Author Name: C.B. Lee
Book Name: Not Your Sidekick
Release Date: September 8, 2016
Hello! Thank you so much for having me on your blog today. I’m a first-generation Chinese and Vietnamese American from California. Not Your Sidekick is an action-packed science fiction novel set in the year 2123 and is all about Jess, an overshadowed girl from a superhero family trying to prove herself. She navigates a new job (with a supervillain!) and working with her crush, Abby, and uncovers an unsettling mystery.
Tell us about Not Your Sidekick.
Not Your Sidekick got its start during NanoWrimo in 2013, but I didn’t really get into it until long after my first novel was complete. I’ve always wanted to write a superhero story, and I have always been fascinated by post-apocalyptic worldbuilding. I really wanted to create a world that’s been majorly affected by a series of disasters, but has (for the most part) recovered.
Jess’ story comes a lot from my own experience with managing both my own and my parents’ expectations when I was growing up; I think it’s really important to acknowledge that parental pressure for kids today, especially for children of immigrants, where there’s a huge need to make your parents proud, to succeed in a way that they define.
How difficult was it to get into the main character’s head?
Jess was a really fun character for me to write; I loved writing her insecurities and strengths. When I was a teenager, I devoured novel after novel and I’d never seen a character with my mixed background and sexuality; I would have loved a character like Jess, and that’s one of the reasons why I wrote her.
Is this book a standalone or do you plan on visiting it again?
Not Your Sidekick is the beginning of a series! We will definitely see Jess and her friends again, as they have a lot on their plate at the end of the novel. The second novel, Not Your Villain, will be released in 2017.
What do you think makes a good story?
Emotion, definitely. I think good characters and an interesting plot will get you quite a bit of a ways but I think how all of it comes together and makes you feel is the best part.
Where do you find your inspiration?
People and nature are a constant inspiration. I think everyone has a story; where they came from, where they’re going, what’s happened to them. I love getting to know someone and the process where details about what make them who they are start to unfold, they start sharing more and more with you as you become close, and it’s a constant fascination about the common and uncommon experiences that people have.
I’m also always inspired by our wonderful and ever changing world; not just the beauty but also how the landscape affects the people, what sort of stories come from people who live in a particular place.
Not Your Sidekick is set in Nevada, particularly the desert surrounding Red Rock Canyon National Park. I’ve spent quite a lot of time hiking and climbing there, and I love the starkness of the landscape, how vividly orange it is. It’s like time-travelling, being there and getting to witness the geologic processes of our pasts and imagine what it might be like in the future. It was really fun for me to imagine a post-apocalyptic society rebuilding in this desert and what these people, sheltered in their cities, would think of their world.
Blurb: Welcome to Andover, where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, whom Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether.
Excerpt: His eyes glowing, he stands in the doorway. Master Mischief’s mechanical armor clanks as he steps into the room. The faded “M M” logo is blistered in purple paint on his chest.
Jess’ brain stutters. Has he figured out her parents’ secret identity? Is this is a kidnapping? A ruse to draw her parents out? She steps back and grabs for the pepper spray in her backpack, but that’ll be little help. Mischief is blocking the only exit.
He’s not an A-class villain, but Jess has never met any villain in the flesh. Despite all the funny T-shirts and silly videos of Mischief, and despite Jess’ arguments that some of what he does isn’t villainous at all, it’s hard to shake off years and years of seeing villains do terrible and destructive things in the news.
And now a villain stands in front of her; his electronic suit crackles with power.
Mischief can manipulate tech, but what is he’s doing here, in the heart of Monroe Industries? He’s certainly in his element. Anything electronic that isn’t too complicated, he can manipulate and control for a limited time. Jess has seen him direct cars to rebel against their owners and reprogram traffic lights and signs and computers.
Jess swallows and stands her ground. He’s silly. He mostly does harmless pranks. He’s ridiculous, not scary.
But it’s one thing to casually joke about villains and another to see one in person.
“I know we were deliberately vague in the job listing and interview, but I hope you understand why we needed the utmost discretion,” Mischief says. The voice is a little different than what she remembers, but that could be her imagination. It’s more electronic—is that a thing?
“Master Mischief?” Jess asks.
Mischief tilts his head; he almost fills the doorframe. But Mischief is quite a few inches shorter than Mistress Mischief, and the difference is always exaggerated in the comics.
He looks taller than Jess, and the suit—she can see black fabric at the knees under the metal armor, as if it doesn’t quite fit. And the logo is old, too; this version of the suit hasn’t been seen for at least a year. “What’s going on here?” Jess asks. “Why do you have Master Mischief’s mecha-suit?”
“Ah, I see you figured that out. I’m M, by the way. Nice to meet you.”
“Who are you?” Jess demands. “Do you actually work for Monroe Industries?”
“I’m not Master Mischief, that’s for sure. But yes, he works for Monroe Industries, and I do too. I was his assistant—am his assistant. He’s busy at the moment, and I’m running his lab in the interim.” M folds his arms and tilts his head and lights flicker without a discernible pattern on his helmet’s front panel. “You can laugh now. Villains need jobs too.”
Jess doesn’t laugh. It makes sense, actually. Mischief’s power of technological manipulation would be incredibly handy here; if his meta-powers weren’t low-level he’d be a formidable and almost unstoppable villain. As it is, he can’t use his powers for longer than probably twenty minutes at the most before he has to recharge, just like her parents. “If you’re his assistant, why don’t you have your own suit? What do you do exactly? And is this internship with Monroe Industries or with you and Master Mischief?”
M shakes his head, and makes a noise that almost sounds like a laugh before it is garbled into electronic static.
“I’m wearing an old prototype of his suit because we’ve been incredibly busy working on other projects. New mecha-suits aren’t a priority right now. And yes, you will be working for Monroe Industries, in a subsidiary with special interests. If that’s something you’re still interested in?” M asks.
“This isn’t a kidnapping, is it?”
The panel on M’s helmet blinks various shades of orange, and he throws up his hands. “No, no, absolutely not,” M says. “We wouldn’t kidnap you, do you—do you want to leave?”
Pages or Words: 296 pages // 74,000 words
Categories: Young adult; LGBT romance; Fantasy; Super hero
Buy the book:
Interlude Press Web Store: http://store.interludepress.com/collections/not-your-sidekick-by-cb-lee
About the author:
C.B. Lee is a bisexual writer, rock climber, and pinniped enthusiast from Southern California. A first-generation Asian American, she is passionate about working in communities of color and empowering youth to be inspired to write characters and stories of their own. Lee’s debut novel Seven Tears at High Tide was published by Duet Books in 2015 and named a finalist in the Bisexual Books Awards. This summer, C.B. was named to Lambda Literary’s Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices.
Where to find the author:
Get to know C.B. at http://cb-lee.com; on Twitter at https://twitter.com/author_cblee ; on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/authorcblee/ ; on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/cblee_cblee/ ; and on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/11230592.C_B_Lee.
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29904219-not-your-sidekick
Publisher: Duet Books
Cover Artist: C.B. Messer
Rafflecopter Prize: Grand prize: $25 Interlude Press gift card + Multi-format eBook of Not Your Sidekick // Five winners receive multi-format eBook of Not Your Sidekick