There are very few publishers willing to take a chance on writers or artists that don’t have a proven track record or sales history, but sometimes the biggest payoff comes when you bet on the scrappy underdog. Thankfully Top Cow was willing to take a chance on writer/artist Larime Taylor’s new series “A Voice In The Dark” and publish it through their Minotaur Press imprint (“Think Tank”, “Echoes”).
“A Voice In The Dark” is the story of college freshman Zoey Aarons, who is looking for fresh start 72-days after committing murder. Since birth, Zoey has been fighting to control her dark urges and impulses. Studying broadcasting, Zoey is given a late-night talk radio show that allows anonymous callers to give voice to their teen-angst and unburden themselves of the skeletons that have been hiding in the closet. In the process Zoey has also given her sinister side a voice and now with the filter removed, her dark urges have access to the airwaves.
“A Voice In The Dark” is simply a must read for anyone that enjoys a good psychological thriller. Imagine “Dexter” joining forces with pirate radio DJ ‘Hard Harry’ in “Pump up the Volume” to vent about all of his animalistic urges and you get an idea of how compelling “A Voice In The Dark” is.
Taylor sat down with Bloody-Disgusting to answer a barrage of questions we had about “A Voice In The Dark”. Taylor went in-depth about his creative process, how Kickstarter was instrumental in getting the project off the ground, his love of 80s films, and how he classifies the book as a psychological noir.
Bloody-Disgusting: Tell us a bit about the initial inspiration for ‘A Voice In The Dark’ and how the story has evolved?
Larime Taylor: It initially started as a horror spoof where I planned on taking various tropes and flipping them upside down. Along the way I realized that I had an actual story and compelling characters, and so things went in a more serious direction. I still have some of the camp on the surface, but it’s there as a contrast to the more gritty, serious nature of things.
BD: This is the story of a young woman going to college and trying to escape her violent desire to kill. How does Zoey’s wrestling match with her inner demons drive this story?
LT: It’s essentially a coming-of-age story with a twist. Zoey’s relatable, I think, because she’s going through things that all of us have: growing up, moving away from home, trying to figure out who she is and what she wants to do with her life. Beneath that, though, she has these urges she’s struggling to control. She’s afraid that she’s a monster. It adds new levels to it all. That’s the core of the story, figuring out who and what she is and how to live with it.
BD: How does homicide detective Zeke Aaron’s factor into the story and what role does he play?
LT: Well, spoiler (for issue #1 at least), but in addition to being the lead homicide detective in town and a nationally respected profiler, he’s also Zoey’s uncle. It complicates things, obviously. She not only has to keep her secret from the police, but from her own uncle, who is very close with her and protective of her. She has to keep him from getting suspicious.
BD: Would you say that this is more of a true crime book or a horror story at the root?
LT: A little of both. I actually call it a psychological noir. It’s very character-driven instead of plot- or action-driven. It focuses on character development and slice-of-life stories, if you’ll pardon the pun.
BD: You’ve mentioned that ’80s movies like ‘Heathers’ and ‘Pump Up The Volume’ were an influence on you creatively. What was it about those films that you found inspiring and wanted to expand on ideas in ‘A Voice In The Dark’?
LT: Well, I grew up with them. They helped form my own writing and ideas. Specifically, I liked the way they played with loneliness and isolation, with being an outsider, and how that’s actually okay. Being different, not fitting in, those aren’t bad things. I also liked the way they balanced serious issues with almost surreal humor and absurdum. ‘Heathers’ in particular could be so dark, and yet so funny, all at the same time. Those are the kinds of stories I want to tell.
BD: How far do you have this story mapped out? Do you have a long form road map?
LT: I’ve written seven issues, taking things to the first trade, and planned out roughly six more issues for the next one, and I’m nowhere near having exhausted the ideas I want to explore. I don’t know exactly how long it’ll go, how many issues or arcs, or even how it ends. I haven’t let myself plan that far ahead because I have no idea if it’ll find an audience. Until I know, there’s not much point in making long-term plans
BD: So far the book got some heavy critical acclaim from industry heavyweights like Terry Moore, Gail Simone, and Michael Avon Oeming. Does their critical acclaim put any pressure on you?
