Turtle Bread cover (cropped)

EXCLUSIVE: ‘Great British Bake Off’ Finalist Kim-Joy Lets Us Peek Behind the Scenes of Her First Graphic Novel

Beloved Great British Bake Off contestant Kim-Joy has published a number of books since she appeared on the baking competition show in 2018, but this fall, she’s releasing her first-ever graphic novel. Turtle Bread: A Graphic Novel About Baking, Fitting In, and the Power of Friendship is written by Kim-Joy, illustrated by Alti Firmansyah, and lettered by Joamette Gill. It’s inspired by Kim-Joy’s passion for baking and her experience working in the mental health field, as well as her own struggles with mental health.

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While working on Turtle Bread, Kim-Joy was renovating her kitchen, which became a year-long project of a larger scope than she anticipated. As a result, she had to completely change her work style and approach in order to make the book happen at all.

“I can’t function with builder noise around me, so I tried to write a bit at home, but in the end did it mostly at [her partner] Nabil’s office,” Kim-Joy explains. “Really I’ve always just felt so lucky to be doing the renovation and to now have my dream pink and green kitchen (with a walk-in pantry!). It is just incredible. I also became (well, I still am) very interior-obsessed so I would say it wasn’t just a side project; it was like another job. I made a 3D plan, learned to tile and we tiled our kitchen floor ourselves, we did all the painting, I did all the kitchen design and measurement, and researched so much about everything. I also partly wrote my 4th baking book Bake Me a Cat during the renovation, and I had to borrow friends’ kitchens to test recipes!”

She admits, “It got a little stressful just because of the delays, but it’s so worth it in the end.”

In the backmatter of Turtle Bread there are extra pages showcasing the chaos of trying to renovate, raise kids, and work on a graphic novel all at once. Kim-Joy says artist Alti Firmansyah came up with the idea, “and I absolutely love how she’s picked out all the chaos! She’s even got the lawnmower in the background and the details on the plastic rug that I had! I love it and it’s such a great memory to look back on.”

The Mary Sue can reveal two exclusive behind-the-scenes pages from Turtle Bread, seen below.

Turtle Bread behind-the-scenes by Kim-Joy
(Dark Horse Books)
Turtle Bread behind-the-scenes by Kim-Joy
(Dark Horse Books)
Turtle Bread by Kim-Joy cover
(Dark Horse Books)

Turtle Bread follows a young woman named Yan whose passion for baking rivals Kim-Joy’s. One day after another unsuccessful job interview in a long string of them, she learns about a local Baking Club, where she slowly overcomes her anxiety about being around the other bakers by their encouragement, care, and support. Yan grows particularly close to Bea, who disappears one day with no clues as to where she went or why. Together, Yan and the other bakers—Amit, Zara, and Geraint—attempt to keep their emotions in check as they try to figure out what happened.

Turtle Bread is a book about self-awareness,” says Kim-Joy. “It’s about that feeling of loneliness, of not fitting in or feeling good enough, of self-criticism, and the path towards self-acceptance. This is explored through baking, and in particular, the symbolism of the turtle—coming out of its shell and moving forward; however slowly that may be. Hence: Turtle Bread! (And yes, there’s actual turtle-themed bread! Plus loads of other recipes). It’s NOT a magical story about how baking and friendship fix everything, but a story about the small steps forward (and sometimes sideways and backwards) gradually adding up.”

Kim-Joy hopes readers will “feel less alone, comforted, and inspired to drop their armor, come together, and bring meaning to their lives in the same way separate ingredients come together when baked to form something fresh and new.”

Turtle Bread will be available in print on October 24, everywhere books are sold, and on October 25 in comic shops. The digital version is available via Comixology.

(featured image: Dark Horse Books)

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Samantha Puc
Samantha Puc (she/they) is a fat, disabled, lesbian writer and editor who has been working in digital and print media since 2010. Their work focuses primarily on LGBTQ+ and fat representation in pop culture and their writing has been featured on Refinery29, Bitch Media, them., and elsewhere. Samantha is the co-creator of Fatventure Mag and she contributed to the award-winning Fat and Queer: An Anthology of Queer and Trans Bodies and Lives. They are an original cast member of Death2Divinity, and they are currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction at The New School. When Samantha is not working or writing, she loves spending time with her cats, reading, and perfecting her grilled cheese recipe.