We first met Toren Chenault on Twitter, where he was promoting a simple concept we liked: peace, love, and comics (also the name of his blog). Soon after, Toren started talking about a novel he planned to release this spring, a first building block in an extensive superhero universe. Dubbed Mystic Man after its protagonist, this novel is available online now via Amazon.
Everyone who works on our site (obviously) is a writer, and we all know how difficult it can be to finish short projects (let alone an entire book). Even though this his first published work, Toren has finished four. So, to inspire ourselves and our readers, we caught up with Toren to ask about his new book, his experience with self publishing, and what’s in store for his future.
Let’s do this!
Q: Where did you first get the idea for Mystic Man?
A: The idea has always been in my head, but the first time I really considered writing this story was after seeing Man of Steel. I love the film, and overall I enjoyed the things Zack Snyder tried to do with the character of Superman. Where he really missed the mark to me was in the realism of Superman. I just didn’t believe it. Maybe it’s the inherent white privilege I think Superman has, I’m not sure, but I saw what the film was trying to do—it just didn’t quite execute it. So, when I sat down afterward, I asked myself the question, “How would the world react to its first superhero being black?” That’s where the spark came from.
Q: What was your writing process like?
A: I wrote the majority of the book in college, and I got the writing done whenever I could. I actually had to take a year off from college because of financial issues. That lit a fire under me. I wrote a good chunk of the book then while working a full-time security job. When I got back in school, the book was basically done, but I still made time for revisions. It sounds cliche, but I just fit in writing wherever I could.
Q: You’re a comics fan...what made you pick the novel format as opposed to comic books?
A: Maybe there’s a fancier response to this question, but I don’t have one. I just love books and I want people to read more. I read comics growing up, but books like Ender’s Game, 1984, and Brave New World changed my life as a teen, really shaping the person I am now. Comics can do that too (and have for me) but books did it first. The way I wanted to tell this story works best with a book. But, I do plan on showing off Mystic Man’s world through comics someday, too.
Q: What are some lessons you learned from the writing/publishing process?
A: Mystic Man is actually the fourth book I’ve written. It’s just the first I’ve published. During this process, I learned the value of patience. I’m a patient guy, but it’s something all young writers struggle with—we want everything to be done now. I have a vision for Mystic Man, for my universe, and I get frustrated some days (most days) that people don’t know or care about what I have to say. And sometimes, that type of negativity can bleed into my work. Patience is key in novel writing or when building something as big as a universe. It’s going to take time, years in fact, but that’s okay. I learn more about it each day.
Q: Can you talk about self-publishing and what was it like navigating that space?
A: I didn’t publish the three other books I wrote, but I did try. I sent queries out to agents, publishers. Nobody gave a damn. I decided I wanted to be a writer and storyteller at age 17 once I read the last page of Ender's Game, and I put everything I had into getting better. Mystic Man isn’t the greatest novel ever written, but I think it’s time to show everyone how much I’ve grown since writing my first books. Wasting time with big publishers wasn’t productive, and honestly, this was liberating, navigating that space. I know the Ebook/Amazon market is oversaturated, but it was nice to handle everything myself and oversee everything about the book. If I didn’t self-publish, Mystic Man would be just another thing on my computer.
Q: What comes next for you and for the world you've created here?
A: More books. Mystic Man is the most powerful hero in my universe, but he isn’t the first. Other heroes have been around for a while and some are even in this first book. Next, I’ll be introducing the other heroes in my universe. They’re all different, but Mystic Man is the hero that inspires them to be better. The next hero readers will learn about is my personal favorite. Her name is Victoria Gonzalez, the Shade of San Juan. After her, we go to Africa, and meet former child soldier David Batu. He’s the DreamCrusher. They’re my Trinity so to speak. Each has different roots, different problems, and most importantly, different powers. I hope this continues to grow because like I said, I plan on showcasing these heroes in comics. It sounds like a lot, I know but I think it can be done. And it all starts with Mystic Man.
Toren Chenault, a native of the Cincinnati area, currently lives in Michigan with his girlfriend. A graduate of Michigan State University, he is a long-time superhero fan who counts Captain Atom, Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel, Daredevil, Divinity, Nightwing, and XO Manowar among his favorite heroes. Mystic Man is his first book. Buy it now here.