In her first graphic novel, Blue Is The Warmest Color (Le Bleu Est une Couleur Chaude), writer and artist Julie Maroh told a coming-of-age love story about two women that took place over the course of a fourteen-year period. But while her newest graphic novel, Body Music (paperback, Kindle), is also set in the romantic realm, as she explains in the following email interview, this time she’s exploring the diversity of those feelings through a series of vignettes.
Photo Credit: Zviane 2013
Body Music is a collection of vignettes. But what is the common theme they share, and why did you think this would be a good subject to center this collection around?
Each different vignette is a piece of the general chronology of a love story. They all come one after another in a precise order, and in a specific city: Montreal. These love relationships cross and meld in an urban setting. I started to write short anonymous vignettes in 2009, they only making sense only in this way — short narrative moments — so I decided to gather them up around a certain space and time, as if we were looking at characters crossing the stage of a theater.
Body Music isn’t just about the connections between men and women, though, but between men and men, women and women, and gender non-conformists. It’s difficult, because of what’s been going on lately, to think that there’s no politics involved. But did you just write this and it came out the way it did, or did you set out to make a point about people and relationships?
This project took me almost seven years to complete, and it built itself as I built myself and my own political awareness in that period. It’s possible to have a non-political reading of the book, because it’s not plainly mentioned. But it’s true that I explicitly aimed to put non-normative relationships at the same level with hetero-normative ones for political reasons. Knowing that LGBTQI+ people are harassed, assaulted, and even killed every day around the globe, mostly with impunity, holding your lover’s hand in the street can easily become a political act. Drawing queer people kissing is political, too.
Why did you decide to do Body Music as a graphic novel as opposed to as a prose novel or collection of poetry or some other format?
Because I’ve always been a comic-book artist, I wouldn’t know how to tell these stories any differently.
In terms of the writing, are there any authors, or specific books, that you feel had a big impact on either Body Music as a whole or on just one or two of the vignettes?
Authors or books, not that I can think of. Again, the process has started a long time ago for me, so it’s hard to remember the kernels of inspiration at the very beginning. It’s more of the politics and current society that have have influenced some of my narrative decisions. And also Montreal was greatly influential, because I lived there, and I wanted the atmosphere of the book to reflect the atmosphere of the city itself.
How about non-literary influences; are there any movies or TV shows that also had an impact on what you wrote about in Body Music or how you wrote it?
No, not really, not directly.
And how about the art, what were the big influences on art in Body Music?
From the beginning, I had a specific graphical vision of what I wanted the drawings to look like. So I gathered a lot of documentation and ideas. But actually, I never saw in a book or a museum the technique I ended up using in Body Music. It’s been passed on to me by a friend and based on linseed oil, and when I tried it, I realized that it was what I’ve been searching in my attempts for months. For every book, I have a specific mental vision of what the drawings should look like, and what kind of atmosphere it should transmit to the reader. This is why every book has a different technique, but it’s just verbally impossible for me to explain further, in French or in English. To me, it’s something too abstract and intuitive.
Margaret Atwood, the writer of The Handmaid’s Tale, recently wrote a superhero comic called Angel Catbird. If the opportunity presented itself, would you have any interest in writing a superhero comic?
I must confess that I’ve never been attracted by the superhero world. I’m not the type to be enthusiastic about justice-makers with big muscles or superhuman powers. If they really existed, I would actually be scared. From where I stand and what I’ve witnessed, I believe much more in the 99%, in the workers and citizens who gather together collectively to make a wall fall. I believe in non-shiny, almost invisible, non-muscular, humble people with their small, but important, everyday victories.
Your first graphic novel, Blue Is The Warmest Color, was made into a movie of the same name. Has there been any talk of making a movie, or maybe a TV show, based on Body Music?
No talks about it now. I don’t even think about what else it could become; my wish was only to create a moving book.
I cannot say what would work better, a movie or TV show. It would depend on the project people have in mind.
If Body Music was to be made into a movie or show, who would you like to see them cast in it if you could get anyone you want?
I really don’t think of that, and it would depend of the country where it’s cast.
Finally, if someone enjoys Body Music, and they’ve already read Blue Is The Warmest Color and your other graphic novel Skandalon [a fourth, Brahms, is not available in the U.S.], what comic or graphic novel would you suggest they pick up next?
I’m sorry, I don’t know enough of the English market to answer this question in depth. But I can recommend that you go buy Curveball by Jeremy Sorese. He found a very moving and strong way to talk about the aching melancholy of getting over a broken love in a science-fiction environment. Reading it, you really go on a trip far away and, at the same time, deep inside yourself, in your own familiar feelings.