Sarah Cooke, author of No Spell Lasts Forever
I was recently able to interview Sarah Cooke, the author of an upcoming comic that I backed on Kickstarter. The comic is called "No Spell Lasts Forever" and is a noir urban fantasy comic about a magic user who makes a deal with the devil for a second chance at life. As someone who enjoys noir stories and devil based tomfoolery, I was instantly hooked on the concept. Sarah Cooke's background is impressive, she worked for Marvel and DC as a blogger, has written essays on the importance of comic art in storytelling, and much more! Here is the interview I was lucky enough to have with her.
1) No Spell Lasts Forever seems like a perfect mix of magic and noir, what films or stories influenced your writing style for this comic?
Thanks so much! It was very influenced by old noir movies, of course. The one that influences Rosette the most -- and the probably influenced me the most as I was writing it -- was The Big Sleep. Also Casablanca, Double Indemnity, and a few others. I'd also say Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House and Kat Howard's An Unkindness of Magicians informed my writing in terms of the place and role of magic in the world. Those novels both do a great job of creating these shadowy worlds where magic is always there just below the surface, despite the fact that the general public doesn't know it exists. And that's what I was going for with No Spell Lasts Forever. I wanted to create the sense that, underneath what we see on the surface of our day-to-day lives, there's a shady underground where magic is practiced. The person in front of you in line at the grocery store could be a conjurer and you'd have no idea.
2) No Spell Lasts Forever is set in a world centered around magic, is there a magic using character from comics (or otherwise) who has influenced your work the most? Zatanna and John Constantine probably influenced me the most. Their magic is at roughly the power level that I wanted Rosette's to be at, and they often use their magic in scenarios that are more similar to the things Rosette experiences. She's not using her magic to deal with the multiverse like, say, Doctor Strange. And actually, things are in the works for a potential Zatanna-inspired variant for issue #2!
From No Spell Lasts Forever #1, artwork by Aimée Hawley, lettering by Sarah Cooke
3) If there was a No Spell Lasts Forever movie or show coming out tomorrow, who would you want to play Rosette, Sebastian and the Devil? I think either Florence Pugh or Zoë Kravitz would be amazing for Rosette. Like we've seen with her portrayal of Yelena Bolova, Florence is great with characters who have a bit of cockiness, which I love and which Rosette definitely has, too. And Zoë gave her Catwoman this real air of mystery, which is necessary for Rosette, who has to keep both her criminal activity and her magic under wraps at all times. I'd love to see Keke Palmer as the Devil! Our version of the character is playful and funny in a teasing way, even in the face of intense circumstances. I think Keke could pull that off perfectly. And for Sebastian, I think Julio Macias would be great. Or a somewhat younger Oscar Isaac. I think they both have the ability to portray characters who are strong leaders but also tender-hearted.
4) Is there a specific moment that made you want to be a writer?
I've really been a writer my whole life. My Substack is called Killer Tater Tots, after a story I wrote in grade school where tater tots come to life and take over the school. Apparently, my teacher sent a note home saying that, in her humble opinion, I was going to be a writer one day. But I think getting to the point where I could allow myself to do the kind of writing I really wanted to do was a longer process. I've done a lot of writing in professional capacities -- blogging, marketing, and journalism. And in grad school, my concentration was in poetry, which I enjoyed a lot and still love. But there was always a part of me that wanted to write fiction but didn't believe I had what it would take. For a long time, I had myself pretty convinced that character development, story outlining, etc. were all beyond me. That didn't come from anywhere real or logical, it was just self-doubt. I don't know if there was a single moment where I said, "Now I'm going to start writing fiction." For me, it was a more gradual process of learning to give myself permission to do it.
5) What advice would you give to an aspiring comic creator?
I think there are probably two key pieces of advice I'd give to an aspiring comics creator. The first is, find a community of other comics creators and participate in it regularly. I'm a member of the ComixLaunch group on Facebook, started by Tyler James (not to sound like an advertisement, but I highly recommend his courses!), and that group has supported me so much! There's a lot to learn when you're starting out, and having a community to turn to when questions or problems come up is crucial. The groups I'm in have given me advice about crowdfunding, printing, lettering (I've been lettering my own comics), and so much more. They've helped me enormously as far as growing my audience, and they showed up and supported me when I launched my first campaign. And in turn, I try to do as much as I can to support them.
The second piece of advice I have is to just jump in and create! Like I said, there's a lot to learn when it comes to making indie comics, and so much of it is outside of our basic wheelhouse as writers and artists. Printing, tabling at cons, crowdfunding, etc. -- these are things that you don't necessarily learn when you're developing your creative skills. But all that stuff is completely learnable, so don't let stop you from giving it a shot. And don't let self-doubt, impostor syndrome, or a fear of failure stop you, either. I say that as someone who did let it stop me for too long. Just do the work, create your comic, and get feedback and advice from reliable sources in order to continue building your skills.
6) What part of the creation process do you enjoy the most?
As a writer, working on the script is the most fun part of it for me. I'm a pretty introverted person and I tend to spend a lot of time in my head, and writing a script is kind of the ultimate version of that -- when I'm writing, I'm fully inhabiting my own inner world. It allows me to completely immerse myself in the environments and characters I create, and I really enjoy it (even though it can be pretty grueling at times!). That said, I love working with artists, too! It's incredible and humbling to see how beautifully they bring to life these worlds and characters that exist in my head. But it's so much more than that. Their work brings the project into the world in a fully realized way, and they create the final vision for the comic as much as the writer does. Artists often come up with ideas for presenting a panel, page, or scene that I never would have thought of, and I love having the opportunity to collaborate in that way.
7) And the impossible question for last, what is your favorite movie of the last decade?
It's so hard, lol! I always have a tough time answering questions like this because I love different movies, books, etc. for different reasons, and trying to choose one over another can feel like comparing apples to oranges. But I can at least narrow it down to a few favorites. I'd say Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, Get Out, Lady Bird, Avengers: Infinity War, and The Batman are probably my top five.
No interview lasts forever! I hope you enjoyed it, and thank you to Sarah Cooke for taking the time to answer my questions! Keep an eye out for No Spell Lasts Forever when it's released, it's going to be an adventure you don't want to miss!