Interview: Tania del Rio Unlocks DIARY OF A GIRL NEXT DOOR

Archie fans have thrilled to the exploits of Betty Cooper for generations, but they’ve never seen her quite like this! With the publication of Betty: Diary of a Girl Next Door, Archie Comics launches a new line of young adult prose novels aimed at introducing all new audiences to the drama and humor of the cast of Riverdale. Author Tania del Rio sat down to chat with Comicosity about the project, her view on the timeless Betty Cooper, and where those funny little Yeti came from!

And thanks to Archie Comics for sharing a full chapter preview of Betty: Diary of a Girl Next Door, so readers can get a taste of what to expect from the book — in stores now!

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Matt Santori-Griffith: Tania, thanks so much for taking time to chat with Comicosity! What can you tell us about the origins of this new format and style of storytelling for Archie and how you got involved?

Tania del Rio: Obviously, diary-style books are really popular right now. I think they appeal to both fans of comics, and readers who enjoy getting to read the inner thoughts of their favorite characters. I think they appeal to reluctant readers as well, because they’re funny and entertaining — it doesn’t feel like homework.  So I was really excited to have the chance to work on a diary style book featuring Betty. Archie characters have been portrayed in a lot of ways and formats, but the illustrated diary format is a new one in the Archie-verse.

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Click to enlarge.

MSG: Betty Cooper has a very long history to her character, with lots of stories that have come before. How did you decide what the core of the character would be for you, and what traits were you most focused on?

TDR: It’s true that Betty has a lot of back story and most everyone knows she’s the “good girl” to Veronica’s “bad girl.” Even though I was taking on a very classic, iconic character, I tried not to let the weight of that tie me down when writing Diary.

I did want to keep the essence of Betty intact: she’s ambitious, smart, and always tries to do the right thing. But my Betty is a bit younger than the Betty portrayed in other Archie titles, so she’s also still figuring things out, and making some mistakes along the way.

MSG: What challenges did that provide in terms of making the character identifiable for existing fans in this younger portrayal, as well as differentiating that voice?

TDR: It’s always challenging to take a classic character and put a spin on it (as I learned with my work on Sabrina). But I think the Betty in Diary, at her core, is still the same Betty we all know and love. But, since she is younger, she’s a little sillier and has more childlike interests.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

She’s also working on a few self-esteem issues as she deals with bullies at her school. Her heart’s in the right place, but when it comes to her squabbles with Veronica, (particularly over Archie), she can get a little petty. But it’s these flaws that make Betty feel more like a real  girl growing up. If Betty was portrayed as 100% confident, a star student, and mature for her age, the story wouldn’t be nearly as interesting.

MSG: What was your writing process like for the book in terms of having the final product be prose rather than a finished comic?

TDR: It actually wasn’t too different. Although, I think writing prose suits my style better as I used to get a little too wordy with my comic book scripts. I feel like comics are also a little more technical because you’re not just writing dialogue, but also describing each panel and thinking about the visuals, and how much you can fit onto a page. In Diary, I had to think about visuals as well, but it was much looser, so I was able to focus more on the story itself and that was fun.

MSG: Did you work closely with artist Bill Galvan and how did that relationship work across the course of the book’s development?

TDR: He started on the illustrations after all the writing was done, so it was somewhat of a separate process. We did keep in touch, and he’d send me samples here and there and ask if I had any notes. Since he intuitively knew exactly how to portray each scene, there was nothing for me to do but tell him how great it looked! I kept my descriptions of the visuals pretty vague and allowed him to bring his own expertise in depicting the humor, which he did a fantastic job of. I think Bill’s art really comes alive in Diary.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

MSG: One of the most charming parts of the book were the dancing yeti. Where did the inspiration for those come from and did any other parts of the story come from funny real life experiences or stories?

TDR: It didn’t come from any one experience, but I was somewhat of a fangirl growing up and would get really weirdly obsessed over certain shows or comics. For a time, my obsession was Jim Carrey films, and later, the show Animaniacs (I owned all the merchandise and I knew every episode by heart).

For Diary, I wanted to create something that Betty could fangirl over, but I wanted it to be weird enough that Veronica would be embarrassed about admitting publicly that she was a fan, too. The whole dancing yeti element is also somewhat inspired by my own love of urban dance films, where people dance to solve problems and settle disputes. If only real life worked that way!

MSG: Are you continuing on to further books in this series, either involving Betty’s next year in school or maybe even a peek inside Veronica’s diary?

TDR: I would love to work on more books in the Betty series, or even one written from Veronica’s point of view. Both are possibilities, though I can’t announce anything yet!

The illustrated diary format is a new experiment in the Archie-verse, so if readers want to see more, they can help by rating and reviewing Diary online, and letting Archie know they want to see more! If there’s a demand for it, there will certainly be more volumes to enjoy!

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