Today is Friday, so you know what that means…it’s time for me to feature another writer and their story with Free For All Friday! Make sure to share this post with the hashtag, #F4AF, and to give our guest some love!
Today, I’m hosting Mrs. Liberty Speidel, author of the Darby Shaw Chronicles
I think we can all agree that superheroes are “hot” right now.
Everywhere you turn, you have Batman. Superman. Captain America. Thor. Deadpool. Star Lord.
And before much longer, our culture will become familiar with less common superheroes: Captain Marvel. Suicide Squad. Doctor Strange. Just to name a few.
Let’s face it: if you’re a geek, we’re no longer the armpit of society. It’s cool to be a geek.
When I began writing my Darby Shaw Chronicles in 2009, the boom of the superheroes was in its infancy. Iron Man had only come out within the last year, and no one understood truly what Marvel was trying to do in their cinematic universe. I knew it was cool, and I was seeing the threads between iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, but I had no idea by 2016, it’d be as huge as it is now.
To watch this explode as I’ve been working on my own superhero universe has been fascinating to watch. And it’s also made me hyper-aware that I don’t want to be like the heroes in the Dark Horse, DC, or Marvel movies and graphic novels. Being like something is good—as long as you’ve got a twist.
Still, as someone famously said, there’s nothing new under the sun. It’s hard to be totally new, especially in a genre that has seen it all and done it all.
I came up with the idea for my series sometime in 2009. I’d been thinking about a new
story for a while, and where I live, we were having a very bad year with murders. (I used to write straight murder mysteries, so hang in with me). For a while, I’d been thinking it would be fun to do something different, and I’d already done that by writing a futuristic thriller bordering on space opera. But something more grounded in today’s world, yet different.
One day, as I was watching another story on the news about a senseless killing, the idea came to me that wouldn’t it be cool if we could bring those victims back, and that the killer really did have to pay for what they did—more than just getting stuck in jail, or, God-forbid, getting off for their crimes.
A glimmer of an idea?
It stewed a little longer. I was thinking about NaNoWriMo and thought I had a good idea for a story. But who was my main character? What was their story? I knew I wanted a female lead, and there’d be a romance.
As I was driving one day, she introduced herself to me. I’m Darby Shaw and I’m your protagonist. It was a beautiful moment, one I still remember very clearly—like my wedding day and the births of my children.
Things progressed. The first draft was completed in less than 30 days during NaNo. Then, it sat. I had a baby, he had problems, and my focus shifted. During a trial with his health, I had a lot of time to think, and I told myself when this period was over, I was going full-bore at this story world, and began working on what would become my first novella, Emergence.
With the help of my editor, Grace Bridges from Splashdown Books, I published Emergence in 2014.
Darby Shaw is a different sort of superhero. Everyone knows who she is. And she doesn’t wear a cape. In fact, it’s pretty much forbidden in that world for superhumans to hide their identity. When they find out about their abilities, they’re forced to register with the government. Darby’s just a little different since she learns about her abilities at the tender age of twenty-six.
Writing about Darby and expanding her universe to include more supers has caused me to be hyper-aware of how I can make my world different. I’m a big fan of the MCU, but one of my early readers pointed out that one of my bad guys resembled Wolverine. Oops. But kinda no way around it for what I needed to do. Even though I’ve never been a comic reader, I’ve started picking up graphic novels at the library—mostly to immerse myself more in that genre to figure out how I can be different.
My stories have a firm grasp on our reality. There’s a lot of similarities to our present world—and that’s on purpose-but there’re twists. Things like hover cars, privatized police forces, video phones with holographic technology. I don’t necessarily want my stories to feel like they’re better suited for a comic book than a 350-page novel. I’m looking for a reader who wants something different, yet still familiar. Which is probably why I chose to have my overall feel to be that more of a police procedural than a high-stakes adventure story.
Even if my main detective can raise the dead. Err, murdered. Under certain circumstances. Pretty sure Darby would smack me if I didn’t correct myself there.
As I continue to write in Darby’s world, I will continue to keep an eye on the superhero movies coming out—and read graphic novels as I’m able. Keeping an eye on what could be regarded as the competition is not a bad thing! It’s good to see what’s different, but also what’s the same.
Overall, I’d say the lesson learned here is to find ways to be different. Don’t try to follow a certain formula to be just like Nora Roberts. Or Janet Evanovich. Or Sandra Brown. They’re their own writer. You be your own writer. Do something different. Try to do something no one has seen before.
The literary world will be better for it.
Liberty has been telling stories for nearly as long as she can remember–longer even than she’s been a reader! She started writing in her early teens when she decided the publisher of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys just weren’t publishing the books fast enough. While she started out telling straight mysteries, her storytelling has shifted in the last several years to include a science fiction bent. She is the author of The Darby Shaw Chronicles, a series featuring Detective Darby Shaw, a superhuman with the unusual ability to revive the murdered, which comes in pretty handy when you’re a cop. She’s also the producer and co-host for the Lasers, Dragons, and Keyboards podcast.
Liberty lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, children, and a spoiled rotten chocolate Labrador. When she’s not writing or podcasting, she enjoys a menagerie of activities ranging from baking to hiking to traveling to the mountains. Her next book in the Darby Shaw Chronicles, Omission, is set to release sometime in the fall of 2016.