“It can feel frustrating to be outside your comfort zone, but it’s so rewarding when you level up!” we catch up with Rachael Smith about Isabella and Blodwen and taking a risk with new crowd funding platform Unbound

One of our highlights from the recent Leamington Comic Con, was news of a new book from Wired Up Wrong‘s Rachael Smith called Isabella and Blodwen. As long time fans of her work, stretching back to the early days of House Party, we were super excited and even more intrigued to learn that not only would it be packed full of the beautiful art and pithy wit which we have come to love with her work, but also that she was embracing a new publishing platform, with crowd funding site Unbound. We caught up with Rachael to find out more about the conflicting worlds of ancient witches and contemporary funding platforms! (Which is much more interesting than it sounds!)So tell us a bit about your new book Isabella and Blodwen, what’s the premise and what was the inspiration for it? In your Unbound video you mention an old bottle in an Oxford museum, was that the main inspiration?

Rachael Smith: Yes! The bottle was where the idea came from. It’s been my favourite thing in my favourite museum (Pitt Rivers) for a very long time. The bottle was donated in 1915 by a woman who was a little bit scared of it as she was convinced there was a witch inside. My story is about what happens when the bottle is opened.

We follow Isabella, who, even though she’s only 16, has been selected to attend the prestigious University of Oxford. Isabella is very academically gifted but not so great at getting on with other people. She thinks all her fellow students are idiots. As you’ve probably guessed, Isabella is the person who eventually opens the bottle and lets out Blodwen, a fun-loving and malevolent witch, who turns Isabella’s world upside down.

Judging from the images you have published so far this feels like your most ambitious book yet – with lots of architecture shots and libraries. Is it important for you to push yourself creatively and try new avenues? 

RS: Oh for sure this is my most ambitious project to date. It’s going to be 200 pages long. I am indeed trying to push myself to make the pages really special too (thanks for noticing!) I think it’s always important to push yourself creatively, it can feel frustrating to be outside your comfort zone, but it’s so rewarding when you level up.

Blodwen sounds like a really fun character to write and a chance to really cut loose creatively? What made you choose to have her speak in an olde vernacular and has that created any extra problems for you creatively? 

RS: It made sense for the character for her to speak like that since she is from an ancient time, it would seem a bit odd for her to be like ‘Hey, what up?’ straight away. It also sets her apart even more from Isabella, which helps us understand the characters. It certainly wasn’t something I regretted!

After the incredible personal nature of Wired Up Wrong, are you enjoying working on something which features characters rather than yourself? Or do you still find yourself pouring your own personality into your characters?

RS: I hope I get on with my peers better than Isabella! But yeah I guess there are *some* similarities, but not enough for me to say she’s based on me. It is nice to change gears and work on something very different than Wired Up Wrong. Diary comics and long form stories can both be exhausting and rewarding in their own ways. 

You are publishing it via Unbound – can you tell us a bit about how that works compared to Kickstarter? And how does it compare to your experiences of Kickstarter and even Patreon?

RS: It’s similar to Kickstarter in that I’ve been going about the same way to drum up exposure and interest in the campaign, it’s different in that I can choose how long the campaign runs for. Patreon is a totally different beast because that works more like a subscription.

Were you approached to publish on Unbound or did you approach them?

RS: I think I approached them first with some images and info about the project, and they got back to me saying they’d be really interested in taking it on.

Are we right in thinking the book won’t be released until next year? So how far through the book are you now and does running a campaign at this stage add extra pressure on you to get it finished on time etc.? Or is it all in hand! 

RS: Yeah we’re hoping to release it in Spring 2019. Everything’s in hand, don’t worry! And yeah I’ll be working hard on this for the rest of this year, around other projects.

And finally if you were an ancient witch released from a bottle into 21st century Oxford, what’s the first thing you’d do?

RS: Probably have a bath! With a glass of red wine preferably 🙂

You can support Isabella and Blodwen via Unbound here. And you can find out more about Rachael and her work at rachaelsmith.org

Author: Alex Thomas

Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.