I'm Alisa Kwitney--former DC Comics editor, multi-published author of novels and graphic novels and writing instructor. Ask Me Anything about writing, editing and defeating the dreaded writer's block.

Alisa Kwitney
Mar 28, 2018

My first YA novel Cadaver & Queen just came out last month--at the same time as my DC Comics miniseries, Mystik U. This makes me sound fairly successful and prolific--but the truth is, I wrote both projects after a long battle with writer's block. Even though I've had some great reviews (The School Library Journal called Cadaver & Queen "a page turner from start to finish" and io9 voted Mystik U one of the top 15 comics of 2017) I've also been derailed by comments from the harshest of critics--some external (how can a reader named pug lover be so severe?) and some internal (maybe I never had it. Or maybe I had it, but then I lost it).

Using Carol Dweck's Growth Mindset, I've learned to shift focus so I don't get stuck. Ask me anything about writing, writer's block, or how I got Neil Gaiman to sit down and write the Norse Mythology book (it took seven years).

What is the Vibe of this AMA? What is AMA Vibe?

This AMA has finished, no more comments and questions can be posted and votes submitted to those. Check other similar AMAs here or host your own AMA!

Conversation (95)

In three easy steps and under a minute you could be hosting your own AMA. Join our passionate community of AMA hosts and schedule your own AMA today.

Let's get started!

Besides comics and writing, what are some things that you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Apr 4, 11:37AM EDT0
Being a writing instructor, what is a common mistake in writing that you notice in your students?
Apr 4, 1:13AM EDT0

Do you find your current job to be highly profitable?

Apr 4, 12:51AM EDT0

How did you defeat writer's block? Do you have a secret weapon/fight move against procrastination? 

Apr 3, 3:21AM EDT0

Why did you choose to write your novel/series in the YA genre? Was it the right genre for the story you wanted to write  - or were you an avid reader of YA novels?  

Apr 3, 3:19AM EDT0

How long does it usually take for you to complete 1 comic page? Or 1 comic book? How long does it take to get from draft to final print/distribution?

Apr 3, 1:42AM EDT0

How did you find transitioning from a comic editor to an author? Do you still work in the same enviroment or have to build up connections form scratch? How did you find your publisher?

Apr 3, 1:14AM EDT1
With all the writing that you’ve done is there any work that stands out to you as a favorite or are they too special, what would you say?
Apr 2, 9:22PM EDT1
What are you currently working on?
Apr 2, 5:15PM EDT0

 I'm working on Corpse & Crown, the sequel to Cadaver & Queen--well, really more of a companion novel. It's set in London, and features some of the characters from Oliver Twist, and body snatching.

Apr 2, 5:32PM EDT0
What are your opinions on the current state of the comics industry?
Apr 2, 12:29PM EDT0

I think overall I'm excited that more diverse voices are getting a chance to write and tell stories. But we need more people to actually read comics. We need more kids to pick them up. I see people on the subway, compulsively checking their phones instead of reading. We've all become like rats in a random reinforcement experiment. Sorry, that was a tangent. Now let me compulsively check my phone...

Apr 2, 12:48PM EDT0
Where can people find you? Are there any projects you’d like to promote?
Apr 2, 9:56AM EDT0

I am doing two readings in NYC this week: I'll be at the downtown Books of Wonder Tuesday, April 3, from 6-7:30, reading from my new YA novel, Cadaver & Queen. Then, on Wednesday, April 4, I'll be at the Jefferson Market Public Library from 6-7:30, reading with some other amazing YA authors.

Apr 2, 12:45PM EDT0
What are some of the possible reasons as to why society in general embraces the concept of superheroes so willingly and what is society lacking that propels individuals into consistently and favourably addressing fictional vigilante justice?
Apr 1, 9:30PM EDT0

I think the current popularity of superheroes is more about people needing myths and heroes. We're also in a fantasy cycle right now, rather than a science fiction cycle, which means we're looking for alternate reality stories as opposed to possible future stories. Neil Gaiman once said to me that when society feels optimistic about the future, you tend to get more SF. China has a lot of SF right now.

Apr 2, 12:43PM EDT0
In what ways is the editing process between comic books, graphic novels and YA novels different?
Mar 31, 7:14PM EDT0

Well, comics and graphic novels are similar, the only difference being length. I wrote Mystik U as double sized comic scripts of 48 pages each--that's 48 pages as drawn, which means a lot more script or physical pages. It will be collected this summer and officially be called a graphic novel.  With DC, the process is a bit more collaborative than a novel. I write a pitch, and then maybe tweak it; I write an outline, then a script; the editor gives feedback, and I tweak. Once the script is drawn, I give feedback; same with colors; and in a last go round, I can tweak at the lettering stage, when captions and balloons are added. With a YA novel, I show the whole, finished book, then get feedback (structural edits), then revise, and that's basically it until proofreading (grammar/syntax and factual stuff--like, "When was the Boer war" and "wasn't the cat called Tesla in the previous chapter?"

