by Jeff Reynolds
I frequently attribute my role models as being Dopey, Goofy, Eeyore, and the Cookie Monster. But I keep forgetting one -- the Riddler. My first crush was the Cat Woman (partially because I always liked cats). In other words, the TV series that impacted my life forever was Batman.
Okay, when I became a teen-ager, I started reading other comics, with my favorites being Iron Man, Hawkeye, Mr. Miracle, the Beast (from the X-Men) and the Black Panther, with the Rhino, Kraven, Two Face and the Cavalier joining the Riddler on the bad guys list.
But is there a Christian novel that fits the fun, spoofish views of superheroes the '60's series was? The answer is yes. I'd like to interview Adam and Andrea, the creators of the Powerhouse series. Okay, I'll give a little more to Adam the writer, but Andrea joins in with a couple of questions as well.
I had the honor of reading Powerhouse Hard Pressed this year. I found it to be a very fun and enjoyable read. In that installment (the third in the series), Powerhouse gets to face The Boomerang Bloke, Silver Medal, and Mr. Manners.
Jeff: Welcome to Hoosier Ink. Let's start with how you to got involved in the loves of your life: Each other, Christ, and writing.
Adam: I grew up deeply immersed in Bible and came to Christ when I was seven. However, growing into a relationship with Christ and understanding how to live that out is a lifelong process. I met my wife on the Internet. We fell in love over writing. I flew out to Columbus, Ohio to meet her. We got engaged my seventh day out there and were married in 2002 and have been together 11 years now.
Jeff: Could you tell us about your Powerhouse series? (Let's see -- what are the odds of you saying no?) How long does it take to recover from having your tongue surgically removed from your cheek afterward? What was the influence for your novel?
Adam: Tales of the Dim Knight was the first book. It began in 2006 when I saw the DVD of The Tick v. Season One which was a great superhero parody, and I thought that I could do a story like that but with some Christian themes worked in. I also have to give credit to another cartoon from the 1990s Darkwing Duck for planting the idea of a superhero with a family in my head.
So I set down to write a book where I parodied every possible superhero trope I could. My character was Dave Johnson, a huge superhero fanatic and a janitor who works at a facility inspired by the warehouse at the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Dave opens a crate and finds an alien symbiote who turns him into Powerhouse. However, the whole situation causes a big strain on his marriage as he tries to keep secret identity from his wife. She fears he’s losing weight and gaining muscle to impress a mistress.
I wrote the sequels for three reasons: First, I hadn’t covered every superhero trope in the first book. Second, Dave converts to Christianity at the end of Tales of the Dim Knight, and I loved the idea of exploring how you live out the Christian life as a superhero. Third, I came up with a new threat for Powerhouse to fight: the ever-growing corrosive cynicism that’s so dominating society. In the Adventures of Powerhouse, cyncism is symbolically represented by villains who are pushing it so that people will be less likely to resist an alien invasion.
Jeff: Do you have any favorite superheroes and supervillains?
Adam: In terms of favorite superhero, it’s a tie between Superman and Spider-man, though I don’t like everything writers have done with those characters. In terms of supervillains, it’s got to be Doctor Doom. He’s extremely intelligent and also ruthless and audacious. Everyone in the entire Marvel universe has to gotten to battle him.
Jeff: Your latest release seems to be a change of pace, at least in genre. I'd like to hear about it. What did you different in writing this one?
Adam: I host "The Great Detectives of Old Time Radio" podcast and I’ve always been a fan of detective fiction, so I’ve wanted try my hand at it. My short story “An Ounce of Prevention” combines detective fiction and science fiction with a time travel angle. That story was inspired by child abuse cases where police can only pick up the pieces and the thought of, “What if you knew someone was going to do something horrific to a child before they did? How would you deal with that?” It’s a tough question. I don’t know if my hero comes up with the right answer, but I think it’s a thought-provoking question.
Jeff: You also have a book titled, All I Needed to Know I Learned From Columbo. My assumption is that this is more non-fiction, or at least an analysis of fiction. And please tell me that one of the detectives you looked at is my hero, Poirot.
Adam: AlI I Needed to Know I Learned from Columbo is a short nonfiction e-book that takes a look at life lessons from great fictional detectives. Each chapter begins with an examination of the detective’s history and then we take a look at a life lesson (or five) that can be garnered from it. Among those included are Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolfe, Father Brown, and Adrian Monk.
