Lucas Flint is the pen name that Timothy L. Cerepaka writes superhero novels under. You can find out more by visiting his website at www.lucasflint.com.
- Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from, what kind of background to you come from? Were you always interested in books and literature? Did your parents get you into reading at a young age?
I’m from a small town in Texas called Cherokee. I lived in Lakeway, a suburb in Austin, for the first few years of my life before my family moved out into the Texas hill country, where I still live today and where I intend to stay, hopefully for the rest of my life.
I was homeschooled, along with my three brothers (I have no sisters), for all of my life. I used to hate reading and writing, surprisingly enough, but I got interested in those activities when I read the books and comics based off of the old LEGO BIONICLE toyline when I was twelve, which inspired me to write BIONICLE fanfiction, and I’ve been reading and writing ever since.
- Have you always been creative? When did you start writing, and when do you wish you had started writing?
I’ve always loved telling stories. Before I could write, I’d act out stories with my toys and action figures or I’d draw pictures in blank books that formed a complete story, though they didn’t usually have any words thanks to my lack of writing ability at the time.
I started writing in earnest around late 2005 when I was about 11 years old. I wrote fanfiction based off of the aforementioned BIONICLE toyline, which was where I learned the craft of writing. I would write and post my fanfiction on a website dedicated to BIONICLE, which helped me get feedback that helped me to improve my craft.
As for when I wish I’d started writing, I’m pretty happy with the age I started at. Maybe if I started writing at an earlier age I would be even better and more successful than I am now, but then again perhaps not. It doesn’t matter to me very much.
- So why are you using a pen name and how did you go about choosing Lucas Flint as your name?
I use a pen name to keep my superhero books separate from my fantasy books (see answer below). This is primarily a business decision; my superhero books are different enough from my fantasy books that I feel they deserved a different pen name and am not sure of how much crossover there is between superhero and fantasy readers. Plus, using a pen name is like getting a fresh start on my writing career, even though I’ve done nothing to hide my real name.
Also, I chose a pen name in case my superhero books flopped; that way, they would not have been associated with my main name, although given how successful my superhero books have been, that is obviously not a very important factor anymore.
As for why I chose Lucas Flint specifically, it sounds cool, looks good written down, and is easy to write, remember, and pronounce. Plus, I don’t think there are any other authors using that name at the moment, so I don’t have to worry about readers confusing someone else’s books with mine.
- What kind of other writing have you done? Did you study writing in college or pursue an MFA in the arts?
I have written fantasy novels under the name Timothy L. Cerepaka, which is my real name. You can check them out here at www.timothylcerepaka.com, if you wish.
I have not gone to college for anything, whether related to writing or not. I learned how to write just by practice and study. Besides, you don’t need a college degree to write or publish books. I know several authors who make a good living who either didn’t go to college or went to college for something totally unrelated to writing. Nothing against college; it’s just not necessary if you want to be a writer.
- What attracted you to superheroes? Most people these days seem to be interested in superheroes and in their movies, which are some of the most successful in Hollywood. What is behind the last fifteen years or so of superhero love?
I’ve been interested in superheroes ever since I was a young child and I still enjoy them today. The Marvel movies have been especially good, although the DC ones haven’t so far, which is a shame because DC has the potential to make some really great movies given that they have the rights to all of their characters.
I’m not sure why superheroes have suddenly exploded in popularity within the last fifteen years. I suspect it’s a mixture of many things, among them the fact that many of the original audience for these characters (remember, characters like Captain America and Iron Man were originally created in the 40s and 60s) are now grown up and have passed their own love for superheroes onto their children and grandchildren. These characters are now so well-known that movies based off of them have a much higher chance of doing well in the box office than they would have in the past.
Also, modern superhero movies have higher quality acting, writing, and special effects than past superhero movies, which means they have a wider range of appeal. You don’t have to be a superhero fan to enjoy the original Iron Man film, for example.
