I really like ghost stories. I think they’re an important part of how we express ourselves, how we interact with the things we don’t understand, with the things that might be a bit beyond us. It’s funny, because while I’m hit or miss on horror, I’m always in for a good ghost story. I see where the two are linked, but they’re not really the same for me. Ghosts aren’t really scary, not in and of themselves. They’re echoes and memories, yes, sometimes of fear, but not always.
Whit Taylor is an independent comics creator and a regular contributor for The Nib. She has a new collection out this month of ghost stories she’s written, aptly titled Ghost Stories. The book collects three tales about three different kinds of ghosts, each a thoughtful examination of some very familiar, universal concepts. We chatted a bit about the book below.
You’ve said previously how themes of “culture, race, mental health, friendships, and relationships” are what motivate you and draw you in. You’ve definitely crafted a niche for yourself that’s outside of what the traditional layman thinks of when they imagine what comics are. Is that an intentional effort to showcase a broader spectrum of what comics can be about for you, or is it a side effect of just not being interested in things like capes and tights?
I think that it’s a combination of the two. I have an appreciation for mainstream comics and grew up reading superhero comics, but it’s not been something that I’ve aspired to create myself (at least not right now). Yes, I’ve wanted to explore topics that have not gotten as much attention traditionally, such as race, mental health, and cultural issues, because I want to see more representation and discussion around them. I think that comics is a medium that is great for breaking down difficult topics in a welcoming and entertaining way. Mostly though, these topics interest me personally and that is usually the greatest motivator for making a comic.
Ghost Stories certainly seems to continue that exploration of personal themes, so the solicits would indicate. I know I’m intrigued by the idea of stories that feature hauntings as an impetus for introspection and personal reflection. Can you tell us a little bit more about this book?
Sure! I wrote a novella-length comic called Ghost in 2015, which centered around the idea of meeting a former version of yourself and coming to terms with all of the things (in this case trauma) which can make you separate from who you were before that. The story allowed me to weave personal experiences in with the fantasy of being able to meet dead historical figures and learn from them.
Bill Campbell from Rosarium approached me about re-publishing it and expanding on it, so I decided to create a book with three types of ghost stories. I included another minicomic I made last year, Wallpaper, which is a story that is told through the patterns of the protagonist’s childhood. It deals with the loss of a loved one as well as the memories that haunt you from childhood.
The last story, Makers, I wrote specifically for the book and is again semi-autobiographical. It’s about being “ghosted” in a friendship and looking back at what preceded and followed it.
What inspired you to build these personal stories around the central idea of hauntings?
I think that everyone is haunted by something! It’s a universal experience that presents itself in many ways from ex-relationships, to deaths, to coming to terms with former selves. Even if the examples in this book are specific, my hope is that the theme is relatable.
Does this book have any strong ties to previous works, or does it continue/expand on the themes built in those works?
It started with Ghost, really. I’m sure that I carried that theme into Wallpaper subconsciously. Then, with the book opportunity, it just made sense to collect them and expand upon it.
With the release of Ghost Stories, how far ahead are you looking? Do you have other projects coming soon that we can look forward to?
I plan to continue doing shorter pieces for the web, editing (I am starting as a guest editor for PEN Illustrated this fall), and working on some long-form projects, that I can’t get into quite yet. I’m very excited (and nervous) for all of it though!
Thank you, Whit, for doing an interview with us! Ghost Stories released in January and can be found in major bookstores. Look forward to a review right here on WWAC in the near future!