I was growing a touch tired of steampunk. It isn’t that I didn’t like the genre (I do!) but I’ve seen so much of that kind of story lately that I was thinking I was needing a break. Until I read The Boston Metaphysical Society (BMS) by Madeleine Holly-Rosing. It reminded me of why I enjoyed these kinds of stories very much.
BMS is a serial six issue mini series available online to read. Issue one starts with Samuel Hunter, who hunts down ghosts and other spirits and deals with them with the help of a medium. In the first three pages of BMS one, Samuel’s current partner, Andrew, is killed on one of those dark ominous evenings. Andrew’s daughter, Caitlyn, possesses her fathers abilities and pleads with Samuel to join him. He at first refuses, but her insistence and circumstances force the two of them together to deal with a spirit who possesses paintings. I’m not going to spoil what happens from here, but a partnership is formed and the series begins.
The story does read a bit like a television pilot, but I do enjoy it. It establishes the world, which is filled with spirits, steam and wonders we may have seen in another universe. But what I really enjoy about the series are the characters themselves. Whether it’s Samuel, Caitlin, or Nicola Tesla, Rosing has given each individual in the story a very distinct personality that gives the story more depth than it seemed. Like many good comics, there are some neat little subplots establishes and some great character moments that are can’t miss. One of my favorites was the test Samuel gave Caitlin. You not only got the sense that Caitlin was a gifted medium, but something crucial was established about Samuel as well.
If you enjoy the comic, you will also enjoy the novellas. Rosing has written prequels of the series told from a variety of characters points of view and sets the ground for the world you see in issue one. They are available at her website to look into.
Right now, Rosing has a kickstarter for BMS and it is here that I talk to her about BMS, her writing aspirations, and her discovery of her love of comics.
JP: Let’s start with where the idea of Boston Metaphysical Society came from. Were you always a steampunk fan? Or did this germinate from something else?
MHR: It started as a TV pilot. I was working on this series while I attended UCLA MFA Program in Screenwriting. It was a period piece and a friend suggested that I do steampunk with it. I took his suggestion and redeveloped the story within a steampunk universe. When I pitched the show, it was well received but I was told that the budget for a show like this would be far too high.
A friend of mine suggested I turn the book into a comic which I thought was a good idea. Along the way, I discovered that I loved writing comics.
JP: I really like the characters in BMS – especially Tesla. I can tell you really enjoyed writing him.
JP: I really hope you continue this world. After just reading the first issue, I can see there is a lot of potential.
MHR: This particular arc is six issues. There is room to go farther, but for now I’m concentrating on this story and the Kickstarter for issue five.
JP: Fair enough. So where did your love of stories come from?
MHR: When I was a kid my mom used to read me A Wrinkle In Time.
JP: I don’t know her, but your mom is awesome. That is a fantastic book.
MHR: I think one of the reasons she gave that book to me was that at the time A Wrinkle In Time was one of the few books with a strong female protagonist. Back when I was going to the bookstores, the young adult section was filled with a lot of male protagonist stories. It was hard to find something with any kind of strong female lead.
JP: At least today, that’s not so much of a problem. You can go into any bookstore and read lots of stories about strong female leads, whether it is Susan Collins or Veronica Roth. The whole section is filled with strong female leads. Male leads have actually kind of taken a bit of a back seat due to the rise of strong leads.
MHR: I do have to say that prose in general does a good job of representing women well. But if you look across the spectrum at other mediums, that isn’t really the case. Comics still are a very male dominated industry. When I go to artist alley at a comic con I still find that about eighty percent of the creators at the shows are white males. That’s not to say there isn’t some amazing female creators out there, because there are, but it’s still a far cry from parity. I’d like to see more of them at the Comic Cons because I know they exist.
JP: That’s true.
MHR: In Hollywood it’s even worse. The best roles for women in general are on television. There’s a lot more work for them there than there is on the big screen. (or I should say, “interesting work.”) In addition, most TV and film directors being hired are male, but you’ll see a lot of women directors working in independent film.
JP: Now that you mention it, yeah, I think you’re right – especially on the director part. It’s weird to me. I did the Watcher book and it’s been out for a few months. I’m actually the only guy that worked on the book. My editors, illustrator and publishers are all primarily women. To me, gender doesn’t really enter the picture so much.
MHR: For you it was about finding the best people for the job.
MHR: I joined the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. It is a non-profit organization that is studying women’s roles in Hollywood. They found for example that in crowd scenes women only make up 18-20% even though we make up over 50% of the population. They are working with USC to compile the data.
That’s not all though. The institute is doing a study on just how many lines women have in films compared to men. They are doing a symposium in New York, D.C. and Los Angeles later this year to discuss their findings to show how big the gap really is.
JP: Sounds interesting. I am curious about that study. That is interesting.
MHR: Sorry about diverging like that.
