Frank Byrns lives in suburban Maryland with his wife and children, where he writes about superheroes, criminals, and sometimes baseball. His stories have been published in a wide variety of markets, including Strange Horizons, Electric Velocipede, Everyday Fiction, Stymie, Powder Burn Flash, WW Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction, and as a member of the Pen and Cape Society.
Byrns has chronicled the continuing adventures of classic pulp characters like Jim Anthony, Super-Detective and The Black Bat for Airship27, and shared his most popular original character, Adonis Morgan, through Pro Se Productions. His superhero fiction has been collected into three volumes: My Father’s Son (2004), Requiem (2006), and Things to Come (2009), all recently re-released for the Kindle. In a previous life, he was the publisher and editor-in-chief of A Thousand Faces, the Quarterly Journal of Superhuman Fiction, which ran for 14 issues between 2007 and 2010.
I was wondering where you get your story ideas?
Everywhere, really. I read a lot – not just books, but magazine articles, newspapers, all kinds of stuff. You never know where an idea will strike you, you just have to put yourself in position to recognize one when you see it. The story I wrote for the Pen & Cape anthology (available for FREE everywhere fine ebooks are sold!) came from one of my favorite music groups, The Civil Wars, who are no longer together. The story of their breakup got me to thinking about partnerships that end when priorities change after one partner has a kid, that sort of thing.
A little bit of both, but mostly a pantser. I like to start with one image, one line of dialogue, one idea, then just see where it goes. Once I get an idea of where the story is headed, I may slow down a bit and plot out the rest to make sure I end up with a good ending, but not always. Depends on the story. So is that enough of a non-answer? I guess I’m a pantser for interview questions….
I just start writing. The world-building has to come organically for me, as a part of the story, or else it feels stiff and forced. I hate that as a reader, so I really try not to do that in my writing. Most of my stories take place in a world exactly like ours, anyway, with the key difference being that a few of us have some sort of extra ability or power.
What is your daily writing time like?
Inconsistent. I wish I could say it was daily. I grab a few minutes here and there, sometimes a few hours here and there. I have to work to find time to do the work. But it works out.
I am not a full time writer. Sure, I would love to be, and will if it ever becomes financially feasible. But not right now.
My new book, Adonis Morgan: Nobody Special, is due in late summer / early fall from Pro Se Press. Tommy Hancock and his group have been great to work with so far — I’ve done some editing for them in the past, but this is my first time publishing with them, and I’m looking forward to it. Previously, I self-published three collections of superhero short stories that had been earlier published in a wide variety of magazines and anthologies, so this is a bit different for me. But so far, so good.
The new book is Adonis Morgan: Nobody Special, a collection of five stories featuring Adonis Morgan, who has proven to be one of my most popular characters. I’ve written several stories featuring or at least costarring him, and the reader response has always been pretty good. He’s a guy who used to be a superhero, but quit some time ago. Now he’s just trying to be an ordinary guy leading an ordinary life, but trouble has a way of finding him (of course). In this collection, you’ll read about his time as a Hollywood stuntman, a limo driver, a cab driver, and a politician’s bodyguard. Two of the stories are reprints, and three are brand-new. I think that the featured story in the book, “A Foregone Conclusion”, is one of the best I’ve ever written.
Can you tell us about some of your other writing (fiction or nonfiction) and any appearances or signings that you have planned?
I’m mostly known for my superhero stories, but I also write a bit in other genres. I’ve been having some success in the crime genre of late — I’ve published stories at Shotgun Honey, Plan B, and Beat to a Pulp, among others. Hopefully I’ll have enough stuff in the near future to put out another collection of shorts. I’ve also published some ‘literary fiction’ — I hate the term, but there it is. Non-genre, I guess. I’ve had a few things in Everyday Fiction, the WW Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction, Stymie. The Washington Post. I’ve also done some ghostwriting, but we can’t really talk about that, can we? I’m kidding. But don’t ask. Seriously.
Just keep working. Keep writing. And keep reading. Write what you like — don’t write something that you think you can sell, or what you think the market will bear. Write something you’d like to read, and if it’s good enough, somebody else will want to read it, too. And if you find enough of those people, well, then you’re on to something. Then write some more.
Boy, so many. I don’t read a lot of superhero fiction, for one reason or another. I tend to gravitate towards crime fiction as a reader: George Pelecanos is probably my favorite (start with The Big Blowdown or King Suckerman). James Lee Burke. James Sallis. Greg Rucka. Elmore Leonard. Ace Atkins. Tom Franklin. Neil Gaiman. Stewart O’Nan. A lot of comics — Brubaker. Bendis. Astro City. I could go on.