fun to discuss how each different character would react in different situations. We do go back and forth a lot when we edit, and we always seem to get to a place that we both feel really good about. I feel so lucky to be able to collaborate in this writing process with such a good friend and it’s actually fun to be able to dive in when we receive a new set of notes from our editor. On Go With the Flow, we both lived in the Bay Area and were able to get together in person to write together, but Lily has since moved to Colorado, so we’ve been working over video calls for Look On the Bright Side. As a co-author of this series, I think my favorite part is seeing Lily’s artwork for each of the scenes. Sometimes I have an idea in my head of what it looks like or we’ll even talk about where the characters should be in the scene, but when I see the actual drawings, I’m blown away. They’re always so engaging and they really bring the story to life.

KAPLAN: Have you had the chance to hear from any individual fans of the series, young or old?

LILY: Yes, we’ve been so fortunate to get to hear from readers! When an author launches their book, it’s often like tossing the book into a void where you hope it will land amongst the people who want it and need it. We can only hope people embrace it and love it and we’ve been really lucky that there have been a lot of readers who’ve reached out. We’ve heard from curious readers who asked about what would happen to each of the characters, readers who challenged their school to have free menstrual products and even readers who used the book as a way to talk to their kids. Anytime you let an author know their book was appreciated… well, we really appreciate it.

KAREN: I think the most exciting part for me is to hear from my own kids and their friends who have read the book. There were a lot of requests from their friends for another book, so I’m glad that we have a sequel now! My daughter is already asking about what might happen in the next book, which feels like such high praise. We also have received a lot of amazing reviews from people who appreciate a book that talks about endometriosis, or people who say they wished this book existed when they were younger, or from parents who said that it provided a way to talk to their kids about periods.

KAPLAN: Are there any Easter eggs hidden in Look on the Bright Side that readers might otherwise overlook?

LILY: I always make sure to stick rabbits in the art wherever I can. Keep an eye out for the bunnies! I also had a lot of fun with the outfits the characters wear, especially trying to bring out the Pride and Prejudice storyline visually wherever possible.

KAPLAN: Is it possible we will see more of Brit, Abby, Christine and Sasha in the future?

We hope so! The librarians who sent emails and shared our books and the booksellers who hand sold our book through the pandemic were instrumental in us getting to make Look On The Bright Side after Go With The Flow. We are so thankful to them. So only time will tell if we do another!

Go With The Flow and Look On The Bright Side are available now at your local bookstore and/or public library.