Arena Mode, Assault or Attrition, Blake Northcott, Comicbookgirl19, dystopias, Graphic Novel, indie writers, Internet trolls, Kickstarter, Mark McKenna, misogynism, Self Publishing, Steve McNiven, Superhero
Today we are VERY lucky to have an interview with Blake Northcott, who some may remember as @ComicBookGrrl on Twitter but who has now emerged as Canada’s hot new writing talent. Her previous novels – Vs reality, Relapse and Arena Mode – hit bestseller lists on Amazon in the US and UK and her latest offering, Assault or Attrition, is already fully funded through a Kickstarter campaign.
Assault or Attrition, another hybrid of the traditional novel format and the graphic novel like Arena Mode, has seen Northcott work with some promising collaborators such as Steve McNiven (Guardians of the Galaxy, Civil War, Uncanny Avengers) and Mark McKenna (Star Wars: Old Republic, Justice League, Combat Jacks) as well as COMICBOOKGIRL19 (The Comic Book Girl 19 Show) among others and is set in the same dystopian superhero continuity as Arena Mode. We talked to her about her work, the trend for self publishing via Kickstarter and the perils of online misogynism.
D.A Lascelles: You’ve done really well in the last few years, seeming to effortlessly hit bestseller lists on Amazon with your books (Arena Mode #1 in Amazon UK). How much of that was luck and how much was due to hard work?
Blake Northcott: That is a funny question. I don’t think anyone gets anywhere without hard work, but maybe there is an element of luck in there, too? Sometimes there is a ‘right place, right time’ event that kind of comes along, and maybe the people in the UK just really wanted to read a book about superheroes?
Either way I’m grateful!
BN: Arena Mode is more ‘world building’ – it sets up a universe in 2041 where the economy has kinda gone to hell, and superheroes just happen to exist. It follows a lifelong underachiever, Matthew Moxon, though some big challenges.
The story, if I had to sum it up, would be ‘Marvel and DC collides with The Hunger Games’, although that’s pretty simplistic. There’s more to it than that…at least I think there is?
Assault or Attrition deals with the fallout from the first book, and it’s heading in a completely different direction.
DL: You talk about Arena Mode and Assault or Attrition being a blending of novels and graphic novels. Why did you choose to follow that route rather than opt for one or the other?
BN: Because I love both genres, and always wanted to do a hybrid of sorts – this was my happy medium. I get to write a novel, but have a comic book flavor by adding some artwork, without the need to make one person commit to an entire 22-page issue along with an inker, colorer and all that.
DL: Assault or Attrition has garnered a lot of support from some quite big names in comic art. Are you surprised at this? What was it like working with these people?
BN: I’m surprised every day!
Working with some heavyweights from Marvel and DC is very humbling. They’re so talented and I’m learning so much from them. They’re all nice….well, one of them is a dick. You know who you are.
That was a joke. Sort of.
DL: Kickstarter seems to be the ‘in thing’ for self published writers looking to fund their writing. Could you describe your experiences with this method? How do you see the use of this method developing in the future?
BN: I see a lot of huge publishers elbowing their way into the space at the moment, but that was inevitable. I would like to see it stay kind of ‘indie’, for people who can’t find a home with a major publisher, but there’s no way to keep the sharks out the little pond, it seems – once they see the potential for profit they’ll jump in.
But overall, it’s still a pretty fair marketplace. My experience is that I can get exposure to a new audience that would not normally have seen my books, in a way that simply isn’t possible on Amazon, or anywhere else.
Plus selling a physical book on Amazon is so cost-prohibitive that there is almost no upside to it. Kickstarter allows me to produce a high-quality book, printed in America, and add all sorts of bells and whistles to the packages so people get more for their money.
BN: Self publishing is the ultimate raw material. It’s a lump of clay, and you make whatever you want out of it.
I’m a dorky Canadian woman who does sci-fi/superhero books with comic book art in them. That’s what I’ve made out of it so far, and every single writer does their own unique thing with the platform.
DL: There has been a lot of strife on social media over the ‘fake geek girl’ scandal and a whole host of issues surrounding the sexism in geekdom – specifically in the gaming industry. What is your stance on this? Is Geekdom becoming more enlightened over time or reverting back to more misogynistic roots? How do you think this issue can be tackled?
BN: I think that the trolls can be far more easily dealt with by ignoring them.
That sounds simplistic, but really, the whole ‘You’re a fake geek girl!’ thing can be crushed by just not letting the trolls voice their stupid opinions. There are a handful of dicks out there, but most people aren’t sexist or mean – they just want to engage and share what they love.
And I love debates and opposing opinions – that’s what an open discussion is all about – but when someone is being intentionally rude or aggressive, I block or unfriend them, and delete their post immediately. It’s that easy. I don’t get all upset and make a big thing about it – I just get rid of them and move on.
Let’s face it – 99% of people are pretty cool. But there is always gonna be that one jackass who wants to screw up the party for everyone. Instead of letting that dick become the center of attention, let’s just move past him and discuss awesome stuff.
Assault or Attrition has, at the time of writing, exceeded its funding goal on Kickstarter and so should very soon be available to buy or download. However, the Kickstarter is still open so you can hop on and claim some of the rewards.