Writing Superheroes: Peter St. John


superhero copy

According to Wikipedia, ‘a superhero is a type of heroic character possessing extraordinary talents, supernatural phenomena, or superhuman powers and is dedicated to a moral goal or protecting the public.’ Sounds like a writer to me!

Join me as another one of these unsung superheroes invites into their personal ‘batcave’.


If you were to write the “origin’s episode” of your writing, what would be the most important scenes? What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?

Ah, Maria Grace, how far back do origins go? Let’s consider my first novel published in 2007. It is about bullying. The ostensible origin of the novel is perhaps my evacuation in 1940, from the London Blitz to an English village. Hitler wasn’t the only bully of the epoch, for the most important scene would be a contest, against the school bully, at pissing over the wall of the “Boys’” privy.

The next most important scene would be that in my second novel. This time the young hero must defend himself before a magistrate on a trumped-up charge brought out of spite. The theme of the novel is to show how a trivial incident can accumulate far-reaching consequences within a small community. Its origin was again in 1940, when I had to lean how to cope, on suddenly arriving in totally unfamiliar surroundings.

The “early efforts” at these “origin’s episodes” are also the last ones, because they are still out there, publicly available, in the first two of my six “Gang” books. I sincerely hope that nobody will ever have the extraordinary idea of using them for bribery and/or blackmail. I’ve got enough to do without that.


Peter St. JohnAll super-heros have their mild-mannered secret identity, what is yours? I promise we won’t tell.

To be mild-mannered is the inherent nature of my super-hero. It is, indeed, his secret weapon. It is rather his creator who tends to be somewhat rudely irascible on occasions (at least, that’s what some people seem to believe). As for not telling, it now matters little whether you tell or not. After all, it is he, the possessor of the secret identity, who is now responding to your question. So his identity is a secret no longer.


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

My partners in crime are all those wonderful people who find pleasure in reading my stuff. Their superpowers lie in their semi-magical ability to project themselves instantly into another place and time – even a time before they were born, and a place that no-one but they have ever seen.


Where do you get your superpowers from?

My superpowers come from a deep, mysterious, secret place. If I revealed to you exactly where it is, it would no longer be secret. Even so, many are able to discover intuitively its location. Then, the secret shared, we are well equipped go forward together as conspirators, to that convivial meeting place best known to happily conniving readers and writers.


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

Up the stair, I have a lair

For me alone – a mezzanine

Not up; not down – but in between.

A secret place, just part-way there –

A space suspended in the air.

And when I’m there, without a care,

With rough stone walls and ancient beams,

Beneath a window bright with light

Illuminating all I write,

I sketch out schemes to clothe my dreams

In pleasing, teasing words.


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

All my life I’ve avoided every kind of imposed training or other strenuous exercise, for it is certainly not my ambition to “save” the world (whatever that noble-sounding phrase might mean). I have no desire to push ideas on anybody. Nevertheless, I hope I have contributed in some small way to the advancement of knowledge, and perhaps even the spread of happiness.


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

I possess quite a wardrobe of superhero costumes. They doubtless follow the fit and cut of most other people’s outfits. Even so, when designing a new one, I try to ensure that it is up-to-date, elegant and stylish. I wear one all the time, of course, when alone. But as soon as anyone appears, I nip into the nearest nook to put over it my rather drab “ordinary” outfit. It’s tedious to be ostentatious, so I try, as best as I can, to avoid losing my friends through over-egging the omelette.


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

Almost everything is kryptonite for me. The biggest challenge to writing anything, (even something as simple as putting the amount due and signing an outstanding cheque) requires overcoming the inertia of a powerfully kryptonitic tendency to procrastinate.


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

Ah, those delightful, charming, kryptonite-wielding friends, who, with the best intentions in the world, call, and thereby interrupt the progress of a project, just when I have finally put on, admired, and carefully adjusted my most-suitable superhero costume, and firmly resolved to sit down and write. Alas, I have not vanquished this threat (and I’m not even sure that I really want to).


What important lessons have you learned along the way?

Be content with your superhero costumes – just write whatever you want, and to blazes with any idea of saving the world, never mind garnering a financial reward.


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

All of them – especially the make-believe ones.


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

I wouldn’t change a thing (except perhaps the superhero costume from time to time –the older ones tend to shrink around the waist). Besides, regrets are so pointlessly soul destroying.


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

Every bit of advice is “the best” (particularly for the advice-giver) even if I take no heed of it. My advice to all writers is: Never mind what other people think or say, just do it, and have fun. If it’s no fun, don’t do it. Do I really need to explain why? I can’t help feeling the reason is self-evident.


Tell us about your new book and why we need to drop everything and get it now?

My current project for a new book (kryptonite notwithstanding) is a seventh illustrated novel in the “Gang” series, entitled “Gang America”. It relates the upheavals caused, for the children, when the United States Army Air Force establishes an air base in 1942, close to the English village of Widdlington. There’s no need to rush to get a copy – I’d rather you buy the six preceding novels in the “Gang” series first. They were fun to write, so I hope they are fun to read. They are fun for me to read at any rate, and I’ve read them many times. Unfortunately, you may not consider that to be a totally-independent and convincing recommendation. Pity…


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

Who can tell what the future will bring? At my age, the big project is actually to arrive there, where-ever “there” may happen to be.


Thank you, Maria Grace, for your very kind invitation to this mild-mannered, super-powered, super-costumed, superhero to be your guest. I enjoyed the experience – I hope it has been the same for you.

Now I’m all set to leap a few tall buildings at a single bound…



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    • JerryT on March 20, 2016 at 1:13 pm
    • Reply

    What has Peter St. John to do with Jane Austen?

    1. No a lot–that’s why the name of the site is Random Bits of Fascination! LOL! Thanks!

  1. Peter, nice poem! Happy writing.

    1. Thank you, Don. The poem describes accurately a real place inside my house. It is ideal for writing because, like Christopher Robin’s stair – halfway up and halfway down – it isn’t really anywhere, it’s somewhere else instead. Happy reading…!

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