Happy Release Day to Debra Jess, who has just published her superhero romance, Blood Surfer. Super powers plus romance, how is this not a good mix? Debra and I met several years ago at a writing workshop and I’ve asked her here to talk about this book and her writing experience.
Dawn: Debra, thanks for joining us. You’ve already given us a lovely snippet on your web site (www.debrajess.com), so let’s dig into this. Who is your favorite superhero (or villain!) and how have they influenced your writing?
Debra: I’ve always enjoyed superhero teams instead of individual superheroes. For me, a character like Batman isn’t very interesting on his own, but when you mix him up with the Justice League, when you get to see him interact with his peers and have to deal with the group dynamic – that’s when he becomes interesting. If Batman’s not with the Justice League, then at least I want to read about him when he’s with one (or more) of his sons. The family relationship sets up stressors that puts pressure on a hero to act in ways he normally wouldn’t if he were operating solo. That’s when characters become unpredictable. I love it when characters act outside of their comfort zone.
I think this was how I first realized the necessity of using tension to build a story. If you know the superhero will always defeat the villain, no matter how clever that villain may be, what do you have to do to keep the reader turning the page? Where’s the tension and how strong can you make the tension before your hero rises above the chaos to win the day?
Dawn: Speaking of Batman, let’s talk about introductions. Traditionally, super heroes and comic books have been marketed toward boys. When did your interest in superheroes begin and did this impact you in any way?
Debra: When I was little, I watched the Superfriends cartoon. Some friends of mine had comic books they would let me read on occasion, but there weren’t any stores nearby where I could get my own comics – at least not on a regular basis. Because of this, there were always gaps in the storylines. I had to use my imagination to fill in those gaps. I had to guess at the hero’s motivations and the villain’s previous dastardly deeds to figure out how they got from point A to point D, without knowing for sure what happened at points B and C.
I think this is why all of my characters, not just the ones in BLOOD SURFER, have such complicated histories. No one has a simple past. I can’t help but let my imagination go crazy with building the worlds in which my heroes live.
Dawn: Blood Surfer is a science fiction romance, focusing heavily on romance rather than treating it as a mere subplot. First, why science fiction instead of fantasy? Have you felt a bigger pull toward one genre or the other? What inspired you to combine these elements?
Debra: One of the organizations I’m a member of is the Science Fiction Romance Brigade. To figure out where on the spectrum of science fiction to fantasy my superheroes fell the Brigade asked me how do my superheroes generate their powers? Is it science based or magic based? All of the “alternative humans” in BLOOD SURFER have a biological basis for their superpowers. Take away the biological tie and they become normal humans. Biology is a science, so it’s science fiction by the Brigade’s definition. I’m happy with the explanation.
Dawn: What about the romantic aspect of the story? What inspired to you to make this story a romance?
Debra: I always knew BLOOD SURFER would be a romance and would have a happily ever after. I’m not a fan of pyrrhic or bittersweet victories which seemed to dominate the SFF genre when I first started reading it in the 70s. In a way, the endless string of depressing stories in SFF is what drove me to read romance novels in the first place. The happily ever afters of romance novels made me feel optimistic about relationships between people in a way SFF at the time couldn’t. The world around me was depressing enough. I didn’t want it in my fiction.
Dawn: If someone produced this into a movie, who would you envision playing Scott and Hannah?
Debra: I’ve gone back and forth about whether or not to reveal my “face actors” for my characters. I use them all the time, especially when I have difficulty figuring out how to describe my character. On one hand, I want to shout, “This is what Scott looks like. This is who Hannah resembles”. On the other hand, I don’t want to ruin anyone else’s idea of what these characters look like. I want the readers to interpret the characters on their own.
So how about a compromise: I won’t tell you who the face actors are for Scott & Hannah, but I will tell you that Catherine Blackwood (Captain Spectacular) and Thomas Carraro (Hack-Man) were inspired by Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo from the 1999 remake of the Thomas Crown Affair – one of my favorite movies of all time. Fair enough?
Dawn: If Disney made a ride out of your story, what theme park elements would be included?
Debra: What a very cool question. It’s ironic because Walt Disney World used to have a ride called Body Wars that took you on an adventure inside the human body, exactly as Hannah does in BLOOD SURFER (except Hannah doesn’t use a ship).
In EPCOT there’s Sum of All Thrills which could be used to simulate flying with Rumble and Roar.
EPCOT also has Soarin’ could simulate a ride on Highlight’s Light Slide.
The Haunted Mansion could be renamed The Blackwood Estate and Ghost himself could scare you as you walk through.
Spritz would have a field day at either Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach.
I’m not sure I’d want to put Donald Duck and Blockhead in the same room together. It could get messy.
Oh, this is too much fun! Better stop now or I’ll just go on and on.
Dawn: Are there any super heroes in your life?
Debra: My family are not just superheroes, they are cheerleaders and have supported me in a lot of ways while I chased my dream. Also, everyone who has helped me get this book ready for publication – editors, beta-readers, and others have have stood by my side – you all are heroes in my book (metaphorically speaking).
Dawn: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Debra: There are at least two more novels featuring Scott and Hannah in the works. This November, Seeker – who plays a small but critical role in BLOOD SURFER, will have his story told. It’s a short story called VALLEY OF THE BLIND. Seeker became a hero long before he met Scott & Hannah. Then in January, Spritz’s story, SLOW BURN will debut as another short story. You’ll learn how Spritz and Blockhead became partners. I hope everyone will enjoy Seeker’s and Spritz’s stories just as much as they will Scott & Hannah’s.
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Thanks for joining us, Debra, and good luck with Blood Surfer. Links for purchase are below. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go read mine.