Supernal Dawn Launch Countdown: Interview with Joe & Sharon, Part 1
The book introduces a whole new world, the story beginning with the activation of The Pillars, creating people in the population with unique powers, called Supers. Following a brother and sister (Lee and Ember) as they explore this new reality. But the world already has fantastic creatures and fantasy elements within it.
In this part 1 of a 2 part interview, we talk with Joe and Sharon about the book, the world, and how they created this new universe together.
Q: Supernal Dawn, what’s in a name?
Joe: We were looking for a title that encapsulated the story, was easy to say and remember (always have to keep the pitch in mind) and hadn’t been used before. Dealing with superheroes, magic and sci-fi levels of technology had us thinking of ways to work in the supernatural. While Supernal is more about the heavenly, we felt it was apt in a situation where humans were essentially attaining powers of the divine.
Sharon: We wanted a title that reflected the overall concept of the book as the beginning point of what we hope will be a series. We tossed a lot of ideas back and forth on this and finally landed on something that not only meant the beginning of the story, but also related to the origins of the powers of the affecteds. Plus, it sounds cool and has a bit of the comic-book feel we wanted.
Q: How did the story development progress?
Sharon: Joe is a plotter and I tend to write more by the seat of my pants, writing my way into the story. Joe wrote the first draft and I responded with my character’s perspective. So, basically, it was me getting a chance to play in Joe’s sandbox, and I had a great time with it.
Joe: We spent quite a bit of time working out details of the story, characters and power systems before we began writing. The entire premise of the collaboration was to create an alternate perspective, telling each chapter from a core scene. We could then show that scene from multiple character points of view, including story either before or after. It was important to shape the differences between them in such a way as to make the narrators unreliable. People tend to remember things differently from one another, in ways that reveal more about them than what had happened.
Q: You guys have worked on projects together before, was this any different?
Joe: We’ve asked each other for feedback in the past and written in the same world, but this is the first time we’ve collaborated. It’s actually the first time I’ve collaborated with anyone. I tend to be overbearing, stubborn and unbending, especially when it comes to writing. I thought this would be a good opportunity to change that. While I’d originally intended the idea of an alternate perspective to be done entirely as a solo project, it made sense to work on it with another author.
I like to think of this collaboration as baby steps. We both agreed on story elements, worked on editing the novel as a whole, but we each wrote our scenes alone. I imagine it would have been a much different process had we decided only one of us would do all the writing. I’ve never tried that before, and I certainly don’t rule it out for the future.
Sharon: Our previous work together, mainly with the Haven series, was less collaborative and more like call and response. For Supernal Dawn, Joe had an idea for this great genre mash-up story, and he asked if I would be interested in collaborating. I always enjoy working with Joe, so I said let’s give it a try. (Plus, I sort of made a deal with him to deliver more on a fabulous story he has in the works, because I am dying to know what happens next!) There was a lot more character/relationship building and development that took place in Supernal. Plus, we needed to make some adjustments to be sure we stayed on page with the overall plot, but I still got a chance to put my creative mark on things.
Q: Did you each own a character as “yours” to write?
Sharon: We decided early on to tell this story from two character perspectives. Although they are siblings, both are unreliable narrators, so they see and hear things in very different ways. Now that I think about it, this is in some ways directly related to them being siblings and to the family secrets that have been kept over the years. I think the way we relate to one another really helped us play up the sibling role.
Joe: We decided we would each own a perspective, but the neither character was off limits to either one of us. Since I wrote my scenes first, I would either ask Sharon how Ember would speak / react (if I needed it), or I would do my best to portray her as I thought Sharon would (through Lee’s lens). We would then go back afterward and clean up anything that strayed from each character.
Q: Antagonists for the story, tease us a little about them.
Joe: The story can boiled down to one simple concept: How would the average person behave if they suddenly had superpowers? Our antagonists are both those who want to control these new powers and the Affected who have come to see the unpowered as a threat or now beneath them. Power can be addictive, especially to those who have gone their entire lives without it.
Sharon: As far as antagonists, there is a lot to unpack in this. It goes a lot deeper than typical hero versus villain. And there are some powers at work that are unfathomable to the characters. Is that enough tease for you?