I haven’t met Peter yet, but I have read his work. It’s good stuff. Also, contrary to popular belief, I don’t hate him. :)
I almost didn’t write Ex-Purgatory.
Well, that’s a little bit of a lie. I was going to write a fourth book in the Ex-Heroes series one way or another. Contractual obligations and all that, plus I just wanted to do more with the characters. But it almost wasn’t the story that just got released.
Y’see, I’d had this idea bouncing in my head for a while. One of those ideas that feels like a great springboard. What if someone told you that you were supposed to be a superhero? That you were super-strong and bulletproof and could fly? How would you react? How would they react to your reaction?
But here’s the catch, and it’s what had me going back and forth on Ex-Purgatory. This premise becomes two very different stories depending on if we know the characters or not. Consider this...
If someone walks up to everyman Bob Jones and says “you’re a superhero,” it could mean anything. We have no idea who Bob is, so maybe he is a hero. Maybe he isn’t. Maybe the speaker is kind of delusional, or they could be the only sane person in the story. And this was really the story I’d been musing on.
But if I walk up to Clark Kent and tell him he’s supposed to be a superhero... well, this puts things in a different light. We all know who Clark is when he’s not working at the Daily Planet, and that makes this a very different story. Does he have amnesia? Is he in hiding? Is this some alternate world where he never came up with his “Superman” identity? What’s going on here? Because, y’know... it’s Clark Kent. He is a superhero, and we all know it.
In one case, this is a “what if” story. In the other, it’s a “why” or maybe “how” story. It’s the kind of subtle shift that could be a real stumbling block if the writer doesn’t identify it. And I realized if I used this idea with the Ex-Heroes characters, it was going to be the latter version of the story and would have to be handled accordingly.
So, did I want to burn my premise on a different kind of story than the one I’d been thinking of for the past year or so? It’s not like I’d be able to write another possible-superheroes-who-don’t-remember story. Well, not without really confirming what a hack I was...
In the end, I decided to go for it. While part of my brain was debating, another part realized I could weave in another thread I’d left dangling, plus I thought of one or two funny bits I really wanted to write. And I was on a deadline for that contract. And the story shaped up to be something I thought was pretty fun. And it looks like a lot of other people have thought it was fun, too.
I wonder what that other story would’ve been like.
Peter Clines is the author of the genre-blending -14- and the Ex-Heroes series. He grew up in the Stephen King fallout zone of Maine, made his first writing sale at age seventeen to a local newspaper, and at the age of nineteen he completed his quadruple-PhD studies in English literature, archaeology, quantum physics, and interpretive dance. He was the inspiration for both the epic poem Beowulf and the motion picture Raiders of the Lost Ark, and is single-handedly responsible for repelling the Martian Invasion of 1938 that occurred in Grovers Mills, New Jersey. He is the writer of countless film articles, The Junkie Quatrain, the rarely-read The Eerie Adventures of the Lycanthrope Robinson Crusoe, the poorly-named website Writer on Writing, and an as-yet-undiscovered Dead Sea Scroll. He currently lives and writes somewhere in southern California. There is compelling evidence that he is, in fact, the Lindbergh baby.