For the last several years, writer Amy Chu has been a familiar face at comic conventions around the World – just last year I bumped into her at Thought Bubble! Among other things a contributor to The Beat, Amy is perhaps best known for her self-published anthology comics ‘Girls Night Out’, which have so far been printed into three volumes. Each of these tells six stories or so, loosely themed around an idea, or phrase, and with a starry line-up of artistic collaborators.
And for volume three, ‘Girls Night Out: The Way Love Goes’, she’s successfully headed to Kickstarter! At the time of writing she is well ahead of her target, making this her second successful Kickstarter campaign for the series. A self-publisher, she works with a number of great creators on this latest volume – including Larry Hama, Trish Mulvihill, Janet Lee and Craig Yeung. I couldn’t let this Kickstarter pass without taking the opportunity to ask her about the latest edition of her series – and thankfully she found time after Emerald City Comic-Con to offer some answers! Hurray!
Steve: You’ve studied comics pretty extensively – I know you’re a graduate of Scott Snyder’s writing class, among others. How do you approach writing a story? What’s your focus, or goal?
Amy: I studied architecture in college so I think there are some good analogies between buildings and stories. When I have an idea I want to build into a story, I do tend to focus on structure first, especially for a short, then I work on the layers of the narrative, the obvious and then the subliminal.
I’m very focused on what the reader experiences as he or she moves through the story- and the emotion that they come away with after finishing it. I also figure if someone is spending the money, they should get at least a couple reads out of it.
Steve: There’s a lot of experimentation going on in terms of writing, in these six stories. One is told entirely in tweets, for example. How do you go from an idea to a script? At what point do you hit on an idea and decide that’s the one you want to write into a fully-formed story?
Amy: Like a lot of creators, I have many ideas that float in the ether, at various stages of completion. If I have an interesting idea, I usually start writing it out until I hit a snag. On rare occasions, I’ll actually vomit out a complete story in one setting, but usually it’s a lot of back and forth. But every story has a different backstory in its genesis.
For example, the tweet story “Big City” was actually an improv experiment with artist Sean Von Gorman at Carmine City Comics in front of an audience. We basically came up with the story as people came in and out of the store and Sean sketched it out.
Steve: You also move from genre to genre, and tell stories from a range of different perspectives and viewpoints. Was it always your intention to use the theme of love to play around in different genres and styles?
Amy: I like playing with different genres and styles, but needed something to tie the stories together. I did this with”Tales of New York” and I think it worked creatively for me, and for the readers.
Steve: A six-page story is one of the most difficult things to pull off in comics. Is it daunting to tell a complete story within such a relatively short space? Or do you prefer that feeling of compression?
Amy: I never really thought of it that way. Some stories are suited to shorts, and others to arcs. I try to go with what feels right. You don’t want to squeeze in something that doesn’t fit.
Steve: Do you find that you tend to focus in more on character or story – or do you feel you hit both equally?
Amy: Hmm… I think the character needs to be fully fleshed out for the story to work most of the time, but the story needs to have a structure to go somewhere. I guess I’d ask the reader if they feel I hit both or not.
Art by Larry Hama and Trish Mulvihill
Steve: There’s a whole range of impressive artists here – The Date has Larry Hama and Trish Mulvihill as the artistic team! How did you find collaborators to work with on the stories?
Amy: As a self publisher I can pick and choose who I want to work with, so long as they are interested in working with me. But every situation is different, sometimes it’s “let’s do something together!” like with Janet Lee over drinks at the Marvel holiday party. Or with Louie Chin I walked by his table at MoCCA Fest and loved his stuff immediately. And with Trish I begged! I just couldn’t see anyone else doing the colors on Larry’s story.
Steve: Did you come to your collaborators with a completed script; or pitch a story to them and then write with their artistic style in mind?
Amy: It works both ways. If I don’t have a completed script that I think they would be interested in or matches their style, I’ll definitely write one for them.
Steve: This Kickstarter also brings a wholly new story to print as well – one written by Marta Tanrikulu and illustrated by Paulina Ganucheau. How did that story come about?
Amy: I have been thinking about including other writers in the Girls Night Out anthologies, and since the crowdfunding campaign started off strong, I figured this would be a good issue to add someone else’s story as a bonus. I had met Marta in the Comics Experience forums. She sent me the script for “Enduring Love” awhile back – the theme was right, but it needed an artist. When I saw Paulina Ganucheau’s work I thought it was a perfect matchup.
Art by Paulina Ganucheau
Steve: As mentioned at the start, this isn’t your first Kickstarter, as you also successfully crowdfunded the original comics which make up this collection. How has your experience been with crowdfunding?
Amy: I love it for various reasons, and not just the ability to fund the project. It really does help build a fanbase and a level of awareness about the stories I do. I don’t think it’s for everyone, but if you’re somewhat organized and have some decent project management capabilities you should do just fine.
Steve: Have you changed the way you approached running this second Kickstarter, having already gone through the whole experience before? What advice would you give for anyone looking to run their own campaign?
Amy: Yes, not in huge ways, more like fine tuning. I have a better sense this time of what people like and don’t like. Set reasonable goals and develop your reward tiers carefully – do your research and look at other successful (and not successful) campaigns. You’ll see many campaigns meet their goals because of original art and commissions and not the actual book! Also, treat your backers as stakeholders in your project, not just sources of cash.
Steve: Once this Kickstarter wraps up, are there any plans for future Girls Night Out stories? Is there anything you can tease us about?
Amy: As long as the stories aren’t played out and people want them, I’ll write them. I’m actually working on the lineup for the fourth volume – the working theme is “Lost and Found.”
Steve: What else do you have coming up? Where can people find you online?
Amy: End of this month I have a bunch of stuff coming out- a short in the Vertigo/DC Comics anthology “CMYK” that hits the stores April 30. I also have two stories – one with CP Wilson III, and the other with Brian Shearer in ComixTribe’s SCAMthology I think also out around the same time. I’m also working on something with Wendy Xu and Larry Hama that will be available this fall.
I’ve been asked to pitch on a bunch of different titles- there’s definitely stuff in the works but I don’t want to jinx anything by talking about it until it happens. I try to post updates on my work on my site, I’m on twitter here and on Facebook here!
Many thanks to Amy for her time! To find out more about Girls Night Out: The Way Love Goes, you can find her Kickstarter here!