- What are some of the deeper philosophical aspects to superheroes that fascinate you? What do you think the major characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman etc… represent philosophically and psychologically?
One “philosophical” aspect of superheroes that interests me is the clash between good and evil. Superheroes tend to have a more black and white view of morality, but there’s also room for shades of gray. I find it interesting to explore issues of morality from this perspective, since superheroes can also be a tool for social commentary.
As for characters like Superman and Batman, good question. I haven’t given it much thought myself, but if I had to guess, characters like Superman or Captain America generally represent the kind of philosophical ideals that are traditionally associated with America, such as a desire for truth and justice and an unabashed love of your country. Those kinds of ideals are not considered fashionable in certain circles, but are still appealing to most people on a deep psychological and spiritual level, which is part of the reason these characters have endured for so long and still captive so many people in America today. You can probably make similar analysis for other characters, but that would require a whole book on its own (perhaps I will write that book someday).
7 Speaking of psychology of superheroes, are these just modern day myths designed to unify global culture under one common cultural “language?”
I think they are modern day myths, but I am not sure they are meant to unify the global culture under one common cultural language. Superheroes aren’t popular everywhere, after all. I think that superheroes are mostly popular in the West, although there are certain Eastern cultures, such as Japan, that also like superheroes. Even then, however, the Japanese do not approach superheroes exactly the same way as we in the West do; for example, Japanese superheroes tend to be more like Power Rangers than Superman or Batman, although Western views on superheroes certainly have influenced Japanese superheroes in recent years, such as with the anime One Punch Man.
- Which superheroes resonated with you as a kid, and now resonate with you as an adult? How has their appeal to you (and I’m sure to others) changed over time?
As a kid, the superheroes that most resonated with me were Batman, Spider-Man, and the Incredible Hulk.
As an adult, I still like all three of them a lot, but my interests have expanded to other superheroes, such as Iron Man and Captain America. I don’t know how their appeal has changed to other people, though, so I can’t say.
- Lately a lot of comic creators, Marvel and DC being the biggest, have created reboots of some of their most successful characters, but they’ve changed races, genders, sexualities to represent a superficially diverse 21st century readership. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Do creators have the moral right to alter work they’ve put into the culture?
I believe that creators do have a moral right to change their own work and characters however they want. I’m a big supporter of artistic freedom, so if a writer or creator of some sort wants to change their work for any reason, I believe they should have that right, even if their work is already released or has become an important cultural icon.
But to be frank, I do not agree with most of these reboots or replacement characters that companies like Marvel and DC have done to some of their characters. Most of the time, it’s done not because it will improve the story or introduce fresh new conflicts and ideas, but because they are cynically pandering to a particular political viewpoint or are trying to force their views on their audience. Very few of these rebooted characters are even half as good as the originals; even those few who are decent characters in their own right are still not as good as the characters they have succeeded. It’s especially bad if they use these new characters to bash or mock people who disagree with the changes made and ignore any and all valid criticisms of these decisions.
Simply put, I think that there should be a bigger emphasis on telling good stories and making great characters, rather than lazily pandering to an audience that doesn’t even care about superheroes anyway.
- To whom does the culture of superheroes belong, the creators, the corporations that own the rights, or to the readers and fans?
I think it belongs to all of them.
The creators are necessary because if they were not creating the characters and stories, then there would be no media whose rights corporations could sell or that fans and readers could enjoy. Without fan and readers to enjoy them and tell other people about them and make their own fan works based off of them, the creators’ work would languish in obscurity and there wouldn’t even be any superhero culture at all.
The only group I am not sure of is the corporations, given their penchant for greed and screwing over creators and sometimes ignoring what the fans want. On one hand, these corporations often have the kind of money and resources that creators do not. Without them, it is harder for a creator to get his work out to a large audience.
