Theric: Thanks so much for participating, both of you. Let me start by congratulating Sandra on her . Hilariously enough, on your blog you had said just the week before that you “only learned about it [the AML] a few weeks ago.” How does it feel to go from ignorant to laureled in so short a time?
Sandra: I think mostly what I feel is conspicuous. It is rather like walking into a party to realize that everyone happened to look toward the door just as you entered.
Howard: I’m glad I decided on pants that day.
Theric: What is it that makes your blog so dang good anyway?
Howard: Sandra’s blog is so dang good because it gives me a new and refreshing perspective on what’s going on in my house. I can’t promise that it’ll do this for anybody else, though.
Sandra: I don’t spend much time thinking about whether the things I write are good or not. I just write about the things that matter to me.
Theric: Of course, Howard’s been doing the the online comic Schlock Mercenary (also updated daily) for a long, long time now — even got a Hugo nod last year. So combining online art, success and awards is old hat for the Taylers. Plenty people would like to replicate that success. What’s your secret?
Howard: There is no secret. We can’t teach anybody how to accomplish what we’ve accomplished. But we can explain how to do the things we do. There’s a subtle, critical difference there.
Sandra: The short version is lots of hard work, and long hours, over a long period of time.
Theric: The two of you work together on Schlock Mercenary — how do you distribute responsibilities?
Howard: I do the funny parts and the artsy parts, Sandra does everything else.
Sandra: That about sums it up. There are some tasks that stick with one person or the other, but a few tasks get batted back and forth like a ping pong ball.
Howard: Oh, and we recently hired out the coloring. Travis Walton now does about half the artsy parts.
Theric: Were you both already creators before meeting each other? Did creation play a role in bringing you together?
Sandra: Howard’s creativity and energy were a lot of what attracted me to him. I think I was smitten from the moment Howard explained his “lego theory” of creativity, which is the idea that each creative form has a set of bricks and once you learn how to assemble things from bricks, then switching brick sets is just a matter of learning how the new shapes work. Later he put this theory into action by switching creative tracks from being a musician to being a cartoonist. The fact that Howard wanted to make a living doing creative work was prominent in our earliest discussions about how to build a life together. More importantly, Howard supports my creative endeavors as much as I support him.
Theric: How does creating together impact your marriage?
Howard: Well, we made four children. That’s had an impact. It’s not ex-nihilo creation, but the principle is the same. We made something together, and what me made has changed us for the better. From there the artistic pursuits are just frosting on the cake. Delicious, ex-nihilo frosting. Except when we borrow sugar.
Theric: Taking a step backwards, when you first moved online, you weren’t making money that way. How did you stick through the lean times to current era in which you are presumably better fed?
Howard: You know that part in the Zelda games when Link has to cross a field of water (or sometimes lava) by shooting ice arrows to create solid patches he can walk across? My job was to make ice arrows. Sandra’s job was to shoot them into the right places so that we could get across the dangerous (sometimes flaming) depths before the patch we were on thawed out again.
Sandra: I call the lean years our walk of faith. We stuck to it because we had a strong sense that it was the right thing for our family to be doing at that time.
Theric: Related question: how have your successes changed you or your relationship?
Sandra: Our lives are constantly shifting and so is our relationship. I love the way that we have built a strong business partnership as well as a personal one.
Howard: I look forward to the day when Sandra’s making ice arrows and I can hire somebody to shoot them for me. My hand is getting tired.
Theric: Moving beyond just the two of you, what role does creativity play in family life? (Or, in other words, how do you keep the kids unstrangled when you’re just trying to get some work done?)
Howard: I do a lot of my work outside the house. Sandra doesn’t have that luxury, though.
Sandra: They’re all in school now. This gives us 6 hours per day to scramble and get work done. Summers are a challenge.
Theric: It seems to me that the act of creation is particularly Mormon in the sense that Creators is what we intend to be someday. In that sense, how is your faith reflected in your work?
Howard: Mormons have a special relationship with the concept of creation, but the reverse is absolutely not the case. And not all Latter-day Saints want to create art, or books, or blogs, or statuary. I’m creating things because that’s what I enjoy, and after lots of practice that’s kind of what I’m best at. Being Mormon perhaps gives me an excuse to place more spiritual value in what I do than I might otherwise, but that’s the smallest part of what my membership in this Church provides.
How, then, does my faith come across in my work? To be brief, I try to only use my powers for good. And like Sandra, if I’m blogging about something inherently Mormon, I take time to explain my terms.
Theric: What advice do you have for Mormon artist couples like yourselves?
Howard: What you paint, or write, or sculpt, or perform is ultimately going to fade. Your relationship with each other is an eternal one. Don’t lose sight of that.
Sandra: Develop an ongoing relationship with divine inspiration. It will never lead you wrong.
Theric: What’s up next for Brother and Sister Tayler?
Sandra: Lots more work.
Howard: But we’ve got work to do first.