Indie Author Talk ~ Carmilla Voiez on Writing for a Graphic Novel

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My first graphic novel, Starblood, is due out on May 29th and I’ve been asked to discuss how I went about writing for the panels.

In addition to the normally expected issues to be considered, about how language can be interpreted differently by the reader, English is the second language of my artist, so I had to ensure that instructions were clear and unlikely to have more than one meaning that could be corrupted by a translation tool.

The graphic novel is much shorter than the novel so the next thing I had to bear in mind was what to keep and what to lose. I chose to concentrate on three characters’ story arcs. We agreed the concept art for these three characters before we started on the panels, but we still needed to make a few changes at each stage of the process.

After the character sketches I wrote a script for the graphic novel. My artist, Anna, first hand-sketched the idea for each panel and then created the final art. This was vital as for many pages her vision and mine varied significantly. Sometimes my vision won out and at other times I agreed with her changes. In this way the graphic novel is very much a collaborative work.

Before writing the script I did plenty of research, both of finished graphic novels and of scripts I had been lucky enough to obtain. I used certain industry standards, such as capitals for text that appears on the page and lower case for descriptions of how images should appear.

At this point some examples from the script I handed to my artist might be useful and of interest.

“1. We open with a ¾ page image of a room. The room contains a single bed, a wardrobe and the floor is bare boards. Everywhere (walls, floor, ceiling) magical symbols have been scribbled. Satori stands naked in the room in a magical circle. On the bed we can make out photos of a woman’s face – Star. In Satori’s hand he holds a dagger with gems on the handle and a wavy blade.


In the final ¼ of the page a woman is stepping through a rift in reality. Behind her we can make out swirling chaos. This woman is Lilith. She too is naked and she is also completely hairless at this point with bright green eyes.”

I numbered the pages but just left a line between scenes, or panels. I kept the same format throughout the process.

“4. The man is on his knees. Lilith towers above him. His knife is held between her thighs like a dildo and her face is full of rage while his is terrified. We can see the moon above them.



The script took about two months to write, but the novel had taken 18 months, so no doubt a script from scratch would take longer. The art took over a year from concept art to finished pages, 15 months to be exact. During that time the artist and myself were in contact almost daily, discussing what was needed and making changes as the work progressed.

And that is pretty much it. Finding the right artist and establishing a suitable form for two way communication are tricky but essential and the rest is trial and error until you get something both are happy with and proud to own.

Carmilla Voiez.

You can download a free copy of the accompanying webcomic “Sex Skulls and Sorcery” here.

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Indy Author Talk Author Bio

On 16th April Carmilla Voiez was named HFA’s Horror Author of the Year, 2013, for her novel, Starblood.

Carmilla Voiez was born in Bristol in the 1970’s. She grew up in a suburb of the city, but has since travelled and is now residing in North East Scotland. Starblood is her first novel to be published. However, she is currently working on the sequel and has plans to complete the story as a trilogy. As well as writing Carmilla also designs and sells Gothic clothing.

Her fiction explores themes such as sexuality, imagination and magick. It gives the reader an insight into the hidden worlds of her gothic characters, their loves, ambitions and often complicated sex lives.

Nurtured on a diet of horror and gothic music her work has a darkness and violence of its own. Urban lives and supernatural worlds collide within the novels’ pages. Whether you fall in love with or despise her characters, you are guaranteed a thrilling and emotional journey.

INdy Author Talk QA

Why did you decide to release a graphic novel version of Starblood?

Again and again I’ve been told that Starblood is an incredibly visual book and readers would love to see it as a movie. I haven’t had anyone grab the movie rights YET, but it got me thinking about how else to bring the story to life. I’ve always loved graphic novels and when I met Anna, an incredibly talented artist who shared my vision, well the rest is history.

Are there any significant differences between the novel and the graphic novel?

Yes. The graphic novel focuses on three characters: Lilith, Satori and Star, whereas the novel focused on Freya as well. Anna saw some of the characters differently, in particular Star, who in the novel and my head had black ringlets. I loved her drawings so much I decided not to ask her to change Star back, but it did mean some of the dialogue had to change. In the graphic novel Star is referred to as the girl with the big eyes, whereas in the novel it’s the girl with the curls.

Do you and Anna plan to work together again?

Absolutely. We’ve already committed to making graphic novel adaptations of Psychonaut and Black Sun.

Did you learn anything new about the story when you saw it in graphic novel form?

I realised just how much sex and mutilation I had written. It’s a very adult graphic novel. I also realised that I had unwittingly written a few caricatures as background characters and vowed to avoid doing that again. Of course in comic art everything is magnified, but it was an eye-opener.

How long did it take to make the graphic novel from start to finish?

If you include the time it took to write the original story, then about three years. The script and the art was produced during the same period with preliminary sketches, discussion and changes to both. Then Anna worked on the final images and a few minor changes were made during that process. It took about a year of Anna and I working together, to produce the finished book.

Whose book is it?

It’s definitely our book. With her art, Anna has added as much to the story as I have with the words and original plot line. One couldn’t exist without the other.

Do you think releasing this book will change your life?

I love my life, but it can always be made easier by a steady income. Now a film deal, that would rock. Or a Starblood TV series. A girl can dream.


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