Do you like my sex scenes? If so, Ruth Diaz is one of the people you should thank for that! She's beta'ed my stories from early on, and her pre-submission editing on The Druid Stone was amazingly helpful for Heidi and me.
I'm excited to interview her about her Carina Press novella, The Superheroes Union: Dynama. The Superheroes Union series is going to be fantastic. It's a world with larger-than-life people in big bold stories. It's not dark and gritty, but it's not frilly and frothy, either; there's a lot of tricky, thoughtful stuff going on in the little details. And the very first story in this series, Dynama, is a lesbian romance. Check it out.
Superhero stories always struck me as an interesting blend of fantasy and science fiction. They’re incredibly popular in visual media, but not so much in books. Why do you think that is, and do you think it’s changing?
I think that, despite having dabbled in radio, superheroes are very much tied to comic books for most people who think about them. Even the people who didn't really read comic books but watched superheroes as part of their Saturday morning cartoons growing up most often think of the superhero genre as an inherently visual medium. The idea of taking the heroes and villains out of their ink and paint backgrounds and telling a story where the only visuals are in your imagination isn't bad, but it's entirely foreign to many readers.
I discovered, in the course of doing some marketing research for The Superheroes Union: Dynama, that at least a couple other people have written superhero books without artwork, though the one that sticks in my head takes the idea to a romantic comedy execution, as opposed to the more straight-up contemporary drama I've focused on. Is that changing? Maybe. I don't think we have a large enough sample yet to know.
- What’s the most exciting aspect of writing superhero stories?
Creating a scenario where the unfortunate little interpersonal details we might skim past in a superheroes setting become major plot arcs. Things like a custody battle between superhero parents, the complications of heroes and villains falling in love with each other, and what kind of tolerance there is for someone with all those special powers who isn't moved to save the world. Those are what fascinate me. For a lot of people, they're the "dull bits" that Alfred Hitchcock advised cutting out of life to create drama, but I find plenty of drama to work with right there.
- Superhero stories generally sexualize male power, with female power left totally marginalized. The Superheroes Union: Dynama is, of course, a happy exception! When you wrote this story, how did you conceptualize the relationship between power and sexuality?
Keep in mind that I haven't exactly done research... but it occurs to me that you might generalize a little further and say that almost all power is sexualized in Western cultures. That applies to the horrible stereotype of the "bitch in the board room" in her power suit which must nonetheless show cleavage (many women's business shirts don't even have the top two buttons you'd find on a men's business shirt, and there's a whole essay to be written about comparisons between boobs and missiles in that context) as much as to a man conveying power with a gun or a truck as a phallic symbol.
For Dynama, I never intended to build an explicit relationship between power and sexuality--I just get a kick out of turning stereotypes on their collective ear. I paired up some "traditionally" masculine attributes, like mechanical ability and strength, turned them into superpowers, and gave them to women. I also told a story in which the "traditionally" feminine stereotypes of the caregiver and invisible helpmeet took center stage as critically important. And with all that, as I wrote TJ's narrative, it became entirely clear that she was still fighting battles with some of the US cultural attitudes which are inherently paternalistic (thought good/emotion bad, etc.).
- Why do think people who love f/f stories and lesbian romance will love Dynama?
When I started outlining, before I ever started writing, I made decisions about the kind of story I wanted to tell. I wanted to tell a story about women who had the day-to-day concerns of jobs and grocery shopping and family. I wanted to address the ways in which they were marginalized just for being women without focusing on that. I did not want to tell a coming out story--there's nothing wrong with those, but they weren't the story I wanted to tell. Mostly, I wanted my main characters to be believable as women to other women. And I think that's what my readers will take away from The Superheroes Union: Dynama: it's not a straight man's fantasy of two women together in bed. It's a love story between two ordinary women in extraordinary circumstances.
- Why do you think people who’ve never thought of reading f/f would love Dynama?
