“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
National

Is #JusticeForAvaLynn a case of bullying?

On Saturday, the hashtag #JusticeForAvaLynn became one of the trending topics on Twitter. Users circulated the above photo of 5-year-old AvaLynn, posted by her mother…

International

Terrorism could spread to US and Europe in…

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah said terrorism would soon spread to Europe and the United States unless it is quickly dealt with in the Middle East,…

National

Ex-Bitcoin official to plead guilty to Silk Road…

Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem has reached a plea deal to resolve U.S. charges that he engaged in a scheme to sell over $1 million of…

International

China's army changes tactics to prepare for war…

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said China will spur military innovation and called on the army to create a new strategy for "information warfare" as…

Gossip

Joan Rivers on life support: Report

TMZ reports that comedian Joan Rivers has been placed on life support, "completely reliant on machines to stay alive." Rivers has been hospitalized since she…

Movies

What's new on Netflix in September

September has a supernatural theme for Netflix. UFO "documentaries" and the survivalist reality series "Doomsday Preppers" are among the new series coming to the online…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Wellbeing

This Week in Health: Lesbians, men most likely…

Lesbians, men most likely to achieve orgasm Location: U.S. Study subjects: 2,850 people Results: Whether you find it shocking or not, a new study reports that…

Wellbeing

VIDEO: Still not wearing sunscreen? You will after…

Sunscreen is possibly the most often repeated - and ignored - piece of skincare advice. But Thomas Leveritt took a different tactic. With a short…

Food

Twitter used to track down sources of food…

When Chicago health officials saw Twitter users complaining about local food poisoning episodes, they reached out on Twitter to those users and often ended up…

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.