On the other hand, the Internet has made it easier than ever for creators of all sorts to go direct to their fans. I’m an example of that. I publish my books myself and have no interest in working with a big company like Marvel or DC, although if they offered me some kind of deal to work on one of their comics, I might be interested, depending on the specific project and what they offered me in exchange for it.
So, like I said above, I think superhero culture belongs to all of them to an extent and all are necessary to make it possible, although some are more important and necessary than others, to be sure.
- You’ve written I believe nine books on superheroes now, what was the most difficult for you to write and why? Similarly, what was the easiest and why?
The most difficult was The Superhero’s Origin, the fifth book in the series. It was difficult because I wasn’t quite sure where I was going with the story at first and I felt a little lost up until maybe the middle of the book. I don’t think that actually affected the quality of the book itself, though, since it’s currently has a 5 star rating on Amazon as of this interview.
The easiest was either The Superhero’s Powers, the fourth book in the series, or The Superhero’s World, the sixth book in the series. With both, I pretty much knew what was going to happen and what I wanted to write ahead of time, so the writing process for both was extremely easy and enjoyable, with just enough surprises to keep it from boring me.
- Tell me a little about your process as an author. What do you do, ritually speaking, before you sit down to write? Do you have a favored place or time to write?
I like to grab a cup of coffee and surf the Internet before I write, since I get up early in the morning so I can finish my writing as quickly as possible. I also like to read and respond to emails before I write so I don’t have to worry about them later.
My favorite time to write is pretty much any time before noon. The earlier in the day it is, the easier it is for me to write; conversely, the latter in the day it is, the harder it is for me to write. So I always try to hit my daily word quota before lunch and then use the afternoon and evening to focus on other, less creative tasks, such as editing or formatting or promotion or replying to emails or whatever.
My favorite place to write is my desk in my room, where I am currently writing the answers to these questions. I have a comfy chair with a good keyboard at a good height, so writing is usually pretty comfortable for me here.
- How do you handle “The wall” of writing? You’ve been at it long enough to know how to get around hitting the wall creatively. What do you do?
Knowing the basics of the story ahead of time is the difference between a rambling incoherent mess that kind of looks like a story if you squint and stand on your head and a well-crafted tale that is entertaining to readers.
By ‘basics,’ I mean knowing the central conflict, knowing who the protagonist is, who the antagonist is, what the setting is, and perhaps knowing some of the supporting cast as well. Basically, if I know all of the things that are usually mentioned on a book’s back cover copy before I sit down and start writing, I rarely have trouble writing it.
I’m not an outliner and prefer to let my characters lead me, but I’ve learned through trial and error that I need the basic idea of the story down first before I write it. Otherwise, it doesn’t usually turn out very well and is very hard to write.
- Do you believe talent or hard work are more important to being a successful author? Is wasted talent so common as to almost be a parable? Can hard work make up for missing that part of the brain that notices good ideas and executes them?
I believe that talent is important, but it is possible to waste it if you don’t take the time to develop it.
The way I see it, a writer with no talent who nonetheless diligently practices and studies will beat the talented writer who just lazes around and doesn’t use it. A writer who has both talent and hard work, however, would beat both.
There are no guarantees in this business, just as there are no guarantees in life. But practice and study can certainly help, even if you aren’t a particularly talented writer yourself.
- Nerd culture (superheroes included) has been ascendant since around 2001, when Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring came out. That was also the year Spider-man was released, and it was following on the original X-Men film with Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Do you think nerd culture is in decline now? Have the good heroes and villains been strip-mined by corporations?
I don’t think nerd culture is on the decline at all. If anything, I feel like it’s still growing, given that the most recent Captain America movie did extremely well and there’s still lots of hype surrounding nerd pop culture in general. It may decline within the next few years, however, given how many new superhero movies are planned for release between now and 2020, which may cause fatigue in audiences. We’ll see.
