As a child, J.L. O’Faolain would run though his yard on a windy day and pretended he could fly. Now, at 32 years old, O’Faolain channels his superheroic youth into his “No More Heroes” novel series for Dreamspinner Press. The first installment, “Push Comes to Shove” and the sequel “Scratch and Sniff” tells the story of superheroes that are average Joes in spandex.
The Great Big World of Tomorrow
O’Faolain explained his premise to the “No More Heroes” series in an email interview.
“’Push Comes to Shove’ takes place in a world where superheroes emerged to do basic charity work, and their evolution grew to something that isn’t quite out of a comic book, but not a match for our world, either,” he said. “Push and Scratch are two heroes who work for the Real-Life Superhero Association, the non-profit organization that rallies all heroes under its wing. Push is the only member of the Association with an actual super power, but this is about to change. Push and Scratch are assigned to work with Wrath, a pyrokinetic who was once a member of the first documented supervillain group.”
As for why Wrath was enlisted in the Real-Life Superhero Association, O’Faolain continued.
“Wrath’s stipulation for being released from prison is that he joined the Association as a full-fledged member,” he said. “Needless to say, no one in the group is thrilled with the set-up, but Wrath’s initiation sparks a chain of events that not only make their lives seem more like a comic book tale, but also blur the lines between love and the belief that gender is the one great exception to unexpected romance.”
The Cross-Pollination of Superheroes and Love
Using the premise of superheroes as a backdrop, O’Faolain sought to tell a deeper tale.
“Believe it or not, though, I didn’t expect to become a writer of M/M fiction,” he said. “In a Southern Baptist household, that isn’t usually the first thing that springs to one’s mind. I’ve held the belief for many years that labels often keep us from finding happiness. One thing the series explores is the characters realizing this, and trying to live their lives without letting preconceived notions get in the way.”
O’Faolain credits his core inspiration for No More Heroes to two friends, both bisexual men, who fell in love with their straight best friends.
“Both had written stories about their experiences and how the relationships eventually worked out,” he said. “I was touched by both, and having a love for superheroes, the two bled into one another.”
Going Inside the Real-Life Superhero Association
Clear your mind of any preconceived notions that the Real-Life Superhero Association is anything like the Justice League or X-Men. O’Faolain claims he drew his inspiration from real world vigilantes such as Phoenix Jones.
O’Faolain elaborated on what made the Association of “No More Heroes” so different.
“I started thinking about how superheroes might have originated, and how they could sidestep the pesky vigilante accusation,” he said. “In real life, there are people now who create their own superhero identity and costume, then go out and pick up trash off the streets and so forth. In my head, I imagined what might have come out of this phenomenon occurring decades earlier, and becoming more media mainstream. The Association, where most heroes are ’employed’, grew out of that. The Association is an organization that has its hands in all manner of things. Heroes do everything from drive around offering rides to stranded motorists, to helping the police solve crimes.”
Superheroic Origins of J.L. O’Faolain
Residing in Union, Mississippi, the youngest of five children, and growing up Southern Baptist, O’Faolain said he always told stories much to his family’s chagrin.
“I started seriously planning on being a writer when my teens kicked in,” he said. “I actually wanted to write teen thrillers. I was a heavy reader, and had graduated to hardback novels by the time I was in high school. I also loved paperback teen mystery-thrillers like Fear Street and Christopher Pike novels.”
Not only does O’Faolain have a fondness for Christopher Pike novels, he also said Jim Butcher was a great influence on his storytelling. Still the inspiration for teen mysteries remains firmly in O’Faolain’s mind.
“I still love Pike to this day, and I actually have a teen series that I would like to see published one day,” he said.
As for O’Faolain’s all time guilty pleasure book? He insists his ‘man card’ can’t be revoked.
“I actually read a few volumes of the Sweet Valley High series when I was in high school,” he said. “One of my sisters had left an early copy in her closet when she moved out, and I was nosing around for something to read—it was an incredibly boring Saturday night. The over-the-top quality of it appealed to me at the time.”
The O’Faolain Family
Many families claim their lives could easily be a prime time sitcom. With four older sisters, O’Faolain is no exception. From oldest you youngest, there’s Kim, Gay, Karen, Susan, and O’Faolain himself.
He reminisced about the misadventures with his sisters.
“There was the time Kim made me a robot costume for a church Christmas play and didn’t factor in the fact that I would be sitting down, which resulted in my legs going completely numb by the time the performance ended,” he said. “Then the time Gay and my mother thought the Government had made it illegal to download, meaning the whole internet was now outlawed. And then the time Karen took me out with her boyfriend for a drive, and my mother thought I’d been kidnapped. And finally, the time Susan ‘insisted’ that I play football with the other boys.”
What’s Next for O’Faolain
O’Faolain refuses to let the world pass him by. With two series currently contracted by Dreamspinner Press, he spoke of his current endeavors.
“’Scratch & Sniff’ is the sequel to ‘Push Comes to Shove’ and the second book in the No More Heroes serial,” he said and then continued about his other serial. “‘Section 13 Case Files,’ follows the adventures of an exiled sidhe, Tuulois MacColewyn a.k.a. Cole, who works for a clandestine group of police officers called Section 13, that solve occult-related crimes. Magic, sex, murder, sex, over-the-top drama, sex, unrequited love, sex, explosions, sex, and even an ancient conspiracy or two abound.”
He went on to add, “Did I mention the sex already?”