Comics artist Ashley Marie Witter is starting her career with a splash: Her first full-length graphic novel is an adaptation of Anne Rice's best-seller Interview with the Vampire, to be published by Yen Press in 2012.
Witter studied under artist Mark A. Nelson (Aliens) at Madison [Wisconsin] Area Technical College, and she has worked on the webcomics Reign of Adeodatus and Scorch, contributed to a comics anthology called The Eternal Sad, and created concept art for director Christopher Hutchin’s movie Horace K48. Yen Press director of publishing Kurt Hassler first spotted her work on Deviantart. "I saw a bit of her work there which led me to her website which led me to a couple of webcomics that she’s done, and I absolutely fell in love with her stuff," he said. "She’s brilliant and versatile, and I felt like she was really capable of connecting with this project."
PW Comics World: How did you come to be a comics artist?
Ashley Marie Witter: I earned my associates degree in Animation and Conceptual Development at MATC with the intention of working in film. At the time, everything seemed to lean towards video game design, so I specialized in storyboarding and concept art. Ultimately, this led me right back to comics so I could tell a story like a stop motion film. Comics were sort of my secret love while I was trying to fit into the gaming industry. I started posting webcomics for my own release, and I never thought anything would come of it. About seven years later, I was first contacted by Yen Press.
PWCW: Did you read comics as a child? What were your favorites?
AMW: My older brother collected superhero comics when we were kids. Being the “kid sister,” I wasn’t allowed to touch any of them without his assistance because he told me I would ruin them. At that age, all things forbidden only spiked my curiosity. As for personal favorites, there’s too many to list! My current bible as of the last few years has been American Splendor. Between my brother and I, our all-time childhood favorite would be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
PWCW: What was the most difficult part of working on an adaptation like this?
AMW: So far the hardest thing is getting over that apprehensive feeling of, “Can I do this book justice?” Years ago I had the opportunity of touring New Orleans during a choir solo and ensemble competition. We actually got to visit some of the places where Interview with the Vampire took place. Having actually been to several of those locations, you get a real sense of them in Anne’s work. So when I work on this adaptation I really hope to capture the essence and feeling of an 18th century New Orleans.
PWCW: What surprised you the most about it?
AMW: Well the most obvious would be that I get to work on Interview with the Vampire! Second, would be that Yen Press asked me to do it in one of my personal styles. I started experimenting with parchment textures and sepia tones for a personal project years ago and first used it in a webcomic I did called Reign of Adeodatus. So when they asked me to utilize that technique, my heart soared. I think the delicate antique look will carry the story very well.
PWCW: What have you learned from the experience so far?
AMW: I feel like I’m supposed to talk about technical stuff, but instead I’m going to say this: that anything is possible, provided that you do the work. That isn’t to say that I’m not very, very lucky to have gotten this project. The opportunity to be able to do a project like this has been a dream for a very long time. It took a lot of integrity to really stick with comics throughout a lot of hardships.
PWCW: How closely do you collaborate with Anne Rice on the work?
AMW: It’s still fairly early on in the project to say. So far, I work from my home studio and pass everything to Yen Press. We go back and forth on some designs until we get something we agree upon, and then we’ll pass it along to Anne for her feedback. It will all come back to me, and then I’ll be able to move onto the next phase.
PWCW: How did you visualize the characters—did you work straight from the book, or did you discuss the character designs with her?
AMW: Anne’s characters are so well known that it was hard to breathe new life into them without deviating too far from the original source. I started by collecting a lot of resources from the era and tried to incorporate some of the historic ethnicity into their features and costumes. Over time as I became familiar with the story, the characters evolved more and more to fit their personalities. Typically when I work on comics I feel like my characters grow into themselves. So the final designs really come out once I’ve come back to them enough times.