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Thursday, January 31, 2008
When and how did you get started writing?
I had this dream growing up to be a comic book artist. I began writing stories that I could illustrate. As I got older I met others with similar interests and began writing stories for them to illustrate as well. However, I never really considered the writing part as my main job until a good friend of mine pointed out to me that I was a far better writer than an artist. Begrudgingly, I have to admit that he was right. At that point I focused more on the writing, but I still dabble in the art. Then one day I got this wild notion to write a novel. The rest, as they say, is history.
How did you break into this industry?
With comics, I worked on a few fanzines and had a few stories published in small press titles. Like most other writers, I submit to publishers and answer ads looking for writers. My big break came in late 2000 when I landed the scripting duties on Marat Mychaels’ Demonslayer comic series. The title had two mini series at Image Comics. My first issue (Demonslayer: Vengeance #1) came out in 2001 when the title moved to Avatar Press. It was my first color book and actually sold fairly well as I remember. I worked on the title, which was a series of mini series, until 2004 when the book ended.
With novels it was a little different. I wrote a sci fi novel that I admit was not very good, but I got the “I want to write a novel” bug out of my system. Eventually, I had the urge to try again. This time I joined a writing class at the University of Georgia Continuing Education Center and began working on the novel that eventually became Evil Ways, my first published novel. This time I never lost the urge to write more prose and have stuck with it.
You’ve worked on a lot of different projects with a lot of different artists. Who are your favorite artists to work with?
I love the collaboration process that you get working in comics. There’s nothing like seeing the artwork coming in. It’s a beautiful thing. I’ve worked with some talented artists like Al Rio, Jeff Austin, Marat Mychaels, Cory Hamscher, Allan Otero, Stephen Toth, Blake Wilkie, Daniele Sera, and Luis Ruben Rivera Nunez (look for us on the Yin Yang graphic novel from Arcana Comics in 2008) and I look forward to working with more great artists in the future. As for dream artists, I’d have to say that the biggies would be George Perez, John Byrne, Frank Cho, Steve Epting, Adam Hughes… I should stop here as this could become a long list.
Do you pick the artists or are they assigned by the publisher?
It depends. Most of my writing work to date has been work for hire so the publisher hires everyone. I have some artist friends I will sometimes pitch something to and see if they are interested in working on it, but for the most part I have not picked the artists I have worked with.
I see you write both comics and novels. Is there a particular genre or style that you like writing for the most?
I like to dabble in multiple genres. In comics, the sky is the limit. It’s just a matter of finding the right publisher for certain types of stories. In novels, I think I do very well with the suspenseful thrillers and the adventure stories. Writing the pulp style stories over at Wild Cat Books and Airship 27 is a fairly new thing for me that I’m enjoying, but I tend to gravitate to the thrillers. That said, were I to get a horror novel idea I would certainly give it a shot.
When we met at the convention, I have to admit the first thing that caught my eye was your “Fuzzy Bunnies from Hell” comic. Please tell me, where did that idea come from?
I would love to take the credit for this because it is such a wonderful concept, but Fuzzy Bunnies From Hell is the brainchild of Jason Shane Powell over at FYI Comics. The title and basic premise was already in place when I was hired on as writer. I was given a paragraph or two synopsis and I took it from there. At the time I did not have many opportunities to write comedy so I really punched up the comedy to accentuate this horror story.
I see there are four issues, correct? Do you have any plans to add more?
Four issues are out. I’m not sure if they are still available for reorder or not at this time. There is still more to go to finish the story, but it’s currently on hold. I do hope to see the rest of the story out one day. You can check out the story so far for free at www.drunkduck.com/FUZZY_BUNNIES_FROM_HELL/index.php?p=117638. And if you really want to know the end of the story, there is a script book available featuring the entire script for Fuzzy Bunnies From Hell available at www.lulu.com/content/1103151. Okay, enough plugs. Back to the interview.
In reading the description of your Fantastix: Code Red novel, and I was struck by how similar it’s plot line is to a very popular TV Show “Heroes”. When was your novel published?
I’ve been waiting for this question since Heroes started. The novel, Fantastix: Code Red was published in March 2006. The story was originally written in comic form in 2003, before Heroes ever aired. At the publisher’s request, I turned the comic script into novel for in late 2005 for publication in 2006.
