Today Kris Katzen tells me about fighting imposter syndrome to take on one of her favorite genres: Superheroes.
I've always loved superheroes. I like the action and the adventure, the humor and the camaraderie, and the good guys winning—most especially the good guys winning. I don't do dark or dour or grim. Nothing wrong with any of that, it's just not my thing. I'd wanted to write a superheroes novel for a long time, and finally I took the plunge. Then—in the best tradition of superhero stories—stuff got in the way, and the project didn't go nearly as fast as I'd wanted.
Although I eagerly dove in, Escapes ended up on the back burner for quite a while. By that, I mean for years, not just for weeks or months. Life and a bunch of other writing projects intervened, so once I could take it off the back burner, I was looking at it with a fresh eye. What I read shocked me.
Brief tangent: every writer I know is their own worst critic. Every single one suffers from bouts of Imposter Syndrome—however briefly or sporadically. We're never satisfied with what we write, and never consider it finished or good enough. Yes, writers are also often proud of their work, but at times the doubt creeps—or crashes—in. But enough digression.
I read this Work in Progress of mine and—to my great pleasure and relief, and more than a little astonishment—I liked it! No Imposter Syndrome at the moment. The story contained humor and excitement. The characters came across as vivid and distinct, and just really cool, appealing characters. I loved it that so much of my concept had translated so well to the page. That encouraged me and made it much easier and faster to finish.
I ended up with the origin story of how this group of incredibly disparate individuals came together and decided to stay together. The ensemble 'cast' of seven needed to be distinct, dynamic, and delightful, not to mention radically different from each other. A former soldier is wanted for being a traitor. A erstwhile priest has been sentenced to death for speaking out against her order's dogma. A deposed empress is fleeing a trial for her mismanaged reign. A beyond-brilliant scientific genius comes from a world where the bulk of the population regards science with benign contempt. An explorer comes from a world of homebodies, and a pair of con artists comes from one of the most law-abiding, honor-system planets around.
Their backgrounds made uniting them the biggest hurdle. Why would a disgraced soldier, a heretical priest, a overthrown monarch, a renegade scientist, a solitary explorer, and two outcast con artists stay together? How would they even meet? As if their backgrounds and personalities didn't present enough of a challenge, they also needed to deal with an additional obstacle: vastly diverse sizes.
The tiniest member of the team is an inch tall. Yes, an inch. Think Ant Man and the Wasp, except that that is her permanent and natural size. At the opposite extreme, the most gigantic person in the group is over two hundred feet tall. Yes, a twenty-story-building-tall person. The five remaining characters range in height from two feet to twenty feet. Nothing like variety! The seven of them need different ships suited to their physiology—not to mention their incredibly different tastes.
So, seven characters with absolutely nothing in common who don't even like each other, let alone trust each other.
But . . . "Escapes", you ask? How? Why? From whom? The better question is, who isn't after them? Their respective former compatriots are. Law enforcement personnel are. Bounty hunters are. Evil scientists are. As are any individuals they might run into who would happily turn them in for a huge reward. They'd gladly just remain in hiding, but that's far easier said than done. If one group of adversaries hasn't found them, another has. Other times, they're forced to choose between remaining out of sight, or potentially revealing themselves to help someone in need or prevent an all-out catastrophe. The only thing never an issue for them is boredom.
And that's my entry in the superhero field: action-packed fun zooming among the stars, and trying to not get killed.
At seven years old, Kris Katzen wrote her first novel—all of seven pages!—and hasn't stopped since. She writes mainly science fiction and fantasy, but (under various pen names) has published in almost every genre. She loves astronomy, history, all things cinematic and theatrical, speaks fluent German and earned a black belt in Shotokan. Most importantly, though, she is the doting mom of her beloved, astronomically adorable swarm of felines.