Talking ‘Angel: Aftermath’ With Kelley Armstrong

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Kelley Armstrong has nine published novels in her acclaimed Women of the Otherworld series, with a tenth due in November. In addition to two crime novels, she’s also writing a young adult fantasy trilogy. Somehow, she’s also found time to write six issues in IDW Publishing‘s Angel comic book series, which is the official continuation of Joss Whedon’s Angel TV series. Starting with issue 18 (due out February 25th), the series will be retitled Angel: Aftermath as Armstrong sorts through the fallout of writer Bryan Lynch having taken Angel, his friends and enemies (all of Los Angeles, really) literally to Hell and back. She also found some time to answer a few questions from Pop Culture Zoo.

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PCZ: What lead to you getting the call to continue the Angel comic series?

KA: It was one of those lucky “networking” things. Someone who knew I was a big Buffy/Angel fan found out that IDW was looking for writers to continue the Angel comics and asked if I’d be interested.

PCZ: What are your thoughts upon getting the offer to write a story arc of the official continuation of the Angel series?

KA: It’s both exciting and daunting. This is the one universe that I’d love to play in, so of course I jumped at the chance. But writing for an established series means taking a big chance, too. I know not every fan will love what I do with the comics, no matter what route I take.

PCZ: Angel and Los Angeles have just literally gone to hell and back. What sort of fallout from that will you be following up on?

KA: My arc deals with a few fallout issues: Angel’s newfound celebrity, the pissed-off demon lords, the latest prophesy and, most importantly, the big question of “what now?” Having been through the events of After the Fall, what does Angel do next? That’s what he’s wrestling with in my story, among other things.

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PCZ: What characters can we expect to see in your six issues?

KA: The ending of After the Fall leaves me with a fairly limited cast. There are those who don’t survive and those who just won’t be up for more adventure anytime soon. I have Angel and Connor…and that was pretty much it from the main cast. From the secondary characters in After the Fall, I pull in Kate and Gwen. Then, to fill out the cast, I add a couple new ones.

PCZ: How difficult was it trying to capture the “voices” of the characters and the general tone of an “Angel story?”

KA: Very difficult. This is the first time I’ve ever worked with characters I didn’t create myself. I re-watched the TV series, played with tone and dialogue, but I still can’t say I nailed it. I suspect it would take more than a few issues to do that.

PCZ: What elements define Angel as a character for you?

KA: Angel is the classic tormented hero. He’s the guy with a past that he’s always trying to overcome. With the events of After the Fall, though, he’s finally paid his dues. So now what? That’s the big question. He’s spent most of his life fighting, and that’s really all he knows how to do. The forays he’s made into interpersonal relationships haven’t worked out that well. He doesn’t have a wish-list of places he’d love to visit or hobbies he’d love to take up. So when he’s finally fulfilled his mission, he’s going to be a bit lost.

PCZ: At the risk of incurring the jealousy of all, how closely did you work with Joss while writing the series?

KA: I don’t think I’m going to make anyone jealous on that front. The stories get his approval, but that’s it. Someday maybe, someday…

PCZ: How does your depiction of vampires in your novels compare with Joss’?

KA: I don’t do a lot with vampires. They’ve been done so often and so well that it’s hard to be original. Mine can walk around in daylight like Stoker’s Dracula. They’re only semi-immortal. They drink blood from the source and must kill once a year to continue their own lives. Stakes don’t kill them–just decapitation. So…not a lot like those in the Buffyverse, but that’s the fun of working with supernatural creatures–there’s so much mythology to cherry-pick from.

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PCZ: How different was it for you to write a comic book script as opposed to a novel?

KA: I’m the type of writer who likes to explore all forms of the craft. So while my published work is primarily novels, I’ve done it all–poetry, short stories, novellas, screenplays, comic scripts… Comics have the most in common with screenplays, in that I’m restricted to what I can show–no long passages of internal dialogue (though, with comics, I get a bit of leeway with captions, thankfully!) As a writer, that’s a great exercise because while internal dialogue adds an extra dimension to novels, it can easily become a crutch–and one that bores readers to tears. The biggest problem I have with comic script writing is the “talking heads” scenes–the ones where characters are discussing something. In novels that’s fine to an extent, but in comics, it’s static and dull, and I was constantly trying to weed them out…though I suspect more weeding could have been done!

PCZ: Lastly, will you be writing more Angel beyond these six issues?

KA: Well, I suspect that will depend on how good a job I do with these ones!

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Thank you to Kelley Armstrong for her time in answering our questions. Look for Made to Be Broken in March, The Awakening in May and Frostbitten in November!