Because ‘Vs. Reality’ is a comic book-inspired novel, people ask if my biggest influences were the X-Men, Avengers and The Justice League – when pretty much the opposite is true.
I enjoy stories where heroes get into elaborate costumes and do battle with evil super villains. I also love vampires, zombies, space operas…pretty much anything that has a science fiction or fantasy element to it. They’re loads of fun, but a lot of the time they’re not very realistic in terms of what real people would do in any given situation. Which is awesome – I love suspending disbelief and jumping into the author’s world, leaving mundane reality behind for a couple of hours. But c’mon…if you had any type of super-ability, would you do the same things as you see in the movies, or read in the books?
If you were a vampire in Twilight, would you go back to high school dozens of times for no apparent reason?
If you were Clark Kent would you put on a red cape, blue spandex with the underwear on the outside, and fly around the world helping people in distress?
One of my favourite Stan Lee quotes is: “I always felt that if I had super-power, I wouldn’t immediately run out to the store and buy a costume.” That pretty much summarizes my feelings about super powers, and it’s one of the basic premises of my story – that real people would use their gifts for very different purposes, and make vastly different decisions.
I wanted to explore a world where people were manifesting powers spontaneously, but decide to use them primarily for selfish reasons…and they’d do it wearing jeans and t-shirts. But I felt like that was too simple a concept to start with, so I added a layer of addiction to it: you can’t simply manifest your powers whenever you want – you need to take an experimental drug that allows you to trigger your abilities.
If alcohol and cigarettes are addictive, how hard would it be to quit flying? Or teleportation? If you had that kind of power, it would be a high that you’d crave like nothing else – even if it was killing you.
So if anything inspired me, it was movies, books and graphic novels that went outside the box a little, and asked interesting ‘what if?’ questions. Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass, The Matrix, and episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer were all influences for different reasons, but the common thread is that they feel like they’re putting fresh spins on well-worn memes and mythologies.
The girl pivots in her bar stool to greet Donovan. He’s trying to feign confidence but he’s visibly nervous, palms sweating as he rubs them against the side of his shorts, completely unaware of the ritual that he’s repeating over and over.
She’s smiling brightly, almost beaming with a natural confidence. She’s not the type of attractive that would be intimidating to other women or make a man feel uncomfortable, but her eyes convey a sense of poise and experience that’s completely disarming. She leans back onto her elbow and slightly cocks an eyebrow with anticipation. “So cowboy, do you have an opening line?” she asks in a sweet, almost melodic voice.
Donovan is taken aback for just a moment.
A bead of sweat forms on his forehead.
Even the impending threat of being smashed in the face by a two hundred and eighty-pound professional fighter has never been this terrifying.
“I’m kind of new at this so I was hoping we could skip the opener and move straight to the awkward small-talk portion of the evening?” says Donovan as he cracks a nervous, boyish grin.
“I like it, no bullshit. That’s a refreshing change, especially for a night at Platinum.” She puts her hand on the back of the chair to her left, swiveling it in Donovan’s direction. “Sit down and let me buy you a drink. But you’re going to have to earn it.”
“What’s the price?” asks Donovan, trying to hide his confusion.
“Tell me if she was a blond or a brunette.”
“If who was a what?”
She takes a short sip from her straw, sucking down the remains of her pink and orange cocktail. “Come on. I’ve seen a lot of dudes take a lot of ass-kickings, but when a guy gets beaten up this badly, it’s almost always because of a girl.”
Suddenly, for no particular reason, Donovan doesn’t feel quite so intimidated. He takes the seat and rotates in her direction, leaning against the edge of the bar. “My ex – who is a redhead, by the way – has nothing to do with my current condition. At least the external scars and bruising.”
“Wow, this isn’t the typical boring, getting-to-know-you chit-chat, now is it?” she says, sitting up straighter in her chair as her eyes widen with interest. “This is actually interesting. Don’t hold out on me, cowboy, let’s hear some juicy details.”
“So you want to know the specifics of how I had the still-beating heart ripped out of my chest and stomped on by the evil slut I used to date? What are you, some kind of sadist?”
“Not so much – I’m just into love stories.” She flashes a devilish grin and without making eye contact, slides some cash towards the bartender. He simply nods and starts preparing another drink, stuffing the money into his front pocket.
This is the strangest conversation that Donovan has had in quite some time, but he’s compelled to play along. “And what exactly do you know about love, crazy girl who asks complete strangers inappropriate questions about their personal lives?”
“Just that it’s all a lie,” she says with a hint of sweetness. “No one really means it when they say ‘I love you’, and no one really believes it when they hear it. But people like to pretend that it’s true because it makes them feel all warm and fuzzy inside. You know, it’s like when you tell your sister she doesn’t look fat in her wedding dress, or when you promise to water someone’s plants while they’re away on vacation.”
Donovan fakes a look of concern. “So you just let the plants die? Wow…you are a sadist.”
“Based on my recent dating history, I consider myself more of a masochist.” She pulls the cherry from her new drink and pops it into her mouth, plucking off the stem before tossing it over her shoulder.
“Guys getting their asses kicked, plants dropping dead…you’re a dangerous girl to be around.”
She raises her eyebrows as she twirls the tiny straw several times around the rim of her glass, causing the pink and orange liquid to blend together. “Mmm…you don’t know the half of it.”
Find Blake Northcott:
If your deepest desires spontaneously manifested into reality – giving you powers and abilities once limited to your dreams – what would you do?
Donovan Cole hates reality: his body, his job, his relationship…until one night a violent confrontation outside a nightclub causes him to change – instantly infusing him with almost supernatural size and strength.
The transformation is only temporary, and before long he realizes that he’s not the only one – people around the world have been manifesting at random, able to bend the laws of physics that govern our universe…but they’re rarely seen or heard from again.
Who – or what – is causing them to disappear? What’s the trigger that causes someone to change? And is it arbitrary when someone manifests their powers?
Cole is drawn to a beautiful but troubled girl named Dia who is looking for similar answers, but has a solution to the unreliable nature of their newfound powers: an experimental drug known as ‘Muse’ that enables the user to trigger their abilities at will.
Battling a powerful and mysterious faction known as The Collectors – as well as their own addictions – Dia, Cole, and a small group of friends race against time to unravel the secrets of their uncanny abilities…but they may not live long enough to find out.
Giveaway:eBook of Vs. Reality