Apr 1, 9:28AM EDT0
Have you ever attended a comic book convention and, if so, what did you take away from the experience, if not, why?
Mar 31, 4:55PM EDT1

I have attended many comic book cons, as editor and as writer. I've been to San Diego and NYC. And my biggest takeaway is, know what you want to experience. Plan to meet up with editors (if you're trying to get work), or check out new artists, or have a moment with an artist or writer you love. Do the homework about which panels interest you. I get a bit overwhelmed by crowds, so I can't say I just love being surrounded by tons of people for days on end. But I do love seeing great costumes. At the moment, Baltimore is my favorite con--it's not too big, but it draws amazing artists and writers. It's good for readers of comics, and not just fans of TV shows and movies.

Apr 1, 9:14AM EDT0
If you could cosplay any comic book character, who would you choose and what would be the reason for your choice?
Mar 31, 2:01PM EDT0

If I could cosplay any character, I would find a way to do all Three Witches at once (Cynthia, Mildred and Mordred/Morgana), playing off the whole triple goddess idea (maiden/mother/crone aspects of goddess) and because they were my favorites when I was a kid. (From DC Comics The Witching Hour)

Mar 31, 6:27PM EDT0
What are your thoughts on the stereotypical portrayals of both male and female comic book characters, and which artist, do you believe, shows promise in terms of a more realistic portrayal of heroes and villains?
Mar 31, 12:58PM EDT0

Mike Norton, who drew Mystik U, was amazing at depicting a range of body types and facial features. He made Zatanna totally not cheesecake, but gave Sebastian Faust (son of evil sorceror Felix) the beefcake treatment--just what I had in mind. Alain Mauricet, who worked with me on my Carrie Fisher story for Femme Magnifique, did an amazing job--and so did Jamie Coe who worked with me on my Margaret Hamilton story. All the artists I worked with at Vertigo in the 90's did non-stereotypical heroes and villains--that was kind of the Vertigo calling card. As for my thoughts on the artists who draw stereotypical portrayals--well, it's a thing some people like. It doesn't work for me. I particularly dislike overly sexualized portrayals of females while fighting. And love those sites where artists drawn Spiderman and Superman in the kind of absurdly sexy poses that are used for female heroes.

Apr 1, 9:10AM EDT0
What did you consider your best assignment at DC?
Mar 30, 7:48PM EDT0

I loved working on The Sandman and Shade the Changing Man as an assistant editor, I loved working with Mike Carey and getting him started on Lucifer (back when I was on staff) and most recently, I had an incredible amount of fun writing Mystik U.

Mar 31, 6:30PM EDT0

That would be like choosing a favorite child! But nothing compares to the first time you're asked as an assistant editor to develop your own project from the ground up. I got to pick some of my all-time favorite characters, the Three Witches, and work with James Robinson on the mini. I also really enjoyed working on Vertigo Visions, because I learned so much about art from interviewing folks like Dave McKean and Mark Chiarello.

Apr 1, 8:59AM EDT0
Was it more fun to be a writer or an editor at DC Comics?
Mar 30, 7:38PM EDT0

I loved being an editor. I may have romanticized it a bit--friends currently working in editorial sound pretty damn stressed. But from the haze of nostalgia, all I can remember is the sense of doing something cool and creative, the free comics, and the fact that everyone had fun toys in his or her office. Of course, if I were currently editing full time, I might be romanticizing the writing part and recalling only the highlights...

Apr 1, 8:56AM EDT0
How do you keep in touch with your followers?
Mar 30, 6:50PM EDT0

I have an author page on FB--@alisa.kwitney.sheckley should get you there, if you like. (I've also written books as Sheckley, which was my dad's last name. He was the SF writer Robert Sheckley.) And twitter, @akwitney. And a website, www.alisakwitney.com.  I also go to conventions and give workshops, which I post on those sites.

Apr 1, 8:53AM EDT0
What are some of your favourite hikes? Does hiking give you inspiration for writing?
Mar 30, 3:04AM EDT0

I live in the Hudson River Valley, and there are amazing hikes all over. My least favorite ones are the ones that get crowded, like Kaaterskill Falls. Stissing Mountain is my go to hike, because it's short but steep and has great views. I'm not sure hiking gives me inspiration, but it clears my mind of detritus. It is my safe reboot mode.

Apr 1, 8:51AM EDT0
About #AuthorsAMA

Welcome to #AuthorsAMA, an AMA Event channel for authors and their important work sharing their knowledge with others.

The #AuthorsAMA channel is owned and operated by AMAfeed, LLC.

Top Contributor
Marisa Donnelly