With the launch of her debut graphic novel, Unretouchable out on September 113th via Graphic Universe, we got a chance to sit down and chat with writer, artist and creator Sofia Szamosi.
Hi Sofia, it’s so wonderful to have you here with us.
Hi! Thanks for having me!
Could you please tell us a bit about yourself?
I am an artist, originally from New York City, who makes graphic novels, artists’ books and zines, among other things! I am also a mom to a wonderful, not remotely “terrible” 2-year-old.
Can you tell us about the origins of Unretouchable?
Unretouchable started out as a zine I made in 2016, after doing an internship with a “digital imaging specialist,” aka the person who handles the tech on photoshoots and does photo retouching. The internship opened my eyes to a whole new world behind the scenes of image creation and manipulation, and led me to do a lot of soul searching about the power these images can have. I shared my zine, which was basically an illustrated personal essay, with my agent, Jennnifer Weltz of JVNLA in NYC, and she saw the seeds of a graphic novel in its pages.
The Unretouchable graphic novel is black and white; when did you make that decision?
Unretouchable has been black and white since its conception. The original zine that inspired the book was black and white; in fact some of those early images that inspired the character of Olive and the style of the artwork ended up making their way into the final book. I’ve loved drawing in black and white since childhood, so it felt natural to work in that style.
What can you tell us about Olive?
Olive is a recent high-school graduate from New York City who dreams of being an artist like her grandpa — and of finally meeting her online boyfriend IRL. It’s the summer before her first semester of art school, and she feels full of questions about her path… How do people even make a living in the arts? Should she get a “real job”? What does real connection really look like? Her mom sets her up with a summer internship with a photo retoucher, and though at first she’s equal parts fascinated and horrified, it leads her to become increasingly alienated by social media and the digital world around her and to ask more and more pressing questions about the power of images, what role media should have in her life, and what her role in that media should be.
How long have you been working on Unretouchable?
Since 2016. While I truly love the graphic novel format, it is definitely not a quick process! The total time I spent working on the manuscript and creating the artwork was around two years.
How would you describe Unretouchable?
Unretouchable is a coming-of-age story about growing up in a world where authentic experience feels harder and harder to come by, and we are marketed to more than ever on our phones and social media. Olive is grappling with how these forces shape her own perception of herself and her body, and the larger question of how these forces, distortions and pressures damage different people in society differently. Unretouchable is a story about what it means to become an alert, conscious consumer and creator of images, and it’s ultimately a tribute to self-acceptance.
When it came to writing Unretouchable, did you write a full script?
After writing the original zine (which was an illustrated personal essay), I then had the task of fictionalizing my story. Despite the similar internship experience, Olive really is her own bird – it took time to find her on the page. The first step was creating an outline, then I wrote a full script. Next I mapped out each page, figuring out which lines of the script would go on each page. Then I sketched the artwork, sometimes adjusting or changing the script if needed.
How important is word of mouth for any indie project?
This is my first book, so I guess I am about to find out! I think it would be super important!
What part of the creative process did you enjoy more, the writing or the art?
Most definitely the art! I love telling stories with images and words together. For me, the words really come alive when I am drawing them, and oftentimes I will revise or find the words as I am drawing. The script serves as a framework, but the real story comes out when I am drawing.
Has creating Unretouchable been a challenge?
Yes, but it has definitely been a labor of love! For a good portion of the creation of this book I was either pregnant or holding a newborn, which was definitely challenging at times, but also really fueled my fire.
How did Graphic Universe get involved with Unretouchable?
After my agent urged me to turn my zine into a treatment for a graphic novel, she shopped it around to publishers and Graphic Universe came on board. My editor, Greg Hunter, and everyone at Graphic Universe / Lerner has been such a pleasure to work with, and really helped me craft Unretouchable into what it is today.
Any message for the ComicBuzz readers?
THANK YOU so much for reading and checking out Unretouchable! I am so excited to hear what you all think of it! 🙂 Stay tuned for news about my second graphic novel, which I am very excited about and hard at work on as we speak.
Check me out here:
A big thank you to Sofia for chatting with us; we wish her the best of luck with her new graphic novel, Unretouchable.