Writing Superheroes: Barbara Gaskell Denvil~The sequel

A reborn super-hero swirling her purple silk cloak in the moonlight…

Read on and find out more…

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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’.


All good superhero stories, have a sequel–something else happens after he first foe is vanquished. How does your sequel begin?

My foe was disguised as a friend – just as all the best villains have a disguise – and so, having vanquished and moved on – my sequel begins with a huge boost in confidence. You kill enough demons, then you feel much stronger. So now I have published 6 books – four rollicking medieval adventure/romances, a very quirky crime mystery, and a new (equally rollicking, I hope!) fantasy. The fantasy might be YA – who’s counting? But it’s a book I adored writing.

These are all available in both ebook and paperback editions – and I am now looking into the possibility of audio editions.

So even for super-heroes, it’s all to do with confidence and enthusiasm. I’m a reborn super-hero and I’m swirling my new purple silk cloak in the moonlight.


All super heroes have their mild-mannered secret identity. How has yours grown and changed since you started life as a superhero?Kryal Castle

I’m not sure how mild-mannered my secret identity has been. Screaming at the computer has become a bit of a habit as technology progresses, and I don’t. But my secret identity is happy to sit long hours huddled over the screen while all those glorious dreams and dancing threads of inspiration float from my head to the keyboard. Even while yelling at the technology and my incapacity to understand it, I am still endlessly enthusiastic as my books develop and come to the boil.


Do you have any side kicks or a new superhero team member? What are their superpowers?

Yes indeed. I have two new elf helpers – one disguised as the elder of my twin daughters – and the other as my granddaughter. These two adorable and invaluable little elves have altered my life. The technological puzzles that drive me crazy, actually seem quite simple to them. They obviously have access to the secret magical codes. They understand Twitter and can use it (whereas I know it is actually an underground device controlled by demons who may leap up and eat me at any moment) – and these elves own super-powers are amazing. I design my new book covers – and lo and behold, with a click and a swish – my little elf friends translate my designs onto the computer screen and make them all come true.

Working with others instead of struggling with everything alone also makes it far more fun. My super-hero self has discovered the power of pleasure.


Have your superpowers grown and changed since your last adventure?

I’m not sure if they have actually grown, but I’m certainly more in touch with them. My dreams are intensely vivid and I walk the cobbled medieval alleys of old London in my sleep, exploring the places I will write about the next day. Those dreams sweep me into the atmosphere, the threats, the shadows, the sunshine and the joy of my own plots and the rich details of the backgrounds where my characters thrive. A super-power? Perhaps it is, in a way. It feels like that sometimes. . I have always done this, but now I remember more of my night-time adventures, and I look forward to every opportunity to get that inspiration translated on my computer and from there into tangible creativity.


What new supervillian have you faced on your latest project and how did you vanquish it?

Time, technology and health are now my super-villains. These receive their fair share of insults during my day. However, insults do not seem to bother them and they don’t go away. Therefore I have discovered that ignoring them all is the best strategy – these villains then feel shame and creep away if ignored. Sadly they don’t disappear entirely, but occasionally they shrink.

I have a couple of more interesting villains too – those in my books – and they are as welcome to me as my heroes.

For instance, in the fantasy I have recently published (A WHITE HORIZON – first in a trilogy entitled STARS AND A WIND) sits Grimr, and he’s a very complicated character. He seems sadistic and can be extremely cruel, but my heroine also discovers that this man is suffering from the utter destruction of his inner spirit, and the cruelty he exhibits is part of his own confusion and terror.

Writing a complicated villain can be cathartic too. I became very fond of Grimr in spite of his terrible faults.


What new lessons have you learned during this new adventure?

A little more patience – and a little more positivity. I also learned that sometimes getting the one thing you have always wanted, often turns out to be entirely useless. It is what you produce yourself, and how you turn your own inspirations into reality – that really brings the rewards.

The next lesson on my hope-list is learning to fly. Not in planes – that’s just old-fashioned. No – proper flying. What use is a super-hero who can’t fly, for goodness sake? I fly quite well at night while in bed and asleep, but that’s not enough. I do think a good flight over the hills every morning would be a great stimulus for the creative impulses.


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

Although it is writing that I adore the most, I have been both surprised and delighted to discover what a pleasure it is to design my own new book covers. I confess that the covers my traditional publisher in Australia designed for me never pleased me. Perhaps I’m just picky but I always felt that they were not fully indicative of the books’ content, and I was also shocked that the costumes depicted were extremely wrong for the timeline. I pointed this out to the publisher but they only cared for commercial appeal. So I had two big medieval adventure mystery romances with covers of headless women dressed in late Tudor costumes which none of my heroines would have or could have worn. Now I have very much enjoyed designing my own very different covers. It has been enormous fun. I cannot swear that they are commercially successful, but they are certainly beautiful to me.


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

I doubt I’d change anything. I rarely have regrets. Things go wrong but I learn from them, and sometimes what seems to be wrong turns out to be right. I learned a great deal from being traditionally published by one of the world’s principal publishers – but I have also learned a huge amount from self-publishing. It will be exciting to see what pattern develops next.


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

My newest two books are amongst my favourites. Firstly BETWEEN is a book of surprises. It is a crime mystery-adventure but the plot is certainly not conventional. More or less contemporary, this is a murder who-done-it unlike others. It was such fun to write and the inspiration just flooded in, day and night. It’s different to anything I’ve ever read – and different to anything else I’ve written. It is a book which plays with twists, clues and surprises. There are more unexpected turns in this book than are usually found in crime dramas…

Secondly there’s THE FLAME EATER – and that goes back to my own favourite genre – being a late medieval adventure. There’s a bit of a crime who-done-it element in this book too – but there’s also a wild romance, a large cast of varied characters, and a good deal of historical background. I explore the terrible visitations of the plague which devastated England in those years, and I also explore the difficulties of the nobility’s arranged marriages. But there are plenty of twists in this plot too – and nothing is ever quite what you might think it is. The romance is integral – but that has its surprises too.


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

Fantasy – or historical adventure – that is the question.
These two genres are my particular loves, and I intend to carry on writing both. I have just started to write THE DECEPTION OF CONSEQUENCES, which is set in mid Tudor times, against a background of doubt, fear, and threat – which is how the Tudor court certainly was during Henry VIII’s later reign. Adventure – crime – romance – and tremendous fun to write as usual.

I never stop. As long as my wretched fading eyesight permits me to continue, I shall keep writing all the books in my head that need to be written. A couple of months ago I published the first in a fantasy trilogy (entitled A WHITE HORIZON) and the second and third of that trilogy will be published over the next months of this year.
Hopefully I will live until; I’m about 125 in order to finish all the books at present floating around in my head – a medieval quartet – a time-slip time-travel romance – and many more.. After all – what is a super-hero worth if she cannot arrange to live until 125?


It has been a real pleasure talking to you, Maria – since I consider you one of the most outstanding super-heroes yourself. Thanks so much for encouraging me to talk about myself and my work – always an author’s principle desires – and I enjoyed our talk enormously.



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