The Turra: Gun Angel series is set to see publication in 2013. But, our very own Kevin Williams, sat down with series writer Sean Taylor and talked about his career and what he has planned for our favorite ninja with guns.
Hi. My name is Sean Taylor, and I’m here because I haven’t had a drink in 21 days…
Wait. Sorry. That’s for the other group. Let’s try that again…
Hi. My name is Sean Taylor, and I’m here because Turra held me at gunpoint and made me answer these questions.
I write comics books and prose. And I get paid for it. How’s that? Any more compromising information you want to blackmail me with can be found either at http://www.taylorverse.com/ or my writing blog http://seanhtaylor.blogspot.com/.
I’ll admit up front it’s a mixed bag of goodness and badness. Coming from an English-Lit background, I’m the kind of guy who enjoys reading Shakespeare, Flannery O’Connor, Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald for fun. I’m also a big fan of Raymond Carver, Annie Dillard, C.S. Lewis, and Zora Neale Hurston.
But I love my thrillers too, and Ed McBain’s work is a huge influence as well as that of Donald Westlake and Christa Faust.
When I turn to sci-fi, I’m kind of old-school, and I prefer to read Vonnegut, Heinlein, and Bradbury, or sometimes Dr. Who novelisations (see that ‘s’ – that’s because it’s British… cool, huh?) from the old series. (And I cut my teeth on C.S. Lewis’ fiction.)
And I’ve recently rediscovered the work of H. Rider Haggard, particularly his brilliant She series of tales, and the exciting Mars saga by E. R. Burroughs.
For comics, I always inspired by books written by Chuck Dixon, Dwayne McDuffie, Steve Seagle, Beau Smith, or Gail Simone. Those guys (and that classy lady) really deliver the goods on a consistent basis.
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 horns 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.
I took up lettering because 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.
You know, a list will be easier. Here are a few I’m really, really proud of.
The Ruby Files Volume 1, Airship 27 Productions, 2012
Price of the Missionary’s Gold: The New Adventures of Armless O’Neil Volume One, Pulp Obscura (Pro Se Productions), 2012
Blackthorn: Thunder on Mars, White Rocket Books, 2011
Dreams of Steam II: Brass and Bolts, Kerlak Publishing, 2011
Lance Star: Sky Ranger Volume III, Airship 27 Productions & Cornerstone Book Publishers, 2011
Pro Se Presents #1, Pro Se Productions, 2011
Required Reading Remixed, IDW Publishing, 2011 (Wal-Mart exclusive)
Show Me A Hero, New Babel Books, 2011Zombiesque, Penquin/Daw Books, 2011
Classics Mutilated, IDW Publishing, 2010
All-Star Pulp Comics #1, Airship 27 Productions and Redbud Studios, 2011
Feline Force, Mini-Komix, 2011
Adventures of the Bad Girls Club: An Illustrated Episode #0 , IDW Publishing, 2011
The Invisible Man graphic novel adaptation, Campfire Publishing, 2009
Gene Simmons Dominatrix Trade Paperback, IDW Publishing, 2008
Gene Simmons House of Horrors Trade Paperback, IDW Publishing, 2007
Fishnet Angel: Jane Doe #1-2, Shooting Star Comics, 2005
Shooting Star Comics Anthology #1-6, Shooting Star Comics, 2002-2005
Working with Gene was actually a lot more fun that I had previously been led to believe by others who had either worked with him or known people who had worked with him. He was usually very quick to approve the stories I submitted to him, and typically only with minor changes. I think the only major change he made to a pitch I sent him for Dominatrix was to change the lead heroine’s civilian name from Danika (my preference) to Dominique (the one in the books). Other than that, Gene’s ideas for the book must have really meshed with mine. Either that or my editors had all the fun of butting heads.
I did get to meet him once during the book’s run, and that was at San Diego Comic Con. I remember that moment because I learned something about him that I’ll remember and try to emulate until the day I die — that man really loves and appreciates his fans. Even when it made life hell for the people trying to organize the line around the various booths, and even when it ticked off the other booth owners (even the big two), Gene insisted that all the fans in line got to see him and that he only did his signing in an area where the fans could be easily accessed.
I usually write at Starbucks. That way I can simulate the “office” experience and stop every now and then to talk to the folks at the counter. I’ve tried writing at home, but there are just too many distractions unless I’m writing late into the night. Maybe it’s my ADD and the voices in my head that compel me to check out what new movies have been added to Netflix. Or, maybe it’s the “Dad, what do you think about this?” or my wife’s thinly veiled threats of what might happen if I don’t stop long enough to help her fold the laundry or set the table for dinner. (And yes, “thinly” was used sarcastically, for those of you who don’t pick up on this kind of thing naturally.)
For editing though, I have to lock myself at my kitchen table and turn off everything in the house that makes noise except ambient music really low. Then I just work until I hear my kids’ buses drive by the house.
