1. Tell us something about yourself.
-I’m from Northern Virginia, US. I got married last year to my girlfriend of almost 10 years. I used to play hockey. I am a cinephile; I love movies and TV--I’m a big Lost fan and The Big Lebowski is my favorite movie. Generally, I enjoy superhero and horror movies.
I have been writing since I was a boy, maybe 9 or 10 years old. The first story I received any recognition for was called “Deadly Schooling” and it was about my 6th grade teacher being a serial killer. I actually submitted it for a writing assignment. My teacher, the same one who I depicted as a killer, loved it and really encouraged me. I’ve been focused on writing ever since.
Right now, I write in my free time, but I dream of doing it full time. I’ve just published my first book and I’m working on a second.
2. What is your newest book about?
Titan is about a high school senior who discovers that he is a superhero called Titan and his family has carried this power for generations. Titan is a special element mix that lives in the marrow of the hero’s bones. He can draw it out with his will and it becomes a suit that he wears made of fine metal threads, which can harden, like armor. He can also manipulate it to make weapons and other objects. This gives him great strength, quickness, and healing resilience. There is another ability, too--a frightening connection to “The Source,” which is basically a high-speed internet connection to heaven and hell jacked into his mind that he cannot control.
But no one ever told Eric Steele about any of this; his parents tried to hide it. The power is always passed to the first born child of the previous Titan, but Eric’s older sister, Sarah, died. His parents thought they could give Eric a normal life. But Sarah passed the power to Eric because evil is rising and it’s important that Titan faces it.
Meanwhile, Eric’s best friend, Jim, has been kidnapped by a secret military group that wants to use Titan’s power for its own ends. They’re led by a Colonel who comes to be known as The Shadow. He threatens Jim’s family and manipulates Jim into helping him capture Titan.
Eric must learn his family’s secrets, discover what really happened to his sister, and confront The Shadow to save himself, his family, and his friends.
3. What makes your book different from other superhero novels?
- For my novel, I was interested in the journey--for both the protagonist and the antagonist. It’s always bothered me in comics or comic book films, if it’s an origin story, the protagonist’s transition into becoming the hero is covered in a quick two minute montage. The villain’s, too. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man is guilty of that. Peter Parker climbs a wall, jumps over some buildings, fights Bonesaw, then chases Uncle Ben’s killer. After Ben’s funeral, there is a very quick and abrupt montage showing us Spider-Man capturing bad guys and capably defying gravity. I understand the need to get to the action, but Chris Nolan’s Batman Begins was much more methodical in showing you the evolution of Bruce Wayne into Batman. A lot of that was drawn from Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One which wanted to tell the story of a “green” Batman. However, in the book and in Nolan’s film, Bruce Wayne is pretty much Batman by the end.
It don’t want Titan to get off so easy. I took a Breaking Bad approach to Titan. Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad, decided to make a show about Joe Blow becoming Scarface. He didn’t want the guy to just *be* Scarface, he wanted to take us on that journey--how do we dispose of a body? How do we actually distribute the drugs we make?. How do we insulate and protect ourselves. Similarly, I didn’t want Titan to obtain his powers and be fighting supervillains in the next chapter. I tried to portray the point of view of someone who was a regular person, like we all are, and give him superpowers. What does that person think about? How does he come to terms with the fact that he’s climbing a building when only a month ago his biggest concern was math homework.
I don’t want people to think the book is all psychological. It’s not. I like writing action and set-pieces far more than introspective stuff, but it’s all necessary. It makes the action better. I wanted to earn Eric Steele’s transition into Titan. And even once he makes that transition, he is still an 18 year old wielding a tremendous power that he doesn’t understand. He’s not an expert yet. He’s going to make mistakes.
4. Who are your favorite superheroes and villains?
-Batman is my absolute favorite superhero because he doesn't have traditional powers. Batman's intellect IS super (and so is his wallet). He's always 3 steps ahead. He’s a big influence on "Titan;" not every superhero needs to be dark and brooding, but giving them flaws and problems makes them relatable. We root for them and want them to win in spite of those issues. Plus, Batman’s a badass, plain and simple.
Spider-Man is a close second. In stark contrast to Batman, Spider-Man is a jokester. He wisecracks and enjoys his powers even though he respects the responsibility he bears. But, like Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker is smart; he would have been somebody even without superpowers -- he developed a highly advanced adhesive for goodness sake.
In the villain department, the Joker is the king. Anyone who can rattle Batman and get under his skin is worth the honor. Plus, there's nothing terribly fake about him; he's an honest to goodness sociopath and psychotic. We see him as evil, but he thinks he's just having a good time.
I'm also drawn to Magneto (see what I did there?) as a villain. He clearly is one, but I don't see him as evil. He certainly doesn't think so. He can be ruthless and cruel, but he's not coming from a fundamentally bad place. I mean, he's a survivor of the Holocaust AND he's persecuted for being a mutant. You can understand his perspective, which makes for great storytelling when your heroes must oppose him.
