Author: John David Anderson
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Release Date: June 25, 2013
Number of Pages: 384
With not nearly enough power comes way too much responsibility.
Andrew Bean might be a part of H.E.R.O., a secret organization for the training of superhero sidekicks, but that doesn’t mean that life is all leaping tall buildings in single bounds. First, there’s Drew’s power: Possessed of super senses – his hearing, sight, taste, touch, and smell are the most powerful on the planet – he’s literally the most sensitive kid in school. There’s his superhero mentor, a former legend who now spends more time straddling barstools than he does fighting crime. And then there’s his best friend, Jenna – their friendship would be complicated enough if she weren’t able to throw a Volkswagen the length of a city block. Add in trying to keep his sidekick life a secret from everyone, including his parents, and the truth is clear: Middle school is a drag even with superpowers.
But this was all before a supervillain long thought dead returned to Justicia, superheroes began disappearing at an alarming rate, and Drew’s two identities threatened to crash head-on into each other. Drew has always found it pretty easy to separate right from wrong, good from evil. It’s what a superhero does. But what happens when that line starts to break down?
I'm so excited to be sharing this guest post with you for this blog tour. I've always been interested in the dynamic between author and editor, so I jumped at the chance for this post: SIDEKICKED's author, John David Anderson, was interviewed by his editor for this book, Jordan Brown. The entertaining result is below.
Jordan Brown: Let’s get the classic question out of the way first: if you could only have one superpower, what would it be?
John David Anderson: It changes every day. Running late to take the kids to tennis lessons I found myself wishing for teleportation. Mind control would have been handy the other day when I tried to convince the cable company that they were overcharging me. Or telekinesis for those times you are stranded without toilet paper (if I could just open the cabinet under the bathroom sink...). It might be fun to be able to rearrange the entire molecular structure of the universe: Like playing with an infinite number of Lego bricks, except I'd be afraid I wouldn't be able to put it back together right.
Let’s be honest, though. If I did have a superpower I would still just use it for mundane stuff: like using laser vision to make water boil faster by looking at it or frost breath to lower my air-conditioning bill. You probably don't want me saving the world.
Jordan Brown: Were you a big fan of comics and superheroes growing up? What inspiration did you draw (or not draw) from this?
John David Anderson: I was and I wasn’t. I didn’t collect comics—just mooched off of friends—but I was profoundly influenced by the mythology. I remember pretending to be every tights-wearing paragon imaginable, flying through the house, leaping over couches in a single bound, smashing potato chips between my fists in threatening gestures as I warned imaginary henchmen that I was not to be trifled with. My imagination was populated by a tableau of superheroes, Star Wars characters, and cartoon miscreants. I’m not sure where all this came from: books, film, clubhouse conversations, advertising. I think it was important, though, that I never got overly immersed in comics. I have an appreciation for the genre and its practitioners and enough of a basic understanding of the conventions of superhero narratives that I could pervert them to my own ends.
Jordan Brown: You did some great work throughout the drafting process developing the various minor and major superheroes we meet in the book, building out the history of the completely original superhero world you created here. Is there anything in particular you discovered while digging into this backstory?
John David Anderson: That you could edit a book and actually make it longer. The great thing about going back to the novel to revise it was stepping outside of Drew’s head to get a sense of the bigger picture. My initial draft was so focused on his remarkable (and yet myopic) vision of the world, that I sometimes overlooked how rich that world could be. There are things Drew takes for granted that readers might not. So as the book evolved, I tried to flesh out Justicia and its inhabitants a little, rounding out the heroes and villains that populated it, drawing out the motives of other characters, but still trying to keep Drew’s often ambivalent attitude about the whole thing as the focal point. I think several of the adult characters grew as a result of that process, but perhaps the character who benefited most from the revision was Jenna, who, in my opinion, ends up being even more conflicted than Drew. Like him, I still don't quite understand that girl. And I created her.
Jordan Brown: Many of the powers with which you imbue your characters seem to be particularly suited to their personalities: for instance, our hero, Andrew Bean, a thoughtful and sensitive guy, is quite literally possessed of super-senses. How did you go about choosing the various powers for your characters?
