A sneak peek into the comics publishing world

With new titles being launched this year by Difference Engine, that also means more tasks and projects for DE's editor, Sophia Susanto!

A sneak peek into the comics publishing world

With new titles such as Amazing Ash & Superhero Ah Ma: Coming of Age and Worlds Apart: A Conversation About Mental Health being launched this year, the number of books on Difference Engine's publishing list keeps growing. And that also means more tasks and projects for DE's editor, Sophia Susanto!

This week, we get to take a peek into the publishing world through Sophia's eyes. She shares with us what the comics editing process is like, some of her favourite projects and a tip on how to stay updated with publishing trends!

1. Tell us a little about yourself!

I’m a petite person who always seems to be laden with too many books in my tote bag. I enjoy walking; usually I like to explore museums with art and artefacts aplenty, but recently I’ve taken to exploring parks where I might observe plants and animals relatively unknown to me.

2. Of all the books you have worked on in Difference Engine, which is your favourite?

The most heartwarming project I’ve helped push along to publication is the “Amazing Ash & Superhero Ah Ma” series. We need more badass older women characters, and Ah Ma in this series is definitely one. Although Ah Ma has dementia, her granddaughter Ash and all the characters in the book treat her with empathy. Together, they find ways to keep her active and engage with her in meaningful activities that allow everyone to have a good time. We hope it will be a good conversation starter for children, whether at home with families or in the classroom.

3.What is the comics editing process like?

Comics editing is a cross between being a shepherd and a juggler. For much of a project’s life, I’m simply patiently monitoring the creative flock and making sure everyone is well-fed with inspiration. But then, coming close to print production time, I’d be frantically handling too many moving parts, ensuring every project element is ready at the right time and place. At any given time, any comics editor would be a juggler for one project while being a shepherd for a couple of others.

4. What is the toughest part of your job?

Managing changing timelines, budgets, events and project partnerships — all this can be quite a lot to keep track of. Especially this year, when lots of people are falling sick (including myself) because often we have to reshuffle things.

5. What is the most satisfying part of your job?

That I get to watch amazing creative teams do what they’re best at and assist them on the long road towards publication. Comics are very labour intensive, and I am constantly amazed by each creator’s dedication. People often imagine that creative works result from divine inspirations resulting in short bursts of intense activities, but I’ve observed that art careers are born out of consistent effort over time.

6. What do you enjoy most about working with the DE team?

I love how each person in the team has such diverse life experiences! I learn as much from our informal interactions as I do from watching them work in their area of specialisation in DE. Many DE team members also have fascinating side gigs that help inform their work in publishing, like teaching art to kids, experimenting with prints and embroidery, and doing private dining.

7. You have been an editor for many years! What is the most memorable book you have edited?

“Marvellous Mammals: A Wild A to Z of Southeast Asia” is a fascinating project to work on because of the wonderfully rich conversations surrounding the topic of biodiversity and wildlife conservation. The content we ended up putting into the book barely scratched the surface, but we had to simplify the book for children. There has been a shift in popular thinking from the idea that humans stand apart from nature to the idea that humans are a part of nature and that we should take our custodian role more seriously.

8. How do you make sure you keep abreast of publishing trends?

I read about 200 books a year from all genres, target age groups, and as many nationalities and origin languages as I can manage. It’s more than I should because it probably means I’m neglecting other parts of my life, oops! But I do it not just for work but because I genuinely like getting exposed to such diverse viewpoints and value systems which broadens my outlook on life.

9. (Just for fun) What is your spirit animal and why?

My spirit animal is a whale. A whale likes to be social but not in big groups, and being solitary is not so bad either. It enjoys deep dives, but every so often, it still comes up for air. Whales look so calm, don’t they, moving so slowly and majestically? I want to be more like that — but I’m tiny, so how?

If you would like to find out more about Difference Engine, click here!