Author breathes new life into superhero genre

A boy superhero finally escaped the clutches of a Ponoka author’s mind and is grabbing readers’ interest

A boy superhero finally escaped the clutches of a Ponoka author’s mind and is grabbing readers’ interest with his action-packed, cross-generational series.

The first installment of the Mik Murdoch Boy Superhero series was written in 2005 and author Michell Plested recently finished the final draft of the second book. “I wrote the end on Sunday (July 28) in the afternoon.”

The first book was a result of NaNoWriMo, a National Writers Month challenge encouraging writers to pen a 15,000-word manuscript in 30 days. Plested managed the feat in 22 days.

“When I decided to do the challenge Murdoch seemed like a natural fit,” Plested explained.

While the first Mik Murdoch book was finished eight years ago, it wasn’t published until Aug. 1, 2012.

Plested has gone through many rejections in his life and at one point gave up writing.

“I stopped writing cold for about two weeks.” His characters and family forced him to once again pick up the pen.

“When I signed the contract for the first one my publisher (Five Rivers Publishing, Ontario) asked me how many I had planned.” Plested has already written the first three in the series and expects there’ll be about six.

The publisher was originally interviewed for a podcast Plested hosts, and once the session was over Plested was told he could send some of his work.

At first Plested sent a different book, which was rejected, but he was encouraged to send another.

The first Mik Murdoch book has several elements loosely based on Plested’s childhood or stories told to him over the years by those in this life. “I grew up on a farm and was always a comic book fan.”

“It was one of those books that was always in the back of my mind,” he added.

Mik Murdoch Boy Superhero isn’t the first book Plested has written. Two weeks before he started it Plested finished another book, called The Goddess Renewed he’d been working on for seven years; it is yet to be published.

Writing the seven-year novel taught Plested many lessons, one being don’t revise until a manuscript is complete. “I wrote that first chapter 24 times . . . Eventually I just had to move on.”

“One of the big lessons I learned is yes, I can finish a book,” he added.

The writing flow then got a little easier. It took only three years to write the first three Mik Murdoch books — one per year.

However, the process wasn’t without its challenges.

Plested feels he, like many writers, face troubles remembering what a character might look like, or even their name.

Halfway through writing Mik Murdoch he realized he’d changed the names of Mik’s parents. “My writing tools now allow me to keep track of all my character names (and) what they look like.”

Plested uses both outlines and discovery writing.

“I actually like to have a basic understanding of what the characters are going to be.”

However, Plested’s characters seem to come to life with a will of their own, sometimes dictating their own stories and changing the outlines. “As I’m writing I let the characters carry the story.”

Plested says it wasn’t difficult putting pen to paper but the decisions became more difficult when deciding what was going to be included in the book and how they were going to be tied together.

“It was really a matter of thinking what a kid Mik’s age would do to get superpowers,” said Plested. “The veterinarian is from a story my dad used to tell me all the time.”

The tree house described in the book is an actual tree house Plested and his father built together.

Some of the characters found in the book are based on people in Plested’s life. “One of the teachers was actually based on one of my junior high teachers in Ponoka.”

The character was so accurate when a friend of Plested’s read the book he was able to figure out which teacher it was.

The two major antagonists of the novel however don’t come from people Plested knows. But he wrote them as an inspiration and lesson for his readers.

“I wanted to show even kids that are scared, if they believe in themselves and trust the people they know care about them, they will get through it.”

One of the biggest highlights of the book for Plested was when he finished the last chapter and knew the book was done.

Other highlights were when a publisher asked for a full manuscript the first time and when Five Rivers Publishing decided to take the novel; an act that came two years after another publisher first asked for the full manuscript.

“The biggest highlight for me with the book was when I got the box of first books I could actually hold in my hands,” said Plested.

Mik Murdoch Boy Superhero is a mixture of ‘normal’ reality and magic but Plested doesn’t see the two as separate entities. “There are places in the world that are so exceptional they almost feel magical.”

He put the magic in his book not for the sole reason Mik could get superpowers but so that he’d be able to see and appreciate that magic and wonder the world naturally holds.

The second Mik Murdoch book can be expected to be released sometime between Christmas and next year, depending on publisher availability, and while the first book was episodic, Plested says the next will run as more of a continuous novel.

“In the second he eats the berry and he has no idea if it worked,” said Plested. The novel will contain a pivotal point that drastically changes Mik’s life.

Mik Murdoch has been shortlisted for a Prix Aurora Award, presented annually to honour the best Canadian science fiction and fantasy literary works, artwork, and fan activities from the previous year.

Along with the Mik Murdoch series and his seven-year novel, Plested is also involved with podcasts, podcast novels and has a book called A Method to the Madness: A Guide to the Super Evil. It’s an anthology consisting mainly of Canadian authors.

Plested can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and at www.michellplested.com.