S.G. Browne

Flawed Heroes and the Quest for Purpose

CJZma5oUEAIDqQWIn my Author’s Note for Less Than Hero, I mention how the story, at its heart, is about figuring out what you’re supposed to be doing with your life.

That’s a common theme in my novels. Finding your role. Your purpose. Your reason for existence. While my stories deal with issues such as discrimination, the consumer culture, celebrity worship, and the over-medication of our society, they’re really quests by the main protagonists to find meaning in their lives.

With Breathers, Andy Warner is trying to find his purpose in a society in which he has no purpose. In Fated, Fabio is looking for meaning in his monotonous and unfulfilling immortality. In Big Egos, my identity-challenged hero is searching for the role he’s supposed to play. And in Less Than Hero, my main protagonist, Lloyd Prescott, is searching for something more than the life he’s fallen into. Call it happiness. Call it ambition. Call it passion. Whatever it is, Lloyd can’t seem to find it. He’s not exactly broken, but he’s most definitely lost.

I’m a fan of flawed heroes: protagonists who don’t have it all together or who don’t know what the hell they’re doing. As Lloyd says:

“Not everyone has their shit figured out. Sure some people do. They’re the ones who actually stick to a plan and make all the right choices and end up with the life they imagined. For others, we discover that trying to win the lottery isn’t a viable plan for living happily ever after.”

When it comes to writing fiction, I think it’s important to create characters who  struggle with their choices and their failures because we can relate to them. They’re like us: victims of inertia, lacking direction, filled with self-doubt.

Main protagonists who are perfect and who always say and do the right things are unrealistic and boring. If you want a knight in shining armor, go read a romance novel. Prince Charming isn’t wanted here.

I think part of the reason my characters are constantly looking for meaning and answers is because that’s what humans do: we search for meaning and answers in our lives. But more than that, the existential angst and motivations for my characters come from the realization that, as blossoming humans, we were sold a false bill of goods about what it would be like when we were adults.

When you’re in your teens, you look at adults and think you know more than they do about life and how to succeed at it because hey, it doesn’t look that difficult. In your early twenties you discover that you didn’t know as much as you thought you did but now that you’re an adult you’ll figure it out soon enough.

In your thirties you discover that the expectations you had of what your life would be like haven’t lived up to all of the beer commercials and romantic comedies you’ve been fed over the years.

When you get to your forties, it finally dawns on you that no one knows what the hell they’re doing. Not even your parents. Everyone’s just doing their best impersonation of Indiana Jones and making it up as they go.

So I guess in a way, my characters are trying to figure out what the hell they’re supposed to be doing because so am I. Maybe one day I’ll come up with an answer. Until then, I’ll just have to let my characters keep doing the work for me.

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Filed under: Less Than Hero,The Writing Life — Tags: , , , — S.G. Browne @ 8:21 pm

SDCC Less Than Hero Signings

CEfnAERUEAAwVU_You can catch me at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con signing my new superhero novel, Less Than Hero, on the following days and at the following locations:

Thursday, July 9
11:00am-11:50am
Geekscape Booth #3919

Saturday, July 11
11:00am-11:45am
Mysterious Galaxy Booth #1119

Hope to see you in San Diego!

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Filed under: Comic-Con,Conventions,Less Than Hero — Tags: , , , — S.G. Browne @ 6:43 am

San Diego Comic-Con 2015

comic-con_logoIt’s July again, which means it’s time to make my annual pilgrimage from San Francisco down to southern California for the one and only San Diego Comic-Con.

While I’m not scheduled for any panels this year, you can catch me at the Geekscape booth (#3919) on Thursday, July 9, from 11:00am to 11:50am. I’ll also be signing my new novel, Less Than Hero, at the Mysterious Galaxy booth (#1119) on Saturday, July 11, from 11:00am to 11:45am.

Every year at Comic-Con is different, with each year bringing its own unique experience. Some of my favorite memories of SDCC include: my first signing in 2009 for Breathers; the Vampires and Others panel in 2011 in front of a huge audience that turned out were all there for the Adventure Time panel that followed ours; and the Lucky Bastard signing before grabbing dinner with my editor in 2012.

But my most memorable year, hands-down, was for Big Egos in 2013. In addition to the signing at Mysterious Galaxy and a couple of fun panels (Apocalyptic Zombies, Geeks Get Published – And Paid), I was interviewed for the documentary film Doc of the Dead (now streaming on Netflix) and spent an afternoon out on the bay in a speedboat with a group of people that included close friends and people I’d just met—including one guy who did an uncanny impersonation of Christopher Walken and another who could contort his face to look like Robert De Niro.

That’s probably my favorite thing about Comic-Con: the people. Not only do I get to hang out with friends and colleagues who I haven’t seen in a year, but I get to meet new people and have the pleasure of enjoying their company.

As usual, I’m looking forward to seeing my fellow writers and friends, visiting the Simon & Schuster and Mysterious Galaxy booths, spending time on the convention floor people watching, and enjoying the energy of over 130,000 other pilgrims who will make the journey to downtown San Diego to revel in their favorite superheroes, celebrities, and TV and movie characters.

