Autodidact: self-taught


Interview with Louie Stowell

by V. L. Craven
Louie Stowall

Louie Stowell

In July I reviewed Louie Stowell’s delightfully dark School for Supervillains , which is about a young girl’s first days at the school her parents sent her to in order for her to become the best evil maniac possible.

She (Ms Stowall, not the evil maniac) recently agreed to answer some questions about writing and Fiction Express–the publisher of The School for Supervillains.

Fiction Express is a fun concept. Briefly explain it for my readers.

It’s essentially an online publisher. Schools subscribe, and each term they get a selection of stories (I believe it’s three now) at different levels. Chapters are published once a week, with cliffhangers at the end. The kids at subscribing schools vote online for the resolutions they want to each cliffhanger. Then the writer scuttles off and writes the next chapter, which is posted a couple of days later. More on the scuttling in a minute…

How did you get involved with it?

I think it began with a conversation on twitter. It sounded like such an interesting way of working and, as someone who grew up with Choose Your Own Adventure, having a chance to play in that sandbox was really exciting. I tend to think of stories as having many potential paths, so it naturally fits with how my mind works.

What was it like writing a chapter a week?

Madness. Utter madness. It’s not so much a chapter a week as a chapter in a day, as there’s not much time between the votes being counted and the next chapter being posted. Plus factoring in editing time (my editor at Fiction Express, Laura, is an utter badass when it comes to turning things around quickly. And she does it all year long, while I’ll do maybe one story for them a year!). However the adrenalin carries you through, and there’s a real joy to that kind of pace.

Was the concept of a school for evil little kids something you’d had before Fiction Express?

Yes. I originally had it in mind as just a short story, a what-if about a kid who came from evil parents, but they aspired to be good. So that conflict was there from the outset, the idea of parental expectations vs a kid’s desire. In the context of supervillainy, obviously.

Caligula? [One of the kids in the book.] Really? Was that put in for the adults?

That was for me. I grew up reading Judge Dredd, and Judge Cal (based on the real Caligula) was one of my favourite characters. And it made sense within the world – supervillains seem highly likely to pick names for their kids based on historical villains. Though Mandrake got her name from a root that screams when you pull it up, because supervillains also love the suffering of others.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a teen novel about a boy who works for a secret government organisation, killing zombies. As I type this, I’m waiting for feedback from my agent, so I have no nails left…. 🙂

Do you have a website I could link to? I’ll add a link to your Twitter, of course.

I don’t update my blogs very often, but here you go anyway! One is my webcomic, the other is a general blog where I talk about publishing, politics, comics and other things that float through my brain…

Blog: Stowell’s Cosmology

Webcomic:  Gods Next Door  This is about gods from various pantheons living in suburbia.

Twitter: @louiestowell

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