TV writer Maya Houston shares her experiences writing on Arrowverse series CW Batwoman and Arrow, as well as how she first started out in her competitive career field.
Although still early in her career, Atlanta native Maya Houston’s writing has already made an impact on popular culture.
She has written episodes for two hit series in the ‘Arrowverse’ franchise on The CW; namely Arrow and Batwoman, serving as a staff writer on the latter since the ongoing second season.
Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to do this.
Maya Houston (MH): Thank you so much for having me! I’m honored.
For anyone who is unfamiliar, you are a TV writer. What inspired you to pursue this path as a career? How much did your background or where you grew up influence your writing?
MH: I knew I wanted to write ever since I was little. Like, kindergarten. It all started when I wrote a poem in the POV of one of the mice from “Three Blind Mice”. It was about how he saw the world differently.
My mom noticed how much I loved doing it, so she started to buy me journals and encouraged my love for reading. My passion zeroed in on film and television when I was around 11. At the time, Grey’s Anatomy was the hot new show on the air. I learned that Shonda Rhimes was the creator and got so excited to see a Black woman at the helm of the show. It was sort of like: “Wait! We [Black women] can do that?! That’s what I want to do!”
So from that point on, I kept pushing towards that goal. I participated in summer film classes. I attended a performing arts high school with a focus in creative writing and media. I kept up religiously with the likes of Shonda, Mara Brock Akil, and Issa Rae and just kept writing.
Screenwriting in general is a very competitive industry to get into. Were you worried about this when starting out?
MH: Absolutely. I attended University of Southern California for screenwriting and during my last few months there, I actually had a major panic attack about making it in this insane industry. So, I decided that I was going to go back home to Atlanta and just become an elementary school science teacher.
I literally completed the qualification exam and everything. My friends and professors kept telling me not to do it but I just wasn’t sure if I was made to endure toxic environments and ferocious competition and non-stop self-doubt. Ultimately, it ended up being my supportive mom who convinced me to at least try. Thank god for that!
As of now, you’re currently writing for Batwoman on The CW and previously worked on fellow Arrowverse series, Arrow. When growing up, were you a superhero fan at all?
MH: I was a huge superhero fan growing up! I have a little brother who was really into Marvel and DC, so by mere proximity, I also fell in love with those worlds. Comic books, adapted movies, video games, you name it… They were all my jam.
How would you describe the premise of Batwoman, for anyone who may be unfamiliar?
MH: Well, this season of Batwoman centers around Ryan Wilder. After Batwoman’s predecessor, Kate Kane, goes missing, Ryan takes up the mantle to fight injustices big and small around Gotham. The irony is that she herself is also a by-product of injustice.
Prior to working on Batwoman, you wrote an episode of Arrow, the show which started the Arrowverse. How did that experience and working under Beth Schwartz help shape your writing?
MH: Beth Schwartz is amazing, and I learned so much from her! She’s really good at crafting good characters and their emotional journeys and I think I’ve gotten better in that avenue from watching her.
Writing for different characters on a new series can be tricky. What do you most enjoy about capturing new character voices when starting a new job?
MH: I love that no character is ever the same, and some are completely the opposite of me. It’s a fun challenge pushing myself out of my comfort zone to capture the authenticity of that specific voice.
I think what I enjoy most is that if you ask a group of characters the same question, you’re not going to get the same answer from each one. It’s fun to play around with that range.
You joined the writing staff of Batwoman in the same season that Javicia Leslie took over the lead role. How have you found writing for the character of Ryan Wilder?
MH: Ryan’s so much fun to write. This entire experience has been so cool, honestly. I’m a queer Black woman who loves superheroes who gets to write about someone that I can identify deeply with on many levels. How often does that happen?
I’m grateful for it every day, and I’m grateful to Caroline Dries [showrunner of Batwoman] for believing in me and giving me the chance to.
Outside of the Arrowverse, which other shows currently on air would you love to work on?
MH: Ooh, good question! I gravitate towards young adult / new adult as my genre of choice. It’s not on air yet but I would have loved to work on the Gossip Girl reboot. Elite, Good Trouble, The Bold Type, and Good Girls also come to mind!
What advice would you give to aspiring screenwriters, or anyone who has just arrived in LA?
MH: One: be kind. It sounds easy, but a lot of people in this field struggle with that. This industry is small and people talk. You want to be known as a person people want to be around. Two: don’t compare your successes to anyone else. No path is the same. You’re the main character of your journey, so focus that energy on yourself and not on jealousy.
Three: make sure your material is ready, even if it takes you a bit longer to take the next step. A lot of new writers are just eager to break through the doors but if your stuff isn’t polished, that’s the first impression you’re going to give off to people in a higher position than yourself.
For anyone who wants to keep up with you on social media, where can they find you online?
MH: You can find me on Twitter or Instagram at @elcincodemaya.
What do you hope to accomplish with the rest of 2021?
MH: Professionally, I’m hoping to have a polished and ready to go out draft of my first feature film. It’s a passion project of mine. Personally, I’m hoping to remain healthy and continue to take care of myself and my loved ones during these unprecedented times.
Thanks again for taking the time to speak with me. Take care and stay safe!
MH: Thank you for having me. Stay safe, sane, and healthy out there!