Brandon Bloxdorf talks to the wonderful American novelist Cecil Castellucci about YA, publishing, and Shade and the Changing Girl!

 

ComicsVerse: SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL has a hiatus coming up and then a giant crossover, how do you feel having such a long break coming up?

Cecil: I’m excited about having a hiatus. I’m excited about having a hiatus because it’s giving me a chance to sort of carefully construct the puzzle that I want to do, and sometimes when you’re doing an ongoing comic you don’t have time to … everything is coming at such a quick clip … like I’m a novelist as well. I write novels. I’m used to taking my time and planning the whole thing out.

Cecil: So, this gives us sort of a chance to carefully construct that next thing. But, issue 12 ended with Shade sort of really taking ownership over her body, and really maturing, in a way through the adventures that she’s had so far. And by dealing with Megan and the echoes of Megan, and dealing with realizing that life with Honey is not the earth that she thought it was, and mastering a little bit more of the madness that she was sort of unable to control. The next 6 issues are going to be sort of dealing with what that means.

ComicsVerse: Cool. So she’s not in Megan’s body anymore. Megan’s body died, correct?

Cecil: Hmmm, is it?

ComicsVerse: Oh! Cool. So, we’ll see about that…How is it harnessing the madness? How is it pulling from Peter Milligan’s epic run and putting it into your own words and your own thoughts? Where did all this come from? What made you so attracted to Shade?

Cecil: Well, I just love the idea of exploring humanity through the lens of an alien who was trying to figure out what it means to be human, and to have feelings like a human does. So, that was just very compelling. It married the two things that I love most, a teenage protagonist and an alien. I think those two things, I think they go together so well. Especially because teenagers feel like aliens. We feel like an alien when we’re a teenager and we go childhood to young adulthood. Our bodies are changing, weird hairs are sprouting out, there are oily things coming, we’re having feelings for the first time, and that’s kind of like what Shade is going through.

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ComicsVerse: What’s it like being a part of Young Animal? The newest imprint, and you’re, just like Shade was with Vertigo basically, with Peter Milligan, you’re relaunching it.

 

Cecil: I think the thing that I’ve tried to do is that I’ve tried to look at the Ditko run and Milligan run and sort of pull from there things that really resonated with me, but at the same time make … create my own space in the madness.

If you’ve read the Ditko or if you’ve read the Milligan, you’ll see some things that I’m doing that are like echoes and nods to those original runs but very much trying to keep it separate in my own way. You don’t have to have read those in order to understand mine but if you have read those, but if you have read those you’ll be like, “Oh, I see what she’s doing there.” And I think that’s the fun part about doing a reboot.

ComicsVerse: What’s it like being part of Young Animal? Like with Gerard and everybody?

Cecil: It’s amazing. It’s so cool. It is the coolest thing ever. It’s the best. It’s like absolutely the most fun career stuff that I’ve ever done. I love working with Marley, team Shade is amazing, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Saida Temofonte, are magnificent editors. Jamie Rich and Molly Mahan.

Our inker who helps out Marley, Ande Parks. All the backup artists for Life with Honey. It’s just been an immense joy. And Gerard is the nicest, coolest, most amazing captain of a crazy crew that you could ever have.

ComicsVerse: Does he help you guys out with the story at all?

Cecil: He definitely, he reads the scripts, and he weighs in on pencils and stuff. I go out and have coffee with him and tell him my crazy ideas and he just says “Yeah, go Cecile, ” and that’s pretty much it. … He kind of just created a playground for me.

ComicsVerse: You were also a musician, correct?

Cecil: I was, yes, in the past. That was my first secret career.

What the mindset that’s different from writing your novels, besides the time it takes and everything, but being a musician and writing, to writing novels, to writing comics books, how does your mindset change? What goes through your head when you’re preparing for something like this?

Cecil: I think that … That’s a great question by the way … I think that one of the things that I’ve always … I consider myself a storyteller, right? So, when I was in a band I was telling stories through songs. In novels, it’s through novels. Comics, it’s through comics. And each medium is different.

It’s like if you’re an artist, a visual artist, right? You go on a picnic. You can bring your pastels along, your watercolors, or your pencils, or whatever and draw a picture of the scene, the idyllic picnic scene. I feel like that about the methods of telling a story.

A story sometimes, if you tell it as a song then it’s going to be one way, if you tell it as a comic book it’s going to be another way, so it’s sort of which pencil or brush you’re picking up in terms of storytelling. The difference is that sometimes you can do things in a comic that you can’t do in a prose novel, and sometimes you can do things in a prose novel that you can’t do in a comic.

I’ll give you a perfect example. It’s a book that I wrote that was illustrated by Nate Powell, who did the March Trilogy with representative John Lewis. So we have this hybrid novel where it’s alternating chapters of prose and graphic novel. Basically, one of the reasons why I did that was because I was writing this book and it was about grief and I got to this point where writing the words “I’m so sad. I’m really sad. Oh, the sadness” didn’t really cut it.

But, the most spectacular thing about writing comics is that you can have moments of silence and a picture tells a thousand words. You can’t have that in prose. Prose is cluttered up with words. You have to have all these words on the page, so it’s hard to have a resting spot. So, that’s what … that’s the difference. You sort of have the story and then you decide. I try to ask my stories “Well, what do you want to be?”, and then I just sort of follow the way that it wants to be.

ComicsVerse: That’s great. That’s so cool. Do you have any other upcoming projects you can speak about right now? You just had Soupy released, but anything else?

Cecil: Yeah, Soupy Leaves Home, which is a depression era comic book about a girl who rides the rails as a hobo in 1932. I have a new young adult novel that comes out on Scholastic in December. It’s called Don’t Cosplay with My Heart. It’s a Young Adult romance at Comic-Con. I got the rights back for the Plain Janes from DC comics. The Plain Janes is coming back.

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Cecil: We’re doing … Me and Jim. It’s going to be out by Little Brown in 2019, and it’s the first two books will be collected with a new third Plain Jane story. So it will be one big graphic novel, and we’re getting to finish the story that we started 10 years ago.

 

ComicsVerse: What’s it like bouncing from publisher to publisher?

Cecil: I love it. It’s hard sometimes just sort of career-wise because you have different houses and then your backlist is on one place and on another. But I’ve loved every single editor that I’ve worked with, and I’ve loved every publisher that I’ve worked with. It’s great.

ComicsVerse: Can you speak about the crossover coming up in January? Or is that still…

Cecil: I don’t think I can say anything. I think maybe they’re gonna say something on the panel tomorrow, but I don’t know. But I can tell you that it’s gonna be fucking amazing. And wacky. It’s gonna be really crazy. We got to do a writer’s summit, all the Young Animal writers where we came together to sort of each take care of our own piece of the puzzle, and it’s gonna be really fun.

ComicsVerse: Cool. Can you speak about anything you’re reading right now that you love?

Cecil: I just read … I’m gonna mess up the name … Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani, that’s out on First Second. It’s sort of a slice of life, growing up, coming of age, Indian-American girl. Well, I love the Flintstones. I think if people haven’t read the Flintstones, Mark Russell’s Flintstones. It’s just brilliant. You should read that.

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