In what ways is it similar to Heroes?
Well, it’s a super hero story for one thing. There aren’t a lot of costumes either, but there are some. When I took on the project, which, like Fuzzy Bunnies From Hell was also work for hire with the characters and a basic plot in place, I was intrigued by the thought of super powered people living in a more realistic world. It’s certainly a concept that has been done before, but for Fantastix, I felt it was important to ground the story in reality. There are some flashbacks to the days of capes and cowls though, just for good measure.
What sets it apart from Heroes?
It’s written with a different style and tone. I like to think it’s my unique take on a classic type of comic book story. Plus, it’s a different medium.
Living in the South, I totally can appreciate your Life in the Faster Lane. Where do you get your material?
If there is one project I’ve worked on that is closest to my heart, Life In The Faster Lane is it. In 1992 I took a comic course and created the characters that would eventually become the cast of Life In The Faster Lane. I was only required to do one strip for the class, but I just dove in and drew stacks of them. The main cast of characters include R.O. Nudell, his wife Honey, and his son, Mel. These three are based on my Dad, Mom, and younger brother, respectively. Most of the strips are either based on something that really happened or something one of them has said. My Dad is such a loveable character in his own right that the strips started out primarily about him, but eventually everyone got in on the act.
In 1994, the strip, called simply R.O. at the time, was picked up by a local North Georgia family magazine called Keeping Up With Kids. The magazine, and the strip, ran for 12 years. These days I have been rereleasing the older strips along with some commentary and assorted bits of trivia at http://fasterlane.blogspot.com. I even do new strips on occasion and post them as well. It’s a free site and I hope everyone who reads this will stop by. On a side note, I am planning a book collection of these strips for release sometime in 2008.
Is this an ongoing project?
Oh yeah. If for no other reason than that my family seem to enjoy them as much as I do. Plus, I like to joke to them how I own them since the characters are owned by me. Ha. Ha.
What inspired your “Evil Ways” book?
I have a friend who was interested in making a low budget movie. He asked me to write something for him to film. I wrote up an idea that he wasn’t overly crazy about. When the urge to write a novel hit again, I pulled that plot out and reworked it, keeping just a few of the main elements and started writing. Then I joined a writing class at the University of Georgia Continuing Education Center taught by Harriette Austin. Eventually that novel became Evil Ways. Evil Ways was my first published novel.
How long did it take you to write this novel?
Six months. Then it took me five and a half years to sell it. [laughs] Granted, I did go back and tweak things in that time while I was pitching it to publishers, but the main bulk of the novel was written in six months.
Of all the things you’ve written do you have a favorite and why?
Evil Ways because it was my first “big” accomplishment with writing prose. When my comp copies arrived you could not wipe the grin from my face. Plus, Evil ways opened doors for me. I was hired to write other prose work based on what editors saw in Evil Ways. On a more personal level, I would say Life In The Faster Lane because of the family aspect.
I see you have a pulp anthology “Domino Lady” coming out in April of 2008. I was so excited to Renderosity Artist Uwe Jarling did the cover art! What a small world. How did Uwe get involved in this project?
He was hired by the publisher, Moonstone Books. And let me tell you, I was floored when I saw that cover. WOW!
As a pulp anthology who else is included in this project?
Oh, we’ve got some great talent on this. Chuck Dixon, Nancy Holder, Martin Powell, Ron Fortier, Gail Mcabee, CJ Henderson, James Chambers, Lisa Bandemer, Ver Curtiss, Jeff Butler, Uwe Jarling, Anthony Schiavino, and our editor Lori G. I should also mention that The Domino Lady anthology comes out in April 2008.
What can we expect from Domino Lady?
Pure pulp fun. Domino Lady used everything at her disposal to take down the bad guys. She was smart and sexy. A lethal combination if you get on her bad side. The Domino Lady has that something special I like to call “Pulp Sauce.”
Can you share a little teaser with us?
My story is called
Target: Domino Lady.
The Domino Lady is framed for murder and her alter ego, Ellen Patrick’s current beau Inspector McCarty has been tapped to bring her in: dead or alive.
Here’s a taste.
“I’m afraid she’s stepped over the line, Miss Ellen.”
