There’s a new pulp heroine in town, debuting in The Last Adventure of Constance Verity, the newest book from A. Lee Martinez, the acclaimed author of Gil’s All Fright Diner and Monster.
Ever since she was granted a wish by her fairy godmother on her seventh birthday, Constance Verity has become the world’s great adventurer. She is a master of martial arts, a keen detective, and possesses a collection of strange artifacts. Constance has spent the past twenty-eight years saving the world, and she’s tired of it.
She sets off on one last adventure to reset her destiny and become the one thing she’s never been: ordinary.
The only thing standing in her way is her destiny to have a glorious death.
A. Lee Martinez took some time from his busy schedule to discuss the book, his influences, the nature of sidekicks and more.
FOG!: Your new book, The Last Adventure of Constance Verity feels like a love letter to pulp heroes. What was the genesis of the character?
A. Lee Martinez: I love taking ideas that have been rejected and working with them. I also love hyper-competent pulp heroes, which have fallen out of favor. It makes sense since it’s hard to make “perfect” characters relatable, but I think we’ve settled into the opposite problem with characters that are so flawed that they’re hard to root for. Constance was born of a desire to defy all those expectations. She’s extremely competent, extremely skilled, but still relatable while being someone to root for. She isn’t perfect, but she’s also not so deeply flawed that you would have trouble considering her a “good guy”. I think of her as a logical evolution of the pulp hero archetype, updated but not deconstructed.
Verity was blessed/cursed with an adventurous life, granted by her fairy godmother during a birthday wish on her seventh birthday. The book references years of adventures. Did you plot out a timeline of these events for reference before or while writing the book?
The premise behind the book is that Constance has been having near constant adventures since the age of seven. She’s thirty-five when the book begins, and if you do the math, that’s a lot of stuff to keep track of.
Too much. I kept track of the references sprinkled throughout the story of her previous adventures, but even then, I didn’t sweat the details. Connie’s life was so crammed with awesome experiences that there’s a lot of repetition. She’s been to outer space dozens of times, fought every conceivable version of Cthulhu, done every variation of time travel. Her past is a jumble of adventure tropes. If it sounds overwhelming and confusing, that’s exactly how it’s meant to sound.
The Last Adventure is the first part of a trilogy of novels. Is this the first time you’ve written a character in more than one book and what about Constance inspired you to continue her story?
It’s my first series. My previous ten novels were all standalone stories set in separate (often incompatible) universes. There’s some blink-and-you’ll-miss-it crossover stuff with cosmic monsters, but that’s more for my enjoyment than anyone else. I wanted to write a trilogy because it was a new experience for me, and also, I thought this was an idea worth exploring beyond more than one book.
Most of my books could have sequels, but they weren’t designed with it in mind. Constance and her world was deliberately considered with a trilogy in mind. Each book is meant to stand on its own, but also ties into a larger character arc for Connie and her supporting cast.
Verity has been both a hero and a sidekick. What does a hero know that a sidekick doesn’t and vice versa?
The line between hero and sidekick isn’t always clear. Traditionally, sidekicks were often there just as a plot device, someone for the hero to explain the plot to, someone to look up to the hero, someone to be taken hostage so that the hero doesn’t look incompetent. We’ve come a long way since then, and characters like Robin and Lois Lane have become more capable, more equal to their heroic counterparts.
Now a sidekick tends not to be so much of a plot device as a necessary acknowledgement that it’s nice to have backup, even if your hero is practically invincible. A big part of the ongoing arc of the trilogy isn’t just about Constance finding her balance as a hero and a regular person, but about her best friend Tia evolving from plot device to full-fledged sidekick.
What authors or books have had the biggest influence on your work?
For the Constance Verity, all the classics of pulp are obvious influences. Everything ranging from weird science to two-fisted tales and horror tales. I love Edgar Rice Burroughs and his tales of adventure. I love Walt Simonson’s classic run on Marvel’s Thor. Beyond that, I love classic monster movies, cartoons, and so many things I grew up with. If I would say there’s anything that defines my writing, it’s that I never really grew out of those things. I love them with the same passion I had as a kid. My goal is always to bring that passion while making them interesting to a more adult audience without losing the charm.
Do you have any upcoming projects you can discuss?
Some stuff I’m not sure I’m supposed to talk about. Maybe some TV stuff, maybe some movie stuff. Emphasis on the “maybe” because it’s a weird business. Beyond that, I’m working on the next Constance Verity books. After that, I don’t know. One day a time, right?
What are you currently geeking out over?
The new Voltron on Netflix is pretty awesome. Not crazy about the cliffhanger ending of the season, but otherwise, I ended up enjoying it immensely. I’ll always give a shout out to Atomic Robo by Red 5 Comics, which remains one of the steady pleasures in my dwindling comic buying habit. And Overwatch. So so much love for Overwatch. It’s even hit my productivity a little bit, but I find I don’t care. I should, but I don’t.