Interview with Molly Ostertag

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Molly Ostertag is a New Yorker and a 2014 graduate of the School of Visual Arts, where she studied cartooning and illustration. She currently lives in Los Angeles and worked as a designer on the Disney TVA show Star vs. the Forces of Evil.

Her debut middle-grade graphic novel, The Witch Boy, came out in 2017 from Scholastic and has a sequel coming out in 2018, The Hidden Witch. She also put out a book with First Second, Shattered Warrior, with author Sharon Shinn, and was the artist on the first four issues of The Castoffs with MK Reed and Brian C Smith.

She illustrates a twice-weekly webcomic about superheroes and social justice, Strong Female Protagonist, with partner in crime Brennan Lee Mulligan. They have run two rather successful Kickstarters to fund the first and second volumes, and it’s currently distributed by Top Shelf.

Interests include: cats, gay stuff, Dungeons & Dragons, and cooking the perfect steak. Follow her on Twitter @MollyOstertag for important updates on these subjects.

Meghan Reinholz: What got you into drawing? Did you know right away you wanted to draw for a career?

Molly Ostertag: I always knew I wanted to tell stories! I really loved YA novels when I was young (still do, as a matter of fact) so I fantasized about becoming a novelist. But I never stopped drawing, and at a certain point I realized I could combine those skills and make comics. For the first few years of my career, I focused on drawing, and mostly drew other people’s stories. Recently, I’ve re-committed to my own stories and am focusing on those.

MR: What was the process like creating The Witch Boy?

MO: I came up with a loose idea of what I wanted – a story about a boy who could do ‘female’ magic – and started to play around with characters and settings. A lot changed from the initial idea, but once I’d gotten the characters figured out it flowed pretty easily. Once I had a solid script, I pitched it to publishers, sold it to Scholastic, and started drawing! I thumbnail my books out first, which means that I break down the script into pages and figure out, very loosely, what’s going to be on each page. Then I draw the pages, then color them.

MR: What can we expect from The Witch Boy sequel?

MO: The Hidden Witch, the Witch Boy sequel, spends a bit more time with Charlie. I like the idea of a modern suburb where magic occasionally pops up, and so I’m exploring that more. There’s a new character who I like a lot, and of course we keep following Aster’s struggles with his family and his friendship with Charlie.

MR: What is a series you cannot put down at the moment?

MO: I’ve been revisiting Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, and am reading Borne, which I believe is a stand-alone novel that has a lot of the creepiness and horror of the trilogy.

MR: You worked on Star vs. the Forces of Evil for a long time, that’s amazing! How did you become involved in that?

MO: I moved out to Los Angeles a few years ago and Star was my first foray into the world of animation. A lot of cartoonists work in animation, since it’s a nice steady day job and is a lot of fun! I liked my job because I got to work with talented people on an amazing show, but it left me with enough energy to make the exact kinds of comics I want.

MR: What products and programs do you use to draw? Do you start with a pencil drawing then go digitally?

MO: I used to use pencils and ink, but a few years ago I bought a cintiq and transitioned to drawing everything digitally. I work in Photoshop and it’s made me a much quicker, more efficient artist, and I’ve been able to play around with composition and color in a way I couldn’t with traditional materials. I still like to draw traditionally, but it’s usually just doodles on post-it notes.

MR: How did you become involved in Strong Female Protagonist?

MO: I came up with it with my friend Brennan Lee Mulligan, who writes SFP! We’ve been doing it for seven years now, which is wild! We both wanted to collaborate on something fun that was just for us, and it’s been really nice that other people want to read it too.

MR: Out of all the novels/webcomics you’ve worked on, which is your favorite?

MO: The Witch Boy is my very favorite right now. It took a while to have the confidence to write my own story, but I’m really proud of it, and I loved drawing it. It’s close to my heart. I love the sequel as well and am excited for it to get out into the world!

Check out our review of The Witch Boy!

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