Making the Reader Root for the Villain: An Interview with Writer C.M. Bratton [Hire This Woman]
Hire This Woman is a recurring feature on ComicsAlliance that shines a spotlight on female comics pros, whether they're relative newcomers or experienced pros who are ready to break out. In an overwhelmingly male business, we want to draw your attention to these creators --- and to raise their profile with editors and industry gatekeepers.
Writer CM Bratton has a long resume, including eight novels, multiple screenplays, and, of course, comics. Her next comics work is based on her novels and is titled Me Zombie, You Food. You can see her in person at the Hire This Woman panel at STAPLE! in Austin, Texas, on March 7th.
ComicsAlliance: What’s your background/training?
C.M. Bratton: Two degrees are in theatre (and one in Spanish). I'm also a musician, and spent a long time studying music and singing. After finishing undergrad, I quite unexpectedly became a high school theatre teacher. After 4 years of that, I went back to get my MA in Drama. That's when I started teaching science and SAT/ACT prep (which I've now done for 9 years or so).
But after completing grad school in 2010, I finally decided to finish a book, something I'd started working on when I was 12. Suddenly, I couldn't stop writing. I love academic writing, but suddenly, fiction finally felt more accessible. However, I only planned to write (dragon) fantasy books and short stories. That didn't last long, as I quickly dived into writing post-apocalyptic sci-fi (which I adore). Comedy, however, and especially zombies, were NEVER on my radar. So other than performing in comedies and my fear of watching horror movies, I had zero experience with writing zombies, comedies, or zom-coms.
CA: How would you describe your creative style?
CMB: I love to mess with genres and write from the villains' POV. It is my goal to convince the reader that the antagonist (bad guy/girl) is actually not that bad. I think that messes with people. I felt like that after watching "La piel que habito". Why did I want this terrible man to be happy? Or for Clarence to end up with Clarice? Or the Phantom to get the girl? Even though they were not "good".
I also like older protagonists, because saving the world at 16 or 17 doesn't allow me to go as in-depth into the characters in terms of the experience that age brings. I also like writing really dark things. I mean, technically, in a post-apocalyptic world, I've killed off most of the planet. My zom-coms, you wonder? Zombies = quirky, sympathetic, and likable. Yet they still eat a lot of people. I think I win.
So in short, I mess with genres, make readers root for the villain, and also switch up POVS and verb tenses.
CA: What projects have you worked on in the past? What are you currently working on?
CMB: I've co-written a movie that's been produced (as well as turned into a comic series), written the screenplay for another three movies in development, ghost written a few non-fiction books, and have published eight novels.
I'm currently working on (finally) publishing my first completed novel (the one that took 18 years), as well as sequels to two of my sci-fi books. I'm also working on another (dragon) fantasy book, and my passion project, a biographical play about a playwright. Oh, and a children's book series based on a children's play I wrote. Okay, I actually have about 13 projects going right now. Should I say, "write now"?
CA: Approximately how long does it take you to write a 20-page issue?
CMB: I'm not sure if my experience is similar to others, as I had my book to use, so it only took me about three days (in-between other things) to finish storyboarding the 20 pages. That said, the book itself took about three months to finish. Each chapter is somewhat self contained, so those each took about 3-4 days.
CA: What is your dream project?
CMB: Which one? On stage? Screen? Theatre? I want to be in an X-Men movie (actually, any superhero movie). I want to work with Mel Brooks. I'd like to see my biographical play in New York somewhere. And I want to turn both zombie books into two 12-issue comic series. Then maybe have time to work on the spinoff zombie series...
CA: What are some comics that have inspired you either growing up or as an adult?
CMB: X-Men, though I should say I was primarily a card collector (where or where did the Fleer Ultra sets go? I need you!). And Stormwatch, of course. And if this makes sense, I collected Wizard magazine every month, and spend hours working on characters to submit to their "Create a Character" section. But I'm a terrible artist. I only learned to draw certain things --- profiles, hands... Still, it got my mind working.
CA: What’s your ideal professional environment?
CMB: My own hours. Extreme efficiency. High self-standards. Fast internet. Music. No music. A pool?
CA: What do you most want our readers and industry professionals to know about your work?
CMB: I'm open to suggestions and critiques. Reviews are great, or little emails from readers who love my work. It's a nice bump when sales are down, a reminder of why I write.
I've discovered I can write in far more genres than I ever thought possible, and I love to play with genres and writing conventions (1st & 3rd POV with past and present tense in the same book? I've done it).
I also need more suggestions of professions to explore for future RZA Chronicles books. And as a performer, I perform my own books for audiobooks (when I finally get them all done) with lots of accents and voices. Not to mention, I love to turn lines from my writing into random songs.
But more than anything, I take the writing craft seriously, and they should always expect and push me to write quality stories.
If there's a woman who you think should be included in a future installment of this feature, drop us a line at comicsalliance-at-gmail-dot-com with “Hire This Woman” in the subject line.