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Sep 19

Blake Northcott VS Reality

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Blake Northcott made her way through her teens the way most of us do; awkward, out of place, just wanting to fit in. At fourteen and 5’9”, she was convinced she was the ugly duckling. Not an unusual story, but certainly one a lot of us can relate to. Unable to find much happiness or popularity with cheerleading, she delved into movies and comics.

“It turns out that becoming a comic geek didn’t make me popular either, but oh well. At least I was happy,” says Northcott.

Now you may be thinking, “Well, it’s dandy that we have things in common, but who is Blake Northcott?” Well shush a minute and I’ll tell you.

Toronto-based author Blake Northcott is the brains behind the new e-book, “Vs. Reality”, a fast-paced action novel about people able to manifest super powers through the help of an experimental drug known as ‘Muse’. A fan of the work of Mark Millar, she speaks French, lived in Japan for a period of time, has a deep interest in mixed martial arts, a guilty pleasure for the reality show “The Bachelor” and can’t go a day without cheese.

And she agreed to talk to GVL about the whole thing:

Karma: What started your interest in writing?

Blake: I’ve always loved storytelling going back to my childhood, but I never really knew how I could make a living at it, or even get my work in front of people. Writing a screenplay was always a dream, but it always seemed impossible for a girl from Toronto to get her work in front of a Hollywood executive, so I started with a book.
It seemed like a logical choice, especially now that anyone can self-publish online.

K: Did you first think of self-publishing or did you sent it to publishing companies first?

B: The goal was always to self-publish. I didn’t want anyone telling me what content to change, what to add and what to delete. I just had this vision and I wanted it out there for people to read. Whether they loved it or hated it, I just wanted it to be mine.

K: So when you first began writing ‘Vs.. Reality’ was it always your intention to publish it?

B: Yes, absolutely. I wanted the feedback from people. It’s a scary process, but if you never get your work in front of readers, you’re kind of living in a bubble.

K: Can you talk about how this idea first got started?

B: The concept of regular people who become super powered was always something I loved, but I always read a comic or watched a movie and thought “I would NEVER do that”. I figured that if random people around the world started manifesting abilities, the vast majority wouldn’t go out and buy spandex and a cape – most would figure out a way to use their power for personal gain. That’s something I wanted to explore.
Having characters who need a drug to maintain their abilities was just another layer I wanted to add, creating some inner conflict. That premise eventually became the ‘hook’ of the series – in the first promotional poster for Vs. Reality, the tag-line was “Some addictions can’t be treated in rehab”.
Everything sort of stemmed from those two concepts.

K: Most people would relate the concept of people around the world manifesting powers to X-men or even Heroes. Were either among your inspirations? What was?

B: No, not so much. The concept of people with superpowers of course inspired me, but I think I was more inspired by my favorite movies and TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Matrix, and even old classics like Alice in Wonderland.
Essentially Vs. Reality is a ‘down the rabbit hole’ story where the main character, Donovan Cole, gets tossed into this insane world that he didn’t know existed. I always like it when a story starts like that, and you get to take a journey along with Neo, Alice, or in my case, Cole.

K: ‘Reality’ in ‘Vs Reality’ is just wee bit different than life as we know it. Can you describe the world that this story takes place in? (Politically, Economically etc)

B: In Vs. Reality, the world is basically socialism on a global scale: it becomes apparent that things are heading towards disaster with terrorism, war, nuclear weapons, etc., so all the major countries decide to come together with a solution. They vow to leave behind cultural differences, religious intolerance and all the nonsense that causes hatred, and form a single government called ‘The New World Council’. Within five years all the conflicts come to an end, poverty and starvation become things of the past, and every country disarms their nuclear arsenals. I know the idea of people being rational and working together for a common good is ridiculous, but hey, this is fiction.
On the surface I wanted a softer, gentler world, and see then how it would deal with people manifesting super powers. Dystopian books are so popular now – I wanted to go in the other direction and do a Utopian book. Although as we start to find out towards the end of Vs. Reality, utopia comes with its own set of problems.

K: I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t read the book yet, but some of the characters make some pretty bold comments on society and government that some would say are applicable to our current society and government. Was this intentional or just the “side effects”, so to speak, of telling the story?

