I am not normally a fan of graphic novels, but I do make rare exception, such as John Lewis’ amazing graphic novel series, March, about his involvement with the civil rights struggles of the 1960s.
So when I heard Megan Abbott, the excellent author of Dare Me, The Fever, and You Will Know Me among others, was part of a new graphic novel series I wanted in. Abbott and fellow best-selling author Alison Gaylin, who wrote What Remains of Me, are co-writing the graphic novel Normandy God with art by industry legend Steve Scott. It is published by Hard Case Crime.
The thriller set in Washington D.C. in the 1970s has sex, violence, and corruption. When protagonist Sheriff Normandy Gold learns her younger sister is murdered in a D.C. hotel, she begins looking into the seedy world of prostitution and politics. She discovered a conspiracy that might involve the White House.
I was able to get an email interview with Megan and Alison for this series. The first part of the series goes on sale this week.
How did this project develop? Did you or others approach Megan Abbott or was it the other way around?
Alison: Megan and I have been good friends ever since we were nominated for the Edgar together, in 2006, for best first novel. We share a love of 70s conspiracy movies and long wanted to do a project together, where we could explore that. In my memory, Megan was the one who came up with the idea of writing a graphic novel script, but I think she says I’m the one who came up with it. Regardless, we came up with the idea for Normandy Gold together, devised a story, and pitched it initially to DC Comics, where we were hired to write it. We’d completed the script and they were about to hire an artist when the division, Vertigo Crime, folded. Megan and I got the rights back, and eventually made this happy association with Charles Ardai and Titan/Hard Case.
How much input did Megan and you have on the look of the graphic novel?
Alison: We were lucky in that they hired a wonderful artist. Since the story originated in the movies we love, we had very specific ideas for what each panel should look like — we included several movie stills in the script, so the artist would get the idea. While the story takes place in the 70s, our fear was that the art might look too look campy or cartoonish. We envisioned something that really looked as though it had come out of that period. Steve Scott so beautifully captured that gritty, cinematic 70s look in the art. It’s thrilling to see.
How did it work having two writers? I am always curious, as a writer myself, how the work is shared.
Alison: We came up with a basic outline together for the pitch. When we started writing the script, one of us would write up to a certain point. The other would go over what the first one had written, making tweaks and changes, and go on from there. When we disagreed, we’d talk things out over the phone, but most of it was done via email, except for the final part of the script, which we wrote together at Megan’s apartment in one night. We really do work well together. I had as much fun as I’ve ever had writing working with her on this script.
Have you long been a fan of graphic novels?
Megan: For me, it began with an addiction to Archie comics as a kid. And Sabrina, Josie and the Pussycats, Richie Rich. Later, as a teenager and college student, it was Lynda Barry. More recently, I love everything by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips—great noir tales and perfect for lovers of crime fiction.
How did writing for this project vary from writing your novels?
Megan: It’s much closer to the screenwriting I’ve done. Visuals and story structure matter so much. And you have so little space to tell the tale. It’s a terrific learning experience, getting your writing muscles to work in different ways.
What would you say to those readers who like your novels but are unsure whether to try a graphic novel penned by you?
Megan: I like to think my novels (and Alison’s too!) share an overriding characteristic: complicated female protagonists. And Normandy Gold certainly fits. She’s as tricky as they come, and as unpredictable. It was thrilling to write a character like that. Fearless, damaged, a battered and battering hero.
Is this your first collaboration?
Megan: No. I’ve been writing for TV recently, one of the writers in the writers’ room working for David Simon and George Pelecanos on their forthcoming HBO show, The Deuce. TV, of course, is entirely collaborative. But Normandy Gold was my first time collaborating with Alison and I loved it. We have such similar sensibilities and inspirations (70s movies, in particular).
What did you like about doing a collaborative project like this? Any frustrations?
Megan: It’s invigorating. Writing is such a lonely pursuit, so sharing the effort is energizing—bouncing ideas off each other, generating new ones together.
Do you have an interest in doing a collaboration like this in the future?
Megan: You never know. But I consider myself lucky already. I adore Hard Case Crime and this was a great opportunity to explore something new.
What’s next for both of you?
Megan: I have a new novel coming out next year, Give Me Your Hand, about two female scientists competing with each other. They share a secret and, well, bad stuff happens. And The Deuce begins airing in the fall (2017).
Alison: My next book, If I Die Tonight, will be out in the UK from Penguin/Random House in late August of this year. It will be out in the US from Harper Collins/William Morrow in March of ’18.