How did you get the Lois Lane gig?
Honestly, I really have no proper answer to that. I feel like I did a good deed in a former life, or something, because literally I had had a conversation with my agent where I said I was focusing on my own stuff, I didn’t really want to do any work for hire, and a couple of weeks later, she called me and she was like, “I have a call from these people at DC, and they really want you to do a teen Lois Lane. I know you said you’re not interested, but this really seems like it would be perfect for you.”
I said, of course I was totally interested; my only question was: “is this one of those things where they already have this well-developed idea and I won’t really have any freedom to do anything with it?” I was not sure I would be able to do that. They were like, “no, she’ll have tons of freedom; make it her own.” And that was true. Within a couple of weeks I was working on the outline.
It never happens this way, I understand this sounds like a fairy tale and it kind of was. I don’t know if they desperately needed someone and I have never asked, because I would prefer to think of it as this magical thing that fell into my lap,.
I went back and looked at my original outline the other day because we’ve started doing a reading club of Fallout before the sequel comes out. Basically the only parameters I was given was: teenage Lois Lane solving mysteries. She has a mysterious friend that she doesn’t know the identity of, and a younger Perry White somehow hires her for something.
That was it: I had pretty much of a blank slate, so I was able to decide this was going to be set in Metropolis, which made sense if Perry was involved, and it seemed to make sense to have Lois bounced around a lot and keep the Army brat side of her history.
Then it felt like because Superman is the first superhero, there are not really other supernatural things that the world is aware of. I do think of it as a comic book world, and give it more advanced technology so we could keep that futuristic comic book feel. But I really did not want to lose the science fiction: Superman is an alien, and so many of the plots of those stories revolve around super-science concepts.
I really wanted to find a way to keep those elements, so it made sense to me that Lois Lane would be one of the first people to twig as things started to happen when young Superman was out there exploring his powers. I loved the idea of having them be online friends; it felt like it was right for this generation and it gets round all the stuff about why doesn’t she know who he is, and all those kinds of questions.
I basically had to come up with everything and I always joke that I’ve been training for this job my whole life. It all came together very quickly – almost everything that’s in the finished book is in the initial outline. It was pretty miraculous: I doubt I’ll ever have another project that comes together like that.
Yes. They told me it would be its own continuity.
Is there anything apart from Clark being Superman that you have to keep to?
Obviously if I had any of these characters doing anything too extreme when they were teenagers, they would say dial it back. My Superman’s never going to be killing anybody…
They were like, “make sure it’s infused with snark, and wit and style” – this laundry list of wonderful, delightful adjectives. That was easy enough.
People are very attached to the character of Lois Lane. When she’s written well, she is one of the best characters in comics, and she has not always been written well. Certainly, there have been periods…
Even when she is written well, she has never really had a starring showcase, without being tagged as Superman’s Girl Friend, so I was very aware of the expectations, that she had a huge fandom out there who would fall upon me and destroy me if they felt I had mistreated their hero. I’m a huge Lois Lane fan, and that was what made me ask up front if I would have freedom with the character, because I did not want to be the person who got the chance to give Lois Lane a showcase and then it was terrible and she needed to be saved, or she was a weak or unlikeable character.
I do think one thing that the novel allows that we don’t get a lot of in the comics is that we can see Lois’ interior vulnerability. We mostly see her from the outside; we mostly think of her as the tough sharp-tongued reporter. It seemed like a real opportunity to me to show the interior landscape of the character that we haven’t seen that much.
I remember watching that show when I was a teenager, so I’m sure it’s in there. It’s so interesting: some people are convinced I’m a huge Smallville fan, but I actually never watched Smallville.
What concerned me going into the book was that we’d get adult Lois written as a teenager – she’s 16 physically, but has all of the gumption and wit and smarts of the adult. However, I think we can see the block of stone that’s going to be carved out to form Lois…
That was one of the reasons why I didn’t want her to come into the book already wanting to be a reporter. I felt like she would be the kind of character who would not really know what to do with her life until she banged up against it. She has all of those innate characteristics that make her a good reporter but they are also things that would make her life really difficult as a teenager – in the sequel even more so. She doesn’t really know how to have friends because she never has, and is afraid she’s going to screw it up. She has never really told a boy that she likes him – all those teenage things. I don’t like YA books where characters react as adults, and never screw up and make mistakes – it’s a pet peeve of mine!
As adults, we have perspective; kids, teenagers, don’t have any perspective, and everything happening to them is super-important. That’s what makes writing teenagers so much fun in my opinion – you do get to write the intensity of firsts and the overwhelming nature of that stuff.
