Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of No Kidding! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the premise of this incredibly prescient story, and what (or who) was your inspiration?
Madeleine Martin: This book is actually 2 volumes that were published 10 years ago in France at a time our government was actually closing some of the abortion centers in France (but it’s still an indefectible right in France). Last year the French publisher (Fluide glacial) decided to re-publish the 2 volumes as one, and that’s what FairSquare Comics is now publishing in the US. Very topical if you look at the news! Both Véro and I are very concerned by feminism and the weight that society has on the global overlook of what motherhood and women’s choice should be. I’m a mom now and Vero is childfree, but we both believe that maternity comes in many shape and form, far from this rigid systemic and traditional image. We live in a world where parenthood, maternity, infertility, opting out of motherhood, etc. is plural, not singular. That’s what we wanted to convey [in No Kidding]. I guess, that’s the genesis of the book.
Vero Cazot: Thank you!
Even though it is not an autobiographical comic, the project was born from my personal experience, which I enriched with the experience of other concerned people to make the story more universal.
When I started to say openly that I didn't feel like being a mother, around the age of 35, I was very surprised by people's reaction. Incomprehension, defensiveness, judgment, and also attempts to make me change my mind about a very personal and intimate choice. A choice that is not really a choice because it is the result of an obvious, visceral non-desire, as natural as the desire of those who wish to be parents. It is by discovering a whole childfree population on the internet that I realized that I was far from being the only one who did not want to be a parent and to suffered from the social pressure. It was a liberating and comforting first step for me. As I was a screenwriter, I felt the desire, and almost the responsibility, to address this subject in order to make it better known and better accepted, if not understood. Since childfree people had a hard time finding a place in society, I thought that giving them a place in bookstores and libraries would be a good start.
BD: Reproductive rights are at the forefront of many of our (collective) minds, now more than ever. Do you feel that No Kidding’s humor will provide a much-needed spot of levity while still tackling troublesome societal norms and expectations about pregnancy?
MM: We really hope so! I often tell people that my best reward for doing this book was the fan mail we got. For example, from young ladies or teens saying this helped them talked about their undesired pregnancies to their parents, or just seek for help, or from women saying they feel a bit less lonely within their choices or situations thanks to the book.
VC: For a long time, I felt angry at the pressure that was applied on women. I felt it was so intrusive and inappropriate when it comes to our intimate choices and rights. But this anger also made me aggressive towards all those who were exerting this pressure. It fueled a conflict within me, that doesn't need to be there because such personal questions shouldn't be up for debate; you can't force anyone to have a child, to want to be a parent. There is no good or bad reason to want a child or not. All the reasons for wanting or not wanting to be a parent are interchangeable. So, why make it a source of conflict? This is why, instead of arguing or defending myself, I started to toy with the issue, to distance myself, to laugh at these absurd situations. It was incredibly liberating and allowed me to fully embrace my choice. I thought that it could liberate and comfort other people facing these problems. Humor is a wonderful weapon to get messages across, to share unusual points of view, to show injustices, to trigger empathy, and to make people accept differences. I hope our graphic novel will bring some of that to our readers.
BD: How would you describe your shared creative process in bringing this story to life?
MM: The original idea came from Véro, I loved it immediately, so then we presented a pitch with some pages and when accepted by the publisher (quickly actually), we bounced ideas back and forth between the 2 of us, sometimes with feedback from the editor.
VC: First of all, there was a very constructive exchange about the first draft of my script, thanks to which I was able to write a new and more refined version that also took into account Mady's point of view, who wanted to be a mother. The difference of point of view between us was precious, because it allowed us to make a relevant and committed book without being militant. It's not an anti-parent, anti-child comic book, it's a comic book about freedom and the legitimacy of choosing other possible paths, other ways of life. With these intentions in mind, we had a lot of fun and didn't avoid any taboos. Mady's drawing was perfect for creating endearing characters and making even the goriest gags totally cute.
BD: What made FairSquare Comics the perfect home for this project?
MM: They’re in between the two cultures, France and US, that makes them very attentive about respecting our book while very aware of what the expectation of the US market and audience is. Also they are concerned by the theme, which is great!
VC: Publishers who care about giving more exposure to minorities and people we don't usually hear from are totally consistent with this graphic novel and with my own vision of creation.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Jean and Lucy’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
VC: I like to show that characters who do not live or think like others are, in the end, humans like others. Whether we want children or not, we can easily feel close to Jean and Lucy, empathize with them, understand their choice even if we would not make the same one. This can help us to become aware of our rather quick judgments and to better respect each other's lifestyles.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
MM: On my other pen name (Marguerite Sauvage), I’m working on my own stories for potential imprint graphic novel for YA or MG audiences. I also just finished 2 issues of Wonder Woman (#791 and #792) and work on various covers or small stories projects, as well.
VC: If American readers are interested in my work, they can also read About Betty’s Boob (art by Julie Rocheleau), available at BOOM! Studios. A story that follows the path of a woman who lost her left breast because of a cancer, and the way she reconstructs herself and reappropriate her body through burlesque theater. Despite the subject, it’s a story full of joy and fun that should put a big smile on your face!
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about No Kidding and your other work?
MM: FairSquare Comics website and our social media (Twitter @S_Marguerite and @Martinmady – Instagram - Facebook)
VC: I can be found on Instagram and Facebook under my name, Vero Cazot.