On November 2nd, war is coming. My superhero novel Don’t Be a Hero will be flying onto digital shelves in one month’s time. I anticipate it will be up fastest in ebook formats on Amazon Kindle, Kobo, and Smashwords. Over the following couple of weeks it will also show up on Apple’s iBookstore, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and in print paperback. A few advanced reader copies are already winging their way to some book bloggers, so hopefully I’ll have some reviews to share with you. (Incidentally, if you’re a book blogger or a reviewer and you’d like to review Don’t Be a Hero, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org)
I’m really excited about this release. The idea for this book came about far back in the mists of time, in those heady prehistoric days known as October 2011. I was a young man then, bursting with enthusiasm and hope, not the jaded old grizzly bear I’ve become. I’d been on one of my regular superhero kicks, consuming any piece of media I could get my hands on that had someone in spandex on the cover. As usual, I was loving it. And I noticed something about what I was reading and viewing. The stories were overwhelmingly centered around America and American characters. Sure, there was the occasional British comic thrown in, but the rest of the world was largely unexplored. I took that as a challenge. I wanted to throw in a little bit of myself and my Kiwi culture into the superhero genre. And more than that, I just wanted to write my own superhero universe. Because, really, how cool it that?
Over the next few weeks, the beginnings of a story and a few characters began to form in my mind. I decided I wanted a retro feel for this novel, something that was both dark and filled with flashing neon lights at the same time. A world that looks like the covers of old pulp sci fi novels, with rocket engines strapped to everything. Naturally, I call it “rocketpunk” (trademarked, patent pending). I decided to set the novel in an alternate history version of 1969 New Zealand. The first superheroes appeared during the second world war and changed the world forever. After nearly two decades of protecting the world, superheroes lost public support and began to come under increasing scrutiny. But not all superhumans are willing to lie down and accept their fate…
Into this world my characters were born. Most of the time I craft my characters slowly, building them block by block. But this time, many of them sprang into my head nearly fully formed. This was the case with my protagonist, the shadow-shifter Spook, also known as Niobe Ishii. Spook used to stand back-to-back with some of the greatest heroes of her time. Now she makes a living as a private detective, living on the fringes of society, doing the jobs no one else can. Spook and her partner, the wood-manipulating Carpenter, are the last of a dying breed. But the world still needs heroes, whether it wants them or not. The appearance of the first new supercriminal in a decade is about to prove that.
With my heroes in mind, I began to outline the story. I wrote scene descriptions on index cards, taped them to my wall, shifted them round, tossed out scenes, added new ones. I built up the skeleton of the story and began to fill in the details from there. I’m an outliner—I always like to know where I’m going before I start writing the story proper. So I paced back and forth in front of my wall of index cards for days, working it all out. Every story changes when I actually sit down to write it, no matter how much I outline it before that. That’s inevitable. But, to use a cliché, I like to have a strong foundation before I start building.
Finally, I was ready. I sat down at the keyboard, opened my writing program of choice (Scrivener), and got to work. Life kicked my butt a couple of times, taking away my writing time or draining my energy. Sometimes life’s a dick like that. But sometime around the end of February, the first draft was done at around 120,000 words. Cue giddy laughter and collapsing with a brain that felt like soup.
But, of course, the story wasn’t ready yet. After some time off, and with the feedback of alpha readers, I began my self-editing pass. After that it went to the editor for more structural and line edits, making sure the story worked. Then several proofreading passes. In the meantime, I was organizing cover design and writing other stories as well as dealing with real life. Until finally it was ready. We spent a little while formatting for print and ebook. And that brings us to now.
A year in the making, and now only one month to go until the novel is out there. But the story doesn’t end with this novel. From the start, I wanted this world to be like Astro City Down Under. Decades of history to explore, billions of individuals, thousands of heroes and villains and everyone in between. I have one upcoming novelette set in the Atomverse, and a whole lot more stories running through my head. More than I could ever possibly hope to write. So I should probably stop rambling here and get cracking.
November 2nd. Mark it on your calendars. If anyone still has actual calendars. Or sign up for the mailing list and I’ll email you when it’s available. It’s more convenient than a Bat signal, and it even works on cloudless nights.
See you all in a month.