by Anna Sugden
I'm thrilled to welcome back my very dear friend and Lair favourite, Julie Cohen! Julie is here to celebrate the release of her fabulous new book, Girl From Mars.
As you know, these days, great single title contemporary romances are thin on the ground. Julie's books are always a treat and I can promise you Girl From Mars is the perfect read for the waning days of summer. I know there are a number of you who love comics and sci fi series and movies - this is the book for you, as you'll see below. And even for those who aren't into comics, Fil is a heroine you can't help but love.
So, without further ado, let me hand over to Julie who will tell you a little more about Girl From Mars.
Thanks for having me again, Banditas!
My latest book, Girl from Mars, is about a female comic book artist who takes a vow (in Klingon) not to get a boyfriend.
As soon as I got the idea of writing about a female comic book artist, I knew I had to do it. I’m a comics fan, always have been. Especially Batman and The Sandman, and the more “serious” comics like Maus and Persepolis, but I’ll read any comics I can get my hands on.
More recently, it’s occurred to me that comics and romance have quite a bit in common. Aside from the fact that comics is a medium, and romance is a genre, the two are similar in that they have very loyal and voracious readers. Also, despite romance and comics both being regularly plundered by the mainstream for stories, they’re often looked down on by the “establishment” as being somehow inferior to more “literary” works.
There’s one very big major difference. With some notable exceptions, romance is usually chosen by females, and comics are usually chosen by males. When I was researching Girl from Mars, I asked the editor of long-running British comic magazine 2000AD how many female artists he had on his books. “Er, none,” he said, looking vaguely surprised. “It’s not on purpose. I just haven’t had any women interested.”
So the job of comic book artist fit my heroine Fil exactly, because she’s a female who’s not quite sure how to be a woman. She’s a tomboy whose best friends are male. And when I made up the comic she drew, (also called “Girl from Mars”), I took a bit of Dan Dare, a bit of Superman, a bit of Wonder Woman, mixed them all together with two X chromosomes and made her a kick-ass alien girl with green skin and a tragic past.
One of the most fun parts of writing a book about a comic book artist was writing the comics themselves. I had to write a six-part story arc for the comic Fil is drawing, and I had to write some parts of the script in comic-script format. It was awesome.
PANEL SIX: Jackson presses the buttons to open the service hatchway to the radioactive core fuel supply of the space station.
JACKSON: THIS IS PROBABLY NOT THE BEST MOMENT TO TELL YOU I’VE FALLEN COMPLETELY IN LOVE WITH YOU.
GIRL FROM MARS: TELL ME THAT LATER, WHEN I HAVEN’T GOT MY HANDS FULL OF EVIL GENIUS.
Another great bit was learning about how comics work. One of Fil’s major problems is a new writer for the comic, Daniel McKay, who’s a famous Hollywood screenwriter and director, but has never written for comics before:
“Listen, Dan, I think you’d be insulted too if I decided to step into your studio and direct a film without bothering to learn anything about how to do it. Your script isn’t even a comics script, for God’s sake.”
He frowned. “What do you mean?”
“The panel descriptions, for a start. They’re too detailed, except when they’re not detailed enough. And they don’t match up with the dialogue.”
“I don’t understand.”
I sighed, picked up my bag from the floor where I’d dropped it, and rummaged around for the script I’d stuffed in there yesterday. “Look,” I said, spreading the battered pages out on the drawing board.
Dan got out of his chair to stand beside me. He had a lemony smell, which I realised I’d included in my dream, although I hadn’t consciously noticed it.
Since he seemed to be willing to pay attention, I decided to start with the easy stuff, so maybe we could get that sorted out once and for all. “When you write a film script I’m guessing you have two people standing in front of a camera and they can say whatever they want to whenever and move around the room and stuff. But comics are static, so there are some major differences. For example, here in the panel description you have Girl from Mars and Jackson standing at a table looking at some plans, with Girl on the left. But then in the dialogue, you have Jackson speaking first.”
“A single panel of comics reads from left to right. People will start with the top left-hand speech balloon. So generally it’s easier if you have the left-hand character speaking first.”
“You mean, every time?”
“There are ways of getting round it, but it’s easiest if you stick to that rule for the majority of panels. In this panel, you just need to switch the characters’ places.”
I loved learning little tricks like this, that you don’t really think about unless you’re writing for comics (or, in my case, writing about writing for comics). Of course, one of the things about Dan that annoys Fil the most is that he’s going to add romance to her comic. And maybe her life, too.
How about you? Are you a comics fan? What’s your favourite? Do you think there are any similarities with romance? How about romance comics—have you read any, and did you like them?
One lucky commenter will win a signed copy of Girl From Mars.
Girl from Mars, and Julie's other books (Spirit Willing, Flesh Weak; One Night Stand; The Honey Trap) available with free worldwide shipping from The Book Depository:
You can find out more about Julie and her other books at her website: