Today it’s my genuine pleasure to welcome Stefani Chaney to the blog for the first interview of #IndieSuperheroSummer! Stefani is the author of The Opposition series, a story about a group of teenagers who sign up for a medical trial and end up with more powerful (and deadly!) consequences than they could have ever imagined. The first two books, Midnight and Liminal Boy, are available now in both ebook and paperback. My favorite part about these stories is far and away the characters. Whether it’s bossy and impulsive Jo, long-suffering Jamie, or sweet, tortured Langdon, Stefani brings everyone to life with realism and grace. You’ll fall in love a dozen times over—just in time to get your heart broken (in the best possible way).
In addition to writing her wonderfully engaging and grounded stories, Stefani is just a delightful person—always willing to cheer on my own writing process or provide cat pics as a balm after a bad day. So let’s get to know her a little better, shall we?
Tell us about your books! Where did you get the idea? How many books will be in the series?
The Opposition takes place in modern-day Montreal and follows a group of teenagers. Each teen signed up for a medical experiment that was supposed to help them overcome their various chronic illnesses. Instead, they were injected with a micro-sized implant called the REV (short for Regenerative Electromagnetic Virus) which feeds off their individual traits and gives everyone a unique ‘verve’ (aka a superpower). These verves are unstable and using them has horrible consequences. While some of the experiments are interested in using their newfound powers to help others and get revenge on the doctor who wronged them, some are more focused on finding a way to survive the implant.
The idea for The Opposition came to me when I was walking around Manhattan in the summer of ’14. It was my first time there. Being the people-watcher I am, I observed everyone I passed on the subway, the sidewalks, in the parks, wondering, ‘What would it have been like to grow up there? What kind of person does NYC produce?’ Out of nowhere, this image of two siblings popped into my head. A boy who had everything handed to him on a silver platter, and a girl who, well, a girl who got the fuzzy end of the lollypop. Two years later, those siblings became the Harding twins, who are at the heart of The Opposition.
There will be four books when it’s all done. Each book is told from a different character’s perspective and follows that character’s part in a larger story. The girl I created in Manhattan became Jolene ‘Jo’ Harding, the voice of the first book, Midnight. Langdon Moore, the first surviving member of the experiment, tells his part of the story in the second book, Liminal Boy. As for the voices of the final two novels, you’ll just have to wait and find out.
What first drew you to the idea of writing about superheroes?
I have always been a huge fan of mythology. Superheroes weren’t really my thing, not until this past decade when it occurred to me that superheroes are really just the current equivalent of those classic archetypes. In the past, everyone knew the tale of the Celtic gods. Today, everyone knows the story of the Avengers. Once I started looking at superheroes as our modern mythology, I became really invested in reading comics and watching superhero movies. As much as I loved those stories, I wanted to put my own spin on things.
The superpowers in your books have deadly consequences. What made you take something that’s often used as wish-fulfillment, and turn it into a burden?
Paranoia? A deep-seated mistrust of a good thing? Honestly, the idea that everything—even good things—can come at a cost is an important lesson. I believe there has to be a balance in all parts of life. Traditionally, superpowers are always a representation of what the hero ‘gives’ to help others and save lives. But a person can give and give until there’s nothing left of them. And then what? Superheroes are always putting others first. Realistically, that’s not always a good thing or a healthy thing. So, having a power that can kill the host when it’s when overused is my way of highlighting that need for balance and why it’s important to not become lost in your own good intentions.
Your characters span a wide range of diverse identities, from disabled to trans to gay and beyond. Tell us a little bit about how and why you chose to represent any of the diverse viewpoints you included.
Whenever I talked to friends or strangers about the latest superhero movie, there was always one common thing that stood out: about 90% of the people I spoke with weren’t straight, or cis, or abled. Before I started writing Midnight, I was feeling really down about myself. I didn’t see myself in any of the mainstream media. If I felt that alone, I realized all these people I had ever spoken to about superheroes must have felt the same way. And I wanted to do something about it. So, I wrote a world I would recognize into The Opposition. Jo has an auto-immune disorder. Jamie, her twin brother, is ace. Langdon lives with a form of agoraphobia. All three of those are things I have dealt with in my personal life. Putting this into a story for others to read has shown me that as much as we think we’re alone in our struggles, we’re really not.
What are some of your favorite superheroes (not your own), from any media or franchise?
I have so many: Poison Ivy, Deadpool, Captain Marvel, The Flash. Comic book-wise, Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye is my absolute favorite. I mean, Hawkeye, in general, is my all-time favorite character, but Fraction’s version really gave Clint a heart.
Now, they might not count as real superheroes, but I have to give a shout out to the first superhero-ish media that ever got me in the feels: E4’s Misfits. I can’t say enough about that show and the acting. Rudy Wade is just the absolute best use of showing how an emotional state can control a power.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
As awful as this sounds, I would really like to have the same power as Angel (a character from The Opposition). He has the power to rewrite the world to make things the way he thinks they should be. It’s not a flashy, party-trick power and using it has big consequences, but I’d like to give it a try. However, I know my characters would travel across dimensions to stop me if I did.
What are the best and worst parts of writing about superheroes?
The best part is making up your own rules of how the powers work, and that includes discovering which power is stronger than the other, who can defeat who in combat, who’s mentality works against or for them, etc. The worst part? Easy, giving them names. It takes me forever to decide on a character’s birth name, and now you’re telling me I have to go and create a whole other identity based on their alter ego?
Do you have any advice you’d like to pass along to aspiring writers (superhero-related or otherwise)?
Don’t worry about if it’s all been done before. I was really worried about creating unique powers when I started writing The Opposition. Really, the powers are just another detail. Writing a superhero story is just like writing any other story. It’s the characters that matter. Their heart and their goals. Once you’ve got that figured out, the powers and world will grow from there.
Lastly, let’s get to know the woman behind the mask a little. Tell us one thing about yourself that you normally don’t mention on social media.
I am an avid star-gazer! Sadly, I don’t live in a part of the country where there’s plenty of starry nights. Too much light-pollution. Still, I like to go out and look for whatever constellations are visible. I really would like to travel to see the aurora borealis at some point. I got to look through a high-powered telescope and see Saturn’s rings once, and that was one of the coolest things ever.
Stefani Chaney is the author of The Opposition series and the paranormal romance, The Moonlight Herders. Stefani graduated with a degree in Creative Writing and currently lives in Arizona with a clowder of cats. She likes coffee, puns, and letting her chronic illness know who’s in charge.