Ian T. Healy and I bonded four years ago over superheroes. We had entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, both having submitted superhero stories. Ian’s latest novel, Just Cause, has recently been released by New Babel Books and he’s been gracious enough to stop by my blog to tell us a little bit about himself, his writing, and Just Cause. Below his interview you’ll find my review of his novel and links where you can find Ian and his book online.
1.How long have you been writing and what’s your background?
I've been writing as long as I can remember. When I was really young, maybe six or seven, I made a thumbprint comic book about a little group called the Happy Days Gang (with a bunny, a cat, a piglet, a dog, and a bug). Skipping ahead to junior high school, I went to a young writer's workshop at Denver University, and that led to me writing my first "novel." It was a hackneyed, clichéd space opera that has thankfully been lost to the ravages of time and pre-digital formats. My first "serious" effort at a novel came in 2003 when I wrote a Star Wars fanfic. That one, obviously, couldn't be published. The second books after that, written in 2004, was Just Cause, and that's the first one I sold to a publisher, in April of 2011.
2.Your series, Just Cause, it about what you call Parahumans, which in essence are people with super human powers. Is this a genre in which you prefer to write? Or do you branch out to other genres?
I love writing superheroes. They say you never forget your first love, and they have been my first writing love. At one point, I even wanted to go into the comic book industry as an artist. The only problem is that I can't draw them, but at least I can write them. When it comes to genre, I'm afraid I suffer from the wandering eye. I've written cyberpunk, urban fantasy, epic fantasy, westerns, post-apocalyptic, space opera, contemporary YA, and even nonfiction. My superheroes understand my fickleness, and they wait patiently for me to return to them. And I always do.
3.Do you find it more fun to write the heroes or the villains and why?
I'm a hero at heart. I'm Dudley Doright taking down Black Bart and rescuing the pretty cowgirl who he tied to the tracks. Some people enjoy the bad guys, and I don't deny that a good villain can be a lot of fun to write, but even more than that, I like to throw my heroes against insurmountable odds and problems far larger than they could hope to resolve, and challenge them to do it.
4.Who was your favorite superhero growing up and why?
Batman, because I wanted to be him. All I needed was a few billion dollars, a savvy butler, to be trained by the best and brightest in the world, and oh yeah, to have my parents brutally gunned down in an alleyway. Well, maybe being Batman wouldn't be quite as cool, reflecting on it now...
5.Where did you get your inspiration for your main character, Mustang Sally?
I've always been fascinated with super-speed characters, which is funny because I haven't read much in the way of The Flash until recently. Mustang Sally was always part of a speed dynasty in my mind, beginning with her grandmother (Colt) in World War II and followed by her mother (Pony Girl) in the '60s and '70s. Both of those characters make guest appearances in Just Cause and will be featured in subsequent books in the series. I'm pretty sure that I came up with Mustang Sally after watching The Commitments, where the song "Mustang Sally" is one of their best tunes.
6.At the beginning of the book, Sally works with a group called the Lucky Seven, which of those characters do you identify with most and why?
I spent a lot of time developing the character of The Spark, who is the leader of the Lucky Seven, to the point that I have a plan to write a novel about him and his protegé. He's one of the closest characters to Batman that I've developed, although if anything, he's a lot more like the Ted Kord version of Blue Beetle. I'm sorry, I'm comic-book-geeking out here now.
7.The novel is packed with action. What do you think is the most difficult part about writing an action scene?
I don't actually think writing action scenes is difficult. They come to me naturally in a lot of ways. In fact, I've been complimented on them enough and had people approach me to help them with theirs that I sat down and wrote out a "how-to" ebook for others to use as a resource. It's called Action! Writing Better Action Using Cinematic Techniques and is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all the ebook retailers. That being said, I think the hardest action scene to write is a large-scale battle, with lots of characters on both sides of the conflict.
8.I know you’ve self-published some titles before the Just Cause series was picked up. What are the main differences you see between self-publishing and traditional publishing?
Oh, the speed. Just Cause was picked up by New Babel Books in April of 2011 and released at the end of November of 2011. That's a ridiculously fast turnaround for a publishing company (although not so much for a small publisher like NBB). Even so, when I decide to self-publish a finished, edited, and revised work, it takes me maybe a day or two to prepare the manuscript and cover and upload it to the retailers. I think I self-published twelve or fourteen pieces during the seven months it took NBB to release Just Cause.
