Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of Temporary! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Steve Russell: Thank you so much. Writing Temporary was a real experience for me, so I appreciate that!
The core premise of Temporary is this: 182 days ago, the Incident occurred, gifting Kenny Orton and others with superhuman powers. With new Herculean strength, Kenny embraces his abilities to redeem his shameful past and soon finds himself caught up with V-Threats, unhinged Ultras, unexpected celebrity status, and a murder he’s expected to help cover up.
It’s a story about friendship, dysfunctional family, the pursuit of redemption, and the power of choice and accountability. I drew a lot of inspiration from the grittier side of comic books and comic book movies/television whilst still embracing some of the more uncanny elements that make superheroes such a fascinating, compelling, and fun genre to explore.
As far as what inspired me to tell this story…I mean, like Kenny, I suppose it was to try and reclaim a sense of direction and purpose, to find or make my own meaning as opposed to simply plugging into the mundanity of ‘eat, sleep, work, repeat’ and being content with treading water. It also acted as a means for me to thematically explore something important to me: the weight of male relationships and the toxicity that can pervade them.
Beyond that, Temporary is inspired by a myriad of things, from the more obvious, like superheroes, comic books, and the television shows and movies borne from those characters—in particular things like Marvel’s Daredevil, both the comic and the Netflix show, Batman, and Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass—to video games, male friendships/relationships, and even pro wrestling, MMA, and my love of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I’m also a big fan of references, so I’d love to see if a reader can spot all the little Easter eggs, nods, and winks I’ve woven into the story.
Now, I wasn’t in a great emotional place at the time when I began writing Temporary, and I ultimately used the book and writing as means of quasi-therapy—a means to escape myself and my job at the time by diving into this world of Ultras, heroics, and a distinct grey between good and evil as Kenny, this guy with a past filled with mistakes and heavy regrets, finds himself embroiled in something much bigger than he’d anticipated as he chases redemption and purpose.
His desire to do something, to escape the rote repetition of the menial day job, that 9-5, to action his words into reality and own his narrative really resonated with me. It still does, really.
The final component that influenced and really inspired me to commit and bring this story to life is a bit more random. At least that’s how it appears on first blush, with a seemingly sporadic series of events becoming stitched together to reveal a bigger picture I couldn’t see at the time.
So, Temporary initially started life as a comic book. It was going to be a six-issue story. I had an artist on board, and we were in early preliminary stages of design and concept when he dropped off the project out of the blue to pursue his own things.
It obviously left me in the lurch, but fair enough, I suppose. Regardless, I was left in a relative quandary, as I had no further connections to replace him, and, honestly, didn’t know how to go about it anyway.
So, Temporary just sort of sat there, existing on my hard drive.
But the story wouldn’t leave me alone.
It wasn’t until I was at a convention in the States, supporting a short film I had written and directed, that inspiration and resolve converged.
You see, during the downtime of the convention, I found myself drawn to the writers’ symposiums taking place. Pretty much every spare moment I had was spent listening to authors talking about how much they loved writing, telling these deep narratives in a long-form medium, and how creatively satisfying it was to get the work out there and connect with readers worldwide, whether they were indie or traditionally published.
Their shared experiences, that convention, that time and place, my love of reading and writing, and my desire to do something more with this story…all these chaotic, unconnected elements and events came together to inspire me to commit, to keep Temporary alive, turn it into a book, and pursue writing.
It was a moment of pure creative clarity, and I haven’t looked back since.
BD: The novel deftly combines the action of a superhero story with the suspense of a dramatic thriller. What can you share with us about your creative process in weaving these narratives together, and what have been some of your creative influences?
SR: The action influence is an easy one: I borrowed heavily from my love of MMA and, in particular, grappling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I’m currently a brown belt in BJJ and have been training for approximately nine years. I wanted to tell a story that grounded the action in a grittier, accurate way, so I felt leveraging my first-hand grappling knowledge into my writing would be a perfect way to merge two things I love and help give the story more realistic combat for people to enjoy.
