The Concept of The Jokeress
Margaret Henderson had the opportunity to chat with Bryan Follins, author of The Jokeress series. Here is the result of that conversation.
M: I wanted to ask you about choosing women and portraying them as independent, smart and strong.
BF: I chose women because of the strong women I met and continue to meet in my life. But the key was not to make it into something we have been conditioned to seeing, especially in a hero or heroine.
There would be no restrictions in age, ethnicity, body type. Hence the term anti-formula. In other words, everything is done to sell in this society. Often, one of the first questions I am asked about The Jokeress is, does it sell?
Few people have asked me whether I enjoy writing The Jokeress, or any other work I have created. It’s all about the “sell.” That is too bad because enjoyment must come before the sell.
I remember once, about eight years ago, when I was kicking the idea around, an artist asked me what race the characters were going to be. I asked her what difference was it. She said, “well, they have to be a race.”
To me, that was an ignorant statement. The Jokeress reflects the spirit, not the physical. Hence the saying “The Jokeress is a state of mind.”
M: I love your whole answer!
BF: The female characters in The Jokeress are comfortable in the own skins. This means they are not ashamed of their bodies. They wear their hair the way they want. If they do not want to shave their legs or their armpits, that’s cool.
I find it odd that with women, we are conditioned to be attracted to hair on women, as long as it is on their heads. But what if someone wants to shave their head? What if they do not want to shave their legs or armpits?
M: I find that interesting too. About hair on women. The shaved armpits and legs is a 20th century thing. Prior to that, a woman who removed hair from her armpits and legs was considered loose. Because only actresses and prostitutes did that.
BF: That [a woman shaving her head] is just as good, because we all must feel comfortable in our own skins, not for the pleasure of someone else, whether if we are a man or woman. That’s the important thing, enjoy what you are doing and feel comfortable in your own skin.
There is no body shaming with The Jokeress.
WHAT ABOUT THAT OTHER SUPERHERO STORY?
M: Where did you get the idea for The Jokeress? And when did you get the initial idea? How long from the first thought until you began writing down your ideas in some form?
BF: Well, that is a good question. I have always liked the world of imagination, and I have always been captivated by the unusual.
I wanted to create something that went against the grain. I figured heroes are everyday people, with everyday struggles. The key was to mesh the idea with a form of genre which would be interesting.
M: Do you get asked about the name?
BF: The most common misconception about The Jokeress is that when people hear the word, they assume Joker, as from Batman. We have been so inundated with Batman for the last 75 years, we can't help it.
M: But The Jokeress is a completely different narrative.
BF: Yes it is. Jokeress is like a state of madness we all have found ourselves in, at one time or another. What is important is how we deal with the madness.
That is what the characters in The Jokeress are doing: dealing with the madness. That’s why I say The Jokeress is a “state of mind.”
M: What do you see as the madness these women are confronting? I have my own ideas, but I’d like to hear from you, if you can talk about it without giving too much away.
BF: The main thing is that they find themselves changed by the Nanorod Project. For instance, Louise Vann, the character you play, will acquire the ability to shapeshift. At first, she’ll change herself to look like other humans, then inanimate objects or animals.
This, coupled with her expertise in bioweapons, will be tempting. Does she do right with it? Or wrong?
ABOUT THE CHARACTERS: LOUISE VANN
M: You are offering several podcasts simultaneously. You have The Jokeress: Emergence, which is a group of us playing three key characters of Swann Lee, Calista Bouvay, and Louise Vann. Plus you offer individual podcasts from each character.
BF: Right now, your individual and group podcasts are before the Nanorod Project and just as it begins. Now, we are setting the stage.
What we are doing now is creating a narrative prior to the first book.
M: Are these three characters always the main ones for The Jokeress series?
BF: There will be others. But, yes, you will be the main ones.
M: I love how you incorporate some of my personal quirks into Louise Vann. For example, you know I practice yoga and use edited images of me in yoga poses when you post about my podcast. How do you see that playing out?
BF: What if you are scouting someone you apprehend? What if this person likes to spend days in the park? You could sit by them under the pretense of practicing yoga. Then you could contort yourself to wrap around them as a chameleon. In other words, no one would see you.
M: (laughing) That sounds wonderful! Just make sure he looks like George Clooney, okay?
BF: (laughs) The scenarios are endless!
I do the backstories because once I was in a school and trying to explain The Jokeress to a class. One of the kids asked, “well, who IS The Jokeress?”
Now with the backstories, nobody has any excuse not knowing. You can listen to the backstory podcasts of the individual characters, the group podcasts, look at the comic strip, read the books, watch the indie movie. You can follow The Jokeress on most social media channels as well as here on this webpage.
ABOUT DOING IT ALL!
BF: The thing artists have to understand as well is that our work may not get appreciated until long after we have put it together. Like Poe, Van Gogh, etc.
The process works like this: Everything is built to sell. So if I look for an agent (which I really do not care to do), the agent looks at my work and the first thing they will ask themselves is “will it sell?”
They are in the business to make money. So if they think it will sell, they will sign you on. To their needs of course.
Then, if you get signed on, what will they do with you? A lot of good agents have many, many writers under contract. They have the luxury of deciding which writer will make them money. If they don’t think you can make any money, you go to the bottom of the heap, but they still own you because you are under contract.
But technology has changed that.
M: Yes, I think the better way to work is promote your work yourself, as an “authorpreneur,” and then have them come to you.
BF: You are right, but self-publishing means doing all the work: advertising, promoting, finding your proofreaders, editors, etc. All of that falls on the self-publisher.
I remember Michael Crichton, the sci-fi writer who wrote Westworld, Jurassic Park, etc., said before he started writing, he searched to see how many authors were actually making a living writing.
He said about one percent of those who call themselves authors were actually making enough to live off.
I am not only a writer, but I have accidentally become a self-publisher, and the thing that keeps me going is the sheer joy of it!
M: Technology definitely helps!
BF: Technology has made it less expensive to pursue, so that helps. But you what’s funny? There are people who only look at the pictures I post. They don’t read the text [with links to podcasts and comic strips, etc.].
But, you just have to chip away. If I had a million-dollar advertising budget things would be different….
I learned a valuable lesson about becoming a “published” writer.
About 20 years ago, I wrote a one-page flash fiction story and it was published in a book called Unusual Circumstances.
I never made any money from the story, but the bigger issue was that I gave the publisher the copyright to my story. So, now I could not use my own work without his permission. He was not a bad guy. He was trying to help get beginning writers published.
M: Yes. That’s a problem many first-time authors run into. But, as you said, technology has changed that.
BF: But, figure this: if you are going to create something, why not copyright it yourself. You may not get paid or at least when you want to, but you still own your work.
Margaret Henderson is a romance novelist, and freelance editor and writer. She brings the character of Louise Vann to life in the podcast The Jokeress: Emergence and Louise Vann: The Jokeress. You can find her on Instagram as @emmahenrywriter.
We believe all women can embrace who they are,
can define their future, and can change the world.