A little bit of both. I really like classic science fiction tropes, and it seems as if a comic book world with super science is a great place to play with them. So many of them are in Superman’s history; I’d be shocked if there wasn’t a hivemind somewhere back there in the comic book world.
It was definitely, “how can I have this overlap with high school?” and also I think Lois is fighting her own identity a little bit. She comes in, thinking she’s going to somehow suppress her personality and fit in for five minutes, and of course can’t. So it seemed to me that having a B plotline be kids that were losing their identity and being subsumed into something would be something that would horrify Lois on a pretty deep level. I think it’s a fun plotline and I really wanted the video game.
That was one change from the outline: in the original, I never had Lois and Clark in the virtual reality game at the same time but I realised very quickly as I was writing that that was probably my subconscious giving me a way to do scenes where they were in each other’s presence without breaking the constraints of the book, or having him run there from Kansas! I loved writing those scenes in the game; I think it worked out well.
I wasn’t sure if they would let me use one of their villains so I created my own. In book 2 I do use some of Intergang and some of the old classic villains.
Well, there’s a lot of debate about who the Inventor is, and whether he’s a friend or foe. You get more of the Inventor character in the second book, so we’ll see…
How much of a Superman fan were you before writing this?
A pretty big fan. I would say that both me and my husband Christopher, we’re kind of a DC household, although we both read Marvel, and I read Marvel comics growing up. I always was a Superman fan and that first Christopher Reeve movie was a big influence on me picking up my brother’s comic books and stealing them when I was a kid, rather than just reading my own Betty and Veronicas. And for some reason I had a subscription to Groo the Wanderer… My parents apparently thought that was perfectly fine!
I’m not such a fan of the dark and gritty; I am more of a fan of optimism. I think there is just something about the Superman world that has had a bit of lightness within it, even though they’re dealing with life and death issues and obviously very dark things happen. There is always that sense of humour, that Clark and Lois will see the worst that humanity and non-human beings have to offer but still believe that the world’s worth saving. Also, their relationship with each other, and the ensemble cast nature of Superman, has always been something that appealed to me. That was something I wanted to keep – give Lois her own ensemble, not just borrow characters from Superman’s ensemble. Give her her own Scooby gang of sorts!
Are we going to see any more of the familiar characters? The Jimmys and the Cats etc.…
I don’t know. Certainly I do think Cat Grant’s developing a big following because of the Supergirl show.
I’m pretty happy with the main cast. There definitely will be new faces but most of them will be actually new. I haven’t introduced anyone else – no Jimmy Olsens yet or anything like that at this point. But who knows what will happen if there’s a book 3…
What is the situation? Are you contracted for book 3?
Not yet. It just depends. I would love to write a book 3, and I think the publisher really wants one, but it’s always a question of wait and see how the book does. If it does well, I will write a third.
Did you go straight from 1 to 2?
Yes, pretty breakneck speed. I think I was writing the second one April last year – they’re on a pretty tight timeline, so I should know fairly soon if there’s going to be a book 3 because I have to write it!
I have another book out this summer, a sequel to my book Girl on a Wire – Girl in the Shadows. There’s going to be a comic book miniseries, Girl over Paris, just announced that will be taking place in-between the two, with the same characters from Girl on a Wire.
That has been a dream project – they asked since I hadn’t written comics, would I prefer if they hired somebody and I could oversee the project and learn how comics are put together. Who would I want as the artist etc.? We kicked around some names and we got Kate Leth who I’m a huge fan of, who’s doing Hellcat for Marvel right now and is amazing. And Ming Doyle, I think her art is so beautiful, When new layouts land in my inbox, I am just swooning. Yesterday I was editing Kate’s second script and I think it’s pretty awesome, I think people are going to love it. The comic is different than a lot of what’s out there so I’m hopefully people will be really interested in it. I’m super-excited about that.
Christopher Rowe, my husband, and I sold a middle grade series together to HarperCollins which is going to start coming out next year, so we’re just about to go into edits on that. That’s set in a hotel for supernatural creatures in New York.
Busy – busy but things are good.
I’ll drop everything and write it. I’ve been trying to keep my schedule relatively open just in case.
Finally, if you were explaining what sets your Lois apart from the previous versions, what’s unique?
I think the thing that’s unique about this project is that it is her showcase and that Superman is a supporting character in her story She is a hero. She is written as the superhero in this story despite not having super powers. I would hope that all those previous Loises are reflected in this Lois but that she still feels new, particularly as you do get to experience the world through her eyes in a way that we haven’t before.
Fallout is out now from Curious Fox Books; thanks to Georgia Lawe for her help in arranging this interview.
For more details on Gwenda’s other YA books, click here to go to her website