Although the combat and fight scenes are written with that in mind, it’s not a boring breakdown of grips or grappling transitions. I ultimately wrote them with the average reader in mind, but for those who do gravitate towards BJJ or enjoy MMA and grappling, there’s probably a little more in there that you’ll enjoy sinking your teeth into. And if not, again, it’s not written in a way that will deter or hinder your enjoyment of the hard-hitting action!
Looking at the story from a dramatic angle, the thrilling aspects of its narrative twists and turns, I drew a lot from my love of comics and superhero-related stories in other mediums—video games, movies, TV shows, and even podcasts. I wanted to give Temporary a compelling, realistic edge, deepening the drama and ratcheting the stakes without eschewing the fun of what superheroes are and can be.
As I mentioned earlier, the characters of Daredevil, Batman, and Kick-Ass and how they’re implemented within their worlds were particularly instrumental and really helped me root my characters in a world turned upside down following The Incident. Amazon’s The Boys was also pretty impactful. That TV show helped open my eyes and made me make bolder choices with my characters and story.
Insofar as creative influences, first and foremost, a genuine love of comics and superheroes/superhero mythology was the primary building block of this process. Like so many of my fellow geeks, I grew up reading as many comic books as I could get my hands on—often gravitating towards Spider-Man and the X-Men.
The darker Spider-Man and Daredevil stories, those that had real stakes, relatable human issues, and lasting loss, still stick with me, so all of that and the work from countless writers and artists helped shape me when I was younger and evidently left a lasting creative impression.
There are also plenty of great superhero novels out there, but I can’t ignore the impact reading VE Schwab’s Vicious and Vengeful books had on me. She’s really good at leaning into the grey with her characters and their development, which I love. I’m a big fan of morally grey characters or characters that find themselves lost in that grey. Those books also showed me there’s a place for superhero fiction and an audience of people who will love it once they find it!
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Kenny’s story will connect with and impact readers?
SR: This is where Temporary gets really interesting for me. It’s true that the initial drafts of any book are just the writer telling themselves the story. You may have a broad idea of what you want to thematically explore, but when you go back and read what you actually wrote, more often than not, the true poignant themes gleam through.
On the surface, Temporary is a superhero story about a guy who hates his mundane life and wants to redeem himself from past mistakes—one who gets the opportunity to when he’s gifted with powers after The Incident and eventually teams up with another person with IPs, Gray Matthews, to fight back against the V-Threats in their city.
That in itself will probably connect with a lot of people, those who are disenchanted with their every day or struggling to find meaning whilst being forced to put on a mask at work. I get it. I’ve been there myself. That search for meaning is an inherently human compulsion, and I think those currently going through that will connect with Kenny and his journey. And then other readers may just like the superhero antics and the team-up nature of the book, which is just as awesome for different reasons.
However, it soon became clear to me that there was so much more to explore within Temporary, and that the story presented a chance to engage with deeper thematic exploration and commentary on male relationships and male friendships.
I really wanted to hone in on toxic masculinity and how it permeates and impacts male relationships—not only between friends but also within families. That weight of generational expectation that can exist between fathers and sons that inflects and shapes how they then connect with other men when forming friendships, etc., was really interesting to me.
Most, not all, male relationships have an element of toxicity infecting them: competitiveness, comparison, and an easy willingness to mock compassion and caring.
I wanted to look at these ideas, framing them both directly and indirectly through a superhero story that links two Ultras together, exploring their new friendship and how they each approach teaming together against the backdrop of their own familial roles and experiences—one with a firm father and the other with a more caring, surrogate father figure.
That juxtaposition and how they interact and come together was really compelling, and the uniqueness of them being Ultras, teaming together, and what they each expect of the team and each other from this angle was a lot of fun to explore and get to grips with; I hope Temporary can have a positive impact on readers by giving them a superhero story that’s unafraid to challenge and question male relationships/friendships and the clear, negative impact engrained toxic masculinity has had and is having on men across generations.
BD: Do you foresee expanding the novel into subsequent books or even into other entertainment mediums, if given the opportunity?
