The following is an interview with Jason Porath, author and illustrator of the popular blog-turned-printed collection, Rejected Princesses. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Porath about the genesis of the project, his approach to each of the various princesses within the book, where you can purchase your copy, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of Rejected Princesses through HarperCollins/Dey Street Books! For our readers who may be unfamiliar with the book, how would you describe its premise?
Jason Porath: Rejected Princesses is a collection of 100 historical and legendary women too uncompromising, untoward, or uncomfortable for history books or animated princess musicals. These are people you’ve never heard of – Nigerian librarians, Viking pirates, Canary Island judges, Bolivian vigilantes, and much more.
BD: The book had a very unique beginning in that it evolved from a wildly popular blog of the same name. When did you discover that the blog had become such a hit, and how did you decide to adapt it to a printed edition?
JP: It happened very quickly. Within days of starting the blog, it had gone viral. Within a month, I was fielding book offers. The following two years was just making the book.
The book actually works in combination with the website – think DVD extras. I’m posting stuff that couldn’t fit into the book, as well as behind-the-scenes content, online. Plus, I’m always adding new princesses to the web. The book stands alone, but it’s even better when combined with the website.
BD: How would you describe your creative process in telling the story of each princess?
JP: First, I research everything I can about them, the time they lived in, and what their world might have looked like. I try to jot down first impressions, and figure out the core of their story – what is it about? What was the central question they were trying to answer? Once I have that, I try to build the art and the writing about that.
A good example would be the entry on anti-lynching journalist Ida B. Wells. At the core, her story is of her overcoming incredible odds through relentless effort. The illustration reflects that: in the background there is a cut-in-half noose rapidly being buried by her pamphlets. She is hanging onto a train, speeding towards a future, basking in the light, as the conductor – in the dark, a disembodied leg, not even represented as a full person – tries to kick her off. But she’s not budging.
BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from your work?
JP: I hope readers will learn to not underestimate women – especially if the woman is themselves. Moreover, that you are not alone, no matter who you are – people like you have always existed throughout history. We are all descendants of a long line of warrior women, fearless hellions, and indomitable geniuses. It is our communal birthright to have a link to that lineage.
BD: What makes publisher HarperCollins/Dey Street Books a great home for Rejected Princesses?
JP: They’ve been enormously supportive from the get-go, coming up with lots of great ideas. All the areas I’ve known nothing about – this is my first book – they’ve provided tremendous expertise, from cover design to interior design to promotion efforts.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
JP: Rejected Princesses is my full-time job for the near-term future – I continue updating it with new entries every week or two. I will be launching a Patreon shortly, and some of the planned backer rewards include access to in-progress images, time lapses, and reference images for almost every entry I’ve ever done, as well as access to my master database of badass women (1,500 entries long and going).
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Rejected Princesses and your other work?