LT: I think it encourages me, honestly. I have a lot of growth ahead of me, a lot that I can do better and improve on, but if those guys are liking what I’m doing, then at least I know I’m doing something right. It’s a big boost having someone like Terry Moore, who I basically want to be when I grow up, say that he’s a fan of my work.
BD: You have a unique creative process because you have extremely limited use of your appendages stemming from a birth defect called Arthrogryposis. This book was written and drawn entirely by you using your mouth. Can you give us some insight into your creative process and you work given your disability?
LT: I draw on a tablet screen with the stylus in my mouth. I’ve been drawing with my mouth since I was four years old, but drawing digitally has really freed me. Because I can zoom in and out, rotate images, move them around, I’m no longer restricted by the limited reach and range of my neck, or by the fact that I draw smoother lines horizontally than I do vertically. I’m not having to deal with the fact that with my nose a few inches from the art, I lose perspective and proportion. I can zoom out and keep things balanced. I can lasso something and move it, shrink it, or make it bigger. I can use (my own) photos for reference.
BD: The book was initially funded on Kickstarter and then picked up by Top Cow to publish through their Minotaur Press line. How instrumental was the Kickstarter to getting the project off the ground?
LT: Completely. The idea was to fund a single issue as a submission package, to show that I can do the whole package and finish a project. That’s exactly what I did, and why publishers were interested in it. I gave them a finished book instead of five pages of art and a synopsis. I wouldn’t be here if not for the backers of that Kickstarter.
BD: Recently Kickstarter has come under fire from detractors that say that it’s a digital form of pan-handling. How do you respond to that and what is your opinion on celebrities like Zach Braff and Kristen Bell using the site to fund projects?
LT: I’m probably about to go on a rant, so I apologize in advance. I’m honestly getting tired of the detractors that call it begging or pan-handling. Kickstarter allows people with an idea for a product a way to get funding directly to make that product. It’s like pre-ordering. You’re giving money for a good. You aren’t obligated to pledge – you don’t even have to go to the site in the first place. If you don’t like seeing Kickstarter mentioned in your feed or whatever, social networking sites allow you to make posts disappear. It’s pretty ridiculous that people make a huge fuss over it. Another complaint is about accountability, and I’m more sympathetic there. Still, if you choose projects carefully, you can avoid most of the pitfalls. Really, what Kickstarter and crowd funding in general is, is a return to the patronage system. People give money to artists to create works that the people want to see. There’s no publisher, record label, distributor, or any other gatekeepers. Somebody in a suit isn’t deciding for you what’s on the market to choose from based on marketing and demographics. It’s direct choice. And again, at the end of the day, nobody’s forcing you to go there.
As for celebrities using it, I can see the point some are making about those artists not needing it, but really, just because they’re famous or even wealthy doesn’t mean that they can get anything they want green-lit. They still have to go through the same gatekeepers, but they just have a foot in the door. If crowd funding allows artists to ditch the big media companies and do what they want, how is that not a good thing?
BD: Now with Top Cow and Minotaur Press in the picture, how has the project evolved? What kind of guidance or advice has Top Cow’s Marc Silvestri and Matt Hawkins, given to you so far on ‘A Voice In The Dark’?
LT: They’ve been great, but it’s very hands-off as it’s a creator-owned book. They give me as much support with editing and such as I ask for, but it’s my call. I actually have my own editor I pay out of pocket. They don’t try to shape the book or steer it. They took the book based on my vision for it, and they support that vision. Mostly they handle production, advise me in areas that I ask for help with, and promote the book. They put a preview in the back of Cyber Force #6, Aphrodite IX #5, and The Darkness #115, which is a big deal. They’ve given me exposure I can’t get anywhere else. It’s been great working with them.
BD: Why should fans give ‘A Voice In The Dark’ in a chance when it hits shops on November 20th?
LT: Because it’s very different than most comic books, and deals with subject matter and themes you don’t often see. It doesn’t look or read like anything else out there, which may or may not be a good thing, but it’s true. If you want something unique, I hope you give it a try.