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NP: Tell us about BRIGHTEYES!

DN: Wow, where to begin? It’s a kind of comedic homage to the comic books and superheroes I loved as a kid. I was an active collector from the late 1970s through the mid-1980s—the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, Captain America, Daredevil, etc. All of those series that were eventually made into television shows and movies—they drew from storylines I remember reading back then. BRIGHTEYES is a loving nod to those comic books, as well as a knowing parody of the superhero genre.

NP: Parody? How so?

DN: There are two primary protagonists in the series—Mitch Paulsen (aka, Cameraman), and Anna Victor (aka, Victoriana), and they both represent aspects of my fandom. Mitch has no superpowers, and he isn’t a fan of supers. He’s built an entire superhero identity out of his absence of powers—Cameraman, basically the ultimate investigative journalist (that’s how he sees himself). Mitch is a worldly, cynical, sarcastic smartass—he epitomizes a kind of “been there, done that” attitude. He uses technology to spy on bad guys, outing them for their corruption through surveillance.

NP: He’s kind of a super spy?

DN: Yeah, sort of. He’s like the world’s most determined paparazzo—except instead of going after celebrities, he targets politicians, corporate leaders, and gangsters. Mitch’s thing is making sure those who think they can get away with evil/criminality/villainy get justice served, overwhelmingly through his surveillance work.

NP: That’s dangerous work!

DN: For sure. That’s why Mitch relies on some stealth-type technology. He has a super-suit that lets him become various shades of invisible, and he zealously guards his secret identity. I think of him kind of like Batman but without being rich. He depends on his best friend/frenemy, Shane Grey (aka, the Knack), who is a trillionaire philanthropist, a genuine do-gooder who’s incredibly lucky, like supernaturally lucky. I can talk about Shane more later, but Mitch has this love/hate friendship with Shane, who’s literally “got it all”—while Mitch focuses on street-level superheroism, more on the level of Spider-Man, Daredevil, and the Punisher.

NP: But no powers?

DN: Only tech-derived.

NP: Got it. What about Anna Victor?

DN: I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, but Anna Victor is, at least in the Shutterclique universe, the ultimate do-gooder. She’s everything Mitch is not, in the sense that she’s superpowered and is spunkily idealistic. If Mitch is an unflinching voyeur of the evil that men do, Anna’s a passionate pursuer of justice, with the power to take on literally anybody. Her alias of Victoriana represents her commitment to superheroism. I love Anna! She’s adorably pugnacious—she’ll take on anybody, but she does so with an innocence that offsets her raw power, which is considerable. Mitch and Anna hit it off right away—they have amazing chemistry, and they offer this amusing juxtaposition for me, in that Mitch is the unpowered superhero know-it-all, and Anna’s the smart, plucky superheroine who can flatten the bad guys with her flying fists. Mitch loathes just about all supers, except for Anna; he loves Anna.

NP: So, it’s a love story?

DN: In many ways, it is. It’s a romance in the old-school notion of romance—two heroic characters who love each other and are trying to bring justice to the world in unconventional ways. Mitch is a surveillance samurai, and Anna’s a high-flying ronin.

NP: But the book’s called BRIGHTEYES…

DN: Yes, Brighteyes is a key character in this one. There’s an elite superhero group called The Affiliates—they’re akin to the Avengers, in that they represent the top of the superhero prestige teams in this world. Anyway, Brighteyes is a member of that team, but she’s apparently gone rogue, in that she’s taken to hunting (and killing) supervillains. Brighteyes has these great green eyes that allow her to see in the dark, see through walls, and also fire deadly eyebeams that can disintegrate targets if she wants to.

NP: She sounds fierce!

DN: She is! Brighteyes is no-nonsense. She’s like the Punisher, except she uses eyebeams instead of bullets to deliver her vigilante justice. I’ve always loved eyebeams—from Superman and Supergirl’s heat vision, to Cyclops and his optic blasts, to Homelander’s murderous eyes. There’s just something magnificent about eyebeams, and with Brighteyes, it was just a natural fit for her.

NP: You mention Homelander (from THE BOYS). Was he an inspiration?

DN: Actually, no! There is a bunch of characters in BRIGHTEYES and the others books in the trilogy that I’ve had developed nearly 30 years ago! When I was a kid, I wanted to draw comic books—I had (and have) the classic HOW TO DRAW COMICS THE MARVEL WAY and I’d draw characters, but my talent is in writing, not drawing. So, nearly all of the characters in this trilogy are ones I’d created long ago, and even tried to give life in book fragments and short stories, but they never clicked, so I just kept them marooned in my cranial Casablanca until I could airlift them out of there.

NP: What triggered that airlift?