I’m even looking forward to the religious proselytizers who stand across the street from the Convention Center and tell us that we’re all going to hell for worshiping false gods. I’ve even scored a couple of Get Out of Hell Free cards from them.

Get Out of Hell

Hope to see you there!
(And by “there” I mean in San Diego, not in Hell.)

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Filed under: Comic-Con,Conventions,Less Than Hero — S.G. Browne @ 3:56 pm

New York City is Superhero Central

Certain cities are synonymous with famous fictional characters.

London has Sherlock Holmes.
Philadelphia has Rocky Balboa.
Tokyo has Godzilla.

But when it comes to caped crusaders, New York City is superhero central.

NYC2The Fantastic Four live in New York City. So does Iron Man. Spider-Man grew up in Queens, Daredevil was raised in Hell’s Kitchen, and Captain America was born on the Lower East Side. Even Superman and Batman exist in fictional versions of The Big Apple.

So when I started writing Less Than Hero, my social satire about a group of clinical trial volunteers who test experimental pharmaceutical drugs and become C-level superheroes, there wasn’t any question about where the story would take place. In addition to its superhero pedigree, New York City has a definite energy to it that made it appealing as a setting for my novel.

While I live in San Francisco and have never called New York City home, I’ve had the pleasure of taking more than half a dozen trips there since 2008 and I would always take the time to sit down on a bench and take out my journal and try to capture specific New York moments.

Like the time I saw a living statue dressed up like a fairy in Central Park and wondered what it would be like to be her boyfriend. Or when I rode the Staten Island Ferry and listened to all of the foreign languages that sounded like a symphony of voices. Or when I sat on the steps of Union Square and watched people play chess at makeshift tables while a group of Hare Krishnas chanted nearby.

All of the above journal entries wound up as scenes in Less Than Hero.

While writing the novel, sometimes I would find myself wanting to set a scene in a certain park or location or restaurant that I may not have had a chance to visit when I was in New York. So I would search the Internet for photos and descriptions to help flesh out my scene and make sure the setting worked for what I had in mind.

deluxe food market2For instance, in Less Than Hero I have a scene that takes place in the Deluxe Food Market in Chinatown, just on the edge of Little Italy. I wanted a small, neighborhood grocery store somewhere in the Lower East Side / Chinatown area and did a search on Yelp! until I found the Deluxe Food Market.

I’d never set food inside the place, but the photographs and customer descriptions helped me to get a general sense of the smells and sounds and chaos of the place, which seemed perfect for what I wanted. So I used those details, along with my own imagination, to come up with the scene.

I also have a lunch scene in Chapter 11 that takes place in the East Village at an unnamed vegetarian restaurant.

Originally I’d written the scene as taking place at B&H Dairy, until I discovered that the interior layout of B&H was too small  for the scene as I’d imagined it. I went on Yelp! and found the Lan Cafe (now apparently closed), which had the right interior layout and location but the menu didn’t work with the dialogue I’d already written and wanted to keep. So I blended the two restaurants, using the interior and location of the Lan Cafe and the menu of B&H Dairy.

CEfnAERUEAAwVU_In addition to the Deluxe Food Market and the B&H Dairy/Lan Cafe, I have scenes that take place at Cafe Reggio, Curry in a Hurry, Dunkin’ Donuts, the Carnegie Deli, Stromboli’s Pizza, Starbucks, Westerly Natural Market, the Mahayana Buddhist Temple, the Staten Island Ferry, the Waldorf-Astoria, Union Square, Sara D. Roosevelt Park, Tompkins Square Park, Madison Square Park, Washington Square Park, Battery Park, various locations in Central Park, several different subway lines, and the steps of the New York Public Library.

While I’ve been to the majority of these places at one time or another during my visits to New York, I still conducted additional research using different websites, Yelp!, and Google Maps to help construct my scenes. Sometimes I took liberties with the details in order to make the scenes work the way I wanted, but novelists are allowed to to that. We are, after all, in the business of writing fiction. So every now and then, we have to tailor reality to fit our imagination.

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Filed under: Less Than Hero,The Writing Life — Tags: , , — S.G. Browne @ 6:57 am

Independent Bookstore Day

indiebookstoredayI’ll be celebrating Independent Bookstore Day (formerly CA Bookstore Day) this Saturday, May 2, at not one but TWO bookstores in San Francisco.

My first appearance will be at The Booksmith, where I’ll be participating in their Indie Bookstore Mad Tea Party from 12pm – 2pm with a slew of other guests. There will be tea leaf readings, art, and loads of activities. And books! Did I mention books?

After that, I’ll make my way across town to BookShop West Portal, where I’ll be doing a reading at 3pm sharp for about half an hour, then I’ll stick around until 5pm to help sell some of my favorite books by other authors. And hopefully a few of my own.

Relevant details are below. If you’re in the hood, stop on by for some laughs and maybe a book or two. Or three.

*****************
Independent Bookstore Day
Saturday, May 2

12pm – 2pm
The Booksmith
1644 Haight Street
San Francisco

3pm – 5pm
BookShop West Portal
80 West Portal Avenue
San Francisco

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Filed under: Less Than Hero,Signings — S.G. Browne @ 6:55 am