Interview: Arielle Jovellanos & Janet Sung, Creators of ‘Ladies of Literature’


Arielle Jovellanos and Janet Sung are the two creative minds behind the Ladies of Literature Zine on Tumblr, as well as Ladies of Literature Volume One and Two, the second of which is currently being Kickstarted. With only a few days left in their Kickstarter, they kindly spent some time answering our questions.


FGN: When did you two first meet and team up?

Janet: Arielle and I were both in the Illustration program at Parsons the New School for Design. We actually didn’t meet until our third year but became fairly fast friends because we shared a lot of common interests. Once we saw that we worked really well together, we started organizing projects on the internet and haven’t looked back since!

FGN: Why did you decide to go into independent publishing?

We both became pretty active on tumblr and saw a sudden rise of self-initiated projects that were easily proliferated via the internet. It seemed so exciting to just be able make and put out a book of artwork with a bunch of your friends, on our own terms, without having to really worry about finding or pleasing a publisher.

FGN: What is Ladies of Literature?

We got 100+ artists to illustrate 100+ literary ladies, and we’re planning to publish all this work together in an art book! Like the first volume, Ladies of Literature: Volume 2  is about women and their stories, and the notion that these stories are meaningful and worth sharing. Each artist chose their lady for a reason, and the passion put into each illustration shows how deeply female representation in books can resonate! From strong characters, to vulnerable characters, and everything in between. To characters young and old, and from all over the world and across the universe, there is no one definitive way to be a “lady.”

FGN: What was it about women in literature that had you create Volume #1, and now your Kickstarter to do volume 2? Why do you think it’s so important to highlight these particular heroines?

Arielle: Volume 1 started out as a casual project among me and some friends I made online through the shared love of drawing fanart for books. Janet and I had just finished organizing our first collaborative illustration book, and so I thought it would be pretty great if our next one focused on female literary heroines. At the time, I’d been seeing a trend in certain fandom circles where female characters were getting a lot of flack, being called “useless,” or being pushed aside in favor of male characters, and in response, I wanted to create a space where we could celebrate the power and complexity of female narratives.

FGN: What were each of your favorite books as children? What about currently?  Which literary heroine do you relate to the most?

Arielle: I loved fantasy books as a kid. Besides the obvious Harry Potter, I also loved The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Artemis Fowl, and Vivian Vande Velde’s Heir Apparent among others. I still read fantasy, but I love reading the sort of magical “adult” offshoots of genre fiction. Things like Karen Russell’s St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and George Saunders’s work.

In terms of literary heroines, I have a deep affection for the character I drew for Volume 1, Sophie Hatter from Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle. I first read the book as an adult in college, and the idea of having power and potential inside you without realizing it was really something I needed to hear at the time.

FGN: How did you find artists to participate in your collections?

Janet: In past projects, we’ve experimented with almost every type of artist recruitment. The projects started out invitation-based only, but we wanted this book to reach out to pools of talented artists we had never met or worked with before. We first reached out to all the original Volume 1 artists, and then turned to an open portfolio submission format to find fresh talent. I honestly expected about 50 submissions, but the response blew me away! We received almost 500 portfolios! Arielle and I spent nights on end sifting through websites and blogs, debating for our favorites, and finally came to the 100+ we have featured in LoL: Vol. 2. We love them all!

FGN: Have any modern writers found their characters in the collection? If so, how did they respond?

Arielle: Leigh Bardugo, author of The Grisha Trilogy, actually responded well to the project! One of her characters is featured in the book, and she actually reblogged our big post on tumblr too, which was really awesome.

FGN: What has your response been from the general reading public at large?

Arielle: The response has been overwhelmingly positive! We get comments from librarians, from English majors, from people who just really love reading. It’s all very heartening and humbling. I think this response just shows how much of a demand there is for female-led stories right now, and we’re happy to help readers everywhere find these stories.

FGN: Do you have any particular rituals you follow before you start creating? (ie, coffee, special music, a comfy sweater, meditation).

Janet: I love putting on a podcast while I work. I feel like listening to a conversation keeps me engaged. In college, Arielle and I would videochat during all-nighter work sessions to keep each other motivated. Even if we didn’t speak at all, it was nice to know that someone was on the other end also working and just as miserable (haha). We’ll do that once in a while still and it’s always fun. Also, lots of espresso helps!

Arielle: Ditto on the podcasts. Lately I’ve been really into this podcast called Overdue, which is about all the books you should have read by now but haven’t gotten around to yet. Besides that, cleaning my workspace and making post it note lists helps me get into that “GET STUFF DONE” mindset.

FGN: Your Kickstarter for Ladies of Literature Volume #2 is running until April 21, 2015.  Can you give us a sneak peek of what’s inside?

We’ve attached some full images to this email, along with our logo! Respectively the artists are Vivian Ng (Medusa), Diana Huh (Princess Cimorene of The Enchanted Forest Chronicles) , and Trung Le Nguyen (Undine).



Art by Vivian Ng

Art by Vivian Ng

Art by Trung Le Nguyen

Art by Trung Le Nguyen

Art by Diana Huh

Art by Diana Huh

Where can our readers follow your future projects and pick up a copy of Ladies of Literature Volume #1?

Right now, the only way to get Volume 1 is to back the Kickstarter!
We have a main blog for Ladies of Literature, which features some more previews of the book and fun artist interviews. You can also keep up with our future projects by following us on Twitter or Tumblr!

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