Born in the swamps of Southern New Jersey, Pab Sungenis developed a childhood fascination with cartooning and drew a daily strip for his own amusement for two years before realizing he couldn’t draw. He wound up in broadcasting, worked for numerous stations including WSBU, WOND, WMGM, WSKR, WBNJ, WWBZ, and WKTU. He describes his drawing ability as like that of “a mentally challenged rhinoceros on a Ny-Quil bender”, but thanks to the wonders of photo-manipulation and computer image editing, on February 8, 2006 he found himself creating The New Adventures of Queen Victoria, which has appeared ever since, first on Comicssherpa.com., and now in online syndication with gocomics.com. Today we're talking with Pab about his new young adult superhero novel, SIDEKICK: THE MISADVENTURES OF THE NEW SCARLET KNIGHT.
Welcome to We Do Write, Pab! Tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been writing?
Define “writing.” I’ve been making up stories since I was a kid. It was when I got to college and had an English professor tell me that I had a talent for writing that I finally started putting pen to paper when stories would come to me.
Tell us about SIDEKICK: THE MISADVENTURES OF THE NEW SCARLET KNIGHT. What’s the story about?
Bobby Baines is the former sidekick of a hero called the Scarlet Knight, who was also his foster father. When the Knight is killed by an unknown villain, Bobby is drafted to take on his former mentor’s identity, which he has to do while he’s applying to colleges and trying to keep his grades up. Then suddenly Bobby comes face to face with the original Scarlet Knight’s killer, and before long other heroes start dropping like flies. So here’s a kid trying to make the honor role, keep his city safe, and hunt down a hero killer. Oh, and he starts realizing that the thoughts he’s having about a female sidekick he’s worked with for years are not quite as professional as he might have thought, which makes things even more complicated.
Sounds so awesome. How did the idea of the story come to you?
I grew up on superheroes: cheap DC’s from the bookstore down the street from my family’s place at the shore, Spider-Man on The Electric Company, Superfriends and old Batman reruns as I got older, and so on.
The most direct inspiration from Sidekick came from the character of Wally West, also known as Kid Flash, from DC. In the summer of 2009, I was desperately trying to come up with a “boy-friendly” story for a YA novel, since I’m of the opinion that the main reason “boys don’t read” is that there’s so little out there for them compared to books aimed at girls. I thought about writing a novel about a teen sidekick and started thinking about famous sidekicks, and Wally came to mind immediately. During the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Marv Wolfman dragged Wally out of retirement (he had stopped being a hero for health reasons) and “graduated” him to become the Flash after his mentor, Barry Allen, was killed saving the world. It was the first time that a hero’s sidekick had taken his mentor’s place. So I decided to do the same thing with a character of my own creation.
Very cool. Before your manuscripts get to your editor, do you have a critique group/partner or beta readers, or do you self-edit?
I do both. I ruthlessly self-edit and get feedback from people whose opinions I trust.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m both. I always know where a story begins and where it ends when I sit down to write, but the characters are the ones that decide what happens in the middle. There are large chunks of story that I planned out for Sidekick that suddenly didn’t seem right, and others that appeared out of nowhere while I was typing. In fact, I even ended up changing the identity of the main villain as I went along. While I thought my original choice for who killed Bobby’s foster father made sense, another character just wound up shouting at me to take that killer’s place while I was putting in red herrings pointing in that direction. So I went back and rewrote chunks to add new hints and deflect others, and wound up with a much stronger climax as a result.
What’s the hardest part of writing for you?
Nowadays? Finding time. I started a new job four months ago, and between work and commuting I’m pulling down 60 hour weeks. Most of my time at home now is spent sleeping. It’s hard to carve out time for writing.
Right? I'm totally with you there. What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?
My iPod and a lot of heavily caffeinated soda. Preferably Coke although I’m really enjoying Pepsi Throwback nowadays.
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
My two favorite heroes growing up were the Flash, who could move as fast as light, and Green Lantern, who had a device that could create anything he could imagine. I’d want either super speed or a Green Lantern ring.
Great choices. Going the comic book route, I'd choose a power like Professor X. ;) What's the weirdest thing you've googled?
Quick writing test! Use the following words in a sentence: sidestep, stereotype, and stint.
I’m going to sidestep this question, because doing such a corny challenge reduces my stint as an author to a stereotype.
I tip my hat to you. That was awesome. Finish this sentence: If I'm not writing, I'm probably ...
LOL, well you better keep writing then. Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.
I owe everything to my partner Bryan. Not only has he tolerated me for the last 20 years, he also reintroduced me to comic books in 1994 and rekindled my love for the superhero genre.
And finally, where can people find you and your books online?
My books can be found at all fine retailers. My “Young Adult Friendly” blog (more about writing, less use of profanity than I usually use) can be found at http://sungenis.com
TOUR WIDE GIVEAWAY:
Grand prize includes a print copy of SIDEKICK: The Misadventures of the New Scarlet Knight, Kick-Ass DVD, and a Superhero mask set. Grand prize is open to US residents only.
Five ebook copies of SIDEKICK: The Misadventures of the New Scarlet Knight will also be given away, open internationally.
Goodreads SIDEKICK: The Misadventures of the New Scarlet Knight: http://www.goodreads.
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