“Between the Panels” is a bi-weekly interview series focusing on comic book creators of all experience levels, seeking to examine not just what each individual creates, but how they go about creating it.
Luckily for the comics world, Kasey Pierce ignored the advice she was given about finding a more practical career path than writing. Since then, she’s flexed her creative muscles (in addition to her actual muscles) in both comics and horror fiction. Kasey also lights up any convention she attends — just check out her social media game for proof.
First off, the basics…
Your specialties (artist/writer/letterer/inker/etc.): Writer
Your home base: Metro Detroit, MI
Website: www.kaseypierce.net (currently under construction)
Current project title(s) (either already released or upcoming):
Mexica, an indigenous sci-fi graphic novel with illustrator John Marroquin
Seeress, a Viking witch comic series illustrated by Jay Jacot (Source Point Press)
Kevin Sharp, Fanbase Press Contributor: What attracts you to making comics specifically over other artforms?
Kasey Pierce: I find illustration makes the story cinematic. Just like in films, the visual can create atmosphere, mood, and make everything that much more dramatic and captivating.
KS: What’s the first “real” piece of writing you remember creating? Something that felt like a serious project for you at the time — whatever age that was.
KP: I’ve always loved writing from a very young age. English was my favorite subject. I shelved the dream of being a writer after taking advice from those who had my best interests at heart; I was told it wasn’t “practical.” So, I didn’t start my first serious writing until I was twenty-eight. I had started blogging indie artist interviews and commentary on the comic-con scene. Tony Miello of Rocket Ink Studios said, “I think you can write horror.”
I replied, “I don’t write fiction. That’s not what I do.” So, I wound up writing him a very short story about a femme demon in a psych ward in the 1940s. That became “Dollface,” he signed me to a book deal, that became Pieces of Madness, and the rest is history.
KS: Whether it’s comics or prose, how do you know when you’ve gotten a piece as good as you can on your own?
KP: I’d say when I feel the flow is right. When there’s an equal balance of atmosphere, character development, and “meat” where it’s bare — but no fluff/filler scenes.
KS: What about getting feedback on your work?
KP: I trust editors. They’re not the enemy as too-precious-for-this-world creators would have you believe. Your story is a sculpture, and the editor chisels here and there to make it that much more magnificent. They make sure all facets of your story are being perceived the way you intended.
KS: If you look back at your earlier writing, what stands out as different from the current version of you?
KP: Ha! Where do I start? The downside of growing and evolving — almost quarterly — is that you’ll often look back and shriek. I mean, we’re always our own worst critic, but at least it’s nice to know when you’ve come a long way.
KS: Writers are lucky in that we can set up shop anywhere with minimal space requirements. Do you have a dedicated home workspace?
KP: It used to be a small office with tons of Xenomorph figurines, affirmations, and a giant poster of Arnold Schwarzenegger from his body building days that said “CONQUER.” Now that I work from home as a massage therapist (my day job), it’s been totally de-nerded. Lots of candles, essential oils, and a massage table…with a computer, of course.
KS: What about a set daily or nightly writing routine?
KP: I like to write first thing in the morning. I’m talking 5 a.m., because I’m delirious. The anxiety hasn’t set in to block my brain from vomiting all that it conjures up. I often advise write like no one is reading. Because once you go back and clean it up, you’ll find that it’s genuinely what you wanted to convey.
KS: Give me one word that sums up an important trait for being successful in this business.
KS: Very Schwarzenegger answer. What’s one way you procrastinate?
KP: Working out or eating. It’s always “Well, let me get in thirty minutes of cardio first.” or “I need to really think on this.” *grabs a handful of cookies* It’s a vicious cycle.
KS: How about your specific creative process? Does it differ when it comes to a piece for comics as opposed to fiction?
KP: It differs because now I’m writing choreography. Body language is everything when I write comics. Even a slight eyebrow raise can say a million things. You can misinterpret words easily. Nine times out of ten, you can’t mistake the way someone physically reacts.
KS: You’ve worked with variety of different artists. What’s something important you’ve discovered when it comes to this kind of collaboration?
KP: Let go and let the artist do their job. They’re looking at the story through a different lens. I’ve even put “artist discretion” when suggesting POV. The visuals that are strong in my mind may not translate as strongly in the panels.
KS: Let’s back up a bit. At what age, or roughly when, did reading comics first become an important part of your life?
KP: I was exposed to them at a very young age — probably five. My brother is 13 years my senior, so I was already flipping through pages of The Punisher and Usagi Yojimbo. When The Mask came out, I seemed to be the only one of my friends that knew it was based on a comic book. I also half-expected it to be rated R.
KS: Do you have a specific memory where the thought “I want to do that” came into your head about writing comics?
KP: Funny story… I never thought of making comics. It was Travis McIntire (Editor-in-Chief of Source Point Press) who pushed me to pitch him something. I had never even seen a comic script before. I did, however, have the honor of knowing the late great Gary Reed of Caliber Comics and was able to look at his Deadworld scripts to get a feel. From there, I mimicked the format—trying my hand at a 23-page script. The story was based on a series I’d written on my blog, a chapter a month. It was about a woman who had the ability to go into the minds of coma patients and bring them out or help them cross over. She had obtained the ability while working as one-half of a bioweapons team for the CIA. That became Norah, he signed me to four issues, and the rest is history. [Ed. Note: Norah art (below) by artist Sean Seal.]
KS: Going totally mainstream for a moment, who’s a well-known character you’d love to try writing a story for? Could be a single issue, a graphic novel, miniseries…
KP: I have a thing for anti-heroes, so I’d love to try my hand at a Punisher one-shot. I also grew up on Conan the Barbarian. A savage epic for Dark Horse is a dream of mine.
KS: How about a comic series or graphic novel that you look at with awe or admiration? What represents the craft being executed at its highest level?
KP: Saga! Vaughan and Staples created a very dense science-fiction universe that centers around a very emotionally captivating story that isn’t metaphysical whatsoever. It’s about an inter-species couple escaping both sides of intergalactic war with their child. No matter how out there it gets, it comes back to center and has more than proven its impact and staying power.
KS: Finally, please tell us about your most recent project.
KP: Seeress is Norse mythology meets The Craft in the style of Heavy Metal. Four self-contained macabre fables make up this comic series about Viking witches on the southern shores of Iceland. It’s illustrated by Jay Jacot.