Today, I'm proud to present an interview with Jim Bernheimer, author of the smash hit superhero novel Confessions of a D-List Supervillain (which I reviewed here.) Jim has just published a prequel to that novel called Origins of a D-List Supervillain. which brings back Cal Stringel, the vengeful engineer from Confessions and shows us how he got his start as a supervillain.
Shelley: I’m always impressed with the wit and charm of your writing. At times, it reminds me of Robert Asprin or Keith Laumer. Yet, the only modern writer you list on your website as an influence is CT Westcott. What authors influenced your style?
Bernheimer: I enjoy wit in my novels. One of the novels I always think about when it comes to that is Peter David’s Howling Mad. The premise is what happens to a wolf bitten by a werewolf. Stories like that which take something familiar and give it a new twist. The late Aaron Allston, who I was fortunate to meet had a very inventive novel called Galatea in 3D that had a real, “Wouldn’t it be cool if?” story behind it.
Shelley: Superhero novels have not always fared well in the publishing industry. In the 80’s George RR Martin’s Wild Cards series did pretty well, but by and large other authors ignored the genre. It wasn’t until the past few years with the Indy publishing boom that they really seemed to take off. What made you decide to write a superhero novel?
Bernheimer: I was looking for something that wasn’t being overdone and I’ve always like superheroes. A modified novella version of Confessions of a D-List Supervillain (basically the first five chapters with an alternate ending) appeared in the short story collection where I was testing the waters of what direction I’d like to go. The novella got all the reviews and so I decided to expand it into a larger piece, which is why I get so many, “It seems like two separate stories” reviews.
Shelley: Why did you chose to write from the point of view of a Super-villain?
Bernheimer: Villains are more fun. Plus, I wanted to do the anti-hero. With a hero like Spiderman, you always have the struggle to do what is right. An anti-hero can fight their inner demons or invite them out to play.
Shelley: Confessions has an amazing Amazon rating (177 5 stars, 79 4 stars, 4 3 stars and only 1 2 and 1 star ratings!) That’s not only a testament to your skills as a writer but it also suggests your novel connected with readers. At this point, it appears to be your most popular book (at least on Amazon).
Did the success of this novel surprise you?
Bernheimer: I knew it was a good story. Timing was on my side because superhero movies were becoming hot. So, the success was more enjoyable than surprising. I could say that sales numbers don’t matter to me or some other type of altruistic rubbish, but my obsessively tracking them kind of flies in the face of that. What is surprising is when I’m looking at the reviews of other novels in the genre and the reviewer references my story. That’s humbling and encouraging when people like my writings enough to discuss it.
Shelley: One of the things I enjoyed about Confessions of a D-List Supervillain, the first published book in this series, was the number of interesting heroes (Ultraweapon, Aphrodite, The Biloxi Bugler, ect...) you introduced. It was good to see The Biloxi Bugler show up again in Origins. Might we one day see a novel told from the viewpoint of one of your Superheroes?
Bernheimer: Probably. I have Cal’s story plotted out, but there is room for expansion.
Shelley: I started with Confessions but now that Origins of a D-List Supervillain (the prequel), what book would be best for new readers to begin with?
Bernheimer: It doesn’t really matter to me. Most of the reviewers are recommending that people new to the universe start with Origins now.
Shelley: Did you read comic books when you were growing up? If so, did you have a favorite comic or superhero?
Bernheimer: Yes. I stopped collecting in the early 90’s. Sad that seems like a long time ago now. I was more of a Marvel guy as opposed to DC. I read a lot of Xmen, but for some reason I always had a soft spot for Alpha Flight.
Shelley: If Hollywood called you up tomorrow and said they wanted to make a movie out of Origins of a D-list Supervillain, who would you want to play Mechani-Cal?
Bernheimer: I used Randall from Clerks as a mental model for Cal when I was writing the story – so Jeff Anderson.
Shelley: You write very convincing Engineering details in your book. Do you have an Engineering background?
Bernheimer: I was nuclear power plant technician during my stint in the Navy. After I got out, I went into computers after a stint as a Radcon tech. I would never claim to be an Engineer, since usually that requires a degree in that field and professional licensing, but I do have a technical background and try to make my science at least somewhat grounded in reality.
Shelley: With Origins completed, what are you working on now?
Bernheimer: I’m clearing my plate so I can start the next D-List books. I have a finish listening to the audiobook of Spirals of Destiny Book 2, the audiobook for Origins is in production and should be done in July, there is a short story written in the D-List universe about the Semi-Transparent man (In Origins, Cal mentions him briefly during his prison stint). It’s a stretch goal in an anthology, but it might not make it in.
I will probably try to write the 3rd and 4th books in the D-List universe and release them together. As I started laying out the 3rd book, I figured that I’d have Stacy wanting to know the details behind Cal’s sleight of hand. The problem was as I was doing this, I realized there was enough for a “Companion” piece to Confessions that covers Cal’s time with the Gulf Coast Guardians in more detail and the time period between the last chapter of the book and the two epilogues contained in Confessions. So, the third book has the working title of Secrets of a D-List Supervillain (or perhaps Omissions of a D-List Supervillain) and the fourth book will be either Rise of a D-List Supervillain (or Trials of a D-List Supervillain).
Guess I’d better get writing.
Shelley: Thank you for participating in this interview!
Bernheimer: Thanks for having me!