Julie Maroh on creating “Blue is the Warmest Color”

As the saying goes, “the book was better.” Now I haven’t seen the film version of Blue is the Warmest Color yet (it opens this weekend), but the graphic novel it is based on is incredible, so it’ll be hard to beat. Out French writer and illustrator Julie Maroh began work on Le bleu est une couleur chaude when she was 19 (she’s now 28) and saw it published in France in 2010. Arsenal Pulp Press just published the English language version in September and the movie opens this Friday, October 25, so there’s still time to get a copy and read it before you hit the theater.


Julie is currently touring Europe to promote her new book, Skandalon, but took the time to answer some of our questions about Blue.

AfterEllen.com: How personal is the story? If it’s based on real life experience, were there elements you had to change?

Julie Maroh: Blue isn’t autobiographical. That’s the main question people ask me usually, and I recently had to face a journalist who basically insinuated that I was lying to him when answering “no” to that question. And that made me angry because… OK, I’m a lesbian, but it doesn’t mean that every time I write a story with lesbian characters they’re gonna be inspired by myself. I found this idea really sad and actually… alarming.

My process as a writer is more like an actor. I determine the personality of a character, I let them inhabit me and forget about myself at the same time, therefore I can better understand and express them on the paper.

But the fact that it is a fiction doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be realistic. Yes all the characters and events are fictional, however… for what I know and heard from gay people, we mostly go through the same steps and hardships when we realize we’re gay and must come out.

graphic for Blue is the Warmest Color

AE: Now that the film is coming out, you are getting a lot of international attention. How do you think it will impact your future work?

JM: It doesn’t matter what kind or quantity of attention I get, it shouldn’t have an effect on the directions of my work. As a storyteller, I usually don’t think about the reader. And actually, I believe it’s dangerous for a story when you start asking yourself “Who will read it? How many will they be? What will they think about it?” while you’re writing and/or drawing it.

Plus, the kind or quantity of attention I get right now is—as you underlined—due to the fact that the film is coming out, and that’s an ephemeral phenomenon. Nothing to turn pretentious and overconfident about my future work.

AE: The color blue is almost a character in itself. Can you talk about choosing that color and what it brought to the story?

JM: First, it’s important to recall that there are several transitions between the colored and the black and white sequences, it’s because the present is in color and the past in black and white, with a few touches of blue. We follow the events of the past through Clementine’s diary, but our memory never fully remembers everything. We always remember specific details…a light, a smell, a gesture, an object. Among the black and white imperfect memories of Clementine, the touches of blue are there to evoke the strong details that left their mark on her.

Regarding the choice of the color blue in particular, it was nothing more than a graphic decision. By process of elimination, I knew that all the other colors wouldn’t work. The blue was simply the most neutral and efficient one to use.


AE: How do lesbians fit into graphic novels? Do you see a lot of lesbian artists, characters?

JM: I’m sorry but I can’t answer that, I never studied this issue.

AE: What can you tell us about your future work? Will there always be a queer element to what you do?

JM: I’m currently working on several projects in which it’s the case, but I don’t know what my life will be in six or 12 months… There is no certainty about who I’ll be, what I’ll do and what the world will be.

Blue is the Warmest Color, the book, is available now. Blue is the Warmest Color, the film, is in select theaters on Friday.