by Jamison Ashley
Blake Northcott is a talented creator, writer, social media master, kick-ass Kickstarter, and arguably easy on the eyes.
Readers are likely familiar with Blake’s work whether it’s The Arena Mode trilogy or the comic books Fathom and Executive Assistant Iris. Blake has also been a contributor to Comic Book Resources, Geeks of Doom, CBS Man Cave, and was an ambassador at Millarworld.
Her debut full-length novel Arena Mode became the highest-grossing superhero book on Kickstarter and their third most successful publishing fiction project that year. When it comes to crowdfunding, Blake’s three books in the Arena Mode saga are still the highest grossing science-fiction series of all time and was nominated for a BSFA Award, and has been ranked #1 on Amazon.
In The North Valley Grimoire, magic is leaking into our world, and an oppressive government will stop at nothing to keep it a secret. It’s starts at the infancy of an Orwellian society, where instead of suppressing information, they’re suppressing magic. Blake cites George RR Martin as one of her biggest influences for the series.
“I’m a huge fan of both the books and the GAME OF THRONES TV series. I love how Martin introduces us to a world that feels historically accurate—yet beneath the surface the supernatural is always present.” “And Martin’s rule about nobody being safe,” she adds, “is one I’m implementing in this series. Magic won’t be used for time travel or reviving the dead—once someone is killed, they won’t be coming back. It’s too easy to use magic as a cheat for taking narrative shortcuts. I want my readers to be on the edge of their seats knowing that no one is safe.”
Blake was kind enough to contact Bleeding Fool recently to clue us in on her crowdfunding efforts for The North Valley Grimoire a novel she’s been working on over the past three years.
BF: The North Valley Grimoire is being described as a “1984 meets The Craft magical spy thriller”. What’s the pitch?
Blake: It’s a world where magic is leaking into our reality, and the government is trying to keep a lid on it. The story starts as a murder mystery and evolves into cat-and-mouse spy thriller of sorts, with hints of magic sprinkled throughout.
BF: Where did this unusual concept originate?
Blake: That’s a good question. I think it’s because I wanted to do something a little more outside the box. Arena Mode fused to familiar concepts, and that was by design -- a Hunger Games, Battle Royale style tournament with superheroes. I wanted to answer the ‘who would win?’ debates that have been going on since forever. But with The North Valley Grimoire I wanted to explore magic in a way that wasn’t for a YA audience. It’s not a teen romance or a silly kids adventure -- it’s dangerous. Magic is a weapon, and people die. There are very real stakes, and that’s the basis for the story.
BF: Executive Assistant: Iris was just relaunched at Aspen, and you’ve just completed a run writing Fathom, and you’re slated to co-write NO WORLD in November with Scott Lobdell. With so many ongoing writing projects on your plate, what is your typical work week like? Do you want more on your work load or are you feeling good about where your career is right now?
Blake: My week is basically: gym, write, sleep, repeat. And I don’t take weekends off! It’s hectic, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. At this point I’d love to take on a little more and do a couple more comics. I’m working on a Vampirella Halloween comic, and that announcement just came out, so that’s pretty exciting. Who knows what else I’ll be dong in 2019?
BF: All of your Kickstarter campaigns have been successful. In fact, this one appears this one has surpassed it’s goal too and is moving into the stretch goals. Congrats! What do you attribute your perfect batting average to?
Blake: Ha! I never thought of it that way. I guess I’m four-for-four at this point. I don’t know, really. I’m just glad my work is resonating and connecting with readers. I try to stay active online and hear their feedback and chat with them as much as my schedule allows. That seems to slowly but surely build my readership.
BF: You are very active online. (Readers can follow Blake on Twitter at @BlakeNorthcott) Do you have any tips for other creators who are launching their first crowdfunding campaign? You must have learned a lot from doing this a few times.
Blake: I’d say pick a (social media) platform or two, and really set up a presence. Whether that’s Twitter, YouTube, Instagram or wherever, it’s important to make a name and then launch afterwards. It’s actually easier for artists because it’s a visual medium -- just draw a lot and post a lot. For writers it’s a little trickier, but you need to get your voice out there.
BF: Any tips for other creators who want to forgo the crowdfunding and get work writing for publishers like Aspen, or other imprints?
Blake: Start small and build. Six years ago I was offering to write articles for free, and I was knocking on every door I could. I self-published work on Amazon Kindle and that’s free as well. Just get your work and your name out there by any means necessary, and eventually the bigger companies will start knocking on your door.
Be undeniable. When you’ve made a name for yourself, your work will always have a home somewhere.
BF: Are you still involved with Millarworld?
Blake: No, not at the moment. I still chat with Mark here and there, but he’s a busy guy with his new Netflix deal so he doesn’t really get out to cons. Plus, he lives in Scotland with his family and I’m in Canada, so it’s not like we can meet at the pub for a drink. I’d go back and help him with whatever he needed in a heartbeat, though. He’s been a fantastic mentor over the years, and is such a wonderfully giving person. I’ve learned so much from him.
BF: Is Roc’s art finished for Grimoire? The Kickstarter page says that this will be the first and only printing of this edition with the exclusive cover, illustrations and will never be available in stores or on Amazon. Will an edition without illustrations be available at a later time if this campaign reaches your stretch goals?
Blake: Some of the illustrations are complete. This is a one-and-done printing, with the special cover, interior artwork, and all the rest of it. This is the upgraded special edition that’s for collectors who like prestige formats for their bookshelves. When it’s out later on mass-market paperback it will just be a boring old book with no pictures.
As stretch goals get met, my idea is to add foil stamping and embossing, upgraded cover stock, and other add-ons like bookmarks, stickers and fun things to pack in with the book.
BF: Are you thinking of adding any additional stretch goals if the campaign REALLY takes off and supersedes your previous campaigns?
Blake: A super stretch goal? Wow, I hadn’t thought of that! Once I knock off the first two we’ll see what I add for a third or fourth. It’ll be a surprise! (see video embedded below)
BF: Who’s going to be reading the audiobook version of the book?
Blake: Good question, and the answer is: I don’t know. I have a couple really talented and reliable voice actors on speed dial though! Whoever I get will do a fantastic job, I promise you.
BF: Before we warp up, can you run down the top four ‘Northcottverse™’ (copyright pending) rules of magic that apply in your world of North Valley Grimoire and tell us why they’re in place?
Blake: Yeah these rules are becoming pretty popular! Here they are:
1. Magick can’t bring someone back from the dead.
2. No time travel.
3. North Valley is a ghost-free zone.
4. No parallel timelines or dimensions.
Basically I never want to use it as a cheat. In North Valley, magick is a deadly weapon, and there are real consequences to abusing it. That’s why there are multiple point-of-view characters in my book. I don’t want the reader to feel like anyone is safe!
You can find out so much more over at Blake’s Kickstarter page for The North Valley Grimoire here and even read a sample chapter here.The illustrations in this article were done by the award-winning Roc Upchurch who is contributing 10 full page, full color illustrations for the novel.