B: It was intentional, but at the same time every character has a unique voice. Some are motivated by money, some by their ego, and some by their need for an adrenaline rush – so everyone has their own world view, and their own set of personal needs.
I had one reader Email me and say “I loved the book, but I think you were too hard on George Bush!” I actually laughed out loud at my desk. I don’t know how you could read Vs. Reality – which is basically non-stop action and adventure – and pick THAT out of the book.
A couple readers picked up on some of the political and social themes, but out of every Email I’ve received I think only two have commented on it. So if people are intrigued, offended or otherwise, they’re not really letting me know!

K: Well while I’d say it’s present, I wouldn’t call it the dominant theme by any means! XD

B: No, definitely not, but I do have some issues in there. Hopefully no one gets offended by Volume 2. There are no references to George Bush, so that should make at least two people happy.

K: A trend I have noticed more and more with contemporary writers is the influence of other medias—what media forms helped construct ‘Vs Reality’? Comics, Movies?—it does seem to have a fantastic cinematic feel.

B: Thank you! Well, I definitely laid it out as if it were a big-budget action/sci-fi/comic book movie, so the fact that people keep coming to me and saying Vs. Reality ‘felt’ like a movie, and that they could picture it like it was a movie as they read it, makes me very happy. At least I accomplished what I was going for to some degree.
So yeah, definitely it was based on my love for comic books, as well as the fast pace and flow of my favourite action films.

K: Which character was the most fun to write?

B: Probably Jens. He’s just such an arrogant jerk, but he sees himself as one step ahead of everyone else around him. And I make him swear a lot, which is fun because I’m a fan of the spicy talk.
Govinda was great as well, because he’s evil. Evil is fun to write because when you’re the bad guy you can say pretty much anything you want, and you typically get some of the best lines. That’s why we all love Hannibal Lecter, Darth Vader and Hans Gruber – they’re just so bad you have to love them, and they’re the most fun characters to create.

K: Totally. Any character you struggled with?

B: No, not really. I always create characters that have personality traits and backgrounds similar to people I already know, or knew at some point. So it helps to feel like I’m ‘in their head’ a little bit.
If I don’t feel like I can convincingly pull off a character, I won’t do it – I don’t want anything to come off as inauthentic.
Stories are 100% about characters, and if they feel hollow it doesn’t matter how great everything else is – the book, movie, comic or TV show will fall flat.

K: I’m usually a little apprehensive when I see a book written in present-tense but in this case, I think the format lent perfectly to the fast-pace and suspense. Did you experiment with format or did you know how it would be laid out from the start?

B: To be honest I just started writing and that’s how it came out! After a few thousand words I was reading it back and realised it was present tense, so I went with it.
It just kind of worked since the action was so fast paced, and I wanted to throw the reader into the mix with the characters.

K: How has ‘Vs Reality’ been received?

B: Very well, actually. Sales were great right from the beginning, and it debuted at #56 for ‘Science Fiction, Fantasy and Magic’ for the Amazon Kindle, which was one spot ahead of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
After a month it slipped from the top #100 in that category, but sales are still strong. As of right now I’m maintaining a 4.8 out of 5 star rating on Amazon, and the feedback has been awesome.
The positive reaction definitely motivated me to get working on Volume 2, and make it even better than the first one.

K: Are there any plans for physical copies of the book?

B: That’s definitely possible. A day doesn’t go by when there isn’t at least one request for a physical copy, so I’m looking into that right now.

K: What has been the most challenging about this process?

B: Editing. The sleepless nights I spent reading a chapter over and over and over again…and still missing basic spelling mistakes.

K: Any surprises?

B: Writing a book is hard. Way harder than I expected, even with all my notes to work from. And I was surprised how much longer it took me than I had expected, mostly because I was an idiot and never wrote a solid outline. I will never make that mistake again!

K: Since you brought up good ol’ JK… I remember long before book 7 was even being worked on, she had the final chapter written (supposedly) and was even so bold as to tease the interview camera by waving around the folder. Do you have the series arc all figured out for ‘Vs Reality’ or are you kind of on the journey with your readers and working it out as you go?

B: It’s a three book story arc, and from the beginning I had the first book pretty much laid out, a lot of the second, and some of the big finale for number three.
Back in 2010 the very first thing I wrote was one of the last chapters of Vs. Reality Volume 1. So at least for the first part, I had a very concrete idea of where I wanted to head with it.
Of course things always change, and evolve as you create, and I’m finding that out as I go.

K: What advice would you give to other new writers?

B: 1. Write a lot, and don’t let a day go by without writing at least something – even if it’s a blog post.
2. Start a blog.
3. Tweet.
4. Remember that Red Bull is your friend.
5. Do whatever it takes to get your story out there.