DN: Unemployment (laughs). After working steadily for 30 years, I was unfortunately laid off and I found myself with decent severance and no job. I was devastated and in a place where I couldn’t write anything—another first for me, like a 15-month fallow period where I was such a wreck I couldn’t even write anything. Sometime in the course of that time, I got into a rhythm where I would apply for jobs (and get either ghosted or rejected over and over again), but I also realized that, at least while the money held out, I was given a gift of time, which any writer knows is precious. I told myself I could just apply for jobs all day and mope about my misfortune or apply for jobs in the morning and write books in the afternoon. Then I just dove in and blazed through this trilogy. I wrote BRIGHTEYES in two weeks, INFERNA (Book 2) in a week, and TANTRUM (Book 3) in a week. I wrote them faster than anything I’ve ever written. It just flowed and the characters I’d held in my head for so long were racing to the page! I felt good about that, because I’d always wanted to find a home for them, and I did.

NP: That’s a really quick turnaround for novels! Given how complicated the stories are, did you outline?

DN: No! I never outline. On a first draft, for a story to entice me, I have to have that organic sense of mystery to propel me: “What is this story about?” I trade that open-endedness for speed and flow, counting on being able to rewrite and revise my way out of trouble if I get into any. Another first for me with this trilogy is I wrote them all in sequence—one after another—so I’d be able to maintain continuity and vibe and character from book to book, without any breaks for me as a writer. I think of it how Peter Jackson shot the LORD OF THE RINGS movies—one after another, in a massive production. On my much-smaller scale, that’s what I did with these, and I think it works for them. The “vibe” is right from book to book.

NP: What do you hope readers will get out of BRIGHTEYES?

DN: A lot of fun, a lot of laughs, and even tears. There are some really tearjerker moments for me in BRIGHTEYES that I hope readers will feel, too. While the book honors and mocks the superhero genre, there’s a lot of heart in it as well. Mitch is sincere in his desire to bring justice to an unjust world, and, for him, the crowning injustice is that he has no superpowers to make things right. All he has is a sharp mind, a keen detective’s eye, and a desire for justice. Mitch is an everyman surrounded by gods, godlings, demons, and devils—his humanity anchors him as a character, even though he’s outmatched at every turn. I can relate to that, and think readers will, too.

NP: Would you rather this be a graphic novel?

DN: I can’t say that I don’t someday have a vision of the series as graphic novels. That said, I also love that they’re novels. I tried to keep them all around 80,000 words, so they’re novels, but not bricks. They’re ideal for quick reads, and I was very kinetic in the prose, making them feel cinematic and action-driven, while making them first person so readers could ride in Mitch’s mind while he’s going through everything in BRIGHTEYES. One thing I did was have Mitch constantly break the fourth wall (nod to DEADPOOL, here), where he’s speaking to the reader (“Gentle Reader”) and clearly knows he’s being read and observed, throwing off witty asides as he navigates this superheroic world he’s in. I enjoyed having that there for readers, so they might feel like they’re immersed in this mad world I’ve made.

NP: Does Mitch know he’s a character in a book?

DN: I never come out and say that, but he clearly knows something is up. His excuse is he’s writing his memoirs and is letting readers in on his thoughts as they’re happening. That immediacy makes it an entertaining read from my perspective.

NP: You’ve written, what, 19 books with Nosetouch at this point? Have you stepped away from horror?

DN: Yeah, I mean, I have a couple more horror books to write at some point, but I really enjoyed throwing myself into the SHUTTERCLIQUE world, which is lighthearted, heartfelt, serious, silly, funny, and above all, fun. It’s a very colorful, vibrant world. That’s something I can’t say of my horror writing (it’s always fun, but the shroud of horror hangs heavy over it—bad things are going to happen to the characters, and doom looms. That’s what horror is). I always felt like I was too optimistic and even humorous for horror. Or my humor would creep into that work and make it more “Dark Urban Fantasy” than outright horror. THE CURSED EARTH (2022) was a bit of that mask slipping for me—creating a cosmic folk horror world that wasn’t dreary, but what was visually interesting and just a lot of fun! It helped me segue into SHUTTERCLIQUE.

NP: “Shutterclique” is a great name! Tell us more!

DN: The Shutterclique is Mitch’s answer to the Affiliates—they’re kind of the superheroic misfits of this world. Maybe not as much as, say, THE MYSTERY MEN (a movie I love!), but they are still more street-level than cosmic-level superheroes. The Shutterclique might be the team you want when you’re dealing with some neighborhood or municipal problems. Save the Affiliates for the world-crushing opponents, if they can fit you into their busy schedule. This universe definitely toys with THE BOYS (minus the dark bro cynicism and gore), INVINCIBLE (again, minus the abundant brutality), KICKASS (minus the apparent absence of superpowers), and others. SHUTTERCLIQUE serves up superpowers, cartoonish heroes, nasty supervillains, but also a very Generation X feeling of alienation and rebellion. They’re my Generation X-Men, except that the Shutterclique are all younger than the Xers—they’re all in that magical age range between 20 and 40, when one’s life’s most full of opportunities for awesomeness, more so if one can fly through walls.

