Writer Interview: The Next Big Thing (I’m the interviewee this time)

I’ve been tagged twice now for The Next Big Thing, by J. M. Blackman and Devin Harnois, so in honor of the new year and all, here goes. Watch this spot for an update on the next blogs I’m linking to for the interview challenge, since I have been  hibernating for the last two weeks and am behind on all of my correspondence.


What is your working title of your book?
Annie Brown and the Superhero Blues

Where did the idea come from for the book?
In summer 2011, Samhain Publishing issued a special call for superhero romance. I learned about them because my writing colleague Devin Harnois had published with them and spoke well of their professionalism and contract terms. I decided to go for it and try my first ever write-edit-submit marathon. Essentially the zero draft was written in under a month, edited to first draft in a week, and submitted. It got rejected, because (a) the front end needed some work (opening’s my classic weakness) and (b) I fail at writing standard romance.

What genre does your book fall under?
Superhero Comedy-Adventure, if that’s a genre. I suppose contemporary fantasy would cover it, though as one of my beta-readers, BrainSister, pointed out, it shares thematic territory with Young Adult (coming-of-age and sorting out family relationships) even if the main characters are college-age.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Actually, given current Hollywood practice of 70-80% white male leading characters and White-only casting calls, I think it unlikely that Annie Brown would be on anybody’s radar. (The only characters identified as White in this story are the exotic cross-cultural love interest, Bertie the Barista, who is English, and the celebrity Bad Girl, Courtney Bland, who is American. Oh yeah, and some minor corporate Supervillains.) I would want any casting director to respect the ethnicities and appearances of the characters as written: Annie is basically an African-American geek girl who’s also a superhero. She’s stocky and wears glasses and is most emphatically not a supermodel type.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Geek-girl superhero Annie Brown takes on parental expectations, star-crossed crushes, and Evil Incorporated her own way.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
This book will be independently published by Glass Knife Press. I have zero call for an agent at this point. For contract negotiations, I engage an intellectual property attorney.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About three weeks, with an additional week for first-pass revisions. I am picking it up now for revisions prior to publication. The original manuscript is about 30,000 words. To judge from past practice, I’ll be moving pieces of backstory around and adding scenes where previously I had narrative summary. It opens with a family argument and I want to make the most of that.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Oh man, given my genre confusion, I’m not sure. The only influence I was aware of was the deadpan goofballery of the world-building, which is influenced by J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and the set design, which is straight out of The Steampunk Bible.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I wanted to write a superhero with common sense; immediately the character who popped into mind was a second-generation African-American superhero, who has about two or three layers of culture clash with the Superhero Establishment. I still remember when they first had black superheroes in the 1970s, when last I was reading comics, and you could just feel how squicky the whiteboy majority felt about having their clubhouse invaded. The sixties and seventies only opened the campaign for inclusion; the fight for equal recognition (read “human being status”) for people of color, women, LGBTQ is still going on in comics, games, and popular media generally. And the vigilante-hothead subtext of the superhero as American myth is really interesting and problematic, so yeah—a nice big mine-field to tap-dance through.

The drafting process was pretty much a dare, per usual, because I get way better stuff when I write fast enough to get out of my own way. It was the first time I proposed the Lost Weekend Novella (30,000 words in three days). I also set myself the challenge of being as derivative as possible without writing out-and-out fan-fiction, so the plotting and setup is Shakespearean comedy, the cameo monster is from Lovecraft, and about half the costuming is from the Steampunk Bible, comic books, or 70s-80s TV science fiction shows; I’ve laced the thing with more pop-culture references than I usually do. Annie herself took shape spontaneously so I suspect she is a child of the Muse of Real Life. And then of course, there’s the usual Beaumont Challenge: throw in everything but the kitchen sink, and see what coalesces out of primal chaos.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The original challenge said the romance could be M/F, M/M, or F/F. So I said, “goody! I’ll take one of each!” There’s an AU take on the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power, a huge universe with aliens who are not necessarily out to get us, steampunk wizard kids from another dimension, and the multi-cultural (indeed multi-species) geeks of Intergalactic Forensics.

I generated a whole universe full of possibility and had a ball doing it. So once I’ve edited this into a shapely form, I think that readers will enjoy it.

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