Writing superheroes: E.M. Powell

 A superhero in search of the perfect slippers? Read on and find out more…


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If you were to write the ‘origin’s episode’ of your writing what would be the most important scenes?


I write historical thrillers: my medieval The Fifth Knight was a #1 Bestseller on Amazon. I myself wonder where on earth that has come from! Like with everything that makes us, it’s a whole lot of things combined. It could be me as a twenty-year-old student, listening to a lecture on everyday life in medieval times. Up to that point, history for me was always about battles and power and alliances and governments…you get the picture. But this lecture was different. It was about a tanner and his house and family, and how they would have lived. As soon as the parasites that would have been living on the poor man were listed, I was intrigued (and then did nothing at all about it for years).  

It could be me in the 1970s, with Hawaii Five-O my favorite TV show. As a ten-year-old, those shows were as glamorous and exciting as you could imagine, with each one an edge-of-your-seat story. I think that was my introduction to action-based stories, which has never left me. And you can catch re-runs! Not so glamorous now, I’m afraid, but hugely entertaining.  One of my most recent favorites was Steve McGarrett’s method for getting a female witness to talk: “You’re a beautiful woman, Irene. But after ten, fifteen, years behind bars, what will you look like?” Irene, of course sobbed (prettily) and Told All. An odd combination, certainly. But my agent describes my writing as ‘car chases with chainmail’, so I guess it works!


What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?

The loft will never give up its secrets. I’d give up the dead body long before I’d let those early manuscripts be seen.


All super heroes have their mild-mannered secret identity, what is yours? I promise we won’t tell. 

My glasses are so high-prescription even Clark Kent would have trouble holding his head up. The number of people who are ever allowed to see me in them is very limited indeed.


Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?

Spouse, daughter and agent. They believe. And the dog- she doesn’t care so long as there’s cheese.


Where do you get your superpowers from?

I believe I have a Muse. He is very unreliable and I am thinking of firing him.


Where is your secret lair and what does it look like?

Can’t remember. All is Paper.


What kind of training do you do to keep your superpowers in world saving form? How do you insure they are used only for good?

I read thrillers and historical fiction/non-fiction. A lot. And when I’ve read one by a Super-Super Hero (like Tess Gerritsen or Robert Harris), I go all sulky.


Granted, you probably don’t’ get to wear your superhero costume a lot, but if you did, what would it look like?

Anything that keeps my feet warm while I’m sat writing for hours. I’m in search of the perfect slipper. If anyone finds one, let me know. (Note: slipper as in furry, with a good sole for putting the bins out. Not Cinderella).


What is your kryptonite? What are the biggest challenges faced with in your writing?

That my writing sucks. That I suck at writing. That the words I produce suck. That suckiness is what I do. Are we clear?


What was the supervillian that threatened to stop your latest project and how did you vanquish it?

Getting too caught up in the tanner’s parasites and failing to start his car. Spouse and agent had to politely point out that I was being boring. I knew they were right: I was actually boring myself. So out went a famine and in came a leopard. The delete button had to take care of 20,000 words. And I had to have sharp words with my Muse.


What important lessons have you learned along the way?

Keep writing. Don’t stop.


What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?


The Fifth Knight being the Kindle Daily Deal on Amazon.com on 03 March 2013. It stormed up the charts, taking the #1 Historical spot. It was #3 in Action & Adventure, behind Dan Brown’s Inferno and Life of Pi. The I hit the refresh button- and it was #1 on that chart too!


If you did this again what would you do differently and what would you not change?

I’d have started my slipper-sourcing earlier. Otherwise, I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, I might try and shorten the nearly eleven years it took to get published. A bit.



What is the best (writing or otherwise) advice you have ever gotten and why.

Learn your craft. As in character, plot, dialogue, scenes etc. Those are the basics and anyone who’s any good at anything learns the basics first. For instance, Sir Christopher Wren did not declare “I’m gonna build me a cathedral!” and slap up a nicely-domed Saint Paul’s. He studied mathematics, physics and engineering before he turned to architecture. So not only does Saint Paul’s look magnificent, it has not fallen down.


Tell us about you new book and why we need to drop everything and get it now.

It’s called The Blood of The Fifth Knight and is the sequel to The Fifth Knight. In The Blood of The Fifth Knight, Sir Benedict Palmer is summoned to serve King Henry II again. Someone is trying to kill Henry’s beautiful young mistress, Rosamund Clifford. Henry charges Palmer with finding out who is responsible. Release date is scheduled for December 09 2014.


What’s in store for you in the future? Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?

Head and shoulders into the research for the next book in The Fifth Knight series- working title is The Fifth Knight: Lord of Ireland. It’s based on John’s (youngest son of Henry II who will one day become the despised King John) disastrous campaign in (yes, you guessed it!) Ireland in 1185. Palmer is sent by Henry to keep watch on the impetuous John. But Palmer uncovers a plot by John to make his mark on the Lordship of Ireland by appalling means. John has to be stopped at all costs, with only Palmer standing in his way…



    You can find E.M. at:




1 comment

  1. Hugely talented writer E M Powell. You cannot fail to love this book. Right up there with the best of the genre.

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