“She’s killed a man.”
“What?” Ellen shouted, alarmed. Her practiced detachment wavered. A lump caught in her throat threatened to choke her.
“It can’t be,” Ellen croaked, her world suddenly turned upside down.
“I’m afraid so, Ellen,” McCarty said sadly.
“The Domino Lady is wanted for murder.”
Thank you so much for taking the time to let us get to know you better and for joining us for “Graphic Tales”. We look forward to seeing what you write next!
Thanks, Lillian. I appreciate it.
News: Graphic Tales: Interview with Sean Taylor
Friday, February 01, 2008
“Graphic Tales”: Interview with Sean Taylor
Lillian Hawkins [LilyHawk]
“Graphic Tales” resurfaces with an interview with Sean Taylor, comic book writer, creator, editor and letterer. After meeting Sean at the Nashville Comic Book and Horror Festival I just had to know more about the interesting writer behind the Gene Simmons Dominatrix comics.
Thank you for your willingness to do an interview. I see that you are a very busy, and well rounded kind which includes being a husband, father, friend, writer, comic book creator/editor/letterer, coffee nut/barista, cat fanatic, musician/songwriter, web designer, self-professed postmodern existentialist Christian mystic, to name a few things.
I’m also told that I’m really full of crap, so take anything you read on my website with the proverbial grain of salt. I’ve been called several other things as well, but therapy is helping me live with the pain. But barista is completely true — I make a hell of a cappucino. Like drinking whipped up coffee air.
I like to live in the dichotomies of life as much as possible. I’m probably too religious a person to write the comics I’m writing, but I’m also probably too big an irreverent jackass to write conservative religious curriculum, but somehow I manage to walk the line between the sacred and the profane well enough to enjoy doing both. It’s a fun life, I tell you.
After reviewing your website I have to say I am very impressed with all the different activities you have going on!
[Sean’s current projects include:
the Gene Simmons Dominatrix comic book series with IDW Publishing
Shan: Be My Hero a graphic novel with VLE Comics
The Veil comic book series with Rogue Wolf Entertainment
Last Chance School for Girls with artist Jesus Antonio for Arcana Comics
Show Me a Hero a prose short story collection being shopped to agents
Kasume No Josei a short Japanese horror comic story with Scott McCullar
Co-Plotting a tie-in project with fellow Shooting Star alum Erik Burnham to Arcana Studio’s War of the Independents which will feature Cyberfrog, Fishnet Angel, Nick Landime, and Phantom Jack
Sweetly Felt the Dream an iHero-based short for Terminus Media, with penciller Dustin Griffen, inker Luis Alonso, and colorist Luis Antonio Delgado
Pitches to Heavy Metal (with several fine artists, including Esteve Polls, Ricardo Sanchez, and Martheus Wade) and Tales from the Crypt]
Unless you have mastered cloning, or time bending, how in the world DO you keep up with all of these different projects?!
I try not to sleep more than 16 hours a day for starters… I don’t know. I just work on the main gigs for the bulk of my time, and in between scripts, I’ll hammer out a few pages for some of the side projects. It’s more about keeping busy to avoid vegging in front of countless DVDs than it is about trying to manage my time. I figure I could either waste time in front of the TV or actually get off my butt and attempt to make myself rich and famous. Or at least regularly employed.
How long have you been working as a comic book creator/editor/letterer?
How did you get started in this industry?
I got my start in the pages of Shooting Star Comics Anthology. Some friends and I started our own company and took the bull by the balls to show this industry we meant business. I had previously been a magazine editor, so I became the editor-in-chief of the company and helped us to develop publishing plans and publication schedules. As for the lettering, I was too broke to hire a letterer, so I learned how to do it myself in the stories I had written, and thankfully, there was helpful information all over the Internet. We had a blast putting out our books and eventually branching out to do other people’s work too, such as the critically acclaimed Children of the Grave and one of the graphic novels in the Jetta: Tales of the Toshigawa series, and I was able to publish my Fishnet Angel: Jane Doe miniseries as well, but when it came time to close up the shop and move on, we instinctively knew it, and we all moved on to find our new places in the comics world. Fortunately several of us have landed in various spots from AC to IDW and beyond.
What is the one comic that you are most proud of and why?
