An Interview with Comics Writer A.M. Paulson

the bottle image comic panel a.m. paulson jason r. johnson oneshi press
An image from “The Bottle,” written by A.M. Paulson, illustrated by Jason R. Johnson.

A.M. Paulson’s short comic, “The Bottle,” appears in our fourth comics anthology with illustrations by Jason R. Johnson. It introduces readers to a tale about a magical blue bottle so magical that murderous goblins will stop at nothing to get it. Then, something unexpected happens…We spoke with A.M. about inspiration, learning to write, and why Tolkein is always an inspiration.

Why and how did you start writing comics?

My parents got me my first comic book when I was around nine years old, and I have wanted to write comic books ever sense. I have always made up stories, but I wanted to tell them as a comic book from that day on. I wrote stories and poems to hone my abilities as a writer and have had a few of them published, but for me comics are the main thing I want to write. I wrote several practice comic scripts in high school, but I am not very good at drawing, so there was no way for me to make them a reality. However, I refused to give up and knew one day I would fulfill my dream to be a comic book writer.

How did you learn how to write them?

I found a great book called Writing for Comics with Peter David. It taught me the format and how to write a comic-book script. I owe a lot to that book, and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about the art of writing for comics.

Who are your writing heroes? Writers, artists, or others who inspire you?

My dad read me the works of J. R. R. Tolkien as a child, and I quickly decided he was my favorite author. A fact that has not changed nearly 24 years later. Even though I am very dyslexic, I read the Lord of the Rings books once a year. I love his world-building and hope to one day make a world that is just as vast and engaging as his. In terms of comic-book writers, I have to say I love the writing of Gail Simone and Alan Moore. I have yet to read something from either writer that I can hate. I am also a huge fan of the story telling of Jim Henson’s darker works like The Dark Crystal and his series The Storyteller.

What’s your favorite comic-book-based movie? TV series?

I love the Marvel cinematic universe movies; even bad ones are a quiet pleasure for me. I respect how they are able to weave the world together, and I can’t wait until the next one. However, my favorite comic book movie is V for Vendetta. I know it is not a faithful adaptation of the graphic novel, but I still love [it] anyway.

Who’s your favorite comic book hero? Villain? Morally ambiguous anti-hero?

My favorite character for a while was Spider-Girl because she was a fun character, but that changed to the current Ms. Marvel because she is who I would be if I got super powers; a lover of super heroes who wants to be a hero just like them, and writing lots of fanfic along the way.

We published your piece, “The Bottle” in our 4th anthology. Tell us about where the idea for that came from, and how you decided that it should be a comic!

The story came about from one idea. What if a person who was recovering from an addiction to magic got an item of powerful magic? The idea came about because a dear family member was starting to get help for their addiction to heroin and opioids, and I was trying to understand what it must be like for them. I don’t drink, smoke, or take anything for recreation, so I did some research to try and understand how to help. Somewhere along the way the idea popped into my head and refused to leave. The story in my mind could only be told as a comic because a story like that is more suited to the comic-book medium. Also, I just wanted to see these characters drawn.

What’s important to you in a comic book, as a reader? As a writer?

For me, no matter what the medium the story is told [in], be it book, movie, comic, or video game, the most important thing is a good story with good characters. If I hate the story or the characters, I’m not going to want to finish it and will feel dirty if I paid money for it. The story and characters can be simple or complex, as long as they are done well. The stories that last the test of time are those with characters and stories that reach us on the deepest, most personal level. If I ever attain that, I will die the happiest person alive because my words will touch the hearts and minds of people for years after I am gone.

How do you make your work immersive and progressive (the Oneshi Press themes)?

“The Bottle” is an allegorical tale of a woman trying not to fall back into the painful, self-destructive world of addiction, with a magical twist. The way I come up with stories is with an idea and a character. From there, I come up with the world and how it works, and normally the story is birthed from that. My goal is to make stories and characters any person from any walk of life can relate to and understand. I am also a huge fan of myths and legends from all over the world and try to put stories from at least three different cultures in one story. I am pleased to say the fist installment of the story was the introduction of the villain more than the two main characters, but hopefully I’ll be able to tell the stories. What I will say, without spoiling too much now, is the story has a very strong main female lead who will be strong and active in her story.

Any new projects coming up?

I am working on more “Bottle” scripts and am trying to get a picture book published, teaching children how and when to spell with the letter C. I am working on an ongoing series of short stories about a dog detective named Joan in post–Civil War Louisiana with Pro Se Press. Along with working on trying to get my non-profit Hearts in Hands Puppetry to a point I can make that something I do as my main job.

Where can readers find you online?

You can follow me on Twitter at @Drama___Chick.

While you’re here, nab a limited-edition copy of Oneshi Press Anthology #04, featuring A.M Paulson’s short comic, “The Bottle”!

Dig into our many creator interviews here! 

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