Hire This Woman: Writer Amy Chu
In the overwhelmingly male comic book industry, it has been a challenge for some editors and readers to see the ever growing number of talented women currently trying to make a name for themselves. With that in mind, ComicsAlliance offers Hire This Woman, a recurring feature designed for comics readers as well as editors and other professionals, where we shine the spotlight on a female comics pro on the ascendance. Some of these women will be at the very beginning of their careers, while others will be more experienced but not yet “household names.”
Today we’re speaking with writer and self-publisher Amy Chu. Chu has written a few short stories in collaboration with creators like Larry Hama, CP Wilson III, Steve McNiven, and Janet K. Lee, as well as self-published her own comics under the name Alpha Girl Comics.
ComicsAlliance: What’s your background/training?
Amy Chu: I got into comics in a roundabout way. I was an architecture major, but jobs were nonexistent when I graduated. I tried a number of different jobs, before heading to business school. Getting an MBA enabled me to make a decent, if not boring, living doing business strategy for startups. Of course, this all changed when a good friend of mine asked me to help set up a comics publishing business.
Knowing very little about making comics, I signed up for an online writing class with ex-Marvel/IDW editor Andy Schmidt. From that point on, you could call it an accident or fate, I just fell head over heels for comics. Within one year I took classes on lettering, coloring, editing and even Intro to Art. I just wanted to get up to speed fast so I could make the best comics I could. I enrolled in Scott Snyder’s summer writing class at Sarah Lawrence College, and hit every convention I could. I became a comics creator junkie.
CA: How would you describe your creative style?
AC: I’ve been told by a few writers that I do the emotional “gut punch” well. Not sure what this means, but I try to create an sense of empathy between the reader and the characters. I care much more characters than genre. I am absolutely fascinated by the Coen brothers- how they’ve managed to make great movies whether it’s an urban comedy or a Western drama. I tend to focus on story endings. I feel like every comics reader deserves a satisfying payoff in the form of a reveal and/or cliffhanger. I read a lot of O. Henry as a kid and I’m sure that’s had an influence on my writing. I’m very comfortable with the short story. Eight pages is easy. A lot of my stories are three-to-five pages, 20 pages is plenty of real estate for me.
CA: What projects have you worked on in the past? What are you currently working on?
AC: With Larry Hama I did a short story called “The Date,” about a Japanese-American teen and his grandmother, for the anthology Shattered by New Press last year. After that, Larry referred me for a screenplay, “Going to the Gate,” a drama that revolves around the death penalty in Singapore. I kept the print rights, so I’m working on adapting that now as a comic.
I published four comics under the name Alpha Girl Comics: a horror/mystery one-shot called The VIP Room with Silvio dB; and two collections of short stories, Girls Night Out #1 and #2. I also wrote a comic illustrated by Louie Chin about the history of New York City’s Chinatown. I’m working on getting the foreign language and digital versions out now, as well as Girls Night Out #3.
I just finished a short with the incredible C.P. Wilson III (Stuff of Legend, Wraith) that will be coming out next year. It’s a slightly silly take on the classic Red Riding Hood story featuring Joe Mulvey’s characters for Comix Tribe’s upcoming SCAMthology.
At this moment, I’m working on a short story for Steve McNiven, and this just happened– very exciting — a collaboration with the amazing Janet K. Lee. Her work with Jim McCann on The Return of the Dapper Men continues to blow me away!
CA: Approximately how long does it take you to write a 20-page issue?
AC: Anywhere from a week to two weeks, depending on what else I have going on and how closely I’m working with the artist. Lock me in a room with some Twinkies and energy drinks and I suppose I could crank out something decent, in say, 48 hours, if I had to.
CA: What is your dream project?
AC: Usually people say something like Batman or Spider-Man, I know. For me, I’d actually get a big kick out of taking a character that’s relatively obscure or declined in popularity, and breath some new life into them. A low level villain would be fun. I’m also very interested in adapting some adventure/mystery classics like Marvel did in the ’70s with books like Ivanhoe and The Count of Monte Cristo.
CA: Who are some comic creators that inspire you?
AC: I have been on a couple of Making Comics panels at conventions lately, and have been impressed with all the new creators, young and old, doing their own thing out there. And I’ve been inspired by the generosity of many writers and artists I’ve met in this business. Josh Fialkov, Gail Simone have given me helpful feedback on scripts. Jimmy Palmiotti and Brandon Peterson have been great with advice and encouragement. I could go on and on. That certainly doesn’t happen in most industries I know of.
CA: What are some comics that have inspired you either growing up or as an adult?
AC: I feel a bit like a freak since I got into comics late. So the classics that other fans grew up reading are completely new and fresh to me. For example, (I don’t know that I should admit this) but I just read Walt Simonson’s run on Thor. I recently found a stash of EC Comics at local book sale; really enjoying those. I am loving the Hellboy universe. I told the Mignolas I missed out on the early stuff, so they sent over the entire Hellboy collection so I could catch up! And I’m really moved by a lot of Jeff Lemire’s stuff. Essex County and Lost Dogs still haunts me.
CA: What’s your ideal professional environment?
AC: I don’t need to work in an office. Been there, done that. Collaborative, fun, respectful, friendly, passionate — I’ll take four out of the five. Bottom line, I just want to be part of a good team of people who are focused on getting a good book out on time.
CA: What do you most want our readers and industry professionals to know about your work?
AC: I think Scott Snyder said in class once as a writer you need to swing for the fence with every script. That’s what I aim for. It’s a competitive industry, and certainly the readers deserve nothing less than my best effort. I love connecting with readers. There is no bigger thrill for me to have someone come up to me at a convention and tell me how one of my stories moved them to tears. (Apparently, I make a lot of guys cry.) Or to watch a kid pick up one of my comics and read the whole thing standing there. That’s why I love writing comics.
CA: How can editors and readers keep up with your work and find your contact information?
AC: I’m pretty active on Twitter. You can also ‘Like’ my Facebook page for updates on my writing and convention activities. and my own website where you can see the list of stores which carry my comics or order direct from me.