Q: What books/authors have influenced you and why?
A: Oh, gosh, where do I begin? I grew up on Marvel and DC Comics, so some of the writers who really got me interested in writing were Steve Englehart, Paul Levitz, and Marv Wolfman. Later, I got into Star Trek, whose story editor, Dorothy C. Fontana, helped build the universe we now know as Star Trek. I probably learned more about the craft of writing from J. Michael Straczyinski, the creator of Babylon 5, than any other single source. However, I've also picked up tips from Mark Twain, Charles Schultz (yep, the "Peanuts" guy), Arthurian legends, and various other sources. Virtually anything I've read that's well written has been an influence in one way or another.
Q: Tell me about your protagonist. What's your favorite trait and/or weakness?
A: Damon is very persistent. At 13, life has handed him a mixed blessing: He can create darkness, but, like other powered kids, he has to live in a confined place called known as the district, where there are strict rules about using powers. One of the rules is that kids can use their powers more freely if they join a special club with other powered kids. Damon tries out for a club and is rejected, but, instead of taking no for an answer, he works with two friends to develop his power and finally wins acceptance. Afterwards, he decides that the club can do a lot of good with their powers, but he must overcome resistance--from the members of the club and even from the district--to make this happen.
As far as his weakness, Damon is always looking for strong role models to emulate. His father's job takes him away from the family for months at a time, so Damon, like a lot of kids, has grown up watching television and playing games and trying to find role models in those fictional heroes. He quickly realizes those heroes are not adequate, so he turns to an older boy, Kyle Powell, as his role model--his "guardian angel," after Kyle saves him from a disaster. Kyle makes a decent role model but ultimately can't guide Damon where Damon needs to go.
Q: Same with your antagonist.
A: There are two principal antagonists in THE POWER CLUB: A boy named Calvin and the district itself. Calvin is Damon's age, and he as the ability to open rifts into other dimensions--a power so dangerous he has been kept away from other kids and has been forced to go to school in classes by himself. Calvin is deeply jealous of Damon--the freedom he has, the friends he makes (although "freedom" and "friends" are relative at this point). Calvin makes friends with a couple of other troublemakers, and they gang up on Damon.
The district is a shadowy, mysterious influence in Damon's life and the lives of the other powered kids. No one knows exactly what the district wants or why powered kids and their families are forced to live there. The rules of the district are often maddeningly contradictory: powered kids cannot use their powers in public, but, if they join a special club, they can do what they want. The district does not want powered kids to act like heroes and uses dirty tricks to discourage Damon from pursuing that goal.
Q: What has been a fascinating writing research experience for you? Does a memory stick with you?
A: Since the characters in THE POWER CLUB are very young, it's been quite interesting to observe kids who are about that age and pick up traits and ideas from them. Two years ago, one of my neighbor kids, who was 10 at the time, asked me to write him a Halloween story. I did and tied it into THE POWER CLUB. It became the back story for a character in the PC sequel.
Q: What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you? (website, blog, social media?) Please include links.
A: Right now, I'm trying to figure out the best way to do this. I have a blog (www.greggildersleeve.com) and a website (www.powerclubheroes.com). Those are the best ways at the moment to get in touch. And I'm looking forward to hearing from fans: What they have to say about the PC, who their favorite character is, what power they wish they could have, and so forth.
Q: If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
A: Actually, I'm pretty satisfied with how things have turned out right now. I wouldn't tell my younger self not to change a thing, but I would say, keep focusing on the future and don't dwell on the past.