“The Night Gwen Stacy Died” steeps a quirky love story in a superhero slant

Sarah Bruni Credit: Christine Mladic
Sarah Bruni
Credit: Christine Mladic

“The Night Gwen Stacy Died” is not your ordinary novel. Infusing a flair of superhero adventure, it follows a high school student slash gas station attendant, Sheila, who begins chatting with a young cab driver coming in to gas up. He calls himself Peter Parker. Next, he dubs her Gwen Stacy – Spider-Man’s first love – and they eventually embark on a road trip, mixing together comic book plot and a real-life urge to save people. Author Sarah Bruni tells us what – including poring over comics in Uruguay — inspired her to spin this tale.

How did you get the idea for this book? It’s a very unique plot.

I actually wrote a collection of short stories that was a part of my MFA thesis project, and there was one 25-page story that featured a young man who was donning the name Peter Parker and pushing the identity of one of Spider-Man’s girlfriends onto this young woman at a gas station. I didn’t really know what this guy was doing in my story. I was not a big comic book reader at all. I was sort of interested in someone being audacious enough to take these steps.

Did you read comic books as a kid, or how many hours did you spend catching up on the story?

There was probably about a six-month period where I was reading the first 10 years of Spider-Man comics [on a CD-ROM set]. I was able to see the original pages, with the advertisements and the letters from the readers, and so I felt like every time I was sitting down to this, I was opening this time capsule. … You see how important the story was to people at a certain time, especially a particular kind of male reader.

You wrote this for years in several different cities. Did you ever think about moving on?

I wrote a collection of short stories, and then shortly after that I moved to San Francisco, signed with my agent. We were trying to do a novel in stories, then when it didn’t sell, I actually moved to Montevideo, Uruguay. That’s where I wrote the bulk of the novel manuscript. I went there thinking I had ditched the story completely and was interested in starting something new. But I wanted to put myself in a place where I was completely removed from stimuli and had time to write, so I was thinking of it as a makeshift writer’s residency for myself. I brought all these Spider-Man comics with me, so I knew that there was a part of my mind that knew I wasn’t done with the story.

How were these characters inspired? Are you the kind of writer that feels they lead you, or did you have the outline ready from the beginning?

I don’t work from outlines. But I knew that I wanted Peter to have sort of a secret past, and I wanted something to do with his childhood. I think I realized fairly early on that there would be a brother figure, but I didn’t realize that I would be writing from his perspective, and that’s something that just revealed itself as I was writing it. I think I try to give myself enough patience to stick with characters, and they reveal themselves to me about where they might go. Sometimes it backfires, and sometimes it leads the plot in a new way.

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @reporteralison


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Breaking: Local

Judge rules Tsarnaev can view victim autopsy photos

Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev can view the autopsy photographs of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

International

Nearly 300 missing after South Korean ferry capsizes

Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea Wednesday, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years.

Local

Tsarnaev defense lawyers in court Wednesday, seek family…

Lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are due in court Wednesday to ask a judge to order prosecutors to hand over more information on the defendant's family.

News

Explosions in new Boston Marathon bomb panic, 'twisted'…

A fresh Boston Marathon terror alert, which caused Bomb Squad officers to order an evacuation while two controlled explosions were carried out, was today being…

Television

'Orphan Black's' Jordan Gavaris talks Felix's Season 2…

Jordan Gavaris plays heroically helpful foster sibling Felix to main clone Sarah on "Orphan Black." We talked to him about what’s ahead for him in…

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, April 15: 'New Girl,'…

'New Girl' Nick and Jess are hiding their breakup from the other loft residents. And Winston passes the police academy exam! That guy needed some…

Television

'Orphan Black' is back with 'crazy clone shenanigans'

“Orphan Black” is the little show that could. It had a few things working against it: a sci-fi premise, attracting an audience who had never…

The Word

Kelly Osbourne and Paris Hilton fight over a…

Paris Hilton and Kelly Osbourne, both members of famous families and natives of the reality boom of the early aughts, should be great friends. And yet.

MLB

MLB video highlights: White Sox beat Red Sox…

Red Sox fall on walk-off error to White Sox

NBA

NBA Draft Lottery day is May 20: Celtics…

NBA Draft Lottery day is Tuesday, May 20: Celtics percentage odds for a top overall pick

MLB

Opinion: Major League Baseball replay system shouldn't be…

Opinion: Major League Baseball replay system shouldn't be dumped just yet

NHL

Bruins - Red Wings preview: David Krejci ready…

Bruins - Red Wings preview: David Krejci ready to erupt once again in playoffs

Wellbeing

Could a facelift give you the edge at…

It's not just women lining up for procedures.

Home

Steal home decorating tips from Nattystyle blogger Natalie…

Despite the towering ceilings and enviable exposed brick, it’s easy to see how Natalie Decleve’s apartment could be considered a challenge. Perched above the streets…

Home

How to plant a garden in the city

Small on space but big on gardening? You can still have that welcoming oasis of fresh air with an urban garden. Peter Smith, owner of…

Style

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show moving to England

It will still broadcast on CBS this fall.