9. What are the two most important pieces of advice you can give to someone considering self-publishing?
One: you need an editor. Maybe it's a trusted beta reader or critique group, but you should never assume that your work is of sufficient quality to release untouched. If you'll forgive me being crass, your words are not diamonds falling out of your ass.
Two: the glowing numbers being bandied about by other authors, who are making millions of dollars with their 99-cent downloads, are the exception, not the rule. You are not going to get rich quick self-publishing. You are not going to get rich slowly either. You're not going to get rich. But if you produce quality work at a reasonably fast pace, you will slowly build up a base readership, and they will keep coming back and clamoring for more work, and with good word of mouth, that readership will grow.
10. Are you currently working on something else?
At the moment, I am working on finishing my 2011 NaNoWriMo book, a humorous space opera called Starf*cker. I have my 2010 NaNo book, a superhero urban fantasy called Rooftops, in revision. I'm coauthoring a steampunk novel with my dear friend Allison Dickson that we've titled The Oilman's Daughter. Besides that, I have a couple of ebook short story collections that will come out during the first quarter of this year. I have more or less planned out my next twelve to fifteen months' writing, which is my typical lead time. And with my free hand, I Facebook.
Some superheroes can fly, or lift great weights, or shoot lightning bolts.
Mustang Sally runs.
A third-generation superhero, Sally's life changes forever when she fights and loses to the notorious villain Destroyer, who killed her father just before she was born. She dedicates herself to tracking him down so she can even the score.
When all you can do is run, you'd better be fast, but can even the fastest girl in the world run quick enough to save her teammates' lives from Destroyer and his growing parahuman army?
Just Cause starts out with a bang, as the Lucky Seven, along with 18-year-old main character, Salena Thompson, better known as Mustang Sally, are summoned by the police commissioner to stop a giant robot from destroying the Science and Technology Expo.
The Lucky Seven are decimated in the fight and Sally discovers the man inside the robot is Destroyer, the villain who killed her dad before she was born. She sets out on a mission of revenge with the help of her new team, Just Cause, to destroy the man behind the machine. However he has tricks of his own up his sleeve including partnering with a Hitler like villain by the name of Kaiser.
Though he’s introduced many characters early on, Ian describes them in great detail, each standing out by their unique abilities and costumes, making it easy to keep track of who’s who.
Mustang Sally is especially well drawn. She’s a tiny blonde thing, who wears a red and yellow costume, and probably the fastest parahuman on the face of the planet. She comes from a long line of speedsters on her mom’s side and is destined to follow in their footsteps.
Though she’s confident in her abilities as a speedster, when it comes to love she’s apprehensive. She’d concentrated so hard on her training, she never took the time to date. Then she meets, Jason, a Brick, better known as Mastiff, a boy two years older than she—huge, muscly, and incredibly hot.
Ian writes their relationship well, both are timid and bashful at first, but we get to watch their relationship bloom into a full on love story. It’s very sweet with a side of spice.
He also doesn’t forget that although the two lovebirds are parahumans, they’re still real teenagers doing real teenage things like having crushes, playing in rock bands, and driving crappy cars.
I like the way Ian has written all the heroes, super yes, but still with human qualities, they have relationships, drink coffee, laugh, celebrate, grieve. They’re fallible, vulnerable. They get beat up, break bones, and sadly but expectedly, some die.
Healy is also a master at action scenes. It almost feels like you’re watching a movie instead of reading a book when the superheroes are battling the villains. There’s shooting and hand to hand combat, and bodies flying everywhere. What I’ve found so difficult to write, Ian makes seem effortless.
Another thing I liked about the book was that Ian mixed historical fact with fiction. The beginning of every chapter starts with a quote. Some are quotes from real historical figures, like Ghandi, others are quotes from made up superheroes appearing on Oprah. Ian writes about how the parahumans helped out in the wars, and how they partook in the party culture of the seventies.
All in all I thought this was a great book. Though it has the superhero element, it’s not for kids. There is some foul language and sex. I think older teens and adults who are fans of superheroes, graphic novels, and action and adventure will really enjoy Just Cause. This is just the first in a series, so be on the lookout for the next book. I know I will.
Here's where you can find Ian around the net:
Here's where to find Just Cause online: