Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sandra Tayler Interview

While setting up my interview with Howard Tayler from Schlock Mercenary I was redirected to his wife Sandra.  While some may have taken this as simply a change of point of contact I found it a most fortuitous opportunity!   Not only was she able to arrange an interview with Howard but she has agreed to talk to us as well, which allows me to bring you two interviews for the price of one contact!


Thank you very much for joining us today Sandra!

Glad to be here.

Lets get the obvious out of the way, how do you put up with Howard? {Smiles} Let alone have four children, 2 houses, and one failed record production business with him around?  

As far as I know we’ve only got one house, but all the rest is pretty accurate. Howard and I put up with each other. We take turns being the one who needs support, except that sometimes we forget to take turns and then life gets difficult for a bit until we sort it out. Howard is the source of far more good things than difficult ones. Plus he knows how to make me laugh even on the worst days.

What some of my readers may not know is that you’re quite the creative person yourself!  Can you tell us a bit about your work?  

I blog almost daily over at where I talk about whatever happens to be in my head that day. Often I’m talking about the sorts of life-balance questions that your last question was addressing. How to fit parenting, business, community, spirituality, and self all into the same life is a constant challenge and I talk about it a lot.

I’ve also written a picture book called Hold on to Your Horses, which I wrote because it was the story that my daughter needed. One thing led to another and I ended up with a self published picture book, which is not usually a successful publishing decision.

As the father of a very energetic four year old daughter I am glad you wrote “Hold on to Your Horses.”  What made you decide to write it?  How did you find Angela to illustrate it?  

The idea came in answer to a need. My daughter needed a story that would let her picture her ideas as separate from herself so that she could understand she could have a bad idea without being a bad person. Additionally I wanted to give her a metaphor which would help understand that ideas steered one way were trouble, but steered another way could be very good. I wrote the story and then realized it needed pictures to really carry the point across to a five year old. Howard put out the word on his blog that we were looking for an artist. I knew I couldn’t ask for art for free, so Howard and I committed to publishing the book and sharing any profits that came from it.

Being married to a strong and creative woman myself I’ve found that many of my greatest ideas and thoughts come from her.  Do you think you’ve had a similar effect on Howard?  How has he affected your work?  

I am Howard’s first reader. My reactions to the comic scripts help Howard know what needs to be changed. I also function as his sounding board. He talks plotting and I listen. Howard was critical to the creation of Hold on to Your Horses. First he told me that the project had an audience beyond just our daughter. Then he rescued the images with his mad photoshop skills when the first test print turned all the bright yellows into a horrid lime green. But most of all he believes that the work I do is worthwhile and wants me to succeed at it.

How hard is it balancing your creative impulses with being a busy working mother?  

Being a parent is fundamentally a long-term creative project. Any creative project a person has will interfere with any other creative projects that the person has. Work and family interfere with each other all the time. Mostly I try to remember some basic principles of how to structure life to support creativity. I gave a presentation about this at LTUE in February and then wrote up my notes. Not all of the principles will work for every person, but they’ve been greatly helpful for me.

What’s it like building a business based off of a webcomic?  It seems like such a scary thing to do raising a family based off the success of a website.  

Building any business is scary, but then so is working for a corporate job where someone else can fire you. I’m not sure anyone has a completely secure path through life, so the best we can do is pick the path which suits us. This path was right for Howard and me. We’ve been doing it for eight years and it is still scary sometimes. Though at this point it feels more secure than working for a corporation.
If Howard is anything like me, you’ve got quite a few tech gadgets lying around the house.  How important do you think it is to limit our children’s usage of these devices at early ages?  

It is not good for any human being to pick on activity to the exclusion of all else. Thus if my kids are spending too much time with devices, I encourage them to switch up a bit. However using a device to read is a different activity than using one for homework, typing practice, playing a game, and watching a movie. Each of these engages the brain in a different way and so counts as switching. I notice cyclical patterns, the kids do more screen things in the winter and more outdoor play in the temperate months.

On the other hand how interesting is it to see how quickly children who have no prior history of usage can pick up how to use these devices?  For instance my daughter was able to use my iPad since she was 18 months old!

The only reason I see to keep devices out of the hands of young children is because the devices are expensive and might get broken. Playing with the devices does no harm to the child that I can see.

What does the future have in store for Sandra Tayler?  Will we see more children’s books in the future?   

I’ve written a sequel to Hold on to Your Horses. It is called The Strength of Wild Horses and follows the main character into a new adventure. I intend to launch a kickstarter to fund the book sometime toward the end of March.

Thank you for spending some of your precious time with us Sandra!  Do you have any final thoughts for the readers?

This would be a good moment to have a short pithy answer or inspirational statement. Unfortunately life is complicated and messy, so the best that anyone can do is to muddle through in the general direction of your dreams. Slow progress is still progress. Just keep on muddling through and you’ll be surprised at how far you get.

Thank you again for your time!  I look forward to seeing more wonderful horses from you in the future.

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