You know, I’m really proud of all my work, but I think Gene Simmons Dominatrix is the one I’m most proud of right now. It’s tough work to take an idea that people enter into with so many assumptions about and leave your mark on it enough to make those same people come out on the other end saying things like it was not what I expected or it surprised me. And let’s be honest, the idea of a practicing dominatrix could easily be derailed into either camp or porn. And neither Gene, IDW nor I wanted this book to become Stripperella, back shelf leather porn, masturbatory bondage fiction or worse, the campy scenes from Mel Brooks’ Hi Anxiety. To be able to keep the book sexy and cheesecake-esqe but still manage to tell a story about a woman trying to find her life and reclaim it from the forces trying to dismantle it, well, that makes me very, very proud.
Do you have favorite artists and cowriters that you like to work with?
Absolutely. I’m absolutely in love with working with Esteve Polls, the new artist on Gene Simmons Dominatrix. He draws beautifully detailed backgrounds, and I’m swooning for any artist who devotes time to backgrounds and faces. Any lugnut with a set of pencils can draw big muscled people in underwear beating the crap out of each other nowadays it seems, but it’s the rare artiste who provides the context of faces that speak volumes and backgrounds the give the illusion of a real place and time in a comic.
And I’m working with an artist named Martheus Wade who is one of the best martials artists I’ve seen in years. His fight scenes are some of the few in comics that actually make sense. You could just about map them out panel by panel and verify the follow-through on the punches and kicks. If you’re not reading his book Jetta: Tales of the Toshigawa, you really should be.
How did you get hooked up with Gene Simmons and IDW?
I’ll give it to you straight and honest. It’s a case of being in the right place at the right time. It’s as simple as that. I really believe that’s what this business is about. Back when I was editor-in-chief at Shooting Star Comics, I edited a book called Children of the Grave by Tom Waltz and Casey Maloney. When that book was later picked up by IDW as a trade paperback, some things fell into place for Tom and he ended up as the editor of the Simmons line of books at IDW. And he contacted me about writing what he described as a book with a strong female lead and some potentially disturbing subject matter. And well, how could I say no to an invitation like that?
I see from the Simmons Comics Group website that Gene was the creator the Dominatrix concept. What’s it been like working with Gene on this comic and on the Gene Simmons House of Horrors?
These are all Gene’s babies. He has the ideas and he trusts his writers to run with them and build on them. Gene’s been great to work with because he does have that level of trust in us to basically turn over the keys to his kingdom and move in right after he builds the framework of the castle. And to be honest, my dealings have been more with my editors at IDW than directly with Gene, but he has certainly added or changed things from time to time to ensure that the books stay in line with his vision. But he doesn’t do that in a didactic or heavy-handed way. I really appreciate the trust he has put in me to let me play with his toys, so to speak.
Are there a set number of issues planned for the Dominatrix series?
The first arc, Daylight’s End, will run for six issues. After that, well, just like anything nowadays, that’s up to the fans to tell us how badly they yearn for more. That said, I’ve got Dominique’s adventures plotted out well into multiple years of stories, and I hope to stay with her and her friends and enemies for an awfully long time.
I’m a big fan of Heavy Metal and Tales from the Crypt. Do you have any pitches you would like to tease us with?
I’m actually working up stories to pitch to both of those books. Unfortunately I can’t tease you too much except to tell you that space cowgirls can be sexy and dangerous and that grandma’s house can be much scarier than a cemetary, especially if you have the right grandma.
In addition to your busy convention schedule, what are your plans for the future?
I’m always working about six projects out, and I have a list of the way too many projects I’m in various stages of involvement with on my website at www.taylorverse.com. Some folks might think it’s a little too premature to mention things as early as the concept and pitch development stage, but I like the idea of being an open page, and I’ve really never have been one for doing things the way I’m supposed to. The beauty part of having so many things in development is that I’m never hurting for something to write. There are a few things I do want to mention specifically though.
