Perry Moore, the executive producer of the film, The Chronicles of Narnia, has just written Hero, likely the first young adult novel whose main character is a gay teen superhero.
Moore, an avid comic book fan himself, was tired of the terrible ends that befell the few gay comic book characters that even existed. So he created Thom, a sweet, awkward and altogether real teenager who lives at home with his damaged father while trying to navigate the complicated world of school, superpowers, and his own emerging sexuality.
I had a chance to ask the Hero author a few questions.
Perry Moore Interview
In the book, a lot of people dismiss Thom, or are downright hostile to him because he is gay. As a result he has to prove himself in huge ways before he gains their respect. Do you think this is true for a lot of gay people?
Great question. That is the very nature of the book--Thom has so many challenges, and they're colored by his struggling with his sexuality, which often makes things more difficult, but his sexuality is certainly not the only thing he wrestles with.
I do think it is true for any of us who feel different--that we have to prove ourselves just that much more. I hope that comes across as universally as I intended it.
In the book, the message really is that the very things that make you feel alienated, once you learn to embrace them, they can become the most empowering things in your life.
Thom's dad is a really intense character. Though he has spent Thom's life as a devoted father, he has great difficulty dealing with the fact that his son is gay. You say that you based him on your own father, a Vietnam vet. How did your father feel about that?
Man, you go straight to the heart of the matter on these questions. Thom's dad is my favorite figure. An oil and water combination of tragedy and heroism, a character who embodies the struggle to do right by his family, even though he may not understand his son.
Yes, I modeled Hal, Major Might, after my father, a Vietnam vet who grew up in the very conservative South. I hope Daniel Craig or George Clooney call up and express interest in the part. At times, Hal is heartbreaking, and ultimately he is Thom's inspiration. Just like my father is my hero, too.
My father was the last member of my family whom I gave the book to read. About halfway through, we talked and he said, "Perry...I wasn't that much of a monster, was I?" I said, "Dad, just keep reading." And he did. I saw today that there is a posting from William P. Moore in Virginia on Amazon praising my book. Thanks, Dad!
People who don't read a lot of comics might be surprised by the violence in Hero. What did you feel the graphic descriptions of fight scenes added?
I actually didn't think the fight descriptions were all that graphic, especially compared to what you can see in certain comics today. Still, my imperative was always to stay true to the story in writing it. If that called for a violent action sequence, then so be it. You have to tell the truth, which sounds like a funny thing to say about writing fiction, but it's true.
You create characters, and then they take over and tell you what to do. One of your job's as the author is to make sure you don't get in the way.
At one point Thom muses that he has only ever had crushes on people who are unattainable, like his idol, Uberman. He explains that this is because it never occurred to him that he could have a crush on someone his own age. Do you think this is common among gay kids who don't know other gay teens?
When I was growing up, I could never have had the courage to have a real crush on someone I knew, or someone my age. That was far too scary. But I did pine away for an older player on the basketball team. His name was Doug. He had a wicked jump shot, a great pair of legs, and a smile that could light up a room. He turned that smile on me a few times, and it took my breath away.
Didn't you or don't you have crushes like this -- whether you're straight or gay? What would you say to them now?
What kind of response to the book have you gotten from teens? What about from the comic book community?
The response has been overwhelming! I'm inundated with fan mail, and I personally respond to all of it. There seems to be something in it for everyone.
Gay teens, gay adults, straight readers, girls who love the boy-on-boy romance between Thom and Goran. Parents who want to understand. It's also a great book to give to your parents if you want them to understand what you're going through.
My dad gave me a book, The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, in order for me to understand better what he went through in Vietnam. I wanted a book that young people could share with their parents to let them know some of what they're going through.
And connecting with the fans has been the highlight of the publishing process for me. I have to thank my fantastic publishers at Hyperion. They never shied away from my mission. The world of movies, TV, and comic books are light years behind compared to the publishing world when it comes to material like this.
Brokeback Mountain broke some barriers and had its moments, and man, did I love the source material by Annie Proulx, but it was a little on the oh-the-tragedy-of-it-all! I didn't want to write a story like that. Gay people are not only victims or media stereotypes. We can be heroes, as well, if we choose.
Do you have plans to revive Thom's character in the future? If so, what do you think his superhero name would be?
Thom and the rest of the gang will be back for the sequel. As far as a name for him goes, I'm open to suggestion. Please write me at my website perrymoorestories.com and let me know what you think!
Is there anything that you think teens would be surprised to know about you?
I think young people may find it surprising to know that I still consider myself a young person. I may be a little older now, but really I'm just more of who I always was. There's a great comfort in that. Be yourself. Believe! It gets better!
Find out more about Hero Author, Perry Moore on his website.