Unfortunately, Poirot didn’t make the cut. Poirot is a great detective so he deserves it. However, my acquaintance with him was quite limited back when I wrote this, so I hadn’t yet seen any great life lessons to be drawn from his work. To make up for it, he will get the first chapter in the new book All I Needed to Know I Learned from Dragnet, which will also include chapters on Yours Truly Johnny Dollar, Adam-12, and Cannon.
Jeff: Time to let Andrea get some thoughts in. Is there a difference in editing your husband and somebody else?
Andrea: Yes, it is different to work with my husband. He trusts me more, so it’s easier to give in to the temptation to rewrite for him, since I’m far more likely to get away with it. On the flipside, it’s harder for us to be objective with each other when we do disagree.
Jeff: I believe marketing your book is a bit similar to, perhaps, running for elected office. Have you noticed any similarities and differences? Any lessons from one that apply to the other?
Adam: One lesson I garnered from politics that is relevant to book marketing is that it’s all about finding your audience. I knocked on more than 2000 doors when I ran for office. However, I thought every part of the district and every house deserved to be heard and to have a chance to speak. It was high-minded and noble—and stupid in retrospect. I was running in a primary and needed to reach voters who would be likely to vote in that primary. I ended up losing even though less than 1500 people voted in the primary.
Marketing books also requires targeting. In many ways, it’s more challenging. I could have gotten a list of people who voted in the last primary but finding people who read the books you’re writing can be more challenging, particularly when publishing genres that are a little less popular.
Jeff: My first contact with you, Adam, is when you pointed out you were recieving several negative reviews on your Audible version of Tales of A Dim Knight. What was the major complaint? Any advice on writing in the current environment/culture we live in? And where do you go to for encouragement?
Adam: With Tales of the Dim Knight, most of the complaints were that the book had Christian themes. Most of the reviewers of the audiobook version were of the mindset that believes Christian work should be required to carry a warning label.
Christian authors respond in various ways. Some seek to graciously oblige by labeling their work as “Christian” on the cover and in their promotional materials. Others seek to write books where the Christian themes are buried very deep. I don’t seek to hide it when my books have Christian content. The blurb for Fly Another Day mentions that my hero is a new Christian. However, I don’t go out of the way to warn readers. I read books all the time where I find myself exposed to ideas with which I vehemently disagree and the books didn’t have such a warning label. If you’re going to read widely at all, you’re going to read things that you disagree with.
Readers of science fiction do not have a general objection to religion in fiction. If in Tales of the Dim Knight, Powerhouse were to meet with a pagan goddess and swear loyalty to her, or if he went to a Shaman who gave him a spirit guide who taught him wisdom, this would have been fine. You can find pagan religion in all sorts of fantasy and science fiction stories The same thing goes for denying the existence of God. It’s only Christianity that produces the red flags.
Until I start reading books that have, “Warning: New Age Content” or “Warning: Atheist Content,” Christians complying with these sort of requests will only end up ghettoizing Christian fiction even more. And I turn to fellow Christian writers for support and help because we definitely have to hang together or we’ll hang separately as the saying goes.
Jeff: What's next? A follow up to “An Ounce of Prevention”? More Powerhouse? Or are you going to try your hand at historical romance?
Adam: Lord willing, I’m hoping to release the next Powerhouse book Ultimate Midlife Crisis by June of 2014 and get the second to last book in the Powerhouse series, Speed Trap out before the end of 2014.
In addition, I’ve written a political thriller/detective novel, Slime Incorporated, which Andrea’s editing right now. It’s a great mix of modern and classic detective elements and I hope to have it out early next year. The lead character is Cole Ustick, a secondary character in “An Ounce of Prevention” who also made a cameo in Powerhouse Hard Pressed.
Finally, I hope to have All I Needed to Know I Learned from Dragnet out next year probably in the Spring or early Summer.
Jeff: Thank you for your time. Can you refer us to how we can keep in touch with what's new with you all?
Adam: You can visit my blog, Christians and Superheroes at http://www.christiansuperheroes.com. Notes on the mystery novel and my old time radio podcast are available at http://www.greatdetectives.net .
Andrea: You can visit my editing website at http://www.povbootcamp.com