Madeleine Holly-Rosing On Her Steampunk X-Files Mash-Up, Boston Metaphysical Society

by Gary Catig

Near the turn of the 20th century, electricity began to be implemented in cities and homes and would play an important role in the development of the U.S. Now imagine if that did not occur, and at some point in American history, technology pivoted where most of the machinery was powered by steam. Throw in some paranormal activity and influential secret societies and you might get the upcoming comic series, Boston Metaphysical Society.

The mini-series, published by Source Point Press, is written by Madeleine Holly-Rosing, drawn by Emily Hu, colored by Gloria Caelie and Fahriza Kamaputra and lettered by Troy Peteri. Holly-Rosing spoke with to help promote the release of the first issue. Though it won’t come out until July 31, you can place pre-orders now at your LCS using code MAY191907.

Gary Catig: Hello Madeleine. I’m glad that you could join us today to talk about comics. You have a series that will be released through Diamond called Boston Metaphysical Society. The first issue won’t be out until July but can you tell us about the title?

Madeleine Holly-Rosing: The original six issue mini-series is about an ex-Pinkerton detective, a spirit photographer, and a genius scientist who battle supernatural forces in late 1800s Boston. Think of it as “Steampunk X-Files.” Also, Bell, Edison, Tesla, and Houdini are involved in the storyline. The world I developed falls more along the line of alternate-history with steampunk influences.

GC: It’s an alternative history piece taking place near the end of the 19th century. What about this time period did you find attractive to place your story in? Why incorporate steampunk influences?

MHR: The late 1800s was a time of great social, cultural, and technological upheaval. A lot was changing in a very short period of time.  Women and labor movements were organizing. The telephone, moving pictures, and electricity were becoming part of everyday life. (Though it did scare some people.)  And there was the great AC/DC battle between Edison and Tesla.

As far as incorporating steampunk influences, I wanted to use technology that was easily recognizable to readers. Plus, it was just fun and looked cool.

GC: The story follows the main group of Samuel, Caitlin and Granville but you also introduce the reader to real life people like Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and Harry Houdini. All of them are members of a secret science organization. Can you elaborate on their role in the series and their ties to the BMS? Also, these are all people that have been fictionalized in other mediums like comics, movies and television. How is your approach with these historical figures different from other versions of them you’ve seen?

MHR: These guys would normally never work together, but they have a common enemy—The Shifter.  A trans-dimensional being that they fear is wreaking havoc in Boston and might spread farther.  They set aside their differences to try and figure out a way to stop it, but each of them has different agendas. And yes, I know Houdini is not a scientist, but he brings in the human factor and also recognizes they need Samuel’s help.

My approach to them is to keep their real-life relationships thematically true to the fictional one I’ve created. Meaning, Edison and Tesla are not going to become best friends. Also, I keep them human. In one TV show, Tesla was a vampire.  However, everything else about them and the story is fictional.

And in case you didn’t know, Granville Woods is a historical figure as well and was a contemporary of Bell, Edison, Tesla, and Houdini. I could not find any record of him meeting Tesla or Houdini, but he did do business with Bell. The real Granville Woods specialized in railroad switching technology and lived in Ohio then moved to upstate New York to start a business with his brother, Lyates.

GC: It’s been a long process for you and the rest of the creatives to get this series to a publisher and distributed by Diamond. It started off as a webcomic and then you self-published individual issues and collections. How does it feel to have your series hit LCBS in July? How has it been working with Source Point Press?

MHR: Source Point has been terrific. The titles are creator-owned and it was Bob Salley (Salvagers, Ogre, Shelter Division), who convinced me to talk to Travis McIntire who owns Source Point. I had actually known Travis for quite a while and met at Boston Comic Con a few years back. (Same with Bob.) I saw how they did business and worked to grow Source Point and it impressed me. They have a team mentality so you can always go to someone for advice.

As for getting BMS into Diamond? That was pretty special and something I couldn’t have done on my own. I’m a one-person shop, so there is only so much I can do. I had decided I needed to partner with someone in order to grow and this was a good time to do it. I’m so glad this happened with Source Point.

And before I forget, you can order Issue #1 at your local comic book store right now! (Order# MAY1919107)

GC: So, what’s next for Boston Metaphysical Society? As of right now, is the plan to release only the six-issue mini-series through Source Point Press? I know you’ve successfully funded a couple of one-off issues via Kickstarter. Are there any plans to have those published? Do you plan on doing more short stories or novels based off of the property?

MHR: Right now, only the six-issue mini-series is under contract. It’s possible that The Scourge of the Mechanical Men and The Spirit of Rebellion might be traditionally published as well, but there are no plans at this moment. Gwynn Tavares is on board to do the next one-shot which will be on Kickstarter early next year. No title or storyline yet, but we will return to Boston and Samuel, Caitlin, and Granville will be back together again. (That was by fan request.)

As for more novels and short stories, the answer is YES!  I just started writing the first of a trilogy of novels set during the House Wars, which is the Boston Metaphysical version of the American Civil War. Samuel, Caitlin, and Granville will not be in, but you will see other characters that I have already introduced in either the prose short stories and novellas or the short comic story, Hunter-Killer. (That is part of the original trade paperback.)  I do have another short story done that is part of a “yet to be publicly disclosed anthology.” Once I get the OK, I will be happy to let everyone know.  I will probably have to dial back on writing additional short stories for now so I can get the novel done.

And in case you didn’t know, my first novel, Boston Metaphysical Society, A Storm of Secrets, won a silver medal in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category of the Feathered Quill Book Awards as well as The Write Companion Award for Overall Top Pick in Adult, Children’s and YA categories.

GC: We’ve predominantly talked about BMS but you’re involved with other projects. Are there any other things you would like to plug or any new series coming in the future that our readers should keep an eye out for?

MHR: I did a number of other short story comic projects the last two years. They include, The Scout which is part of The 4th Monkey anthology, The Sanctuary (The Edgar Allan Poe Chronicles anthology), The Marriage Counselor (The Cthulhu is Hard to Spell anthology) and the upcoming, The Airship Pirate, which will be part of The Rum Row anthology. Other Boston Metaphysical Society prose short stories include, Here Abide Monsters, which is part of the Some Time Later anthology from Thinking Ink and The Underground which is part of the Next Stop on the #13 anthology from Drake and McTrowell.

As for other projects, I’ve had a few on the backburner for a while and I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get to them. One is an action fantasy comic and novel while the other is a YA fantasy novel. However, pretty much anything I write can be adapted into a graphic novel. This has been quite a journey. If you had told me ten years that I would be an integral part of the indie comic community, I would have laughed. But you know, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

We want to thank Madeleine for speaking with us. You can learn more about the Boston Metaphysical Society on their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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