Public service announcement: 26th of October. Write it down, because that’s the much anticipated day in which Tess Smith-Roberts’ new book, Disaster Dates and Lucky Escapes will hit the shelves! We are all perhaps more familiar than we’d like to admit with the online dating scene. Smith-Roberts’ new novel follows young protagonist Olive through the smouldering, disaster-strewn wake of her journey in the wild world of modern dating.
The London-based illustrator’s unmistakable style is eye-catching and hilarious. Originally inspired to create her dating comics by her own first-hand experiences with bad dates, Tess now draws inspiration from her followers, subsequently providing herself, her fans, and readers with a form of cathartic therapy. 
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Hi Tess, it’s a pleasure to speak with you. How are you feeling today and where are you answering us from?
Hello! I’m good today thank you, I’m answering from my studio in Camberwell, London.
First of all I would like to thank you for encouraging conversations around dating. I understand that you previously released a viral dating comic series on your instagram (@tesssmithroberts). The more it’s discussed the less isolated people feel, and hopefully certain people finally learn the meaning of manners and respect. What originally inspired you to broaden the discussion around dating?
Yes! I love talking about dating – I have a boyfriend now, but when I was going on lots of dates (mostly terrible ones), I loved coming back to my friends to tell them my stories. I equally love my friends telling me about their dates. I just love gossip!
I think one of my friends then said I should make a book about my dating stories one day, so I started by drawing comics of them. I asked my Instagram followers for their stories too, and soon found that they had way funnier stories than me - so I started drawing and posting theirs onto Instagram.
You’re releasing your first book. Congratulations! How would you define Disaster Dates? Is it a self-help guide? Romantic fiction?
Thanks! (Un)romantic fiction I guess! It’s a silly story about a girl called Olive going on lots and lots of bad dates. She then joins a bad daters group to talk about her experiences, and even more disasters happen! It’s definitely not a self help guide, it’s more a look how shit dating can be kinda thing - let’s laugh at it.
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I notice that a lot of your art is focussed around fruit and veg; or just food in general. Why is that? Do they stand as a symbol of abundance? Fertility? Perhaps this drew your subconscious to explore the realm of sexual attraction and dating. 
No not really. I started drawing fruit and veg because I like the easy shapes and the bright colours, and I thought they looked cute with smiley faces.
Keeping to the topic of food, another well-known creator who brings to light the comedy of dating is Amelia Dimoldenberg through her Chicken Shop Date. Are you familiar with her? Why do you think social media has such a passion for awkward dating?
Oh yes I’ve seen Amelia’s videos! I like her interview style, it’s so funny and awkward, but awkward in a great way. I think everyone loves a good and awkward date or dating story, as it’s relatable and funny. It also reminds anyone who’s been on awkward, weird or bad dates that they’re not alone and it happens to everyone. Also it’s just good to laugh at it, isn’t it? Being too serious about these kinds of things would be boring.
Dating is scary. You put yourself on show in a very raw, personal way, and when something does go wrong it can seem like the worst thing to ever befall us! However, laughter is transformative. Do you believe that the power of laughter is stronger than that of sadness? Would you encourage your fans to harness the power of laughter to combat their fears?
Yes! Totally agree with this! Laughing at yourself when something bad happens, whether it’s a date or something else, is way better for you than being sad about it. It makes it easier to feel better about it, too.
Authors sometimes sacrifice accessibility for arrogance and fill their pages with incomprehensible vocabulary forcing readers to refer to a dictionary every other sentence. Your writing, on the other hand, is far more relatable and welcoming. Why did you choose to write in vernacular English?
I think I just enjoy writing how I speak! Sometimes I record myself talking about something and then write it almost exactly as is. I think I did this for the plot of the book, actually. It just comes way more naturally to me that way. Also there’s not much text other than people speaking in my book, so I guess that helps it to be more relatable.
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I know that you draw creative inspiration from both fans’ submissions of dating stories but also from personal experience. While I have the pleasure to speak to you, I’m sure I’d kick myself if I didn’t ask which, of all your most gruesome and terrible dating experiences, ranks number one on your nightmare-o-metre?
Oh god. I actually don’t think I can write the worst one for you! (Laughs) It will be on the Internet forever! It’s bad! Other bad dating stories though:
I was so brutally ghosted by someone who seemed very, very into me. It was so bad that my friends and I thought he was dead. I literally never heard from him again after I had just asked him over to have dinner together. But 3 months later he added me to his close friends list on Instagram?!
Once I was dating someone, for like 4 months, like watching-the-sunset-together and going-out-for-dinner dating. I told him I really liked him and he was like “Oh really? This is just sex though, isn't it?”.
Once, as I went in for a kiss with someone our nose rings got stuck together. It was so awkward! But also really funny looking back on it.
After compiling dozens of anecdotes and personal stories from fans and yourself, could you give our readers some advice for their next dates?
Don’t take dating too seriously! It should be fun and silly, and then you won’t get as hurt if something doesn’t work out. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket too - it’s good to talk to multiple people, maybe even casually date multiple people. Then if one doesn’t work out you have someone else! Also if a date is going badly, either:
A) Think about how this will make a funny and entertaining story for you friends, or,
B) Leave because you really don’t owe them anything. I definitely didn’t leave enough bad dates early when I should have!
Would you say that at the end of the pages of outrageous anecdotes the reader is left feeling hopeful for their personal navigation of the dating world, or despairing as they reach for their phone to delete, for the seventh time, (“But this really is the last time!”) their dating apps?
(Laughs) I would say despairing. I didn’t want to write a book with an ‘oh, look, they ended up with someone and are so happy now!’ kind of ending. I wanted it to be like ‘oh, dating is still terrible, but oh well! That’s fine!” But maybe it’s also hopeful in the sense that the reader can feel like they’re not alone in this terrible dating world, and everyone goes through it!
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