The Monster talks with Stephen Henning, author of the Class Heroes series. We talk about living in London and his run in with super powers. Sadly, the only super power the Monster has is his ability to sleep anywhere, at anytime, and within a moments notice. It’s a power bordering on narcolepsy.
A Class Apart is about two kids in London that acquire super powers. Have you spent much time in London and do you have any experience with superpowers?
My family all come from London and I spent a lot of time there growing up. I lived and worked in Ealing (near Ealing Film Studios) for a few years, so I set the books there as it was a place that I have a lot of fond memories of. I always look for news stories about superpowers and try and weave them into my books. There was a recent article about a pharmaceutical company offering £10,000 for people with ‘superpowers’ — ie people who heal quickly or never get ill — to volunteer to be tested on. That’s definitely something I’m drawing on in later books in the series. I got stung by a stinging nettle when I was 8, and it left a permanent mark on my wrist. I often wondered if I’d become Stinging Nettle Man (battling Doc Leaf, perhaps??) but it never happened, much to my disappointment.
Lolly was my favorite character in the story. What was your inspiration for that character?
She is great, isn’t she? I love writing for her. There were several inspirations that I drew on. I cherry picked interesting facets from various people that I know. But in a nutshell (or nutcase, perhaps) she is someone who sees the world as her playground. Nothing is off limits. Her father is rich and powerful, she has a super ability, so she wasn’t bound by the same constraints that everyone else grows up with. She’s like a cat: does what she wants, goes where she wants, and acts on instinct. The only person that she listens to is her father. But sooner or later she’s going to grow up and have to start making choices for herself.
What are your thoughts behind the development of the characters’ super powers? Why did you choose the powers you did?
The characters’ superpowers are an expression of their mental state at the time they got those powers. And that applies to other characters as the series develops. So at the beginning of A Class Apart, the twins’ school bus explodes. Sam is burned by the fire and she tries to use all her strength to get out of the bus, which manifests later as her flame power and strength. Similarly, James can’t move and can’t reach his sister to help her — hence his teleportation and telekinesis. One of the things that has always interested me about superpowers is what people would actually use them for. The average person, when given an unusual ability, is probably not going to think ‘I’ll fight crime’. That works well within comic books, but I don’t think it works quite so well in a novel. If I got powers, the most interesting story would be how I dealt with the change to my life. It’s a bit like winning the lottery, or suddenly becoming famous. On the face of it, it’s great, but it has the potential to vastly improve your life, or totally wreck it. What would it do to your relationships? Would you want to use your abilities in everyday life? Would others be envious and try and use you? Those are the stories that I want to tell in the Class Heroes books.
A Class Apart is the first book in the Class Heroes series. What can readers expect in the coming novels?
Readers will get to know James and Sam much better. A Class Apart was quite broad in terms of being introduced to a number of characters. From book 2 — What Happened in Witches Wood — onwards, James and Sam become the main focus, along with Lolly and her father. Book 2 is more akin to a ghost story, as James and Sam discover that their dead aunt is haunting a wood close to where their grandparents live. Sam and James also get to find out how they got their powers, and why Lolly and her father are so interested in them. Book 3 is a short story — a novella — featuring just Lolly. It gives us a deeper insight to her character for the first time, and is full of surprises, just like the girl herself. It’s a standalone story called Where’s Lolly? and it’s free on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. So if you want to sample the series for free, you could start there. Book 4 is more of a crime novel. It ups the stakes for James and Sam as they — and a kid with a rather unusual power — attracts the interest of governments, a London drug lord and the Russian mafia. It’s called London Belongs to the Alchemist and it’s out in July.
Learn more about Stephen and the Class Heroes series at http://www.classheroes.com/
Caecilius Rex is a detective in a post apocalyptic future where the drug of choice for criminals is a chemical mix that gives them super powers. It’s sold at a secret venue called the Atomic Circus where you have to be invited to get in. It’s a place where you can buy body parts, weapons, and drugs; it’s a veritable criminal’s bazaar where you could buy all manner of illicit goods. There’s a new drug available at the circus that’s gaining popularity. It’s a chemical mixture that gives you super powers; it can make you stronger, faster, or even fly, but it’s killing people, and one of those people lands at Rex’s feet. To solve the murder, Rex needs to be one of those special people that get invited to the Atomic Circus so he can find out where these drugs are coming from. While his expert detective skills get him in, he’ll be threatened at gunpoint every time he’s in there. To survive the circus, Rex teams up with his ex-military neighbor Kendra. Together they unravel a plot to kill Rex and find out that powerful people need him out of the way so that bigger plans can be set in motion.
Atomic Circus is a detective story at its core and succeeds at telling a straightforward story that inspires the imagination with little effort on the reader’s part. I found the writing to be simple and straightforward in the best possible way allowing me to just sit back and enjoy the story instead of dissecting the language or adjusting to the writing style. As for world building, I understood the places the characters were in; the police station, the circus, Rex’s house, but they all felt disjointed, connected only by the characters and not by a larger world. The only piece of the story that hints at building a larger world is the toxic smog that fills the world; which requires everyone to wear a gas mask whenever they go outside. The idea of the chemicals giving the characters super powers is an intriguing idea. I was afraid at first that this would quickly turn into an X-Men knockoff and everyone was going to be throwing each other through building, but I was happy to find that this was not the case. The effects on the body seem to be duplicitous. Example: while giving you the ability to fly, it doesn’t actually turn you into Superman. You simply float until it wears off and then you come crashing back down to Earth. This gives the chemical mix sort of a nefarious plausibility. Atomic Circus is a quick and fun ride and I look forward to more world building and character development in future novels.
Print Length: 172 pages