So my fantastically talented friend Amber Benson tagged me in this “Next Big Thing” chain letter meme thing, wherein you fill out a questionnaire about a current or upcoming project you’ve been working on. Amber suggested I talk about the superhero novel I decided to write after I finished “One Con Glory” (to be clear: this is not a sequel. I already wrote those).
I just completed a big draft of this book and am currently in Revision Mode – i.e. Crazy-Eyed Unfit for Human Interaction Mode – so some of what I’m about to say is subject to change. Maybe it will be about giant mecha-unicorn slumber parties the next time I talk to you.
But for now, here’s what it is.
The Next Big Thing: HEROINE COMPLEX
(Note: not from my book. More on this later.)
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I’ve wanted to write a book about an Asian-American superheroine for a while. As a young, impressionable comic book fiend, I was always trying to find that character that looked like me, that supergirl I could believably dress up as for Halloween. The closest thing was Jubilee – who, with her excessive exuberance and eye-searing yellow trenchcoat, mostly annoyed the fuck out of me. (Sorry, Jubes fans – I appreciate her way more now.)
Years later, it finally occurred to me that I could write that character myself. (But not dress up as her – that’s some weird, meta level of super-vanity that hurts my head when I even halfway comprehend it.)
When I really started to think about this idea, I realized I wanted to explore the less glamorous side of heroine-dom – the annoying shit that happens when you’re not kicking some evil demon’s ass with the four-inch heel of your incredibly glamorous thigh-high boot. What I ultimately came up with was the story of Evie Tanaka, the much put-upon personal assistant to San Francisco’s most beloved superheroine. Evie’s pretty excellent at getting demon blood out of leather pants, handling her boss’s epic diva temper tantrums, and blending into the background. What she’s not good at is making grown-up decisions, allowing herself to experience actual emotions, or living up to her full potential…but of course, that’s about to change, or there wouldn’t be a story. And that story involves Evie being forced to step into her boss’s shoes and experience heroine-dom in all its messy glory.
What genre does your book fall under?
Well, before I had a working title, I referred to it as “Untitled Humorous Superhero Urban Fantasy With A Strong Romance Element” or simply “UHSUFWASRE.” I actually still kind of like to refer to it this way.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Shockingly, I don’t have a fantasy cast for this one. (“Shockingly” because fantasy casting my current projects is usually how I waste my time when I’m procrastinating.) I will say, however, that I loved, loved, loved Julia Cho and Janice Lee in “Maria of the Lu,” the side story spin-off of “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” – and something about their dynamic together reminded me very strongly of Evie’s relationship with her terrifyingly clever teenage sister, Bea. (By the way, “Maria of the Lu” was written by my brilliant friend Margaret Dunlap – I think you should go watch the whole thing instead of reading this post.)
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
After being forced to pose as her diva-esque superheroine boss, a wallflowerish personal assistant must take control of her aimless life in order to prevent a full-on demon invasion.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I can’t talk about this part just yet. Stay tuned!
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I have tried to figure this out many times and I honestly have no idea. I started it at the end of 2010, did some work on it last year in between other projects, and finally had the time to work on it diligently in the later part of this year. If you smushed all the days I was actually working on it together, it would equal a number of months that is either kickassingly awesome or incredibly depressing.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I would actually point to something in another medium – the early ’90s Hong Kong action flick “The Heroic Trio” (pictured above). It features a trio of female superheroes who band together against evil, eventually become celebrities, and wear all manner of crazy outfits (goggles! Skintight red bodysuits! Hair blowing in the wind-machined wind!). Also, one of them has an adorable scientist love interest with glasses. Which might happen in my book, too.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Beyond what I mentioned earlier… I guess I also wanted to write a book with strong relationships between women. One of my favorite X-Men stories is the “Uncanny” issue “Ladies’ Night,” wherein a bunch of X-Women go hang out at the mall together – as slight as that story may seem, it really highlights their friendships.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I’d like to think that Evie has a funny, neurotic, enjoyably weird voice people will appreciate. The last thing she wants is to be a superheroine – so when she’s forced to pose as one, she thinks about stuff regular people would. Like how uncomfortable glamorous thigh-high boots with four-inch heels are when you have to wear them for an extended period of time.
And did I mention the adorable scientist love interest with glasses?
All right – shout-outs to the people who were tagged along with me on Amber’s blog! Hello to Bradley P. Beaulieu, Carolyn Cohagan, Sina Grace, and Kate Noble (who is my favorite romance novelist and the Stacey McGill to my Claudia Kishi)!
Here are the fine folks I’m tagging:
Javier Grillo-Marxuach is the creator of the TV show “The Middleman” – if you know me at all, you know this is one of my favorite things of all time. He’s also worked as a writer-producer on a ton of other shows (like “Lost” and “Medium”) and written a bunch of comic books. And if we’re keeping with the Baby-Sitters Club motif, he’s Kristy Thomas: the fearless leader of our coffeeshop writing collective.
Jenn Fujikawa aka JustJenn Designs is my twin. Okay, not really, but we get mistaken for each other all the time…despite looking nothing alike. Jenn bakes amazing cupcakes (and other treats: check out her jaw-dropping “Star Wars” party line-up), designs gorgeous stationery, and has penned two cookbooks: “O.G. – Original Grandma: Favorite Recipes” and “Mochi: Recipes from Savory to Sweet!”
Karen Healey and I first became acquainted when I interviewed her for an article about lady comics bloggers. She was energetic and awesome and smart and she has gone on to pour all of that energetic, awesome smartness into several YA novels, including the upcoming “When We Wake.” Karen also just published an ebook of her fabulous essays on teen movies – it can be yours for a mere $1.99.
Mariah McCourt has edited cool stuff like “The Last Unicorn” graphic novel, “Fables,” and “Womanthology” and written cool stuff like the bestselling graphic novel “True Blood: All Together Now.” But I really got to know Mariah through her incredibly witty and insightful Twitter feed, which you should all follow. Mariah’s also working on an awesome new anthology project called “Monstrous,” which will explore the theme of body image via a variety of mediums.
Michael Reisman is my coffeeshop buddy. I see him all the time at one of my favorite writing haunts and know which table he prefers and why and how he feels when someone else has the nerve to take said table. He also gave me one of the key pieces of advice that helped me get through the first draft of this novel. More importantly, Michael is the writer of the wonderful “Simon Bloom” series…and the third book has just been released!