Laurell K. Hamilton is the author of the bestselling Anita Blake series of urban fantasy novels, sexually charged, plot-driven thrillers set in a world where vampires are real. Marvel is adapting her first three novels—Guilty Pleasures, Laughing Corpse and Service of the Damned—as comic books that Hamilton is writing with Stacie Ritchie.
The first six issues, plus an eight-page, new Anita Blake story, will be available at the San Diego Comic-Con, along with the first issue of a new Anita Blake prequel written by Hamilton and her husband, Jonathon Green. Hamilton will be coming to Comic-Con for the first time and plans to blog about her experience. Her already strong fan base has reacted enthusiastically to the comics adaptations, making them the top sellers for the Dabel Brothers imprint of fantasy comics published via Marvel.
PW: How did Anita Blake arrive in comics?
Laurell K. Hamilton: [Les and Ernst Dabel] were looking for projects and approached my agent, Merrilee Heifetz, who suggested me. We'd been approached in the past about doing a comic, but no one else made me feel confident that they'd be true to the books. When they partnered up with Marvel in September 2006, it was like moving into that beautiful little bed and breakfast down the road and finding out it's also this high-powered luxury hotel.
You want your characters to be taken seriously. With women, that's always hard—hard for women in real life, as well as in comic books. A lot of female images in comics are a little too much like they've gone to the plastic surgeon too often, that whole, "breasts look like they should be flotation devices" thing. I mean, Anita has scars on her arm. But the artist, Brett Booth, was a huge fan of the series. He got Anita.
PW: It sounds like the art played a pivotal role.
LKH: One of the first sketches I received was of Anita in her penguin T-shirt with her gun behind her back and her head down. That was really the moment that made me think, "I've got to sign." I wanted Anita to look like a real woman. Brett Booth got that. I love Anita. She's my sulky girl.
LKH: I meant that she spends the whole first book just pissed off. If she meets a man, she will be angrier the more attracted she is to him. I've been writing this character for over a decade, yet I didn't realize this about her until I saw the comic art. Brett captured that expression, that whole, "I'm mad at the world" ethos. How cool is that?
PW: What was it like switching from books to comics?
LKH: My husband, Jonathon, is a comics fan, and he understood how a comics script is supposed to look. The main difference between comics and book publishing is how amazingly fast the comics industry is. You sign the contract, and boom! art starts arriving. I can't impress upon you how quickly the turnaround can be. You hope you have overnight to turn things around, but sometimes it's hours. Comic book stores are out there, expecting a new issue by a certain date, and I feel that it's imperative I perform. I've given my word.
Marvel and the Dabel Brothers gave me control over the characters and the art. Now, when you get control, your end of the bargain is that you will not be a stumbling block or a bottle-neck. You have to be a good enough business person to understand that comics are a different medium.
PW: How did you adapt?
LKH: I learned on the job. At first, I couldn't make sense of the comic scripts. It's a skill you pick up. Concerning the speed, I am very serious about deadlines. Nobody had to teach me that.
I took learning about comics very seriously: I practiced. Jonathon got hold of comics scripts and movie scripts. What I learned is there's not much difference between movies and comics. Script is just dialogue. I do dialogue really well and really fast. Writing script was a much happier, much easier transition than I ever imagined. And my practice scripts became the prequel.
Let me be clear: there are no movie or TV deals, but talking to people I know in Hollywood, when they found out how quickly I'd written the prequel, they were amazed. Someone jokingly offered me and Jonathon a job. Apparently, I'm unusually fast. But look at what I actually do. I write books that are between 600 and 1,000 pages in hard copy. A movie is about 140-160 pages at most, and it's mostly dialogue.
PW: How does the process work?
LKH: Jonathon, Darla [Hamilton's assistant and webmistress] and I go over the scripts. We've had some of my fans go over them, too. Fans reread the books and know them better than I do.
PW: Have you enjoyed this speed and involvement with artists?
LKH: Working on the comic was invigorating. Writing a book is a very solitary thing. For the most part, I'm alone in my office with my imaginary friends. I never thought I'd be able to do a prequel to the Anita books, but comics have allowed me to. So now the prequels will exist only as comics. For a book, I'd have to do a lot of soul-searching: I can't write Anita as a rookie vampire hunter anymore. I can't unknow the things I know about her. She’s a veteran vampire hunter now. But I found I can write the dialogue for a prequel. And Brett's art has captured a younger, gentler Anita—before she gets that look in her eye.