Zany gaslight fantasy Agatha H. and the Clockwork Princess, the second Girl Genius volume to be converted from comic to novel, follows Agatha Heterodyne and her talking cat, Krosp, as they perform with the eccentric cast of Master Payne's Circus of Adventure in an attempt to elude the predatory airship Castle Wulfenbach.
What prompted you to manifest this story in a new format, and why now?
We have always enjoyed making art in a wide variety of mediums, including prose. We both love books, so we've always thought of ourselves as writers, and the Girl Genius novels have long been on our list of "projects we hope to get done someday." We started telling the stories with comics, mostly out of habit—we were used to self-publishing comics, though we didn't know much about publishing a novel. For the last 11 years, we've been making the comics full time, and working on the novel whenever we got a chance.
Describe the conversion process. Did you come up against any surprising challenges?
We start out using the comic as an outline. We literally sit down at the computer, open the comic, and start transcribing it page by page, as well as describing whatever the characters are seeing and doing. What might easily be conveyed by a picture can take a surprising amount of time to render in prose. As we go along, we can't help tweaking and adding things. You can tell it's a good writing session if we're snickering as we're typing.
We usually take turns doing the first pass. Once that's been laid out, the other goes over it—rewriting, expanding, shouting and deleting. Occasionally things get completely rewritten and one of us goes staggering around wailing, "You have altered my deathless prose!" Sometimes we change nothing, smooch, and tell each other that we're geniuses.
The novelizations feel more detailed than the comics. Did you come up with new material for the books, or were those details there all along in the original art?
We're moving the story from a visual, streamlined medium to the denser medium of prose, and that has given us the freedom to really cut loose. We've been working on the story for Girl Genius since 1993, so we've had a lot of time to come up with details, backstory, and silly jokes that never make it into the final comics. Talking about the Girl Genius story is one of the things we do for fun, and the ideas don't stop coming just because we're "done" with a scene.
How have longtime fans reacted, and have the novelizations attracted new readers?
Dedicated readers of the comic are enjoying the alternative format and the extra detail, and fans of the novel have backtracked and come to love the comics. And the most surprising response: a fair number of people told us that they had heard Girl Genius was good, but they just didn't like comics–so they were thrilled to find the novel. They loved it!