No, I don’t think all of the good heroes and villains have been used yet. I think there are still plenty of good characters that both Marvel and DC can use well into the future. The only problem is that they’ve used up many of the best-known ones, like Spider-Man and Superman, already, but obscurity isn’t necessarily a drawback, given how the relatively obscure Guardians of the Galaxy did so well when it came out back in 2014 and has a sequel coming out next year.
- What do you make of the convention culture that surrounds superheroes? Is this something you’ve experienced before as an author, or is it something you aspire to?
I’ve never been to a convention, so I don’t have any experience with them. I would like to visit at least one as an author, though, perhaps as part of a panel with other writers or creators on the topic of superheroes.
My opinion on the conventions is that they seem like a lot of fun at first glance, but again I don’t have much of an opinion on them due to my lack of real experience with them.
- What are your thoughts on the art and fun of something like Cosplay? What is behind people wanting to dress up as heroes and villains?
I have no problem with cosplay. Some cosplayers are incredibly good, looking like they just walked off the comic book page or the movie screen. And some are hilariously bad, but they’re good for a laugh, at least.
I think people want to dress up as their favorite characters because they admire them in some way. Many men, for example, admire Captain America because he is a paragon of masculinity and virtue, so they may choose to cosplay as him in order to express their admiration for the virtues that Captain America stands for.
There’s also a certain freedom in wearing costume. For some people, putting on a mask allows them to behave in ways they might normally never be able to, especially if they’re very shy introverts. Pretending to be Iron Man or some other character like that, however, can take some of the pressure off social interaction and maybe let you relax more than you would have.
- What makes a good villain?
A good villain needs to be a challenge for the hero. That can be physically or intellectually challenging. They also need to be understandable; you may be writing the worst and most evil villain ever who does unspeakably evil acts of depravity, but he still needs to be a character in his own right who has his own motivations and reasons for doing what he does. He may still be wrong and evil, but if you can make readers understand why he is the way he is, he’ll be that much better than if he’s just a generic villain who does evil for no reason other than he’s bad.
On the other hand, I’m not a fan of using a villain’s past to excuse their own failings and acts of evil. Maybe your villain is evil because he was abused by his dad when he was a kid, but that doesn’t make all of his actions justifiable or right, nor does it make him an innocent little victim who needs to be handled gently. It’s a tough balance to achieve sometimes, but good writers can do it.
- Where are you going next with your Superhero series?
I’m going to release a sequel series in early 2017 called The Young Neos. I expect to have the first book out by February or March. I think my readers will love it, but it is a bit different from my first series, so we’ll see how it goes.
Also, I have plans for another superhero series for next year that will be unrelated to my current universe. I won’t say much more than that, other than I am going to see if I can get it published through a publishing company, rather than publish it on my own, as part of my plan to diversify my income streams in 2017. I think this new series idea has the potential to do well, especially if I can get the publisher for it that I want, so I’m really excited for it. The idea behind it is rather original, but at the same time still marketable. That’s all I’m saying on it for now.
- You published The Superhero’s Test in May of this year (2016) and then you’ve produced a number of follow-ups. How do you make time to write everything? Is writing your full time job?
Yes, writing is my full time job. That makes it easier to write and publish so many books. It’s even easier thanks to the fact that I am not married and don’t have any kids.
But the actual writing process itself is only a couple hours a day. I try to limit the time I spend writing so I can make room for other important tasks I need to do, such as formatting the ebook and paperback editions, approving covers from my cover designer, or doing interviews (like this one).
- Where did your idea for Kevin Jason and his journey come from?
I was inspired by reading books by other indie superhero authors and taking some of their ideas and making them my own. In particular, Logan Rutherford’s The Second Super and Tom Reynolds’s Meta were big inspirations for Kevin Jason and his journey, although I’ve also drawn upon places like the Marvel movies for ideas.
- What inspires you?
Like I said above, books by my fellow indie superhero authors inspire me, as do some of the big superhero movies that have come out in recent years. They’re my biggest inspirations at the moment.