Shan: Be My Hero is a romantic high fantasy graphic novel I’m writing for VLE Comics based on a short story by Stephen Antczak. It tells the story of a woman warrior named Shan who has become the local hero and the village that loves her. It simultaneously tells the story of a man no one would have ever expected to do anything heroic. And there are also lots of fantastic creatures and a multi-armed giant. I really like that it’ll be released by VLE directly as an original graphic novel since that gives me the freedom to pace it more like a novel and not have to think of it in terms of 22 pages and then a cliffhanger. I can really let the character breathe in the OGN format, and let the story unfold at the best speed for the the book instead of in a format that is dependent on a monthly publishing schedule.
The Veil is a new series I’m writing for Rogue Wolf Entertainment, and if you are a fan of supernatural intrique and secret government agencies, you’ll dig this book. At it’s core, it’s a lot like Alice in Wonderland, but with the twist that Wonderland is a sinister, evil place, and it’s trying to creep over into our world. Only a select few agents are able to protect our world and keep the public blissfully unaware of the real danger all around us every second.
Last Chance School for Girls is a miniseries I’m working on for Arcana Comics. Jesus Antonio is drawing that one, and it features young adult characters in the lead roles. I cut my teeth reading books like Titans and classic X-Men and Legion of Super-Heroes, but I didn’t want to give this one such an innocent teenage quality, so instead I darkened the hell out of it and gave it a very Suicide Squad edge. It’s been a lot of fun to write so far, and I can’t wait to show off Jesus’ art. It’s going to blow people away.
I’m also working on a dream project for a short story that reunites me with my fellow Shooting Star alum, Scott McCullar, called Kasume No Josei. It’s a traditional Japanese ghost story created by two western storytellers who have had their heads in Eastern culture for a long time.Beyond those, I’ve got several things in the early stages, such as a book featuring Jesse James and Mayan mythology that I’m working on with artist Kurt Belcher from the Alterna Comics book Sleepers and a book called Quinn: The Reckoning that I’m working on with Jetta artist Martheus Wade. That’s one that’ll be sure to get me in hot water again, but you’ll have to wait to learn more about it as it gets closer to being published. Another in-development book I’d love to plug early on is one Richard Kohlrus and I are working on called Victor’s Parrish. It’s the most unique take on the story of the Frankenstein monster I’ve ever seen, and Richard’s love for the monster really shows in his artwork. I can’t wait to share that one with people.
I bet you’re sorry now that you asked this question. Aren’t you?
Saturday, February 02, 2008
I just had to share my insights with everyone at Gothic Blend regarding a little known book, by an unusual writer, about a controversial subject. I am pleased to introduce you to dirty little Gods: The Musings, Rants and Ravings of a Heretic by Billy Flying Red Horse Starnes.
I came to possess this book in the winter of 2004, having purchased it after attending an Earth Teaching class given by Flying Red Horse and Tal Quetzal Moran. Being impressed with the class and with both of the teachers, I was eager to get my hands on the book. The title, of course, caught my attention. “Something right up my alley”, I thought. However, I didn’t get very far into the book, when life changed and we moved from Atlanta to Nashville. The book got packed away and forgotten…until now.
With the creation of Gothic Blend, our paths have once again connected. With that connection, and the final unpacking of boxes, I knew it was time to read the book all the way through and share my thoughts about this provocative text.
From Fragment One: Mystical Christianity I was a bit shocked to read what appeared to be the admonishments of a hard-line priest, rather than the expansive, understanding words I had heard Billy speak in person. I was amused by my surprise. I had been warned in the Introduction that these “Fragments” were untampered with and were his thoughts and beliefs at the time each of them was written years ago. I could tell that Billy has experienced a lot since the writing of the first chapter.
While I admire and share Billy’s love of language and the desire to fully understand the root meaning and history of words, I admit it made for a challenging read, especially in the beginning of the book. Despite the over indulgent use of extraordinarily large words in the first part, there are meaningful truths that shine through. For example, the “Three Doors to Liberation”, steeped in Christian mysticism are well considered and show growth and the deeper connections being made with the addition of references to several of different names of God. I was particularly touched by the fragment “My Greatest Communion” where, as a priest, Billy experienced the indiscriminating exclusion by ordained servants of God, yet was graciously acknowledged and honored by a true servant of God. It was a light-bulb moment.
