Before we meet Marjorie Liu for the Monstress Book Tour, let’s get to know her a little bit as she shares her journey of becoming a writer, creating Monstress, and sharing stories with the world. Read our conversation below.
FULLY BOOKED: Can you share with us your journey as a writer? What made you decide to leave your career in law to pursue writing, and what was your transition like from being a lawyer to writing fiction to entering the colorful world of comics?
MARJORIE: My journey as a writer began as a reader. I’ve always loved reading books — I always wanted to live in stories. Writing is just an extension of that. As for why I left practicing law? I sold my first novel a year after becoming a lawyer, and decided I’d rather live super poor and write full time than do anything else. My family was so scared for me, with good reason — but also very supportive. I was scared, too. It was a big leap of faith. As for writing comics…I broke in because I wrote an X-Men novel called “Dark Mirror”, and the folks at Marvel liked my character-work. I got up the courage to ask if I could write for them, and much to my shock, they were open to it. That’s the short version of breaking in at Marvel — but eleven years later, here I am, still writing comics.
We’d love to know more about the creation of Monstress. What sparked the idea to create this rich, fantasy world? What is it like writing this serialized story, and what is your collaboration process with your artist Sana Takeda?
My grandmother inspired Monstress — listening to her stories of growing up in China during WWII. Also, a love of Godzilla and monsters, in general. I always wanted to write an epic fantasy about a girl surviving a war, but it wasn’t until I was standing outside Toho Studies in Tokyo, taking a picture of myself with their Godzilla statue, that the large pieces of Monstress fell into place: there’s a girl, a survivor of a genocidal conflict, and her best friend is a monster. Which is simplistic compared to what actually emerged on the pages of the book, but you have to start somewhere.
As for my collaborative process with Sana, it’s pretty simple — helped by the fact that she’s a genius and we’re on the same wavelength when it comes to what this book should look like. I write, she draws magnificently, and her art has a huge influence on me as I work. Kippa, for example, was never supposed to be a major character — but I saw Sana’s initial sketch of her, and suddenly she burst to life and became essential to the book. I am so, so lucky to be working with Sana. I thank my lucky stars every day. Her work is invested with so much life.
Who are your literary influences? What book to keep coming back to? What are you reading right now?
There are so many books that have influenced me — I’d argue that every book I read, in fact, teaches and influences me, even if that lesson is simply a reminder of how much I love stories. That said, I remember so clearly the first time I read Isabelle Allende’s “The Stories of Eva Luna”. I was a teenager, it was the early 90’s, and I was never the same after. It was Allende’s lush language, the richness of her characters, how even incredibly dark moments were conveyed with respect and beauty and power…reading that book showed me how words and narratives could be pushed beyond what I had traditionally expected; a lesson I learned again and again when I read Maxine Hong Kingston’s “The Woman Warrior”, the poetry and essays of Borges, the work of Angela Carter…
Right now I’m reading “Digital Minimalism” by Cal Newport.
What is your advice for aspiring writers? Especially female writers, who want to enter this dominantly male industry.
Fortunately, the comic book industry isn’t quite as male dominated as it was when I first started, over ten years ago. Or rather, there are more writers and artists who are women, and women of color — though structurally the superhero industrial complex is still overwhelmingly male and white. That said, you enter this industry through your work, whether you’re an artist or writer, or both. You tell the best stories you can, you draw the best narratives you can, wherever you can. Don’t get too hung up on writing Batman or Wolverine — that might happen one day, but start with your own stories.
A great way to break in, which has worked well for some, is to create a webcomic — a showcase for your abilities as a writer and/or artist. Or, alternately, draw and write your book, and submit it to an actual publisher — there are more out there than you might think, and everyone is hungry for talent. There’s always a way.
The key? Finish what you create. You can be the most talented genius who ever walked the earth, but if you can’t finish what you start, sustaining a career in publishing — let alone anything — might be a problem.
Catch Marjorie Liu at the Monstress Book Tour happening on February 8-10, 2019! Visit our event page for more details.
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