Allie Brosh is the creator of the tremendously popular comic blog Hyperbole and a Half. And now the long-awaited "Hyperbole and a Half" book (subtitle: "unfortunate situations, flawed coping mechanisms, mayhem, and other things that happened") is hitting stands Oct. 29, followed by a national book tour. We spoke to the blogger about becoming an author, coping with depression and what you'll find on the pages that's not on the Web.
Metro: What enticed you to write a book?
Allie Brosh: When I was a kid, I would write these, like, epic monstrosities — I think I filled three spiral-bound notebooks with this story about a guy who would fight different things. That was his entire life, just fighting things and going on an adventure where he would inevitably find more things to fight. And of course when I was 8 years old I had every [intention to] publish that. So I’ve always enjoyed writing. And after my blog took off on the Internet, it presented me with the opportunity to actually write a book. I leaped at the opportunity.
You told us about the book deal a long time ago on your blog, alluding to a publication date in fall 2012. How long have you actually been writing it?
So I started working on the book probably around the end of May 2011. I finished my manuscript in April this year, so it’s just about two years.
Were you ever unsure that your artwork would translate to print?
I think that having it be on a physical page gave me some fun things to play around with as far as comedic timing goes, because you can conceal a little bit more information from the reader that way. You know, if you want to make sure someone doesn’t scroll down and see the picture before they’re meant to, you just put it on the next page. So my work almost lends itself more to the printed page.
What comes easier for you, the drawing or writing?
Oh, gosh. I would say that I enjoy the art more. The writing is very enjoyable when I’m brainstorming or when I feel like I’m really in the zone. But there are a lot of times where it’s just revising the same sentence over and over and over again, trying to get it to feel right. That can be a lot more frustrating. And I can’t really listen to music when I write, but with drawing I can put on music and draw. It’s a bit easier to prepare myself mentally for the task of drawing than writing.
If you gain a huge new following from the book, will you feel obligated to post more frequently or regularly on the blog?
I don’t think so. I think that, for me, the most important thing is quality. I’ll make more people happy as long as I keep the quality of my work up, rather than trying to be unreasonable and post way more often than I’m able to churn out good content. People get impatient, or they want to see something new, but I think that they do appreciate the pains I take for quality control.
Do you feel pressured to be funny in real life?
It depends on who I’m talking to. If I meet a new person, for example, and they ask what I do, and I say, “Oh, I write comedy online, I wrote a comedy book,” some people will be like, “Oh, you’re funny? Be funny!” I guess I can be funny in real life if I’m comfortable around someone and the situation permits it. But that’s a common misconception about comedians, that they’re all walking around being hilarious at all times.
While the majority of your content is humorous, you also broadened your sphere recently with two posts about your struggle with depression. Do you think you’ll continue to touch upon more serious topics?
Serious topics are one of the best places for humor, because it makes them a little bit more accessible and easier to talk about — especially when you’re dealing with something that’s very scary and real for people, like depression. It makes it somewhat less scary and somewhat easier to deal with, at least mentally, for me, to look at it with a bit of humor. So I do think that I would like to continue writing more serious subjects with a bit of levity.
On that same topic, you write yourself as a bit of an introvert. How do you handle something like a national book tour when you’re introverted and coping with depression?
You know, I’m an introvert but I’m well socialized. And I like people! I’m very friendly, and I don’t mind being around people, I just need a bit of a breather afterward. I couldn’t do this every day, for the rest of my life, but for a little while it’s all right. And I do enjoy meeting my readers.
Can you give your readers and ours a tease about what they’ll find inside?
There are 11 new posts [and eight previously published posts]. So it starts out with a letter that I wrote to my past self that’s a response to a letter I wrote to my future self when I was 10. And there are a couple more stories about the dogs. There’s a two-part series about identity, and what that means to me, and what happens when you try to fix everything about yourself all at once. There’s a post about motivation and how I use fear and shame to motivate myself. [Laughs] And there are two childhood stories: There's one about how my mom got us lost in the woods trying to teach my sister and I about nature, and there’s one about how I had to continue a lie for the majority of my life involving hot sauce. I might’ve left some out, but that’s the gist of it.
If we were buying the "Hyperbole and a Half" book as a present for the holidays, who should we give it to?
It’s hard to quantify my audience by the normal demographics … because it is pretty wide. What I would say is it’s probably more up to the person’s interests. If they tend to cope with things using humor, or they like to laugh at the irreverent, that’s who the book is for — and anyone who has a silly streak.