Mike Lupica was inspired by comic books to write ‘Hero,’ about a boy with super powers

February 25, 2011

“All my kids are heroes. Danny, Michael, Zach. [They show] strength they didn’t know they had; they show more heart than they thought they were capable of showing,” says Mike Lupica, his voice bursting with a father’s pride.

Except that Lupica, a sports columnist and author of more than a dozen books for kids, isn’t talking about his children; he’s talking about his characters.

So it’s all the more fitting that Lupica’s newest book is called “Hero.” But unlike his earlier works, which featured a main character dealing with a problem on the baseball diamond or basketball court, the protagonist in the new novel must deal with the realization that he has inherited super powers.

Lupica took time out from working in what he calls his writing cottage at his home in Connecticut to talk to KidsPost’s Tracy Grant about kids, stories and superpowers.

You have said that you like to write about “regular kids,” but Zach Harriman is far from a regular kid.

“Actually, this kid is a regular kid. He doesn’t even know if he likes these powers. All my kids get knocked down. When Zach gets back up, he not only stands tall, he can fly, too.”

Why did you want to write a fantasy book?

“I was a comic-book kid [when I was growing up]. I knew I could write a book about one of my comic-book-type characters, like the Green Lantern. So, I took one of my main characters in one of my sports books and gave him some really cool things he could do.”

We’re not giving anything away by saying that Zach’s dad dies early in the book and that death fuels the plot. What made you want to deal with such a serious subject?

“If you start reading one of my books, you know it’s not going to be smooth sailing. So what’s the worst thing that can happen to a child? It’s the loss of a parent. I wanted my character’s heart to be tested in a way that [it] never had been tested before.”

The way “Hero” ends makes the reader think there will be more Zach Harriman books. Are you working on a sequel?

“I have three chapters written on a sequel, but it won’t be my next book. I can tell you the first sentence of the sequel, though: ‘It started with a Facebook message that wasn’t a message at all but a threat.’ ”

Zach is the name of one of your sons, right? Did you have to promise to have the other kids be characters in future books to avoid fights?

“It was not a good day for old Dad when I told the older boys, and let me tell you that there’s a Hannah in the book I’m writing now because I’m under huge pressure [from his 12-year-old daughter, who is named Hannah]. But it really is fair to say that Zach Lupica has informed so many of my characters.”

And when he says that, Mike Lupica’s voice really is bursting with pride as he talks not about a character but about his son.

— Tracy Grant

kidspost@washpost.com

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