Interview with Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone

A few weeks ago, I review The Changing Girl and now I have the writer of the comic series here to answer a few questions.

Cecil Castellucci is an author of young adult novels and comic books. Titles include Boy Proof, The Year of the Beasts (illustrated by Nate Powell), First Day on Earth, Rose Sees Red, Beige, The Queen of Cool The Plain Janes and Janes in Love (illustrated by Jim Rugg), Tin Star Stone in the Sky, Odd Duck (illustrated by Sara Varon) and Star Wars: Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure.

Her short stories have been published in various places including Black Clock, The Rattling Wall,, Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine and can be found in such anthologies such as After, Teeth, Truth & Dare, The Eternal Kiss, Sideshow and Interfictions 2 and the anthology, which she co-edited, Geektastic.

She is the recipient of the California Book Award Gold Medal for her picture book Grandma’s Gloves, illustrated by Julia Denos, the Shuster Award for Best Canadian Comic Book Writer for The Plain Janes and the Sunburst Award for Tin Star. The Year of the Beasts was a finalist for the PEN USA literary award and Odd Duck was Eisner nominated.

She splits her time between the heart and the head and lives north and south of everything. Her hands are small. And she likes you very much.

Marley Zarcone is a Canadian comic book artist who works primarily for Image and DC Comics

  1. Could you tell us your work process for The Changing Girl?

    CECIL:  I pull a world out of my head.  I dance with aliens.  I weave the words and put it down on the page.  I do what’s called full script, but I tell Marley she can throw that framework out.  Meaning that sometimes panel one to panel two is Shade walking into her own mouth.  Once I see the pencils, I rewrite the script to adjust to any new panels and pacing.

    MARLEY: When I get the script from Cecil I usually take a day to absorb. I think it’s good to have a day to think on where the potential is in different scenes, and how to bring that to life on the page. I definitely spend a lot of time in the planning stages, so my page drafts are incredibly close to what the final art looks like. Once the drafts are finished, I scan them and blow them up to full size. I use a light table to transfer the image over to 11×17 art board, and then I finish the page with inks.


    1. Did both of you discuss the story (how it unfolds) before you each did your part?

    CECIL: That’s a bit complicated to describe. Yes and no.  I share broad strokes with Marley and we discuss that.  If you are asking if we collaborate, we absolutely do as we go along in each issue in process.  If Marley has questions she asks me and if I’m toying with something upcoming, then I let her know.  Our next arc Marley has a little more info on because it’s more of a puzzle.  But I like to keep some things broad narratively speaking so Marley is not in the dark, but also so that she’s not planning out madness if that makes any sense.

    MARLEY: Our process has evolved as we’ve gotten further into the Shade, which makes sense because we’ve really gotten to know each other over this series. There’s a healthy amount of communication. Cecil still likes to surprise me though, so she doesn’t tell me everything! I think the heaviest amount of collaboration happened in issue 12. That was a very dense issue, so we had a lot of story elements to cover. It was really important that we worked together for clarity purposes, and I think it worked out great!


    1. Most of the people who have read The Changing Girl describe the experience reading it as a rollercoaster ride (or what an acid trip might feel like).

    CECIL:  Thanks.  That’s cool.  I don’t do roller coasters or acid so I take that as a high compliment.

    MARLEY: We’re opening up brains!

    1. Was that intentional or did the story somehow evolve its own brand of madness?

    CECIL:  Shade’s superpower is madness.  So you can’t really have it be straightahead, you know?  It has to be strange and absurd and unexpected.  So yes, it was intentional to try to push the story off of the page and feel like it got into your bones.

    MARLEY: Loma Shade definitely developed her own brand of madness. That’s part of wearing the madness coat. It adapts to whoever’s wearing it. I think Loma’s experience with madness is going to evolve even further now that the coat is on Earth.


    1. For Cecil, in what ways was the experience of collaborating on a graphic novel/comic series markedly different from writing a novel?

    CECIL: It’s the same and different.  Crafting the story is the same kind of hell or heaven.  But when I write a novel, I’m alone.  What’s fun about comics is that you have a swim buddy who cares just as much about the story as you do.   That collaboration is pretty vital.


    1. Would you say that language/prose is secondary in a graphic novel/comic series? Or are the art and the prose equally important?

    CECIL:  Yes.  Comics is a visual medium.  So that will always come first in a comic book.  But story is important.  It’s the framework.  The path we go on.  My goal is always to throw out as many words as I can once I get the images back because the most beautiful thing about comics is the fact that you can have silence and wordless panels.




    1. What other adventures is Loma going to have? What should we look forward to?

    CECIL:  Well, I can’t say too much.  Loma is now in control of her own body and the coat.  And she’s got a whole world to explore.  But she’s been through the ringer and having been human for a while has really made her open up.  Things aren’t going to be easy for her in the next arc.  And there are loose ends that might come to haunt her.

    MARLEY: Can’t say much, but Loma is definitely going to be facing some new and  very dangerous challenges. The madness coat is now physically on Earth, so that’s going to have it’s own set of consequences. It’s very exciting!


    1. Are there any comic series/graphic novels you would like to recommend to our readers?

    CECIL:  I loved The Flinstones by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh.  I would suggest Iceman by Sina Grace.  I’d suggest Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani.

    MARLEY: If you’re popping into a comic shop today, I definitely recommend grabbing Expansion by Malachi Ward and Matt Sheean, and Redlands by Vanessa Del Rey and Jordie Bellaire. Also any Young Animal title you can get your mitts on!