NP: What time period are these books in?

DN: I actually don’t make that clear—it’s clearly 21st century, but I don’t draw a line when it takes place, beyond some pop cultural touchpoints. That was deliberate, mainly because so much is going wrong in America these days, any story that hewed too closely to the real world would immediately have readers wondering why the superheroes weren’t laying into insurrectionists, fascists, and politicians deep in the pockets of certain foreign autocrats. I am a very political writer, and slip in some political observations and commentary here and there, but this series is much more arm’s length about that. It’s kind of like when 9/11 happened—the comics publishers at the time rushed to write 9/11 stories, trying to account for why their superheroes failed to stop 9/11 from happening, and having them horsewhip themselves or tie themselves in knots for their failure to prevent that from taking place. That’s an awkward place to be in, so I evade that by letting these books be urban fantasy superheroic thrillers that are set in the United States, but it’s a willfully nebulous American ideal (itself a problem we wrestle with daily—I could go on and on about that, what America actually stands for)—I write about an idea of America, in a world far removed from our own, where there are actual superheroes, from the perspective of an everyman do-gooder who’s got no powers greater than his powers of observation.

NP: It sounds like a blast!

DN: BRIGHTEYES was so much fun to write, and I hope my sense of humor and fun translates to what I wrote. I really want it to find its audience, and for them to relish the ride. I’ll be happy if fans draw their own versions of the Shutterclique members and do character cosplay! That’ll feel like a major win.

NP: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us! BRIGHTEYES is available now in paperback, hardcover, and case laminate!

Brighteyes - Neal - Nosetouch Press
SUPERHERO URBAN FANTASY | THE SHUTTERCLIQUE | NOVEL

What we have here is essentially a narrative superhero memoir that could be a graphic novel which is filled with action, adventure and a personal touch that came as a surprise to me.

I found touches of Marvel, DC, Watchmen and The Boys scattered throughout this book and I think superhero fans will enjoy this refreshing take on this genre. It was a fun and engrossing tale that read quickly with bright and vivid world building and characters that were more fully fleshed out than you normally find in superhero stories (and for the female characters didn’t fall on lazy and tired stereotypes).

If you want a superhero tale that feels modern and fresh then I think you won’t go far wrong with this book.

Lydia C., NetGalley review

Okay, this was a complete cover decision to read but I am SO glad I did!! I loved the world building so much, and I genuinely can’t wait to see where the author goes with the story and the series!

meghan-alice h, NetGalley review

THE SHUTTERCLIQUE #1

After experiencing a personal tragedy, Mitch Paulsen throws himself into solo superhero work as his alter ego—Cameraman—as a way of working through his personal pain. But when Brighteyes, a high-profile member of the Affiliates, the world-class superhero team, starts murdering supervillains, Mitch is thrown into the middle of a far-reaching conspiracy that threatens to upend his world. BRIGHTEYES, Book One of the Shutterclique Series, is a superhero action-adventure comedy thriller sure to leave readers breathless.

Action! Adventure! Romance!

BRIGHTEYES turns the superhero genre on its head with sharp focus and sharper writing!

ABOUT D.T. NEAL

Born in Missouri, growing up in Ohio, and settling in Chicago, D. T. Neal has always written fiction, but only got really serious about it in the late 90s. He brings a strong Rust Belt perspective to his writing, a kind of “Northern Gothic” aesthetic reflective of his background.

Writing his first novel at 29, he then devoted time to his craft and worked on short stories, occupying a space between genre and literary fiction, with an emphasis on horror, science fiction, and fantasy. He has seen some of his short stories published in “Albedo 1,” Ireland’s premier magazine of speculative fiction, and he won second place in their Aeon Award in 2008 for his short story, “Aegis.” He has lived in Chicago since 1993, and is a passionate fan of music, a student of pop culture, an avid photographer and bicycler, and enjoys cooking.

He has published seven novels, Brighteyes (Shutterclique #1), Saamaanthaa, The Happening, and Norm—collectively known as The Wolfshadow Trilogy—Chosen, Suckage, and the cosmic folk horror-comedy thriller, The Cursed Earth. He has also published three novellas—Relict, Summerville, and The Day of the Nightfish. He has also published two collections— Singularities, a collection of science fiction stories, and The Thing in Yellow, a collection of King in Yellow mythos-based stories.

He co-edited THE FIENDS IN THE FURROWS folk horror anthologies, The Fiends in the Furrows: An Anthology of Folk Horror, The Fiends in the Furrows II: More Tales of Folk Horror, and The Fiends in the Furrows III: Final Harvest.

PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Series: The Shutterclique (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-944286-40-8 (paperback)

Also available as an ebook.