We had the chance recently to sit down with the creator of the fantastic webcomic Unsounded, Ms. Ashley Cope! Read on to find out about Unsounded‘s origins, the truth behind pymary, the delight of writing villains, and more.
Unsounded is at its core an adventure story told in shades of magic and monsters and, most importantly, family. It’s about healthy families and broken families and conventional families and the families you have to make for yourself when your own has rejected you.
I suppose it’s probably also true that I’d have a difficult time finding a publisher interested in Unsounded. It’s a schizophrenic tale, leaping from the lighthearted to the macabre with abandon, and holding very little sacred.
What are the daily (or weekly) rigors, of writing, drawing and maintaining a triweekly webcomic?
Finding a balance between freelance work and comic work is always a challenge. Unsounded is my passion, but freelance pays the bills. Still, I have myself conditioned to keep a healthy buffer of pages so the posting deadline never starts feeling like a real deadline and affecting the quality of my output.
Ultimately the RP ended, but at that point I had both improved my art enough and worked up confidence enough as a storyteller after years of DMing, that I knew I was ready to really buckle down and start the comic. Also I had seen how receptive readers were to other fantasy-themed, page-at-a-time webcomics, so I felt there was an audience for me.
RP taught me a lot about pacing and about keeping people engaged in a story; about how much information to convey and how much to keep close for the big reveal. I suppose it really gave me a love of entertaining people, too. I think there are some creators who could do with running a game or three. We need to always entertain ourselves with our work, but overcoming self-indulgence and putting plot and delivery first can really make a story stand out.
For the magic system, it was important to me that it not come from divinity—that the reader could perceive it as supernatural while in the reality of the comic it would be utterly natural, allowing for copious doubt when it comes to the characters who prate on of concepts and beings that we see no evidence of, a fantasy world with room for atheists.
Politics have only been in the background of the story so far but they will rise to the forefront later. When designing Kasslyne’s world I wanted a real variety of societies, from the socially liberated to the utterly repressed; the honorable to the criminal; but I never wanted anything to fall to absolutes or stereotypes. So already in Cresce with its supposed moneyless economy we hear of bribed police. Already Duane, our supposed white knight, has proven himself bigoted, murderous, and in fact monstrous if the mood takes him just right.
So it’s a world where nothing is allowed to be what it seems, and where Sette’s greed and insistence on pleasing her Da become something of a relief, if only for their transparency.
There is a second character that really charms my muse and he’s only recently been introduced. Murkoph’s a villain, and villains are notoriously enjoyable. He’s a bit of a poet and an aesthete, utterly broken free of the chains of the conventional world. He’s unspeakably horrible and offensive, but the most successful evils are charming in their atrocity.
The rest is the world. Unsounded‘s world is like our world, and it exists on a foundation of destruction and death. Its system is one where the strong survive by exploiting the weak. I refuse to shy away from calling a spade a spade. Death happens. Sex happens. As a creator one can soften the blows or fog the lens but pretending sex and violence stop just because children are involved is not fair to the story or to the children.
None of the horrible stuff is ever meant to be exploitative, but it has to be there. It has to be there as much as any of the other does.
I should probably rethink that rating though, eh?
A lot of the information pertinent to Unsounded‘s story isn’t the kind of info easily illustrated visually. In some ways the entire tale would work better in prose. Being unable to go into expository depth in word balloons makes one have to reconsider what’s truly important to the narrative. For instance, though it feels important to me that every spell be readily explainable in every fight, I had to make myself see that it’s the consequence of an attack that matters most, not the reasoning behind it.
And situations like that in themselves become a new search for balance: instead of text vs. visuals it becomes important vs. dismissible.
On the technical side, Kickstarter does its job very well. It does take a healthy percentage of your earnings for itself, but the tools it provides all through the process are all very well done and helpful. Printing and shipping 1200 books out all by oneself is not easy. I still have at least another month of it, and after that I want to take the rest of the year to produce more Unsounded and get back to work on my freelance. But there will be a volume 2, don’t doubt that. I could see myself announcing it in December. The next volume is significantly longer and will be that much more awesome!
Ashley, thank you so much for your time! Best of luck and continued success with Unsounded!
If you’d like to check out Unsounded, it can be found here.
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