We’re counting down the days to Katsucon and rattling up our blog for some more engaging interviews, bringing you all closer to cosplayers around the world! This week, we’ve had the honor to interview Ger Tysk, professional cosplayer and author of the cosplay photo book Breaking All the Rules. A cosplay photo book is a relatively new idea, and we were definitely curious about her process for coming up with this awesome concept and making it happen!
CS: First off, we wanted to ask you a little bit about your cosplay life before you came up with the idea for Breaking All the Rules Cosplay – how did you first get into cosplay?
G: When I lived in Japan, I had a few friends who were into cosplay, but I thought it was a little weird and embarrassing, honestly! I didn’t start cosplaying until 2008, when I moved to Boston. I was 26, so I started a little later than most cosplayers I know. I had no idea how to sew or make anything, so I was thrifting clothes and buying cheap shirts from Target to cut up. My first costumes were Tifa Lockhart and Cid Highwind from Final Fantasy VII.
CS: At the time, what kept you cosplaying? Did you have any idea that you would hit it off with this awesome career centered on spreading interest for this hobby?
G: I had no idea that it would turn into this. I was a librarian at the time, going to school for my master’s degree to work in museum archives. I kept cosplaying first because I was making so many new friends who were also into creating things; I was feeling a little stagnant creatively. Then as I started to get better at cosplay, I started entering contests and becoming more involved in the cosplay scene, including photography. I kept working as a librarian until 2010, when I finally quit my job to do this full time.
CS: We’ve read that you commission props, sew, and photograph cosplay for a living, and we’re all wondering what, exactly, it’s like being a “professional cosplayer!”
G: Being a professional cosplayer is a little strange because I come up against a lot of people who don’t believe that it’s a real job. I like to explain being a professional cosplayer as someone who not only makes a living by wearing costumes and being invited to conventions, but also who makes 100% of his or her income by doing other things that support the art of cosplay. This could be taking commissions, selling prints, doing cosplay photography, running a cosplay website, etc. It’s important to note that because cosplay is an amalgamation of a huge amount of disciplines (sewing, wig styling, woodworking, molding and casting, performance), one person who is a professional cosplayer can have a completely different set of skills than another.
CS: We’re always interested in how cosplayers can come up with such innovative ideas for improving and changing the craft. Can you tell us a bit about how the seeds for Breaking All the Rules were first planted in your mind?
G: I wish I could give you some sort of amazing answer! But I first conceived of the book because I had a bunch of old cosplay photos from different conventions sitting on my computer and I wanted to do something with them. I wasn’t sure if people would like the idea of a cosplay book, but I eventually just ran with it after getting a lot of amazing support, both financially and through the internet.
CS: What was the basic process for getting this book from your imagination to the shelves?
G: Breaking All The Rules was a self-published book, so I circumvented the usual process of putting together a non-fiction book. Usually for non-fiction, one has to go through an agent, pitch an idea, get the okay from a publishing company that wants to publish the idea, and then work with the company to get a book that both parties are okay with. Instead, I had complete creative control over my book. The downside is that I had to provide all of the cash upfront, both for travel and printing, and I had to do my own marketing and reaching out to find people to interview. It wasn’t as easy as I had hoped, but in the end I managed to interview cosplayers from 43 states, including Alaska and Hawaii! I couldn’t have done this book without social media; Facebook, Twitter, and crowdfunding sites enabled me to get the word out.
CS: And what do you think was the most difficult part for you about creating, writing, and assembling Breaking All the Rules? How did you overcome it?
G: The most difficult part, besides finding all the people I had to interview, was cutting down the number of interviews to about 100. I interviewed far more cosplayers but there was no way I could include all of them. It broke my heart a little because everyone I met was so amazing. I appreciate what every single one of them did and how they took time out of the convention schedule to meet me.
CS: Do you have any role models, whether they’re cosplayers, photographers, or just amazing people in your life, who really inspired and encouraged you to follow this dream?
G: My #1 role model for the book is of course Ejen Chuang, author of Cosplay in America. When I first started out, I emailed him asking for advice. His advice was “Don’t do it!” We’ve since become friends and I’m very lucky to have had him there as I made my own book. I also have to give a shoutout to my husband, who was there for me throughout the whole process and encouraged me to keep going. I think it’s very important for artists to have supportive significant others and I’m very lucky to have him!
CS: Finally, do you have any plans for the future in terms of making more cosplay books, or focusing on your cosplaying and photography career?
G: People are already asking when I’m going to make a second cosplay book, but the ink’s just dried on the first one! 😛 Right now I’m working on drafts of two different novels – one of them a sequel to my previously published novel The Sea-God at Sunrise. In the works for next year is another photography book dealing with taiko (Japanese drumming) in the U.S. Maybe after that, I’ll think about another cosplay book, but that is a long time down the road!
CS: We go from serious to fun in our trademark bonus question: please share with us a song that has helped you out of tough times or cheered you up when you were down!
G: One of my favorite bands, Siam Shade, just got back together and released a single after 13 years. The song is “Still We Go” and I love it! It’s on my playlist for the gym.