Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your superhero novel, Die Famous, which is the third book in your Powerless series! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the premise of the Powerless universe, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Tony Cooper: Thanks! The Powerless universe is an alternate version of our world where people with super powers have been known about since the turn of the 1900s. During that time, Element City was set up by the first known British Hero, The Elemental. Since then, heroes' fortunes have changed dramatically, and since the mid 1990s, those with abilities have been forced to register, agree to lifelong monitoring, and it is now a crime to manifest their powers in public.
Into this world emerges the main character Martin Molloy, an old '90s hero who avoided the register and just wants to live a quiet life. And he manages it until an old teammate is murdered, forcing him out into the public eye again.
The series focuses on Martin and his protegé Hayley (who saved his life, twice), and it’s about how the world would realistically co-exist with people who have sometimes dangerous abilities. It’s deliberately very grounded and quite gritty, as I wanted to explore contemporary themes through the eyes of superheroes.
Powerless was the first, full-length book I wrote, and, initially, it was the story of this damaged person being forced to confront himself and his past that made me want to write it. I like dark, psychological stuff, you see. And I set it in the UK as that’s where I live, and there just aren’t that many stories about British superheroes, so I thought I’d create one!
BD: For readers who have been following along with the series, what can they anticipate from the latest novel?
TC: Die Famous continues on from Killing Gods and the Some Kind of Hero comic to find Martin getting used to training up Hayley, as their student/mentor relationship develops. At the same time, Martin begins to work out that he and Maria are, in fact, now dating.
But all three are about to be caught up in events that they can’t control, including a millionaire businessman funding his own superhero team through a TV talent contest, and an old group of villains from the 1970s reanimating themselves in the present day, hoping to become infamous in two eras.
In the middle of this is new character, Ruth, a Nigerian immigrant with a psychic power that terrifies her. She auditions for the TV show against her father’s wishes, and soon finds herself targeted by her past, her fellow candidates, and eventually, by the villains.
So, there are big fights, falling-outs, baby steps at romance by two old flames with a lot of baggage between them, and the biggest threats that any of them have ever faced.
BD: Do you feel that Die Famous serves as a solid jumping-on point for new readers, or would you recommend that they start with the first novel of the series?
TC: There are some references to previous events, but not so much that the reader needs to know the detail in order to understand the story. So yes, I’d say it’s a good jumping on point, but, of course, I’d always recommend getting all three books anyway!
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process, and what have been some of your creative influences?
TC: I’m one of those writers who needs to know what they are writing before starting, so I do a lot of planning and outlining.
I always have a rough idea of the overall story I want to tell, but then I break out the spreadsheet (I’m fun at parties!) and start hammering out the individual ideas and plot points until I’m dry. Then, I begin rearranging them, cutting things out and adding stuff in that I’d forgotten I’d written in a notebook and shoved up on a shelf somewhere. That sort of thing.
This goes on for some weeks, until eventually I have a chapter listing out of it. As if by magic!
Then, I create those chapters in Scrivener and begin the process again, chapter by chapter, deciding what’s going to happen to whom, how it starts, how it ends, and how they get there. So, by the time I come to start writing, I already have a framework to write around.
What this process does is that it prevents me from staring at a blank screen, trying to make up several chapters-worth of story on the fly in my head, just so I can write a single line of dialogue. If I know what’s happened, and what’s going to happen, even in outline form, I know what my characters are going to be doing and saying, and the writing flows out a lot quicker.
In terms of influences, there are no direct influences on the Powerless series, but I grew up reading New Mutants, weird sci-fi Manga and watching The X-Files. Now, I’m into Jessica Jones, The Good Place, and indie comics mostly, so I take a bit of everything from wherever I find it.
BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from your work?
TC: Well I hope they enjoy them for a start! But I also try and deal with interesting themes in my books. I’m not interested in throwaway stories or soap-opera squabbles between characters. Powerless was ultimately a story about guilt and secrets, Killing Gods about beliefs and trying to escape your past, and Die Famous is about feeling out of sync with the rest of the world and what some people will do for fame. I hope readers will find parts of each story that resonate with them.
BD: If given the opportunity to expand your story into other entertainment mediums, in what format do you hope to see it adapted?
TC: Well, I’ve written and illustrated one tie-in comic, Some Kind of Hero, and I do have ideas for shorter stories set in the same world that would be a great fit for an ongoing comic series, but that would take a lot of work and organizing, so perhaps I’ll leave that on the back burner for a few years.
Ultimately, though, a Netflix series would be great, please!
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
TC: Well, book four in the Powerless series is going through the outlining process right now. The whole story is sat in my head, and I’m almost at the "chapter listing" stage, so I hope to have the book released by this time next year.
I’m also working on ideas for a new graphic novel; however, it’s a sci-fi story set 50 years from now, so I’m having to do a lot of science research, and as I intend to illustrate it myself, I will need to do a ton of future tech visualization for the art. So, don’t expect this any time soon!
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Die Famous and the Powerless series?
TC: I’ve got a dedicated Powerless page on my website, and you can find all my titles on my Amazon Author Page.
I’m also all over social media via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, where I post regular updates.