For the story. I've written a story about common problems women encounter in US macroculture expressed in entirely uncommon ways having to do with superpowers. I've run a suspense plot arc that stands on its own alongside a love story I think anyone who likes love stories can appreciate. I've also thrown some gender roles in the blender to see what came out and written complex, relatable characters--even the villain.
And if that's not quite enough to get someone to take a chance on the story, they can always read it for the joy of watching the Invincible Woman bitch slap the supervillain. I know I'm biased, but that that makes me giggle every time I read it.
- How evil, really, is the “evil ex”?
Heehee. I love this question. When I was doing revisions based on my Carina Press editor's feedback, she actually had me make a change that toned down his evilness level a little bit. She was right, because in his own way, the evil ex still needed to be a sympathetic character, in that we have to have some understanding of how Dynama ever loved him in the first place. But he's pretty darn evil, and he's the scariest kind of evil I know: the kind that honestly believes it is doing good.
The trickiest piece of allowing him to be really evil was letting the reader see that he still loved his kids. That no matter how bad he might be, they remained his number one concern. But at the same time, it had to become obvious to the reader that no matter how much he loved them, being evil changed his focus so much, he would be as awful a parent as he would be a dictator--or maybe even worse.
But I'll tell you a little secret that never quite makes it onto the page in the story itself. Through the course of the story, he has one of those lightning bolt experiences that forces him to see his own actions in a different light. It doesn't magically make him less evil, but it sows the seed that may one day allow him to be redeemed. If I ever feel the need to write that story.
- If there was a porno version of Dynama, I think it should be called “Supermom Does Supernanny.” Of course, it’s not porn, and the heat level isn’t high. But it doesn’t fade to black at the bedroom door, either! How did you decide how much sex to include in Dynama?
I always try to write sex scenes in whatever vein feels appropriate to the story. Sometimes that's artistic, sometimes it's incredibly explicit, and sometimes it means a fade to black. When I was outlining the story, I expected one sex scene on the page and one fade to black, and that was very much in keeping with the pacing of the story and the need to let my readers see the emotion of my two heroines growing together in ways that had nothing to do with sex. But when my wonderful Carina Press editor, Mallory Braus, sent me the developmental editing laundry list for Dynama, she asked if I would be comfortable adding one more full sex scene.
I was hesitant when I read the request, because the fade to black scene had very much been a function of pacing. But by the time I had read through all her other suggestions, I realized that the best way to address them was to add an entire subplot to the story--I ended up adding almost 10,000 words. When you're only dealing with 25,000 words to start with, that really affects your pacing. So by the time I had added everything else, not only was it appropriate to expand that second sex scene into detail on the page, I had created an emotional interaction that really had to happen in the context of sex. And it turned out so well, I actually like that one better than the sex scene I had planned on in my outlining.
Thank you for stopping by, Ruth!
TJ Gutierrez used to be a superhero. But after the birth of her twins seven years ago, she hung up the yellow spandex. Until the day her archenemy and ex-husband, Singularity, breaks out of prison. When it becomes clear he’s after the kids, she’s forced to call the nanny helpline—and once again become... Dynama!
Annmarie Smith doesn’t have a superpower. She saves the world by keeping kids safe while their parents fight evil. She temporarily moves in with TJ, and the way the magnetic mama puts family first captures Annmarie’s respect, and maybe her heart—even though she knows better than to fall for a superhero. Still, it’s hard to resist their wicked chemistry. Kapow!
But they can only hide from the world for so long. When Singularity’s quest for custody puts the kids’ lives in danger, can the two women conquer the evil villain and save TJ’s family—all before their first date?
The Superheroes Union: Dynama is available from Carina Press. You can read an excerpt here and enter a giveaway here.
Carina Press store | Amazon.com | BarnesandNoble.com
Ruth Diaz writes genre romances about non-mainstream relationships. She hides a number of publications in a different genre under another name, but The Superheroes Union: Dynama is her first romance publication. For more information, you can subscribe to her blog, like her on Facebook, or follow @RuthDiazWrites on Twitter (where she is most active and, well, opinionated).