Hey Mixed-Up Filers, we’ve got a super interview for you. Ridley Pearson, author of the Lock & Key, Kingdom Keepers, and most recently Super Sons series is sitting down with us today to discuss the latest book in the Super Sons series, The Foxglove Mission.
This is your second book in the Super Sons series. Can you tell us a little bit about the series and about DC’s middle grade graphic novels?
The most interesting character in suspense is, ironically, the villain. The trilogy of Super Sons books works off three “evils.” Book 1: gangs. Book 2: corporate corruption. Book 3: governments. Sometimes these evils are on the page; sometimes implied.
In The Foxglove Mission, our newest character, Candace, is in search of her lineage, her larger family, and her purpose as a human being. She is surrounded by friends who care about her: Ian Wayne and Jon Kent, the Super Sons. She goes off on a dangerous quest. Jon and Ian follow, trying to help her. The boys have their own missions: to find a way to heal Jon’s ailing mother, and to stop a chemical firm from making others sick. It’s high stakes, high action, and teamwork.
You’ve worked with characters before that, like the Super Sons, have an already established canon, in projects like Lock & Key, Kingdom Keepers, and Never Land. What was it like working on a story with characters that have so much history attached to them?
It’s a great question, and that was my question to DC when we discussed my writing these graphic novels. Thankfully, my editors said, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” (i.e., the past of these young superheroes). They allowed me to reinvent them, and hopefully they are likeable, strong characters with much to figure out. That’s how I felt as a kid.
Why Damian Wayne and Jon Kent? Were the Super Sons chosen before the story or did the story choose them?
Art by Ile Gonzalez
These are the characters DC asked me to write about. I was intimidated. The son of Batman? The son of Superman? But I grew up with both Batman and Superman, so I eagerly jumped in!
You’ve created some amazing original characters in Candace, Tilly, and Avyrc. I was really happy to see Candace’s story expanding in The Foxglove Mission, and even Tilly having an expanded role. Can you tell us a little bit about these characters? For example, how did you choose Candace’s superpower? Why is Tilly’s superhero alter-ego Puppet Girl? And what makes Avyrc such a great villain for our team to go up against?
My wife and I have two daughters (grown now). I’m comfortable with such characters; I’ve witnessed so much success, drama, heartache, and redemption. We also have an adopted son from Kenya, and I’ve written about Kenya on my adult side of publishing, so when DC and I discussed Jon and Ian, I wanted to add a female character, and that became Candace. She has “elemental” powers of controlling weather, and working with birds. She is my Earth woman.
You’ve written a lot of cool tech, such as the DHI and a lot of Batkid’s gadgets? What piece of tech from your books do you wish you could use?
I wouldn’t mind having a hovercraft!
Similarly, you’ve written a lot of cool supernatural powers? If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?
The power to eliminate all poverty and prejudice. I’ve looked on Walmart shelves, but it isn’t there. Yet.
I’ve read that you’re more of a plotter than a pantser. Can you tell us a bit more about what your writing process is like?
Stories are shaped in many ways. Two of the most common are: start with a situation; or outline. I fall into the outline group. I like to work with the puzzle pieces first, see where they fit and how to fit them together. It’s not for everyone, but it works for me.
What was your writing journey like? You’ve written for all ages. How did you get started writing for middle-graders?
My writing journey would take up a long dinner! Basically, it has come down to understanding it’s hard work; that stories aren’t written, they are rewritten; that stories are about character; and all the plotting in world won’t replace one terrific character.
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve received, and what writing advice would you give to someone just getting started?
My writing advice: Read. Then read some more. When you do try writing, dedicate some small piece of each day (for me it’s 6-8 hours) to sitting in the chair and putting words onto pages. Don’t worry if they are perfect—there’s time to fix that.
What are you working on next?
I have a new Kingdom Keepers series publishing September of 2020. Working title: Kingdom Keepers 2.0. I’m halfway through a new graphic novel trilogy for DC called The Indestructibles. It’s an original series that I’m incredibly excited about. I think the first book publishes in 2020 as well.
How can people follow you on social media?
Very carefully. (Twitter. Insta. Facebook. I’m not great at it; something I’m working on.)