Friday, January 16, 2015

Exclusive Interview with Jim Bernheimer!

Hey folks,

We have a special treat for you today, here on the United Federation of Charles, with author Jim Bernheimer. The author of The D-List Supervillain series, Dead Eye, and Spirals of Destiny, he is also responsible for the Horror, Humor, and Heroes series. Recently, he's released the third volume in the D-List Supervillain series, Secrets of a D-List Supervillain and I've invited him to speak about it.

Secrets of a D-List Supervillain follows Cal Stringel a.k.a. Mechani-Cal as he recovers from the events which occurred during Confessions of A D-List Supervillain. Having saved the world from terrible evil, he's on the side of "good" now but does he really fit in? Most of his friends are bad guys too. Plus, there's his relationship with the recently mind-wiped Aphrodite who doesn't remember him as anything more than the titular D-Lister he was. Can they make it work? Can he, alone? We'll find out.

So, let's get with the interview!

1.    What inspired you to write the D-List Supervillain series?

I had always wanted to write an anti-hero story. The result was a five chapter novella that I used to anchor my first published collection, Horror, Humor, and Heroes. I thought most of the stories in there would be worth exploring somewhere down the line, but I didn’t want to distract myself from writing the Dead Eye novels and the Spirals of Destiny series. Naturally, it didn’t work out that way because D-List has become my runaway hit.

2.    What can you tell us about Secrets of a D-List Supervillain?

The story picks up the very next day after Cal and Stacy (Aphrodite) reunite. As I started writing this, I wanted to do a brief recap of what had happened in the time they were apart and then get moving forward … that’s when I realized how much missing material was in that year apart. So Secrets really becomes about Cal and Stacy learning to trust one another again.

One of my Amazon reviews states that while the reviewer enjoyed the book, it didn’t feel like it asked/answered a question. I would respond that the question it asked and answered is how are the two characters going to put the past behind them and move forward with the problems they now face? Can they make it work from opposite sides of the sanctioned hero fence?

I didn’t want it to be “insta-love” either and tried to have it grow as part of the story. The method of building the bridge between them is Cal’s recounting of the missing year and how his new team was formed.

3.    What separates Cal Stringel a.k.a Mechani-Cal from other superhero/supervillain protagonists out there?

That’s a good question. I really don’t have one particular answer for it. Cal is deeply flawed. He’s very intelligent, but sometimes a bit dense. The obvious often has a way of eluding him. I think his flaws make him very relatable to the reader because we all screw up, make mistakes and have to solve problems of our own making. Instead of Ben Parker’s, “With great power comes great responsibility,” you get “With great power comes the capacity of screwing up greater than you’ve ever imagined.”

4.    Can you describe the sort of superhero world Cal inhabits? What separates it from Marvel's New York or the DC Universe?

I work hard to inject realism. The heroes have fan clubs. They make money from appearances. When they screw up, they have PR people out there smoothing things over. If the heroes are a little more superficial, then the villains have a bit more depth. They’re not all cookie cutter thugs or budding world dominators. Some have reasons for what they are doing (albeit poor ones) while others are just plain miserable people. Bad things aren’t always happening in a major city. Most villains just wanting to do a job avoid the bigger cities with the superheroes. They use websites and the paparazzi to track where the heroes are so they can be somewhere else. One of the chapters in Confessions was titled, Like I Need Another Reason to Attack Branson, Missouri and Cal explains all the reasons a supervillain would want to attack that city.

5.    Did you originally envision this as a series or was it a one-shot that grew?

It was basically a novella that grew out of control. I’d played around with the concept of my own superhero universe for years. Now good fortune has given me the opportunity to really immerse myself in one.

6.    What's the appeal of superhero literature to new writers like yourself?

Independents can explore the genre in whatever direction they want. You can tell the small time story of a non-powered crimefighter all the way to the world-conquering superbeing. You can tell their story in so many different ways, explore the real world effects of their powers and existence. Think about how different our society would be if super powered beings did exist. They’d be celebrities, politicians and corporations would seek their sponsorship. They’d have an entourage and probably their own cable network, reporting on their exploits, doing origin biographies and the like. Heck!

There’d be people committing crimes just to get captured by them.

7.    After Cal, who are your favorite characters and why?

I have to go with Andydroid and The Biloxi Bugler. Andy is the ultimate straight man. He’s struggling to understand the human condition. I have one scene where Cal mentions that Andy pushes Bobby down the stairs and later dumps a bucket of ice cold water on Cal because Andy had watched Christmas Vacation and wanted to get a better understanding of physical comedy. The Bugler (alongside of Wendy) is one of the examples of True Believers – real heroes who are more than just a suit with (or without) powers. With Cal being so jaded I can often use these two characters to great effect and make Cal occasionally reexamine his assumptions about things.

8.    The heart of your books is the romance between Stacy a.k.a Aphrodite and Cal. What do you think is the essence of their relationship? Do you think anything could break them up?

Their relationship is at the heart of Secrets of a D-List Supervillain, but not necessarily the other two currently released books. From Stacy’s point of view, he challenges her to be more than the pretty face on the Olympians and encourages her to be the best she can. She has a nerdy side and a fascination for powered armor.

 Many of her previous relationships just want to be seen with her and that has left her feeling more like a trophy than a real person. Fortunately, Cal hates people and is pretending to be dead. He’s more than happy just to spend time with her alone and away from the public eye. From Cal’s side of the fence, she’s so far out of his league that it isn’t funny, share in his fascination with armor and tech.

In some instances, I’ve made her out to be his muse. I’ve stated that Cal loathes most people, but he feeds off of them for inspiration to make his inventions. (An example of this is when Stacy says she isn’t going to take any static from Athena and Cal latches onto it and makes the kinetic to electrical conversion belt for Hermes during Confessions.

9. Most important question ever: Could Cal take Wolverine in a fight? No cheating by saying Wolverine is currently dead (like that will last).

It really depends on the situation. Let’s say, in anything but the Megasuit, we’ll give the fight to Wolverine. However, Wolverine can’t fly and Cal, when he first joined the Gulf Coast Guardians, pointed out that someone like She-Dozer wasn’t much of a problem as long as you didn’t go down to their level. It’s really Cal’s fight to lose in this case. If he is stupid enough to go down there and kick what he thinks is a dead body (assuming he doesn’t know about the healing factor), then he gets what he deserves.

So, if they’re in a building or some kind of enclosed space I think Wolverine has the edge. If Cal can get a hundred feet or so in the air he could always to the “Nuke them from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure,” tactic from Aliens. After all, when the plot device calls for it even a Sentinel (cover of Uncanny X-Men 142#) can kill Wolverine and I think Cal can take a Sentinel. So, 80’s Wolverine to early 90’s Wolverine, I say no problem, but after the way he became so fawned over after that, I’m guessing Cal would have a hard time with a guy who’s the “best at what he does” especially when Cal is the “best at what he does, which is screwing things up.”

10.    What can we expect from you in the future?

More books. I’m considering a new Horror, Humor, and Heroes Collection (Volume 4) with many of my published short stories along with a 5 chapter novella set in the D-List Supervillain universe. Cal will appear in it, but the lead character for this will be Hillbilly Bobby. Right now, the novella has a working title of Thugs, Lowlifes, and Spies and will detail Bobby’s double agent adventure after he left Cal to go work for the villain called The Apostle.

The events will tie into Rise of a D-List Supervillain which I hope to have done in the summer. After that, I really need to get back to the Dead Eye books and the Spirals of Destiny series. The other big project is that I’m seriously considering turning my personal imprint of EJB Networking into a full-fledged publisher and publishing other people’s novels.

There we go!

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