Once you move onto Fragment Two, the Zen teachings come to light along with his ability to apply the teachings to common human behavior. This section, written during his time at the Atlanta Soto Zen Center, are reconstructions of Dharma talks he gave while there. This fragment includes funny observations about human perspective during the “Perfect Dharma Talk”, and a touching recognition of saints that walk among us in “Bodhisattvas and Buddhas”. “Sleeper Awaken” struck a chord as this is something I wish more of us humans would do.
Fragment Three: “Sociopolitical Commentary” is when I came to the realization that Billy Flying Red Horse Starnes, is to religious commentary as Bill Maher is to political commentary. They both wish to educate and elevate the awareness of the collective consciousness. Each of them tells it like it is, regardless of whether people like it or not, and are passionate about their beliefs. In this fragment, Billy really gets into the heart of several modern day situations, particularly with the segment “Reality Deficit Disorder”.
Fragment Four: “Earth Teachings” was by far my personal favorite! It was so refreshing to read “A Woman’s Place”. I will share this one with my daughter and all the girls and women I know. The icing on the cake of this fragment is the self-titled section “Dirty Little Gods”: It is our ignorance to our true nature that soils us. Self-love, self-responsibility, and right choice can wash away the dirt…it that is what we choose. Thank you for writing this fragment Billy. There are so many wonderful things in it!
Fragment Five: “Prose and Cons” is filled with thought provoking and provocative prose and starts off with the question: If those who write poems are known as poets, why aren’t those who right prose known as prozacs?. There are so many that I enjoyed that I cannot list them all. However, one that I found of particular fun was “Take-Take-Take” in it’s twist of gist ending.
Fragment Six: “Moonwater and The Fox” struck me as the fable of a courtship and the way that the characters dance and interact with one another as we live and learn together. It was delightfully written and quite a shift in writing from the previous fragments.
Fragment Seven: “Horse Apples” was the final fragment and concluded by delivery lots of well…let’s just say…fertilizer for thought. It is in fertile ground and that the seeds planted in this last fragment will sprout. This one contains an abundance of beautiful and strong seeds, such as: If your is not to reason why, then whose is? and “Mystery is not necessarily a bad thing…” I swear, this fragment has me wanting to make a whole bunch of new bumper stickers and avatar quotes as I yearn to share the poignant passages with others.
I am pleased that Billy left the early fragments in their original state. They are a testament to the spiritual growth of a priest, teacher, and friend, and also serve as a well marked guide post of the areas where the institution of Christianity would do well to self-reflect and correct. As they are written, each fragment offers a new and meaningful message and they build upon each other in wisdom and understanding.
There were many notable quotes in the book. But, one of my favorites, and one I would like to use with Billy’s permission is this:
“Men can only be governed by reason if those men are reasonable.” – Flying Red Horse, 2003
I recommend this book to truth seekers, recovering Christians, and those that are exploring many paths, or are simply curious. It provides an expansive view into the spiritual mind of a man as he evolves from a narrow view of the world into a view of experience and wisdom and then into reflective prose and mystical tales and masterful observations. The keys and concepts that Billy latches and shares, and the connection of these concepts to everyday life, make this book worth the read.
With that, I would like to introduce you now to the man behind the book, Billy Flying Red Horse Starnes.
About the Author:
Beginning born Billy, named after Rev. Billy Graham, it comes as no surprise that author Billy Starnes, at the tender age of 16, felt a need to spiritually minister to others and began preaching in a small Baptist Church in Alabama. What did come as a surprise, at least to his parents, what that his questioning nature and logical mind would later put him at odds with the doctrine he was born into. Once out of high school Billy abandoned organized religion for 13 years and flew the nest by going into the Air Force.
During this time, Billy explored and expressed himself spiritually through music, song writing and then martial arts. It was the practice of the martial art Akido that led to an interest in Eastern Mysticism and meditation. Billy converted to Buddhism after two years of Zen practice and went on to became a Zen disciple (student teacher) and staff member at the Atlanta Soto Zen Center in 1995 where he remained for more than 2 years.
Interestingly, it was during his Zen studies that Billy experienced a renewed interest in Christianity and went into seminary studies at the Federation of St. Thomas Christians where he became an ordained priest in 1997.
However, as history has a way of repeating itself, Billy once again found himself at spiritual odds with the church. Core differences in philosophy, and a distaste for church politics, led to a second departure from all organized religion in 1999.