Primarily I listen for clues that might surprise me in songs and from other media. About two years ago I was listening to “The Beautiful Ones” from Prince’s Purple Rain soundtrack and it hit me what a cool comic book title that could be. From there, a sort of War of the Worlds meets Sex and the City plot entered my head and the characters naturally developed from there. Or there is the time I went to a comic book creator get-together wearing my Hot Rod Girl t-shirt with the art from the old movie. A guy asked me if Hot Rod Girl was the new comic book I was working on, and I thought for a moment, then said, “It is now!”
If I already have a character I have to write, then the process is a little different. I never use a set formula, but I do pull from a similar group of tools. For example, I used to fill out questionnaires as my characters or answer a list of questions about them or even fill out a credit card application as the character (but never sent it in, of course), but I no longer have to do that because after a few years, those kind of things became internalized and a matter of habit when I pre-write. When you know those kinds of things about your characters, the story ideas naturally begin to flow. And if I ever get stumped, I just ask, “What’s the worth thing that could happen to this character at this point?” Those always turn into some fun tales for me to write.
I think that whatever genre I’m writing in, I tend to funnel everything through the same well, funnel. It’s a weird amalgamation of character-driven pulp action writing. I just can’t get away from it.
I’ve worked in so many genres and enjoyed them all: pulp, sci-fi, fantasy, super-heroes, mystery, drama, literary, horror, steampunk. What I really enjoy, however, is throwing combinations of them in a blender and seeing what develops.
• A steampunk horror tale with sci-fi overtones? Sure.
• A literary horror tale about saving a marriage after the dead rise? Why not?
• A pulp tale of time-displaced hero on Mars battling snake women who question what it means to deny their culture and make an individual choice to be a better person? Absolutely.
• A literary sci-fi tale about whether a baby is a curse, a blessing, or merely an organ? Is there a better way to explore such an idea?
• A love story about two supervillains who just want to be good neighbors in their subdivision in spite of their choice of career? Of course.
That said, comedic writing (other than characters quipping one-liners) is definitely not my forte. I bow to Erik Burnham’s superior ability in that genre.
The first time I met Martheus was at Mid South Con several, several, way too many years ago. Scott McCullar introduced us and recommended that we bring Martheus and the Jetta book into the Shooting Star Comics fold. After I saw the book, how could I argue with him? And that, as they say in Casablanca, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
As I said earlier, I first read the book at Mid South Con quite a few years ago. I immediately recognized a sort of rough genius in the book. Sure, Martheus was still coming into his own as a story teller, but geez, the art was gorgeous and talking with him about the characters… well, the passion was clearly a driving force for him. I think the thing that resonated with me and helped me connect with the book was more Martheus’ passion about it.
It’s like of like the story of the person who didn’t like jazz because they didn’t give it a fair shake, then after watching a true jazz aficionado listen to jazz, he learned to enjoy it as well simply by observing the passion of the aficionado.
Mostly I listen. (For once in my life, yes.) Then I ignore whatever Martheus has said, throw out some crazy idea like riffing on The Most Dangerous Game or raising hillbilly zombies from the dead, and then let him tell me how to fit my strange ideas into his universe in a way that doesn’t degrade the glue that holds it together. And I do keep our boy Martheus on his toes that way. Trust me.
It’s going to be all about fun. Jetta had the weight of the world (literally) on her shoulder. Turra, on the other hand, has Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” playing on repeat in her head. Turra has a lot of responsibility to live up to in her role leading the Toshigawa in Jetta’s absence, but she’s not going to mop about it like her best friend did.
Not just fun for Turra though. I’m trying to think visually also and ask myself, “What would be fun for Martheus to draw?” That’s where the lingerie shoot-out in a busy mall came from. And I ask, “What would be fun for readers to see?” That’s where redneck zombies and bikini gunfights come from. (For the record, the redneck zombies is from a fan, and what a great idea it was.) Then every now and then, I hit on some ideas I really want to play with, like the potential papal assassination to prevent a one-world government. You know, fun stuff like that.
Turra’s definitely not going to be stuff in Japan and America. Her frequent flyer miles are going to rack up as she explores what the world has to offer the current leader of the Toshigawa clan.
For Jetta, I hear lots of thump like the soundtrack to Blade, well, that and about anything heavy by Linkin Park. But for Turra, it’s mostly pop stuff. Where Jetta broods, Turra’s the type to dance around the homestead to the radio in her underwear, then turn on a time and drop you with a single shot to the forehead for sneaking up on her.
It’s unfair because I’m writing her, but I really do connect with Turra. She’s just so much the kind of character I live to and love to write. A tough as nails female buttkicker. We really don’t share any personality traits at all, since I’m basically a pacifist, but I can dream, right?
Hell no. I’d best serve as cannon fodder.
Be on the lookout for the book. It’s gonna be incredible. And don’t miss any of the other projects Martheus and I are working on, including A Stitch in Time: The Return of the Invisible Man for IDW Publishing.
And please hit up my blog as often as you can. It’s been a labor of love and a lot of fun. It’s at seanhtaylor.blogspot.com and it’s all about not just my writing, but also tips for up and coming writers, and even markets looking for submissions and lots of interviews with other writers and artists.
And be sure to bookmark my official website too at www.taylorverse.com.