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How it Happened: Hero-Type

Hero-Type wasn’t supposed to be my third book. It wasn’t supposed to be anything, actually.

Hero-type hardcover

My original plan for my third book was going to be another in the “unseries” of Brookdale books, this one focusing on Fanboy’s best friend, Cal Willingham. But then I was sidetracked by something else, a very cool fantasy novel that quickly obsessed me. Unfortunately, it didn’t obsess anyone else — no one wanted to publish it. (I don’t blame them. It wasn’t ready. And it still isn’t. Someday, though…)

You’d think I would just go back to the Cal book, right? And I probably would have, if not for two things happening in close temporal proximity.

First of all, my best friend re-joined the army and was shipped off to Baghdad.

Second of all, the local newspaper covered the story of a heroic kid who had seen a girl being flashed by some loser in an alleyway. The kid — a high school wrestler — tackled the loser and held him in a headlock until the police came to arrest him.

I mused on this kid for a little while, but didn’t think much of it until a couple of days later, when a friend of mine happened to mention that the kid in question — now feted as a hero — had a history of disciplinary problems. He skipped school regularly and had been suspended once for bringing a knife to class.

Hero-Type paperback

Hero or not? Just in the right place at the right time? Who could tell?

I thought about how we treat heroes. How we put them on the highest pedestals…and then knock them off for our own amusement.

I though of my best friend, under his desk in Baghdad, emailing me as he sheltered from a rocket attack, acting as though it was no big deal.

This made me think about the recent election, in 2004, when John Kerry’s Vietnam heroism was twisted and perverted by cynical political operatives and a pliant media into something shameful and in need of defense.

That really pissed me off.

I thought of John Kerry and George Bush (bravely defending Fort Worth from the Viet Cong, that fucking louse) and I got angry. Really, really angry.

And then I read an article that said that, according to a survey, many high school seniors believed that the First Amendment went too far and that the government should have the power to censor the news media.

My blood was boiling. All of these elements swirled and churned within me, and I knew that I had to write about this. Everything else had to be put on hold. There was an election coming up in 2008, the year my next book would be published, and I wanted to do something political. I wanted to expel my rage onto the page and show it to the world.

Hero-type_audioAnd I knew something else. I knew that while adults had already settled into calcified notions of right and wrong and political expedience, kids hadn’t. They were still struggling with this stuff.

Fanboy was an artistic wunderkind. Josh from Boy Toy was a math genius.

I wanted to write about a normal kid. A C student. Struggling to understand the world around him, the big ideas, the politics, the things that inform our lives as we make decisions and develop our social conscience.

All of this — all of it — went into the stewpot.

Thus was Hero-Type born.

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