Superhero stories are often about individuals who find empowerment through struggle and adversity, but, author Jeremy Scott says, these stories often "rehash the same kind of superhero stories we're all used to seeing." Scott wanted to write about new kinds of heroes: disabled individuals, Scott says, "that superhero culture would marginalize." His debut YA novel, The Ables, is set in a world where superpowers are common and teenagers with powers go to superhero high school.
Scott's protagonist, 12-year-old Phillip Sallinger, attends one such school. But, while he has the power of telekinesis, he and his friends are often underestimated because they also attend the school's special education program. "They have superpowers, but, due to their disabilities, the adults in their community do not consider them equal to other hero children," Scott says. Unlike more solitary superheroes, Scott's characters work together to achieve a greater good. "In some cases, their disabilities do directly impede their use of superpowers," Scott says, "so they sometimes have to rely on each other to get hero work done."
Scott channeled his own experiences with hearing loss, anxiety, and depression to write about how certain characteristics that are considered deficits can belie hidden strengths. "I definitely connect to the characters and their frustrations with how the world reacts to disabilities," Scott says. "And, like my characters, I have learned that I can be ‘able' just the way I am."
Writing about characters with disabilities that Scott doesn't share was for the author an exercise in awareness and compassion. Phillip is blind, and as a result, Scott says, "He has to find a way—or rather, I do—to tell the story without the luxury of copious visual details. A blind person doesn't experience life the same way a seeing person does." There were many passages that Scott had to rewrite after realizing that he had described something that Phillip couldn't have seen. "But that's important," he says. "I had regular reminders to consider the perspective of a blind person, something most of us don't do on a daily basis. It was good for me. And it forced me to consider how the other senses could be used to create tension or relief. It stretched me as a person and as a writer."
When it came time to share The Ables with readers, Scott initially took matters into his own hands by choosing to self-publish. After the book was released, executive editor Stephanie Beard at Turner Publishing contacted Scott about publishing the novel traditionally. Scott knew it was a good fit right away. Not only is Turner based in Nashville, where Scott lives, but, he says, the publisher was "just so authentically passionate about the characters and the story and about giving me the chance to tell more stories in this world."
Scott has written a sequel to The Ables, titled Strings, which will be published this September. "The story," Scott says, "takes place three years later and is about the crumbling relations between the superhero community and the government." The third and fourth books will follow Phillip and the other Ables into adolescence and adulthood.
As The Ables reaches a broadening audience, Scott is encouraged that kids who may be discovering their own abilities and superpowers will see themselves in his characters. "I am humbled and excited to inspire others with the stories of the Ables," he says.
Readers who upload their proof of purchase at theablesbook.com will receive bonus content and exclusive access to a full-color 30-page digital comic book by renowned storyboard artist Jeremy Simser, who worked on Deadpool 2, Man in the High Castle, Titans, and other books. Strings will be available on September 24.