Chynna Clugston Flores debuts SCOOTER GIRL this year, an original graphic novel about one man's obsession, one woman's scorn, and their shared growth over the years they spend fighting with each other. With a hip, young cast, a unique setting, and Clugston Flores's signature brand of humor and fashionable art, SCOOTER GIRL is a complex and fun read.
CHYNNA CLUGSTON FLORES: It's definitely about all of those things, to be sure. I love vintage scooters, the music and revival of the Mods, stories about interpersonal relationships, and the inevitable attractions that happen in them. But if you want to get technical, I've always felt this particular story is very much about the narcissism and entitlement of the main character, Ashton Archer, and the excessive petulance of those like him when they are knocked from their privileged pedestals and forced to stand on equal ground with people they previously viewed themselves as rightly above.
In general it's about how we treat other people...about how we also need to check ourselves in our righteousness when these situations arise, because even if we're not in the wrong, it doesn't mean we can't transgress into the realm of nasty-spiritedness, or even cruelty, and then what does that make us? Even our insecurities can easily lead us to treating people poorly, so self awareness and introspection are major points in this story. I think that self-analysis and empathy are virtues that are not really being widely taught (they're not something instinctive; we need to instill this thought process into children early on) but desperately need to be.
To sum it up, it's about learning how to not to be a giant asshole. But you know, with fabulous fashion and music added in. And hopefully some laughs!
IC: What was the most interesting part of creating this story for you?
CLUGSTON FLORES: Initially research, I think. I found myself observing people in the scootering scene more closely than usual while gathering material, and I'd noticed a few real-life characters acting in ways that really bothered me before, so I had a particular eye on them. I noticed their behavior was just sort of accepted as the norm and laughed off; meanwhile actual people were being screwed over or disappearing from the public eye once too many lousy things happened to them thanks to these folks. And of course it's not something that's unique to subcultures alone; they are just easier to identify in a small community of largely like-minded individuals.
I love Mods and Scooterists, and this story truly is a love letter to that subculture once you take away the jerky attitudes of a few bad apples. I also loved the process of creating a coherent storyline around the two characters I had in mind, the challenge of pacing the story out into a self-contained six-issue series where one of the main characters goes from downright deplorable to someone with potential, and the other from someone with the right ideas into a person behaving in a way they loathed once they jumped on that high horse and took off running. I suppose the whole act of putting it together and tightening it up was interesting to me. I was certainly entertained the whole time and was sad when wrapping it up. I didn't want to stop working with these characters!
IC: Why'd you go with SCOOTER GIRL for the title?
CLUGSTON FLORES: Along with the Mod Revivalists, Rude Boys/Rude Girls, Skinheads (non-racist, thank you!), and all related subcultures, there were the Scooterboys. They were, as I always understood it—and there are a few different interpretations of the term so I'm sure someone will probably scoff at mine—the gearheads of the mod/scooter scene. The title refers to their sisters, who do exist. They prize their vintage Lambrettas and Vespas, often accessorize them, go to every Scooter Rally they possibly can, and collect the patches from said rallies and sew them onto their gear. Some even race their bikes, many have more than one, and they probably have a ton of parts laying around in their garages and bike mags, posters, rally pint glasses, clothes, and so on all over their homes. Scootering is a huge part of, if not entirely, their life.
The object of Ashton Archer's ire and desire, Margaret, is more than just a Mod. She's also a gearhead when it comes to scooters (though she's first and foremost a Lambretta girl). She's committed to the scene, more invested in some ways than Archer himself. Though he DJs and also rides, he is mostly in it for the style, and most importantly, the girls he can mow through. Anyone not involved with this particular arm of subcultures will probably not recognize what the title refers to, but it also doubles as a very simple and obvious breakdown of one of the main characters: Margaret is a girl on a scooter for the most basic of descriptions, something that would be said of her by Ashton at the beginning of the story because even the women of his own subculture are viewed by him as accessories to his look, and his dick really, and this series is primarily seen through his eyes.
IC: Ashton is the male lead of the story. He's brash, talented, rich, and an undeniable user of people. What do you like about writing him?