5. Who are your favorite writers (both comics and novels):
- Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, and Elmore Leonard are the greats as far as I'm concerned. King knows how to create a world (oftentimes a terrifying place) and center you inside of it completely. McCarthy bends the English language to his will. And no one does dialogue like Leonard.
J. Michael Straczynski, Peter David, Jeph Loeb, Brian Vaughn, and Frank Miller are some comic authors I like, though there are many others.
6. What are your thoughts about the rise of superhero prose fiction?
- I honestly didn't know there was a rise! I hope you’re right. When I was doing research on other books in my genre, I didn’t find many books quite like Titan. The ones I did find were satirical or comedies, so I think there’s definitely room to tell these kinds of stories seriously.
We’re in a great time for genre fiction. Superhero and fantasy tales are popular now and only becoming more broadly accepted. I think superheroes are like the modern day versions of the old Greek and Roman legends. I’m particularly drawn to them. I get a tingle when I watch the Chris Nolan “Batman” films or “The Avengers.” It’s exciting. It’s escapism. There’s also something about the battle between good and evil that resonates with me. Maybe it’s a Catholic upbringing, I don’t know.
7. How long did it take you to write your book?
- The answer to that question is more complicated than it would seem. I had the first nugget of the idea when I was a junior or senior in high school. Over two or three months in college, I wrote Titan as a screenplay. I liked it, but there was a deeper mythology I wanted to explore which I couldn’t do as well in that format. Most of the framework of the story was there... maybe I just didn’t know how to write a screenplay.
I wrote the first draft of Titan over about a year after college. I guess when I add up the time it’s been about 5 years. I revised and shared with friends for feedback and revised again. Really, I was dragging my feet.
8. What inspired you to write it?
- There were many inspirations behind Titan, but my sister, Sarah, was the biggest. In real life, she was severely handicapped. My mom and dad had to do everything for her. She defined our lives. She died when I was twelve. As I got older, it bothered me that, seemingly, she died for nothing. I mean, what was the purpose of her life? I got the idea to create a superhero whose older sister was supposed to be a superhero, but she died and he had to do it. That was really the heart of the idea. It gave me a way to lend meaning to my sister’s life because she was in the inspiration behind it. I had to name Eric Steele’s sister Sarah. It’s a beautiful, strong name.
On a philosophical level, I was inspired to create a mythology around the notion of God as a being who gave mankind free will and the consequences of that being the kickoff of THE battle between good and evil. God will not step in to save us, though, because free will is a precious thing and removing it is the only thing that would destroy Evil (capital “E”). We have to save ourselves. But Evil cheats; God gave us weapons and powers to make it even. In Titan’s universe, Evil isn’t just a force, it’s a being, equal to God, who wants to destroy Him and be the God.
I also find the ideas of free will and destiny interesting. Can both of those things exist in the same world? If Eric Steele has free will, but he is also Titan and Titan is here to do something important, does Eric Steele really have free will? It’s a question that’s worth exploring and one I don’t think has been addressed head on in too many other works.
Finally, I’m selfish. I love superhero stories and I wanted a superhero in Washington, DC. It’s the capital of the United States and it deserves a superhero. I grew up in the Washington, DC area--it lends itself to intrigue, excitement, and a variety of action. There are other cities besides New York in the US.
9. Who are your favorite characters in the book?
- I’m partial to Eric Steele’s friends Jim and Drew. I think Jim’s story arc in the book is really compelling and I think he’s a guy with demons, but who tried to do the right thing. The target just kept moving on him. Drew is just funny. While Eric and Jim are struggling with the more fantastical elements of their stories and going to some dark places, Drew is a character who gets to exist more or less in the “real world.” He thinks he’s the coolest guy around, but definitely isn’t.
Of course, our hero: Eric Steele/Titan, resonates with me as well. I definitely put a lot of myself into him, but what I like best about him is how he’s courageous. I’m not even talking about climbing buildings or fighting bad guys--he talks to girls with more confidence than I ever did in high school.
10. Anything else you want us to know?
- I feel compelled to address the fact that my name’s Eric and that’s my lead character’s name, too. I can’t claim ego isn’t involved. That’d be a lie. However, the specific reason is I felt like “Erics” in movies, TV, comics, etc. get a bad rap. The most prominent character “Eric” I can think of is “Eric Foreman” on That 70s Show. He was a funny character, sure, but he was kind of a coward and not really someone you looked up to or strived to be like. I think Donnie Walberg played a guy named Eric in the “Saw” movies... Do an imdb.com search for characters named Eric; there aren’t many. I think my point is made; I didn’t want another John or Jack hero. My superhero is Eric Steele; he’s Titan.