REMEMBER light entertainment before the Simon Cowell era? Jessica Martin does.

The daughter of a bandleader, Martin is a veteran of Soho jazz clubs, the Edinburgh Fringe, West End musicals and Saturday-night telly. She has provided voices for Spitting Image, appeared alongside Bobby Davro and Joan Collins on TV and Gary Wilmot on stage. She even had a guest role in Doctor Who.

Now Martin has reinvented herself as a graphic novelist. Her new book, Life Drawing: A Life Under Lights, is a graphic autobiography which follows the one-time Bay City Rollers fan from childhood to adulthood via stage and screen. It’s that rare thing, a comic (in both senses of the word) celebration of the world of light entertainment in the days before The X Factor. But it doesn’t shy away from her difficult relationship with her father and the loss of loved ones.

Here, she talks to Graphic Content about life lived in the spotlight.

Jessica, when did you decide that a memoir was something you wanted to do? How much of a challenge was it to talk about yourself, your life, the life of your parents and that of those around you?

I first decided I wanted to write a memoir when I was 14! That turned into an occasional journal that I dipped into frequently during my teenage years and then sporadically during my adult years. The jottings became very useful when I did decide to create a graphic memoir around the end of 2016.

By that time, I felt that I had a lot of life experience to share from my adventures in showbusiness, bringing up a family and entering into a new creative identity as a comic creator which came about just shy of my fiftieth birthday. The idea of it was easy enough, but the execution turned into an inner battle where I was constantly questioning the value of my little ol’ memoir versus some high-profile celebrity memoir and worrying about showing my vulnerability.

My mum was also reticent about my sharing some the darker chapters of our family history. My late father was a complex character and much as I loved him, I wanted to give an honest portrayal of how self-centred and destructive a “creative” person can be. My mother did end up supporting the book however, and then my next challenge was dealing with my grief when she passed away just as I was starting the book.

What did you learn about yourself from doing it?

That I was actually more resilient than I’d ever given myself credit for. From having one of those charmed early starts in my career, I seemed to come up against constant roadblocks that called upon my inner resourcefulness. Perhaps that’s what I subconsciously wanted. There’s a part of me that thinks things could have been so much easier in my career if I’d just stuck to one thing, but I’ve always wanted to try new things. You can call that bravery or foolhardiness, but wherever possible, I have followed my bliss.

Who was your favourite Bay City Roller, by the way?

Alan Longmuir. God rest his shy, quiet soul.

It’s a book that celebrates a life in light entertainment. Do we celebrate that enough in our culture?

I don’t think we do. In some ways the memoir will serve as a testament to a particular era of British showbusiness that has disappeared; the Saturday evening of light entertainment that had nothing to do with a gladiatorial battle that allows only winners and kills off the dreams, potential and sanity of so many hopefuls. Sure, we used to have talent shows, but even those seemed kinder, more authentic and the winners went on to have lasting careers. I’ll shut up now. Old person alert!

What were your best and worst times in Edinburgh?

My best time in Edinburgh was my very first time in 1981. I was an 18-year-old drama degree student and my fellow uni friends and I had a magical time performing at the Pleasance theatre, watching amazing people like Victoria Wood and Alan Cumming. And it’s where I met Rory Bremner for the first time. He was performing in a student revue.

The worst time was in 1992. I was performing in a one-woman show with virtually no publicity in a venue that was a circus tent out in the middle of a field that no-one knew how to get to. Nightmare. I just wanted it to be over. But the upside was I did make some wonderful friends including Isobel Nimmo who lives in Ayr and Helen Campbell who lives in Edinburgh. I’m giving them a name-check in this illustrious Scottish newspaper and hope they’ll see it!

Bobby Davro doesn’t turn up in enough comics, does he?

If they still had a weekly comic like Look In that would have definitely been the periodical for a regular Bobby Davro strip. But he makes a few appearances in my graphic memoir. That’s a start!

HeraldScotland:

Your crowdfunders’ list is a wonderfully eclectic mixture of comedians, actors and cartoonists.

It is very rewarding that people are cheering you on in such a tangible way. The added benefit of crowdfunding is the creation of an advance audience for your book. I must make special mention, too, of my loyal Doctor Who followers. I played the role of Mags in “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy” for the Seventh Doctor many years ago. The story enjoyed a surge of renewed interest when it was released on DVD in 2012. Since I made the transition into the geekdom of comics I’ve found that a lot of Whovians also gather there. Many of the comics artists and writers I’ve become friends with have either worked on Doctor Who titles or are great fans themselves. My association with that show has given me a platform I never dreamt of having at the time I acted in the storyline.

As someone who has presumably always enjoyed curtain calls is there the same pleasure to be had in cartooning?

There is a meditative pleasure in the drawing process that is different to the high-octane rush of a curtain call. You can receive something akin to a round of applause when you post your work on social media and get a favourable reaction. But the best satisfaction is knowing that you have created something entirely unique with just some lines on a piece of paper.

Your storytelling is clear and clean and never confusing. How hard was it to get to that point?

Thank you for asking the question in that way. You obviously know that the simple lines are the hardest to accomplish. I started drawing comics in 2013 and my style is constantly evolving. I had a lot of guidance along the way from my mentor, Mark Buckingham, who is currently drawing the Miracleman series written by Neil Gaiman. He advised me early on to work on my pencil drawing technique; the argument being that the better you are at pencilling, the better your inking will look. My process on Life Drawing starts with pencil drawing, which is then inked over with a brush and all the pencil is erased. It was Mark who suggested I do the whole book in “Noir” style which I was very intimidated by at first because you can’t hide behind a lot of lines and greyscaling.

What are your own favourite graphic novels?

My own favourite graphic novels include Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, Maus by Art Spiegelman, Gemma Bovery by Posy Simmonds and Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot. I am very excited to read Kate Charleworth’s new memoir, Sensible Footwear.

What do you want to do next?

I’m performing a new cabaret based on my memoir called “A Life Under Lights”. As to what I want to do next creatively, I would like to write some songs. Maybe there’s a musical in me waiting to be born!

Life Drawing: A Life Under Lights, by Jessica Martin, is published by Unbound, at £16.99.