Eve Zaremba’s 1987 novel Work for a Million,one of a series of six detective novels,is being adapted into a graphic novel and published by Bedside Press. Bedside’s Publisher and Comics Historian Hope Nicholson jumped at the opportunity to reimagine Zaremba’s story and her unique and no-nonsense PI Helen Keremos as the Work for a Million Graphic Novel. She reached out to author Amanda Deibert to write and adapt the prose and commissioned visual artist Selena Goulding to design and illustrate the book. Nicholson has been working closely with Zaremba and her spouse and business manager Ottie Lockey throughout the development.
CommuniQue heard about this project through the grapevine, the buzz around the Kickstarter Campaign, which garnered support of hundreds and hundreds of people, and Quill & Quire. We decided to reach out to Ottie Lockey and Eve Zaremba and interview them about the project.
Q:Did you ever think that your prose and the character Helen Keremos would be re-drawn into a graphic novel, or super hero?
Eve:No, in the 80s I had no idea of graphic novels, they probably didn’t exist yet in the way they do now. No, this idea came right out of the blue. You see I never thought of my Keremos books in another context. But when we met Nadine, we did muse about the idea of perhaps a TV series, or maybe a web-based series.
Ottie:I should give you a little of the back story. Nadine Arpin is a 2-Spirit Filmmaker from The Sioux and she and I met on an OAC jury a few years ago and talked about our respective film productions and styles. Eve’s Helen Keremos novels about a Metis Dyke Detective came up in conversations and this seemed to peak Nadine’s interest. A year later we ran into each other and Nadine said she wanted to explore the Keremos character through her specific documentary style which sometimes includes animation. And so, I offered to take on the role of Producer of Eve Zaremba’s Dyke Detective an Origin Story, directed and developed by Nadine Arpin …the documentary and our commitment to it, preceded the Graphic Novel.
It was in the fall of 2017; Eve and I were sitting around Margret Atwood’s kitchen table and I mentioned my work with Nadine, and I asked Margret if she could recommend an animator to work on the project. Then Margret asked us, “have you ever thought of adapting of the Keremos mysteries into a graphic novel?” And Eve said, “Why not?” Attwood was then instrumental in making everything happen. It was she who introduced us to the consulting editor on Margret’s graphic novel series “Angel Catbird,” Hope Nicholson. Hope is the publisher at Bedside Press, and she just ran with this project.
Q:Why was Work for a Million chosen from among your six novels?
Is there something about where Helen as a character in this book that made it the right novel to choose to adapt?
Eve: It was Hope who decided on which of my crime novels to turn into the graphic novel. That’s what she does, that is her expertise. She chose Work for a Million probably because the plot is simple, set in Toronto, also way more romantic than the others and with this beautiful woman singer to whose charms Keremos is very susceptible. It made sense and I agreed.
It’s important to note that a graphic novel is a separate and entirely distinct genre! It’s not just a new format. It’s not a ‘picture book’, nor an illustrated prose novel. It was directed and written by the team at Bedside Press. Broadly speaking plot, characters and location follow the detective story outline of the original. But there are additions, deletions, changes, and rewrites. Bedside Press invented an entirely new form. I was asked for my opinion throughout but did not expect to have final say. Do I have a proprietary interest in how Helen Keremos is presented? Absolutely and they respected that.
Ottie: All along we have been included in the development. Early on we reviewed the different character styles for Helen K. from different illustrators and when we saw Selena Goulding’s edgy take that alluded to a Patty Smith aesthetic, we said – perfect. Sometimes our input was in reference to the period. We were living in Toronto in the late ‘70s so we knew the locations, the clothing styles, the food, attitude and ethos, as well as other details that were never documented.
Q: The Work for a Million Graphic Novelis scheduled to launch in early to mid 2020 and it will be accompanied by a reprint of the original paperback prose book.
What are some of the ideas being discussed for the 2020 launch?
Ottie: The launch ideas are centering around big events in Toronto, Winnipeg and other cities. We are also working closely with Nadine Arpin to try and have a director’s cut of the documentary on hand for private screenings. 2020 is the year Eve turns 90 and we think it’s a great time to have a party!
As well as being a writer and author Eve Zaremba is, herself, a key protagonist in the story of Canada’s Queer Liberation Movement. Active in the Women’s Liberation Movement in the seventies and eighties, Zaremba was a founding member of the Broadsidecollective that produced and published the eponymously named feminist periodical from 1979 to 1989, which gave women a space to be heard and a voice that did not often resonate in mainstream media. She also contributed to the group “Lesbians Making History.” This network of community historians and activists was formed in the early 80s and conducted interviews of women, such as Zaremba, who identified as lesbian from the 1940s to the 1970s to document these untold stories.
She has written and worked on several publishing projects, including selecting and editing The Privilege of Sex, A Century of Canadian Women(Anansi), and writing her memoir, The Broad Side, Reflections on a Long Life, published in 2016 by Insomniac Press.