SR: Definitely. There’s so much narrative potential within my Ultraverse series, especially when you know the twist of the first book. It actually reached as high as #4 in Amazon’s superhero charts and #7 in their Science Fiction Adventure charts, so there’s been a really positive reception to the book that lets me know there’s an audience who enjoyed it and are ready for more.
There’s a core series that I’m working on, but also plenty of opportunity for future side stories and parallel events to be written about different Ultras and V-Threats from across the globe. Without spoiling anything in the book, the general premise and twist is rife for further stories. In fact, you can get a free side story that takes place during Temporary by signing up to my newsletter. It introduces you to a different character as they navigate their own little journey whilst the events of Temporary take place.
And when it comes to other entertainment mediums, man, of course! I’d love to do some shorter side stories as comic books, which would be a full circle for me to take this concept and world back to where it started.
Beyond that, the obvious major thing would be a show on a streaming service, which, well, who’d say no to that if the possibility arose and everything was right for both parties.
On a smaller scale, a narrative podcast series like Spotify’s Batman Unburied would be awesome to do. I’ve got a background in screenwriting and would love the challenge of doing something like that to either tell a new story or provide a side story to Temporary in a unique and different medium.
Another wishful-thinking dream would be a video game. For something like Temporary it would have to be akin to Rocksteady’s Arkham series of Batman games. Deep narrative, the potential for two different play styles between Kenny and Gray, and that hard-hitting style those games are known for…yeah, that would be amazing.
Ultimately, however, the books come first, and if I were ever lucky or fortuitous enough to have this story exist in another medium, I’d hope those people would gravitate back to the books themselves and see where that world and those characters originated from.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
SR: Absolutely! I’ve got a few things going right now that are all exciting for different reasons as an author.
I’m currently waiting on my editor to finish working on a manuscript for a supernatural noir I’ve written. It’s based in London and follows a disillusioned demon hunter and his angel-capuchin partner as they struggle with the rigours of supernatural freelancing.
After investigating a series of occult-style murders, they find themselves entwined with the Demon King Vine, who takes a particularly obsessive interest in the demon hunter. Fans of the Dresden Files, Preacher, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Supernatural will want to check this out.
I’m also waiting on the last of my beta reader feedback for a post-societal novel I’ve been working on. This book is probably some of the bleakest writing I’ve ever done and should appeal to fans of The Last of Us and The Road. You know, people who don’t shy away from the darker aspects of life, human nature, and kind of like to feel emotionally drained and challenged by a feel-bad story!
Finally, those that already follow me on social media or are signed up to my newsletter know I recently finished my first draft of the second Ultraverse book, so for those interested in Temporary after reading this interview and are wondering if another is coming…the answer is yes, yes, a thousand times yes!
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Temporary and your other work?
SR: I have a website people can visit at www.stevetendo.com. That’s a central hub for me, but you can easily find all my books on Amazon.
I’m also on Twitter and Instagram (@stevetendo), so, if anyone is interested, they can follow me there. I’m more active on Twitter, where I tend to talk primarily about writing, reading, video games, pop culture events, and some pro wrestling/MMA/BJJ stuff.
I actually use my Instagram as a sort of visual scrapbook that I only update when I feel like having something to share, so rest assured I’m not inundating people with food pictures or inane positivity quotes, but those updates tend to be a little bit more in-depth and introspective when I do share something.
Probably the best place people can go to get all the latest news first, however, is here.
There they can sign up to my author newsletter to get all the up-to-date information on my writing and stories, personal recommendations and author life updates, and even get that free ebook I mentioned earlier when they sign up.
The newsletter comes at the end of each month and reflects on what happened within that month. I also generally send them out when there’s something to report and share, so, again, I’m not clogging up your emails with empty updates. Also, by signing up, you get, like, a +10 Awesome bonus. Just saying.
Lastly, before I go, I just wanted to thank Fanbase Press for the interview; I really enjoyed it and appreciate the opportunity to connect with potential readers and fellow superhero fans. I hope you’ll consider following me for future book news and updates.
Now go check out Temporary and meet Kenny Orton and Gray Matthews!