K: Would you recommend self-publishing?

B: Yes! It’s fun, it’s free, and it offers unlimited creative freedom. I’m not saying I’ll never work with a publisher, because I never say never. But there is something liberating about just focusing on the creative side, and not working to please some publisher.

K: What can we expect from ‘Relapse’, the next installment of the series? What are you excited for?

B: More character development. This is the middle book, and I ratchet down the action just a little and focus on building relationships between the main players now that everyone knows who they are.

There will of course be some of the same elements from volume one – with gratuitous violence and some four-letter words – but Relapse will have some big twists in the story that will definitely shock some readers.

The only guarantee I can make is that you will not put down Volume 2 and feel that nothing happened – everything gets shaken up, and the final chapter is a game-changer.

K: Now ‘Relapse’ was scheduled to make it’s debut in October, but as you announced on Thursday, the game plan had to change due to some really exciting news about another book release happening in January. Would you mind telling us about this project and how you were contacted?

B: Sure! a few weeks back I was contacted by John Ceallach, who is a writer, producer and actor. He has been working with Randy J. Goodwin from ‘The Vampire Diaries’ on a TV series that is in development called ‘Luna’. It’s a werewolf/action series that will appeal to the fans of the The Vampire Diaries, but it has a harder edge – almost like the show ‘24’.

He read Vs. Reality and saw the positive reviews I received, so he recruited me to work on a book series for Luna. A few Emails and phone calls was all it took, and I was on board. Everything else pretty much fell into place after that.

Of course I’m in the middle of Relapse, so it was a tough choice, but I couldn’t turn down this opportunity. I’ll be working on Luna, and Relapse will be slightly delayed. I don’t have an ETA for it yet, because it’s going to be a bit of a struggle to get Luna out for January as it is, but I’ll keep everyone posted.

‘Luna’ is scheduled to make it’s debut in January 2012 in both bookstores and online. If you would like to purchase ‘VS. Reality’ and read it for yourself (and why wouldn’t you?) you can find it on amazon.com.

We at Geek-Vs-Life were thrilled Blake was willing to talk with us and hope to catch up with her in the future about her journey as a working author. And to anyone who has criticized e-books or self-publishing, I would direct you to this success story and simply say, “Suck it.”

For more information about Blake and updates on her work you can visit her website (http://www.blakenorthcott.com/), check out her facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/#!/Vs.Reality) or follow her on twitter (@ComicBookGrrl).

13 comments

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  1. Blake Northcott

    Thanks for the interview, Karma!

    It was a lot of fun. I hope we can do it again once Luna is out, and I have more to talk about. I’m sure I’ll embarass myself several times betwen now and then, so I should have a couple good stories to tell. :-)

    xox

  2. Paul Rudd

    Great interview. A brilliant success story for a self-published author.
    Vs Reality is a fantastic read too. Can’t wait for Luna.
    Well done Blake.

    1. Blake Northcott

      Thanks Paul! I really appreciate it. Update on Luna is coming soon…

  3. Daniel Zazitski

    Great interview Blake, looking foward to reading Relapse when it comes out.

    1. Blake Northcott

      Thank you Daniel! I’m working hard on Relapse but I have Luna in the works as well — I will have some more information available shortly about both projects. :)

  4. Amy Leigh Strickland

    It’s very exciting to see success for indie writers. I loved Vs. Reality and I’m glad that it has brought other exciting projects.

    1. Blake Northcott

      Thank you so much, Amy!!

  5. Jennifer Joseph

    So happy for you, Blake! A much deserved surprise even though I was looking forward to reading Relapse soon. :)

    1. Blake Northcott

      Thank you Jennifer! At the moment I’m actually bouncing back and forth between Luna and Relapse…it’s making my head spin.

  6. Cassie

    Add me to the tally for a paper-book-in-my-hand copy of Vs. Reality, followed by the graphic novel. Who would be your dream illustrator?

    1. Blake Northcott

      Thank you Cassie!!

      We’ll see about the paperback of VsR. I’m aiming for 2012, but that’s about as specific a date as I have at the moment.

      My dream illustrator? Hands down it would be Alex Maleev, with a cover painted by Alex Ross. And maybe a variant cover by Jim Lee or J.Scott Campbell just for retro-appeal.

      1. Karma

        I love Jim Lee’s work. Some of the best anatomy I’ve seen in comic books.

  7. nowe mieszkania w lublinie

    Really clean web blog , thankyou for this text.

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