08/17/17 — Creating a universe

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Creating a universe

By Joey Pitchford
Published in News on August 17, 2017 5:50 AM

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Author Gene Willoughby

Gene Willoughby has always enjoyed stories.

From movies to cartoons to comic books, he grew up immersed in the other worlds brought to life by authors and screenwriters.

With the release of his debut novel "The Sunstroms," Willoughby now has his own entry in a medium close to his heart. The novel, which first published June 2, follows the titular family of superheroes, led by elder brother Sam Sunstrom, as they battle superpowered assassins following the deaths of their parents.

Willoughby, a 15-year teaching veteran who teaches language arts at Dillard Middle School, said superheroes have been of interest to him for years.

"Superheroes became a passion of mine through comic books, so I started creating my own universes," he said. "A lot of things that are in this book I've had since college."

Willoughby said that his goal was to create a family-centric story in which the children are the main driving force. After their parents die, the Sunstrom kids, and specifically Sam, are forced to step up and take on responsibilities they never expected or wanted.

Willoughby said that while the characters are not directly based on people he knows, they are influenced by his experiences and those close to him. His own family relations play in to how the characters interact, which in itself was a learning process for Willoughby.

"When you start out with some of these characters, you don't really know them that well," he said. "As you go, as the different characters' personalities start interacting and bouncing off each other, then you start to get a better idea of who they are."

As Willoughby gets ready for the start of school, he is also working on the next volume in the Sunstroms series. He spent the summer outlining it, and has been working on writing a few pages every night.

Sometimes work is slow, Willoughby said. While he tries to do between two and three pages a night, occasionally he hits a wall and can't get a full page done. Other times, the words flow easily, and Willoughby will far exceed what he intended to complete that night. He thanked his wife, Tameshia, for being patient with him as he works through his passion.

Willoughby intends to write five or six volumes in the "Sunstroms" series, and has other universes he intends to explore. In the meantime, he has spent time promoting his first novel, including a book signing at the Heroes are Here comic store in late July. Willoughby will also be at the Wayne County Public Library on Oct. 7 as part of a book fair then.

For now, you can purchase a copy of "The Sunstroms" for $19.99 from Willoughby's website at www.sunstromsnovel.weebly.com. Art prints from the book and other merchandise are also available.