Less Than Hero just came out, and I caught up with SG Browne to talk about the new book, and more!
Will you tell us a bit about Less Than Hero and your unusual protagonist, Lloyd Prescott?
Less Than Hero is a dark comedy and a social satire about superheroes and our over-medicated society. I like to think of it as Mystery Men meets Unbreakable, only with rashes, vomiting, and rapid weight gain.
Lloyd Prescott is a thirty-year-old professional guinea pig who makes a living beta-testing pharmaceutical drugs in Phase I clinical trials. Lloyd is also a victim of his own inertia, having succumbed to the ennui of his existence. But when he and his group of guinea pig comrades discover that years of testing experimental drugs has caused them to develop unusual side effect that they’re able to project on to others, Lloyd discovers a newfound purpose by using his superpower to fight crime. Of course, all of their “superpowers” are intensified side effects caused by prescription drugs.
I love the premise of this, and the idea of medically enhanced guinea pigs fighting crime is awesome. What kind of research did you do for the book?
I did quite a bit of research on clinical trials, pharmaceutical companies, and the side effects of drugs—including popular over-the-counter medications that can cause liver and kidney failure. I also watched a bunch of superhero films, read up on busking and panhandling, and played a lot of computer chess. And since the story takes place in New York City, I either visited or researched all of the locations that appear in the novel. While I may skew certain aspects of real-world locales to fit my narrative, I like to use a fair amount of detail to help ground the fantastic premises of my stories in reality.
What did you enjoy most about writing Less Than Hero?
I had a lot of fun with the superhero aspect of the novel, especially the discovery of their unique abilities and how they decide to use them to fight crime. I also enjoyed writing the third-person Interludes. But more than anything, I think I enjoyed incorporating characters and elements from my second novel, Fated, into this one. Both novels are set in New York City and both deal with the concepts of fate and destiny, so I decided to have Less Than Hero take place at the same time and in the same universe as Fated, although Lloyd and his buddies are unaware of the connection.
You use humor and satire in all of your books, but what’s something that never fails to make you laugh out loud?
Bad puns, inappropriate humor, pretty much any episode of Archer, and the punchline to a joke about when Spartacus and a grizzly bear walk into a bar. (“I’m glad he ate her.”)
It’s been a while since we’ve caught up… Have you read any good books recently? Is there anything you’re looking forward to reading this year?
I loved 11/22/63, which I would put in my top five favorite Stephen King novels. No one writes about the time of ago like King. I also enjoyed St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, an inspiring collection of short stories by Karen Russell. And The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin was like a love letter to bookstores. On my TBR list, I’m looking forward to Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk and The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on some new short stories, a couple of which will appear in Kickstarter anthologies this year. I’m also toying around with a post-apocalyptic romantic comedy set in San Francisco and a middle-grade series based on the premise of Lucky Bastard.
About Less Than Hero:
With the razor-sharp satire that earned him rave reviews for Big Egos and Lucky Bastard, among others, S.G. Browne delivers another irresistible read, about an unlikely band of heroes who use their medical complications to gain fame, confront villains, and bring their own unique brand of justice to New York City.
Faster than a spreading rash! More powerful than dry heaves! Able to put villains to sleep with a single yawn!
Convulsions. Nausea. Headaches. Sudden weight gain. For the pharmaceutical soldiers on the front lines of medical science—volunteers who test experimental drugs for cash—these common side effects are a small price to pay to defend your right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of antidepressants.
Lloyd Prescott, thirty-year-old professional guinea pig and victim of his own inertia, is the first to notice the bizarre, seemingly implausible consequences of years of testing not-quite-legal drugs: his lips go numb, he becomes overwhelmed with exhaustion, and instantly a stranger crumples into a slumbering heap before him. Under cover of night, Lloyd and his guinea pig friends band together to project their debilitating side effects onto petty criminals who prey upon the innocent. When a horrible menace with powers eerily similar to their own threatens the city, only one force can stop this evil: the handful of brave men who routinely undergo clinical trials.