John David Anderson: Some of them are admittedly typecast (Gavin's literally rock-hard muscles). Some provided much needed comic relief (Mike's shocking fear of self-electrocution). Most of the sidekicks have powers that compliment their personalities, but for Drew the power provided something extra: a way of looking at the world—and writing about it—from a slightly skewed perspective. His power is as much a burden as a blessing, I think, and much of the novel is him struggling to decide if it's even worth having, especially given the circumstances he finds himself in. Like many kids his age, he sits on the cusp of a more adult world full of responsibility and codes and severe consequences and yet barely equipped to tackle them. Even with his powers, he still has a lot of growing up to do.
Jordan Brown: Most of the characters in the book are struggling with the concept of heroism – the moral questions, the responsibility, the moments when being “good” might just not be good enough. What do you think is the hardest part about being a superhero?
John David Anderson: The hours. When do they sleep? And for the flyers all those bugs—shouldn't they wear goggles? And then there's the revolving door prison—that's got to be frustrating, knowing that almost as soon as you put somebody behind bars they are going to bust out and hold the city for ransom again. And I hear the paparazzi are terrible. And the underground lairs almost always have mold.
In all honestly, though, I think it must be hard being that selfless. At their best, superheroes are purely altruistic, willing to sacrifice everything for the "greater good." They don't have time to watch Animal Planet with their kids (that they probably don't even have), or go on a date, or just lay in the hammock with a good book. I remember watching the first Superman, the scene with him flying through the air with Lois Lane, and thinking "Dude, there are probably eighty crimes going on RIGHT NOW and you're just showing off for some GIRL!? So unrealistic!" Of course at the time I was twelve and just wanted Christopher Reeve to punch something, but even now I think about the real heroes in the world and admire them for all of the time, sweat, money, and lives they sacrifice so the rest of us can pursue our often self-motivated ends.
Jordan Brown: Do you think that, deep down, everyone is either a hero or a villain? Or is it more complicated than that?
John David Anderson: I think, deep down, we have the capacity to be both, but that our default is actually bystander. In some ways I worry that our primary impulse is to sit back and watch as crimes or tragedies unfold around us. Most of us are voyeurs—the gaping gawkers that stand outside the pool in the first chapter of the book, oohing and aahing as the action unfolds before them. I'm not sure that's admirable. Bystanders, yes, but does that mean we are innocent?
The question is, when we are compelled to act, where do we stand? Do we gravitate more to the nefarious or the noble? There is something alluring about villainy: the chance to undermine or circumvent all the codes and laws in order to pursue your own ends, especially if you question the codes and laws to begin with. Ultimately, though, I think that, if pressed, our capacity for love and empathy and our sense of community take hold, and we err to the side of heroism. Our history and culture are not without their share of villains, but our heroes still outnumber them in droves—we just don't hear about them as often. Still, it's a choice...that is, once you realize you don't need a pair of tights and a snazzy mask to go make a difference in the world.
Jordan Brown: Can you tell us a bit about your next book, Minion?
John David Anderson: Minion tackles many of the same issues as Sidekicked, but from the other side of the metropolis. The book’s protagonist is an antihero who is decidedly anti hero. He is undoubtedly a criminal; yet he struggles with many of the same issues as Drew does: the difference between what's right and what's best, the search for identity, and the desperate need find someone to trust in a world of men in masks.
Oh yeah. And there are explosions and battles and bank robberies and crushes and people being crushed and people who shoot thorns out of their skin and all the things that make a book really worth reading too.
Spoiler alert: It doesn't have any pill-shaped, suspenders-wearing, banana-loving henchmen. I love those guys.
Thank you so much to Walden Pond Press and John and Jordan for sharing this interview!
And now, you have a chance to win your own Signed, Hardcover copy of SIDEKICKED
Check out the other stops on this tour for more chances to win
*Note ALL tour stops are offering signed hardcover giveaways of SIDEKICKED! U.S. Residents only.*
Click here for Walden Pond Press' Superhero Giveaway on facebook for a chance to win an ereader and more!