With two novels under her belt, writer Rebecca Donner recently wrote a graphic novel under the female driven comic imprint Minx. Geeks of Doom’s own JackBauerstein took some time out of her busy schedule to talk about her graphic novel, Burnout and her future novels.
Geeks of Doom: How did you first come up with the idea for Burnout?
Rebecca Donner: I had been hiking, and afterwards I couldn’t shake this image in my head of a mountain burning – these terrible yet beautiful saffron flames leaping against the backdrop of a midnight sky. The book basically works toward that image from the very first page, and it becomes a pivotal, culminating scene. Coupled with that was an idea I’d been kicking around for a while about…er,…a quasi-incest situation. Ah, I’ll stop right there — I’ve given away too much already!
GoD: What attracted you to the idea of writing a comic book?
RD: The creative possibilities. You can tell a story in so many ways – it’s a wonderfully flexible genre.
GoD: Was Burnout oringally concieved as a comic book and how did it end up over at Minx?
RD: Someone at DC Comics who had read my first novel, Sunset Terrace, suggested I submit a pitch for a graphic novel. I’d been kicking around this idea for a while, so I wrote a pitch for Burnout and sent it in, along with a copy of Sunset Terrace. A few months later, I got a call from Shelly Bond at DC, who said she was intrigued, and wanted to see more. I expanded the pitch to a longer outline, and eventually DC bought the book.
GoD: Eco-terrorism is not the type of terrorism most Americans are familiar with. Why did you choose this to be such a big part of your story?
RD: Under the Bush Administration, the FBI has announced that ecoterrorism is one of the most serious problems facing domestic security. But you’re right, not that many people know what ecoterrorism is. There are people serving lengthy prison sentences right now for setting fire to some SUVs, aiming to make a political statement about damage to the environment. These people are considered ecoterrorists. In other words, an act of vandalism has been redefined under the Bush Administration as an act of terrorism. I consider this more than a little problematic. That said, I wasn’t interested in making Burnout a dogmatic book that advocated a particular political viewpoint. I think there’s plenty wrong with extremism, even if it’s in the name of a good cause.
GoD: You seem very comfortable as a comic book writer. How did you prepare yourself for writing a comic?
RD: I read lots and lots of comics.
GoD: What books did you read and was there anything that stood out in particular that you liked?
RD: I loved this graphic novel called Mother, Come Home, by Paul Hornschemeier. The prose is very spare, deceptively simple, but it’s so powerfully invested with this palpable sense of longing and loss. That sense of longing and loss is what I wanted to anchor Burnout, even as there was this surface play of teenagers’ games and foibles. Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home also inspired me — there’s another example of a character who’s mourning a loss, although, tonally speaking, her narrator is much more erudite than Danni in Burnout. Also, Daniel Clowes, Lynda Barry, and Brian Vaughan were big inspirations.
GoD: What are your overall thoughts on the your comic book writing experience now that it is all over and done with?
RD: I had a blast. I was really lucky to work with Inaki Miranda, who did the illustrations for Burnout. Inaki is a huge talent.
GoD: Do you plan to write more comics, perhaps maybe even for another comic company? The industry could use more female comic writers.
RD: Yeah, I’ve got a couple projects brewing, actually.
GoD: Anything to could elaborate on? Is it a creator owned project or a company owned property? I mean, I could see you on a superhero book, couldn’t you?
RD: Both are creative owned projects. There are no capes or cowls involved. But yeah, I’d love to do a superhero book.
GoD: I know you have done some promotion for Burnout. Tell me a little bit about that.
RD: Basically, I’ve been making the rounds at the conventions, and doing lots of interviews. At MoCCA last month, I was asked to appear with Brian Wood – instead of doing a typical panel discussion, we essentially interviewed each other for an hour about the writing process. He’s a wonderfully talented writer who’s been producing great work for over a decade. Pretty fun way to spend an hour.
GoD: Ahh so you had made the convention rounds. Any particular interesting stories to tell? I know some of us fanboys are a strange bunch.
RD: One fanboy at the New York (Comic) Con gave me a cherry tomato that he’d picked from a plant on his windowsill. You fanboys are the greatest.
GoD: Along with comics, you have written 2 other novels, Sunset Terrace and On the Rocks, with another novel coming soon. What can you tell us about this new novel?
RD: It’s a literary mystery. That’s all I can say! Mum’s the word!
GoD: What are three things you need when you write?
RD: Just fuzzy socks in the winter (in the summer I write bare-footed) and coffee. I used to write with earplugs, but I’m not so fussy anymore.
GoD: What are three guilty pleasures that you have.
RD: Grapefruit Mentos, Grapefruit Mentos, Grapefruit Mentos.
GoD: You write novels, reviews, essays, and now comic books. Is there anything out there that you would like to try to tackle, maybe poetry?
RD: Roses are red,
Violets are blue
I suck at poetry
Oh damn, I do.