Today I’m welcoming debut author RJ Sorrento to the blog! RJ is the author of Captain Stellar, a bright, breezy series opener about everyman Cal Bolden, who has superpowers given to him against his will, when all he really wants to do is live a quiet, normal life. I appreciated Cal’s gentle nature in this book, especially when contrasted against the extraordinary strength he finds himself with, as well as the struggle Cal has with simply finding his place in life. This is truly a coming-of-age story, about navigating the often confusing, conflicting desires that we have in our early adult years.
I haven’t known RJ long, but I was immediately struck by her friendly, open personality—and, of course, by the fact that we both write about superheroes with LGBTQIA+ identities. She’s also very active in the writing community on Twitter, so if you’re looking to make friends in that circle, definitely check her out!
Tell us about your books! Where did you get the idea? How many books will be in the series?
Captain Stellar will be a trilogy. I got the idea while brainstorming for NaNoWriMo in 2018. I also wrote an unexpected romance novella for one of my side characters, which will be released as an eBook in September.
What first drew you to the idea of writing about superheroes?
I’ve loved superheroes since I was a child. I’ve always been fascinated by people with special abilities and what they choose to do with those powers. And since I see little LGBTQ+ representation of superheroes in pop culture, I decided to write a series featuring queer people with superpowers. And everything I write features queer main characters so it only made sense.
Even when bad things happen in your book, the tone never shifts into gritty or depressing—something I really appreciated, especially in a book full of so much queer rep. How important was it for you to keep things optimistic for these particular characters?
My focus for this trilogy is positive queer rep. I grew up hoping for positive outcomes for LGBTQ+ characters, but most of their stories ended in tragedy. So I wrote this book to give queer readers hope and to educate others that LGBTQ+ characters can be interesting without being tragic.
This is your debut novel. What finally made you decide to publish, and what drew you to indie publishing in particular?
I’ve wanted to write a book since I was a child. I’ve written original short stories in my 20s, but they’ve been taking up space in journals and on my hard drive. So in September I outlined the Captain Stellar trilogy and wrote the majority of the novel during NaNoWriMo.
I decided to go the indie route to have control over the book cover design and who I chose as my editor. It has been a lot of hard work and more of an investment than I expected, but self-publishing has been a rewarding experience. I loved working with an illustrator who brought my characters to life on the front cover. My editor Charlie Knight is incredible and they really believed in my story. I’d like to be a hybrid writer with a combination of self pub and small press as I gain more writing experience. I’m proud to be self-published and truly appreciate the support of the Twitter writing community and my family & friends.
What are some of your favorite superheroes (not your own), from any media or franchise?
A few of my favorites are She-Ra (back from the 1980s, although I do love the Netflix revitalization, she was a major influence when I was a child). Batman, Ms Marvel (Kamala Khan), and Professor X are my top 3 comic book superheroes. I also love a good villain. The Joker and Kingpin are my top two that never cease to surprise me.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
Teleportation. I’d love to travel the world without an airplane.
What are the best and worst parts of writing about superheroes?
I love experimenting with their powers, testing their limits, and seeing what choices they make given the powers they have. The only limit is my imagination and I enjoy having fun with these superpowered characters. The hard part is making them vulnerable, especially my main character Cal Bolden a.k.a Captain Stellar, because he has multiple superpowers. So I show his vulnerability on an emotional level since physically he’s quite formidable.
Do you have any advice you’d like to pass along to aspiring writers (superhero-related or otherwise)?
Never give up. Someone is waiting to read your story.
Lastly, let’s get to know the person behind the mask a little. Tell us one thing about yourself that you normally don’t mention on social media.
I’m an open book on Twitter! Something most people on Twitter don’t know about me is my love of soccer. I’m a huge fan of MLS and Bundesliga, and I’m eagerly anticipating the 2022 World Cup. My favorite teams are Bayern Munich and Chicago Fire.
R.J. Sorrento is an indie author of the new novel Captain Stellar, the first book in a queer superhero trilogy. A writer of fiction with positive LGBTQ+ rep, she published her first novelette, Death at Sagehollow, a Regency-era murder mystery on her author website (www.rjsorrento.com). When she isn’t writing, R.J. can be found practicing speech-language pathology, wrangling toddlers, watching anime with her husband, or drinking strong coffee. She lives in the Chicago area with her family. Her second home is Twitter (@RjSorrento).
Cal Bolden is a college dropout working a backbreaking construction job under a demanding boss. He has difficulty committing to his boyfriend, Jin, avoiding offers to move in together. On the night of a meteor shower, Cal’s life changes when a genius scientist named Dr. Almighty abducts him, giving him superpowers against his will.
Thrust into a laboratory hidden in Chicago, Cal meets Fernando and Margo, siblings with powers from Dr. Almighty. They promise to train him to reach his full potential, hoping to break free from their captor of ten years. As Cal learns to harness his powers, he becomes attracted to his handsome and mysterious mentor, Fernando.
Caught between Jin’s concerns about his disappearance and his unexpected feelings for Fernando, Cal flees the lab for a life without superpowers. When Dr. Almighty and his team of recruits threaten to attack the city, Cal must face his fears and fight as Captain Stellar before losing the people he loves most.