This morning, while still groggy and not quite finished with my obligatory strong black coffee, I got vacuumed into the concept of this Next Big Thing chain blog doohickey, which bounced my way via my cool mate, Scottish writer McDroll (check her entry out here), which apparently came her way from the equally suave Nigel Bird (link here), who was conscripted by Daniel O’Shea (ditto), in turn corrupted by Ed Kurtz (here). And so on. Dan reckoned you have to read the chain-blog, because otherwise “you’ll have a gazillion years of bad luck”. Ahhh, these viral internet beasties! Who am I to resist? Think I’ll pass the baton to fellow Aussie scribe Guy Salvidge.
Anyway, without further ado, here’s my self-indulgent response to The Next Big Thing infection.
What is the working title of your next book?
My next novel, which I actually just finished writing this week (although I’m still editing and tweaking it into better shape) is called Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
In October last year I went back to my hometown (Melbourne) to visit friends and family and launch my novel Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat. While visiting my mum, I rifled through some boxes of extremely old stuff – and rediscovered a letter from Marvel Comics in New York, with my enclosed picture of a superhero I conjured up and nurtured back in high school, an Australian since I felt American comics were lacking a decent Aussie character. Back then I sent it to Marvel, received a letter from Stan Lee’s secretary that he really dug it – but he’d retired, and would pass on the character to his editor-in-chief replacement Tom DeFalco. Sadly, Tom was not so enamoured, and Southern Cross had hidden in cardboard boxes in Melbourne ever since. Finding him again, I got to thinking about the big influences on my life: noir and comicbooks. Why not combine the two, and at the same time pay homage to the silver age (1960s) Marvel stuff and its bronze age (1970s+) successor?
What genre does your book fall under?
God, I don’t know. I’m hopeless at categorizing myself. noir/superhero/surreal/fantasy/dystopia? With a sci-fi bent…?
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Er… um… another one I struggle with. The ‘hero’ is a 15-year-old kid playing 25, his side-kick is a walking wall of bricks, and their team is rounded-out by a woman who’s a seven-foot cross between Sailor Moon and Wonder Woman. There’s a wizened cop with an eye-patch (maybe Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp) and a reporter who has much in common with Sherlock Holmes (Cate Blanchett?). Lemme get back to you on this one.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A vast, homogenized city patrolled by superheroes and populated by the adoring masses, a perfect place a lifetime away from the rain-drenched, dystopic metropolis of Melbourne – so, who is killing the great capes of Heropa?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
An agent is still something I haven’t thought about – I guess I should, but I just don’t have the time and I’m terribly lazy with that kind of thing. It’s not going to be self-published either, probably for the same reasons. I have a particular publisher lined up to pitch this to (in December), and whether or not they say yes will make or break the year. A wee bit. But, actually, 2012 was a great year anyway, so maybe it doesn’t matter what they decide!
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Three months, and the second manuscript finished two months later. I really started with this baby in June, but I had a lot of ideas in my head when I did so.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Roy Thomas and Stan Lee’s “pop art” work at Marvel in the 1960s, particularly The Fantastic Four, Captain America and The Avengers, along with a definitive nod to the 1930s/’40s noir of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler (and their movie off-shoots), which I adore. There’s also an element of DC comics and golden age 1940s comics tucked in, Sherlock Holmes, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the USSR, British comedy, dada and art deco, Australian comics, and Japanese manga and anime.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
First up, I’d have to point fingers at ’60s Marvel people like (writers) Stan Lee and Roy Thomas, and artists Jack Kirby, Jim Steranko, Syd Shores, John and Sal Buscema, Barry Windsor-Smith, Artie Simek, George Roussos and Sammy Rosen. Kirby in particular is the stand-out for his gob-smacking art, which was a huge influence on the way in which I developed the Southern Cross costume. But the stories by Lee and Roy Thomas (who I’ve also had the opportunity to chat with) developed my early ideas of fiction – and I still love that work. Secondly, the people who liked my previous books Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat and One Hundred Years of Vicissitude… and let me know this. These readers inspired me to bite the bullet and have a go at number three, so thank you.
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Ahhh, it has some added bonus artwork by real comic artists (including the ones here by Paul Mason & Giovanni Ballati), plying their trade in vague homage to Jack Kirby’s work in the 1960s. This is still being organized, so more info will be unveiled once I’m in on the picture too! What I do have thus far is bloody neat-o.