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Interview with Eric Nixon, author of Emily Dickinson, Superhero

Emily Dickinson Superhero - Vol 1 MED

We already know from the title that we’re going to like this book. However, can you tell us about it?
Sure! My new book, Emily Dickinson, Superhero – Vol. 1, follows a young Emily Dickinson imbued with a host of super powers and follows her adventures as she goes from protecting her town from a zombie invasion to squaring off with 1850s super villains. The book’s tagline is:

Emily Dickinson is widely regarded as one of the greatest poets in history. The world saw her as a withdrawn, reclusive writer with a desperate need for privacy. That’s exactly what she wanted you to think. Emily Dickinson was also one of the greatest superheroes who ever lived.

The book is 422-pages and is comprised of three stories: Episode 1 – Tomb and Graves – In 1852, a secret society at Amherst College succeeded in bringing the dead back to life…and quickly lost control. Emily Dickinson, a young woman imbued with superpowers, teamed up with the town’s new police officer to fight the supernatural hordes attacking the annual Cattle Show.

Episode 2 – Creation of a Superhero – Emily tells her sister, Lavinia, and Officer Lawless the origins story of her abilities. From her time training with a ninja while a student at Mount Holyoke, to her becoming a patient of Dr. Jackson, and dealing with the superpowers she received in the process, Emily has to quickly adapt to deal with a crime gang threatening Boston.

Episode 3 – Austin in Boston- In January of 1853, Emily travels to Boston to visit her brother, Austin, enrolled at Harvard Law School. While there, the Boston Supers Group asks for Emily’s help in catching an unknown super terrorizing the city. Not wanting to get involved, Emily declined, but soon found herself drawn in by an old adversary and his gang bent on a single-minded determination to get revenge.

What genre would you say it is?
If I worked in a bookstore, I’d file it in Historical Fiction…but I’d also be tempted to put it in Young Adult, or maybe Science Fiction/Superheroes.

What kind of readers will it appeal to?
Pretty much everyone from young adults on up, and including everyone who likes good fiction with a strong female lead.

You haven’t said what powers Emily Dickinson has in the book.
Compared to other supers in the 1850s who each only have one special ability, Emily is one of the extremely rare people who have multiple abilities. Her powers include: invisibility, super strength, night vision, enhanced hearing, tremendous speed, invulnerability, slight influence over nature, and something that can only be described as “volcano-like.”

As I did research I did into Emily’s real life, her superpowers just kind of presented themselves. For instance, she often thought she was invisible and often hid when someone would knock on the door. She was infatuated with the concept of immortality, and loved nature. She keenly appreciated science, and was captivated by volcanoes. In literature, she was enamored with strong women. Also, due to a vision problem that made her sensitive to bright light, she was often up at night. Basically, the more I read about her, the more her powers presented themselves to me.

So did you have to do a lot of research into Emily Dickinson’s life, and have you laced your story with real events from her life?
When I first came up with the idea for this book, all I knew about Emily Dickinson was 1. She wrote a lot of poems and 2. She was extremely reclusive and people thought she was kind of crazy. I then sought out and read a lot of biographies of her, which helped to dispel some of the misconceptions I originally had about her. Especially in her younger years, she had a very quick wit and a devilish sense of humor.

During the first draft I thought, “Bah, who need research? This is fiction! I’m going to make it all up as I go along!” But the more I read about her and the more I wrote, I realized I needed to get it right. Sure she’s been dead for 126 years, but I needed to at least give her the respect of honoring her memory in as true a fashion as possible. I went back and added as many real events, locations, and people as I could. Almost all of the stores mentioned are real places that the Dickinsons would have shopped at in Amherst. When Emily is in Boston and spending time writing to people in the Boston Public Garden, I write about her looking at the Charles River. People today would say, “What? You can’t see the river from there,” but in the 1850s the Back Bay from Arlington Street west hadn’t been filled in yet and was still under the river. Even Emily’s visit to see her brother at Harvard actually happened, although I don’t think she was actually besieged by super villains (although she might have, we weren’t around back then).

How long did it take to write?
Overall, it took about a year and a half from the first idea of the story’s concept to the completion of the fully edited book.

And what was the most challenging part of your creative process?
Definitely the research. Previously, I had written a (still unpublished) young adult science fiction novel, which takes place in space. With that book, I made up everything as I went along because it takes place 500 years in the future. With Emily Dickinson, Superhero – Vol. 1, I couldn’t do that. Everything had to be researched. I was writing a scene where Emily was writing and I had to stop and think, “Uh, did they use pens or pencils in 1852?” A few minutes or research later, I had my answer – both, but fountain pens were more commonly used, which is what Emily wrote with in her younger days. Sometimes, I found myself getting sidetracked for long periods of time and doing research instead of writing. It got to the point where I had to just highlight the area, put in a note telling me to look something up later in the editing phase, and move on.

The book has Vol 1 in its title. So there’ll be more?
Yes! In all, there will be six books (each with three stories) in this series. I am currently working on the first episode of Emily Dickinson, Superhero – Vol. 2, entitled Angel of the Oxbow.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts and spent most of my adult life as a hotel manager. I previously published several science fiction short stories and a collection of poetry entitled Anything but Dreams. Last year, I had the amazing privilege of hearing Garrison Keillor read one of my poems on his public radio show, The Writer’s Almanac. I live in Vermont with my wife, Kari Chapin, author of the bestselling creative business books, The Handmade Marketplace and Grow Your Handmade Business.

You’re a poet? Is that what attracted you to Emily Dickinson as a character?
My poetry background wasn’t the reason I initially chose to write about Emily, but it has certainly been an excellent help. At first, I wanted to write about Emily because I wanted to write an action-based historical novel and she was the least-active historical figure I could think of. The book takes place when Emily is in her early twenties and at this point in her real life she had only written two poems (she went on to write 1,789 in her lifetime), but she still had a poetic flourish in her letters. I feel that I was better able to capture that because of my own poetic past.

Correct us if we’re wrong, but it seems as if poetry is less popular now than it possibly used to be in the past. However, Emily Dickinson seems to stay ever popular. What is her special appeal?
Poetry used to be very popular. In fact, it was common for newspapers in the 1800s to feature poems in their pages. Now, however, not so much. Emily, on the other hand is still very popular and probably even more so now than at any time in the past. I think a lot of the readers of her work can identify with the complex and multilayered outsider nature of her views as well as her brevity. Some of her poems were absolutely huge, but the bulk of them were short, succinct, and perfectly summed up, in just a few lines, many of the feelings that people thought were indescribable.

Have you got a blog where readers can keep up with your work?

Yes, several! My personal blog is but Emily has her own website at

Emily is also active on Twitter as @EmilyDSuperhero and has a fun Pinterest account. I’m also on Facebook, so is Emily, and she’s on Google+ as well.

Where can people buy your book?

People can actually try to win a free, signed copy on Goodreads until December 10, 2012.  Otherwise the ebook can be found at Amazon(US,UK) Smashwords, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, etc. I’m also selling signed copies through our Etsy store.

What’s next?

I have three projects that will be published in early 2013. The first two are poetry collections: Lost in Thought (the remainder of my unpublished poems written about ten years ago), and Trying Not To Blink (all of the poems I wrote in 2012). The third release is the first story from Emily Dickinson, Superhero – Vol. 2 entitled: Angel of the Oxbow.

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