Interview: Women of BOOM! – Adrianne Ambrose

adrianne ambroseWe’re still going strong with our last of the year (but many more to come), the 9th “Women of BOOM!” feature, spotlighting the many kick-ass women that work at BOOM!, Archaia and KaBOOM! We’re focusing on everyone, editors, designers, writers, artists, you name it! We’re making sure to include the hard-working folks whose contributions are often overlooked in the process.

BOOM! (and KaBOOM! and Archaia) has given us unprecedented access and the chance to ask questions to their staff, and creative teams, to find out why the publisher is so successful in hiring women and their experiences in the comic industry as women.

Up this week is Adrianne Ambrose, a writer who has worked on Fraggle Rock Vol. 1 for Archaia as well as numerous young adult novels as well as video games!

Graphic Policy: How did you get involved in the comic book industry?

Adrianne Ambrose: I met the animation director, Paul Bolger, at a party. He was looking for a script to try to sell as a comic. I had a horror script that he liked, so we decided to team up. I am friends with Ted Naifeh, the creator of Courtney Crumrin and a bunch of other great comics. He was very encouraging about our comic and generously introduced us to a lot of publishers. I made some good connections and networked from there.

GP: Did you read comics growing up? Do you read them now?

AA: My mom was not a fan of “wasting money” on comics and didn’t want us reading them. Once, a friend lent my sister and me a pile of Archie, Casper, Richie Rich and a few others. We were allowed to read them for a few days, but then had to give them back so that the comics didn’t “rot our brains”. I found out just recently that, while my mom couldn’t afford to buy any comics when she was a kid, she did read a ton of comics that she borrowed off of friends. And here I thought I had opened up a new world to her by being published in comics.

GP: How did you come to work with BOOM!/Archaia?

AA: Ted Naifeh and I were hanging out at SDCC one year. We stopped to chat with Tim Beedle, who was looking for Fraggle Rock pitches for the Archaia anthology. Ted was too busy at the time, but I came up with a few ideas and two got picked up for the book.

GP: How would you describe your job for people?

AA: I usually say, “I write the dialog for video games, comic books and young adult novels.”

GP: For people who want to pursue a career in what you do, what advice would you give them?

AA: I’d tell them to get their stuff out there. You have to work your way up from no-pay to low-pay to actual-pay. A lot of people talk about doing a project and that’s as far as it gets. If you want it, you have to put in a lot of effort and show your work to a lot of publishers to get anywhere.

GP: Did you have a mentor to help you break into the industry? Do you mentor anyone yourself?

AA: Yes, Ted Naifeh was nothing but wonderful and generous by introducing me to a lot of people in the industry.

In the spirit of pay-it-forward, I have introduced many talented friends to publishers when it felt appropriate. Recently I’ve been invited to be a guest speaker at a community college class that is about the creative narrative in comics.

GP: Do you think women have a more difficult time breaking in and making it in the comic industry, if so why? And if yes, how do you think that can be overcome?

AA: Yes, I do think it’s more challenging. There seems to be a general belief in the United States that women/girls don’t read comics. That’s nonsense. You only have to look at manga and the thriving comic book industry in Europe to know that’s not true. American publishers keep putting out titles that they think are female positive books, but the stories are actually about females who “succeed” by winning the approval of males in some activity that males consider important. Women and girls see the book and think. “Gah! I really don’t care if that girl can compete and be accepted in the boy world,” and they don’t buy it. Then the publisher says, “See! Females don’t read comics.” But the truth of the matter is, most women and girls are just not interested in reading a story, supposedly for us, that is told through the male lens.

I think what really needs to happen is a breakout comic book for females that captures a larger audience than “girls who read comics.” We need something that infects the general population and is commercially successful. That will make the industry wake up and think, “Oh! You want to read comics that you actually like.”

GP: We notice that when it comes to women in the comic industry, BOOM!/Archaia has a lot of diversity present. Why do you think have they succeeded when so many other publishers struggle with this?

AA: I haven’t had the privilege of working with BOOM! yet, but at Archaia, I feel like they are working with me as a person and as a writer, not as a “female” writer. I think that attitude is really obvious in the people Archaia hires and the books they put out.

GP: We’ve heard horror stories concerning women in the industry, have you ever seen or been discriminated/harassed and if so, how did you handle it?

AA: Rather than focus on bad experiences, I’d like to focus on how great it is to be part of Archaia. The first time I did a convention where I was signing at the Archaia booth and met a large portion of the staff, I couldn’t believe how friendly and professional everyone was. It was awesome. There was no weirdness or defensiveness because I’m a female; I was just treated like everyone else. It was great.

GP: What advice do you have for women looking to break into the comic book industry?

AA: You’ve got to knock on a lot of doors. And if you do encounter discrimination or harassment, don’t put up with it. No contract is worth that nonsense. If they treat you like crap because you’re a female, how much support are they going to give your book? But things are getting better all the time, so hopefully you won’t encounter too much ugliness. Do keep in mind that just because someone doesn’t like your work, it isn’t necessarily because you’re a female. If someone says, “It just isn’t for us,” then you have to accept that. When someone says, “Yeah, we don’t like chick stuff,” then count yourself lucky you never have to speak to that person again.