INTERVIEW: Madeline Holly-Rosing, Boston Metaphysical Society

Here at AP2HYC, we love to support the work of emerging comic creators. We had the pleasure of interviewing Madeline Holly-Rosing, the writer/creator of the steampunk supernatural webcomic Boston Metaphysical Society. She’s currently running a Kickstarter Campaign (Jan. 22 – Feb. 21) to fund the printing of issue 3 in the six issue mini-series. Find out more below.

In portraying historical characters, are you more inspired by real-life accounts or previous fictional portrayals? (Particularly with Tesla!)

I’m more inspired by real-life accounts than previous fictional portrayals. In fact, I don’t pay attention at all to fictional stories that include any of my more notable characters and I don’t think anyone should pay attention to mine when writing their own stories. If you’ve seen the TV show Sanctuary, Tesla was portrayed as an arrogant over-the-top vampire played by a very short actor. (Tesla was a very tall lanky guy.) I preferred the David Bowie version in The Prestige, but I didn’t use it as inspiration.

When I integrate real-life characters into a story I try to use who they were thematically. However, for dramatic purposes I might alter commonly held beliefs about what a character was like. What you don’t know as a reader is that I might have a larger plan to come back closer to the “real” person in a later series as part of their character arc. (Hint, hint.) What I think is important is using some of the real-life disagreements these particular guys had with each other. It leads to nice organic conflict.

For example, we all know Edison and Tesla had grievances with each other, but what most people don’t know is that Granville Woods sued Edison twice for stealing his patents – and won! (Granville Woods was a notable African-American engineer.)

Your work involves many influences (steampunk, Lovecraft, Weird West)- are there any specific works serving as a direct inspiration?

The X-Files has given me the most direct inspiration. In fact the tagline of the comic is “Before Mulder and Scully There Was Hunter and O’Sullivan.” However, the idea of setting Boston Metaphysical in a steampunk world comes directly from a friend of mine. The comic was originally written as a TV Pilot while I was in the UCLA MFA Program for Screenwriting. While developing it in a class a friend suggested I consider re-imagining the story in a steampunk universe. I didn’t know much about steampunk at the time, so after a lot of research and reading, I decided he was right. Steampunk was the perfect marriage of my love for history and science fiction.

It’s good to see a prominent female comic creator in a world where DC barely had any female comic writers for the New 52! The Boston Metaphysical Society has prominent black and female members; was this deliberate in challenging both the ideas prominent in the setting and still existing in the modern day?

In my initial readings of steampunk, I noticed that most, though not all, were set in Victorian England. So I decided I wanted my story to reflect the American experience and you can’t do that without including women and people of color. To ignore them is not only stupid it limits you as a creator. But to answer your question, the answer is yes it was quite deliberate. Adding these characters enabled me to address social and racial issues that we still deal with today. However, my goal was not to do it in a heavy handed manner, but as a way to add depth to the universe. Besides why should white guys have all the fun?

Has using Kickstarter as a funding source affected your creative process, positively or negatively?

Neither. I don’t see it as affecting my creative process, but it does cut down on the time I have to write. (I view “creative process” and “time to write” as two different things.) Fortunately, I’m fairly well organized so I was able to get the first draft of the latest Boston Metaphysical novella (The Demons of Liberty Row) done before the Kickstarter. I pretty much cleaned my plate of any outstanding projects that were due so I could devote my time to the Kickstarter campaign doing interviews, press releases, podcasts and social media marketing. When it’s over, I’ll get back to writing again and fulfilling the Kickstarter incentives.

In light of B.E.T.H’s illustrious members, if you could be any famous scientist from history, who would you be and why?

That’s a tough question. Not only because there are so many, but I’m not sure I’d want to live in the past, particularly in the far past. It’s that whole lack of proper food, hygiene, medical care, civil rights and being the property of my father and/or husband thing. (Oh, yeah…don’t get me started on time travel.)

However, if I had to nail it down I think I’d pick the paleoanthropologist, Mary Leakey. Why you ask? I think by discovering who we were as a species in the past might lead us to some interesting conclusions as to who and what we will become in the future.

Thanks to Madeline Holly-Rosing for the informative responses to our questions! If you’re interested in finding out more about Boston Metaphysical Society, check out the links below to find out more.


Kickstarter Runs from Jan. 22 – Feb. 21): http://kck.st/1aqSI0M

Website: Boston Metaphysical Society

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BostonMetaphysicalSocietyComic

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mhollyrosing

About the author

Will Webb