CLUGSTON FLORES: It's enjoyable to write fictional characters that you'd want to slap the teeth out of in real life. A character like Ashton gives me the freedom to have him behave as outrageously, as conceited, and as pig-headed as possible, where I can ask myself in every situation, "What would be the crappiest thing he could do or say right now?" and go from there, which can be a lot of fun because the behavior is something you'd (hopefully) never act out yourself on other people. He's not the worst person ever, but he's definitely a perfect example of a pampered asshat who has gotten his way for most of his life. It was very cathartic to force him to deal with the consequences of his actions, which we know doesn't always happen in real life, if the recent news tells us anything. Also asking the questions "What would he do if he didn't get his way? What if someone made HIS life miserable for sport?" and having the story go the way it does was doubly entertaining for me.
Writing petulance is far more enjoyable than dealing with it in reality, and I think in the end, you almost admire aspects of his audacity and determination because the good news is, Ashton himself is not actually stupid and cruel. He's smart, but super insensitive, which means there's hope for him to change. He doesn't have to remain a jerk out of an inability to learn from mistakes if he doesn't want to, and I think he begins to see that and aim for better. And let's be honest, most of us have these traits to some extent. We all need to sit back and reflect on our own less-than-ideal behavior at times in order to try to be decent human beings or we risk becoming insufferable ourselves.
IC: One thing I really enjoy about Ashton is how he's kind of a jerk-y male version of the Clumsy Shoujo Comics heroine, considering how prone to pratfalls he is at awkward moments. SCOOTER GIRL is pretty funny—do you think humor and romance need to go in hand-in-hand?
CLUGSTON FLORES: For me personally it does—I don't find myself physically attracted to people I don't find funny! But as far as storytelling goes? No, not at all. I love classic romance novels and find a lot of the ones I enjoy most, barring Jane Austen, have surprisingly little humor, and I adore them. For me, I always felt I wrote mostly comedies, or dramedies really. I don't personally consider most of my stories to be romances, though they may have romantic characters in them.
IC: Margaret is the object of Ashton's affection and obsession, a cool girl who moves to town and upsets his carefully balanced life pretty much instantly. What makes her interesting to you?
CLUGSTON FLORES: She's quick-witted, sharp-tongued, and immediately pins him for what he is. She doesn't take shit off of anybody, especially not some guy who thinks he's the cat's ass and can treat people as disposable. She has a lot going on for her, I think, not to mention an impeccable vintage wardrobe, gorgeous transportation, and she's an overachiever in the subjects she takes an interest in. But she's not perfect, either, which makes her all the more interesting. She gets carried away and stops trying to fix her own shortcomings, getting bloated from feasting too greedily on the carcass of Ashton's former self and once-promising future. The power gets to her and she becomes so stubborn maintaining her grudge that it affects her adversely, and I think that makes for an interesting struggle, that failure to recognize change in someone else and move on from it.
IC: Spread throughout the book are little caption boxes with soundtracks for the scene. What's the relationship of the music to the story for you? Are they suggested songs to build a mood, direct references, or something in-between?
CLUGSTON FLORES: The majority of them are very intentional songs for specific scenes. Several of them inspired the scenes themselves, or at least took a part in shaping them. There was a lot more music involved. Only a fraction of the songs got into the book for various reasons. A full "soundtrack" would be monstrous! But I definitely feel like the ones that made it in complete the act of setting the mood for the reader, and in places the time period it's set in, now roughly 20 years ago. They're not necessary to understand the storyline, which is the same sentiment I have about the soundtrack I have in BLUE MONDAY, but I do sincerely hope people will look them up regardless and play them if they don't know the songs so they can really immerse themselves into that world. Because really, that's the world of the main characters and it's a part of who they are. Hopefully it will be the right version of the song they hear, though, since some of the '60s tunes in particular have been re-recorded, or are just available live online, and chances are I'm going for the original album version unless otherwise noted. That little detail can be a huge difference in what you hear, believe me!
SCOOTER GIRL arrives 12/21, and is available for preorder now!