Today on Conversations Between Writers I talk to Jeremy Zimmerman [website, Twitter] (no relation, though we joke) about the second book in his YA superhero series Kensei: For The Love Of Danger that he’s currently Kickstartering part of the cost of publishing. Jeremy along with his lovely wife Dawn Vogel are also the evil geniuses behind Mad Scientist Journal. I was lucky enough to get to Beta-read this ambitious novel (Kensei takes place in the shared superhero world of Cobalt City and I have a Cobalt City character who happens to be Kensei’s roller derby coach. Jeremy always checks with me to make sure he’s treating my character with respect.) and I really enjoyed it. It’s a super fun read with a lot going on. I hope you’ll consider backing it.
Minerva Zimmerman: So you’re heading back onto the streets of Cobalt City once again with Kensei: For The Love Of Danger. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about that?
Jeremy Zimmerman: I’ve been working on my sequel to my first book, Kensei, and have a Kickstarter going to pay for some of the production costs. The sequel brings back the titular Kensei, who finds herself having to deal with a lot of legacies. Not only do her grandparents learn about her crimefighting and have something to say about it, but there’s also a World War Two supervillain who has come back from the dead in order to kill Kensei.
MZ: Yikes! So what challenges did you have in writing about a teenage superhero whose crime-fighting isn’t a secret from her family and in fact is complicated by her family?
JZ: Some of it was just fitting it with what had already been established. When I first created the character, she had no idea that her family also had a history with superheroes. It’s been a careful line to walk in order to make it plausible that it was kept from Jamie. Plus Jamie is half Japanese and have African American. Treating her family’s dual backgrounds with respect required a lot of research.
MZ: Do you have a favorite part of doing the research for this book?
JZ: Do I have to choose just one?
MZ: No! I’m just curious where your research took you and even some of the things you couldn’t use
JZ: Starting with Jamie’s family, one of my favorite parts was researching for her father’s parents. When I was working on the first book, I learned about differences between Japanese Americans who had lived in the continental United States and those that had lived in Hawaii. Living in Seattle, which has a notable Japanese American population, you learn a lot about the Japanese American experience. This is especially true when it comes to learning about how they were treated during World War Two. But in Hawaii, the experience was very different.
My other favorite research was for the villain, Imperial Dynamo. I collaborated with an Italian-born friend of mine who is also a history buff. She introduced me to the Italian Futurist art movement, which later fed into the Fascist Party in Italy. It added a really interesting dimension to the villain.
MZ: Wow it seems like you’ve got a lot of threads running through this book. What do you want people to know about that might pique their interest?
JZ: The core idea I’m playing with in the book is that of family expectations. Both Kensei and her friends have families and legacies that are pushing them in different directions. Aside from the more physical conflicts, a lot of Kensei’s emotional conflict is trying to cope with what her family wants while remaining true to herself.
MZ: I think that’s something we all can relate to.
So you’re Kickstartering some of the costs of publishing this book. Can you talk a little about the decision to go that route? I know I’m always interested in hearing why people choose one option over others.
JZ: I had debated for a while about whether or not to do a Kickstarter for this. Early on I thought I might focus my crowdfunding efforts through Patreon. But it seems like Patreon seems to work best only if you already have a sizable fan base. It also doesn’t work as well if you are mostly doing large projects. And the money it brings in mostly supports my other baby, Mad Scientist Journal.
Kickstarter has the advantage of helping make the project more visible to people. It also gives me the chance to offer some fun things to backers that I don’t have much excuse to on other occasions. So I’ve gotten to commission stickers and patches for backers. If it does really well, then it gives me the opportunity to create something a bit more robust. One of my current stretch goals is a limited hardcover edition of the book, which I would have trouble justifying under normal circumstances.
MZ: The stickers are ADORABLE!
JZ: Thank you! We are really happy with the artist we found. She’s been great to work with.
MZ: I am a sticker hoarder so stickers are always an amazing perk for me. 🙂 I recently bought an RV I’m using as a writing office, and I’m pondering what stickers to stick on it right now.
JZ: Good to know. When we came up with some of this, there’s always the worry that what sounds awesome to us might not sound awesome to other people. I’m glad the stickers are a winning point.
MZ: I hope the KS goes bananas and maybe next book you’ll have a Cleopatra Thunder sticker 😀
JZ: One of the stretch goals is to have more characters for the stickers. We could see about working in Cleopatra Thunder.
MZ: *giggles evilly* So what else are you working on these days? I know this book and getting the KS set up have eaten up a lot of your time, but you’re a person of many hats and many projects.
JZ: We’ve been working on the anthology we Kickstarted earlier this year, Selfies from the End of the World. I just sent out the ebook proofs to the contributors to have some extra eyes on it. I’ve been doing a lot of research for an overly ambitious series of YA books I want to do beyond Kensei. Mad Scientist Journal is always on my plate. And I’m getting ready to run some games later this year at a local convention.
MZ: Oh cool, what convention?
JZ: AmberCon Northwest, down in Troutdale, Oregon. Four days of roleplaying games in the middle of a winery/brewery/distillery/resort/spa.
MZ: Oh wow. I always thought that was somewhere in Washington for some reason. That sounds fabulous.
JZ: It is. I’ve been going every year since 1999. It’s a small and intimate convention, and just a ton of fun.
MZ: Are you going to make it to WorldCon or is your schedule just too full up?
JZ: Our schedule is sadly too full up and our vacation time is spread too thin.
MZ: Yeah, it’s always a balancing act. I had to cut out a bunch of other cons this year to go. Is there anything we didn’t touch on that you’d like to talk about?
JZ: Well, I could babble forever about things I learned during my research. But in terms of things people would be interested in, I’m offering the ebook for my first book for free through the Kickstarter. There’s a link [edit: THIS LINK] where you can download the files right there. You don’t have to pledge a token amount or use a coupon code or anything. I feel really passionate about the work I’ve done developing Kensei, and this is a low commitment chance to see if you like her story before committing money to the cause.
MZ: That’s really smart. I somehow missed that reading over the KS. Well, I should probably run and get something to eat. But it was great talking to you and break a leg (preferably someone villainous) on the Kickstarter!
JZ: Likewise, and thank you for taking the time to talk!