JP: It’s cool with me. I like talking to people and seeing where the conversations go. So about BMS?
JP: You’ve done some novellas on it?
MHR: Absolutely. On top of the mini-series, I’ve been working on novella length stories featuring the characters. One story, The Devil Within is about Caitlin’s father, Andrew and what he did as a spirit medium when Caitlin was just a child. Another story, The Secret focuses on how Samuel and his wife, Elizabeth, met and fell in love. My most recent novella, The Demons of Liberty Row, is the story about how Samuel and Granville first met and their first case together. The novellas are all prequels to the comic so there aren’t any spoilers.
JP: I saw them as eBooks. Is there going to be a print version available?
MHR: Eventually. There has been some interest to publish the novellas as an anthology. Right now I’ve got one more novella to finish and then of course Chapter 6 of the comic. After that, if nothing comes of it, I may just print the anthology myself.
JP: Just one more novella?
MHR: Yeah. Novellas are nearly as time consuming as novels. Each one is about twenty thousand words. A middle-grade (for ages 10-15) book to put it in perspective is about fifty to eighty thousand. Fantasy novels are on average around one hundred thousand. If I’m going to do something longer, I might as well try to write on a bigger canvas.
JP: I learned to never say never. I vow to myself not to do it, and sometimes you get an itch you know to do something? I say to myself “I shouldn’t do it.” Until I’m suddenly doing what I promised myself not to.
JP: You still doing any screenplays?
MHR: Of course. It’s a real struggle though. One of my writing partners is the actor Peter Onorati. You may not recognize the name, but you’d recognize him as he had his own TV show in the day. I met him at my gym of all places and we became friends. I pitched him a story I had. He was on the treadmill and said yes right then and there.
Peter has been bugging me to do one of his ideas and when I’m a little less busy we’ll sit down and figure out what we want to do. He has this New Jersey stance on things while I have this California girl perspective. We put together some neat stuff.
JP: I bet. It sounds neat.
MHR: The important secret to working with people in this business is to take care of the contracts up front. We managed to put things in writing before anything got started. One of the important things to do right away is to make sure everyone knows what they are entitled too. You’re working on a comic yourself right?
JP: Yeah. It’s mostly for fun though.
MHR: Have you guys talked at all?
JP: Absolutely. We got a verbal deal down.
MHR: Verbal isn’t enough. If you do succeed, and don’t have this resolved in writing, strange things can happen. Money changes everything.
JP: That is definitely true.
MHR: It doesn’t have to be a complicated document or anything, but you never want money to get in the way of a good friendship.
JP: No you don’t. I definitely will take your advice there. So once the series is finished, are you going to try to develop BMS into anything else?
MHR: Yes. There have been talks on a number of levels. The biggest request my fans have for this is an RPG tabletop game.
JP: I totally could see this work as one. Your world is fascinating and would make a neat game.
MHR: Thank you. I’m not sure that’s going to happen anytime soon though since I’m a little overwhelmed at the moment. *laughs*
JP: Mind if I ask you how in touch you are with the comics that are out there today?
MHR: Very. I’m a guest reviewer for Fanboy Comics. I get all kinds of books from indie creators and I am amazed at what I read. There are so many good stories out there and so many ways to tell stories in comics. I learn so much reading them.
It’s funny; my brother has the largest collection of graded Daredevil books in the U.S. (That’s not an exaggeration.) When I was a kid I saw nothing but superhero books out there. Now that I’m doing my own work, I’ve discovered that Indie stories pretty much rock.
JP: In that sense, the industry has changed a lot. When I was a kid, superheroes were everywhere. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself moving away from superhero books, and that there are a lot of books that have nothing to do with them out there now. It’s a great time to be in comics.
MHR: It really is.
JP: What comes next after you finish this Kickstarter?
MHR: I can finally focus on my novels. I have a middle grade fantasy novel that needs to be rewritten. My husband is pestering me to work on the BMS novels, and that is something I really want to do.
JP: Going full circle here, how about television?
MHR: We’ll see. I’ve had people interested in taking BMS to another level, but I’m waiting for the right partner.
JP: Sounds good. Good luck on the kickstarter and BMS. I’ll continue reading. Thank you for your time.
MHR: Thank you!
Thanks again Madeleine!
If you want to donate to the BMS kickstarter go here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/488929101/boston-metaphysical-society-chapter-5 . It is funded as of this writing, but every little bit helps contribute. If you want to read the series so far, check out the BMS website at http://www.bostonmetaphyiscasociety.com. There is a facebook page as well at http://www.facebook.com/BostonMetaphysicalSocietyComic and Madeleine’s twitter is @mhollyrising. I want to thank Holly once again for her time and patience. Check out Boston Metaphysical Society. Not only is it a well crafted world and series, but perhaps most importantly, it’s fun, which is exactly what steampunk should be.