Helen Comerford

The Love Interest
Helen Comerford

About Author

Helen Comerford is a Black mixed-race British debut author and is passionate about Black British and mixed heritage representation. She centres her diverse cast of characters in narratives they have historically been excluded from and celebrates their joys, strengths and everyday teenage experiences. She is fuelled by a love of all things super-powered, feminism, and chocolate raisins.

When she's not writing, you can find Helen hiking around the Welsh countryside with her dog, Cocoa. The Love Interest is her debut novel.  helencomerfordauthor.com | Instagram: @helen_jcomerford | Twitter: @HelenJoC



The Love Interest  (Bloomsbury YA)

May 2024

If you love superheroes, are looking for diverse characters and a touch of romance, then we highly recommend debut author Helen Comerford's The Love Interest. This is a fast-paced, cinematic story that plays with all the superhero tropes to deliver a true hero, plenty of warmth and wit, and a feminist bite. We can see this being a big hit. 

Review"I found myself hooked from the very first page!" - Clair, ReadingZone.com   

Read a chapter extract from The Love Interest.

Find out more from Helen Comerford, ReadingZone's Teen Author of the Month, who talks about researching The Love Interest, which superhero she'd love to meet, and being your own hero!

Q&A with Helen Comerford: Superheroes, superpowers and everyday heroes

"The Love Interest is about someone choosing to be a hero in their own way. Hopefully it'll inspire readers
to carve their own path."

1.   Hi Helen, thank you for joining us on ReadingZone! The Love Interest is your debut novel - can you tell us a little about yourself and what got you into writing?

Hello. Thank you for having me! I'm so excited to share a bit about myself and my book on ReadingZone. I spent most of my life working in theatres around the world, but now I'm based in South Wales, with my dog, Cocoa (full name Cocoa Bean). When I'm not writing, I still freelance in the theatre and events as a Stage Manager (running around in black, backstage) or I'm generally wandering around the countryside with Cocoa.

I've always been a writer, I tried playwriting alongside stage managing and got, told, very gently, that I couldn't have 100 different characters and 50 different locations in my plays, so I found my way to novels and never looked back.

Having my first book published is incredible. From sending my first query (with a different book) to an agent to my debut being published, it's been about eight years of grafting. And now, I keep almost crying: When I was handed a proof, when I saw my book coming off the printing press, when I held the final version and stroked its beautiful cover … I'm tearing up now!

2.   So what happens in The Love Interest, and what inspired this story about superheroes, super powers, and destined romance?

The Love Interest follows the story of Jenna Ray, a 17-year-old swimmer, from the coastal town of Nine Trees, who has a bit of a hero complex. After running into a burning building to save someone, Jenna is rescued by the new hero, Blaze. In their world the hero's 'first' goes on to play a big role in their story and, since they're similar ages, the entire world decides for Jenna that she is going to be Blaze's love interest.

Whilst Blaze might be cute, Jenna is not remotely up for taking up the mantle of his Love Interest, but other heroes, villains and super-powered pigeons keep pushing them together …

At the time of writing, I was a happy singleton being bombarded by messages from popular culture, and society in general, that I should be in a relationship. I decided to write a tale of self-determination and the superhero genre's 'love interest' was the perfect trope to subvert - not least because I am a superhero NERD and I like to pair my feminism with action and superpowers …

"I had a lot of fun writing super-charged weather systems and super-strong, vicious animals.
The squirrels are my favourite."

3.    How did you go about creating your world of superheroes - did you binge-watch Marvel films? What are the 'rules' for your superhero universe?

Good question! This book was so fun to research. I did rewatch the MCU in order from Iron Man to End Game and I also watched the Marvel's Agents of Shield TV show, which is nuts - almost anything that could happen in superhero story, happens in that show. I did watch other, non-marvel superhero stories and dipped into graphic novels too. If there were superpowers involved, I was watching it or reading it.

I decided to go down the X-Men route of genetic mutations and the people with powers in my story have got them from the EV - the accelerated Evolution of the Earth. The EV doesn't just affect humans though, I had a lot of fun writing super-charged weather systems and super-strong, quite vicious animals. The squirrels are my favourite.

4.    In The Love Interest, you revisit superheroes and patriarchy through a feminist lens and with black representation - what do you want your readers to reflect on when they watch the next new superhero movie - and do you feel the world is changing?

Superhero movies are, finally, getting more diverse and representative (and the female characters get to wear more clothes now which is nice).  I think it's okay to switch your brain off and enjoy a superhero film, as long as you know that who you are and what you look like doesn't automatically make you a love interest or any other trope. The Love Interest is about someone choosing to be a hero in their own way; hopefully it'll inspire readers to carve their own path.

5.    How did the setting develop and is Nine Trees based on somewhere you know or a film you've watched? Do you like to know your setting, or prefer to make it up?

I spent a lot of time in seaside towns when I was growing up and Nine Trees is an amalgamation of all of them, but in terms of look, it's roughly based on Whitby in Yorkshire.  Fun fact: My Nana used to live in Sevenoaks, Kent and that's where Nine Tree's name came from.

6.    This story ends brilliantly, but there are some unanswered questions - what else do you have planned for Jenna, Blaze and Nine Trees? Will we be seeing more of them?

Um ... This is so hard without revealing too much about book one. Jenna and Blaze will both be back for the second book of the duology, along with most of the big hitters from book one. Writing (and re-writing) is always a rollercoaster of emotions, but I'm currently in the 'this book is going to be GREAT' stage. There's more action, more romance, more comedy and more superpowers. I'm having a blast writing it.

"With our world as it is, we could use someone who inspires everyone to be
a bit less self-serving and a bit more heroic."

8.    The Love Interest describes a contemporary world of superheroes - who would be your superhero(es?) of choice for today's world?

I think Spiderman would probably be my first pick. He stays local, helping his community, and doesn't tend to initiate disasters that he then has to solve (*cough* Ultron *cough*). And he's not a bored millionaire who thinks he's above the law (looking at you, Batman).  Also, the animated Spiderman films featuring Miles Morales are a masterclass in inclusive storytelling; anyone can take up the mantle of Spiderman. 

A key role of the superhero is to inspire and I think, with our world as it is, we could use someone who inspires everyone (especially those in charge) to be a bit less self-serving and a bit more heroic.

9.    And which superhero power would you choose to absorb from the EV, and why?

Definitely teleportation! It always used to be telekinesis, but the pandemic made me release just how precious being able to get around is. Teleportation would be such a great power and I would not use it responsibly. I'd get pizza from New York, pad-thai from Bangkok, focaccia from Italy, gyros from Greece - It would be a very food-orientated power.

10. When you're not binge-watching Marvel, what do you do to get out and about and find new inspiration for your stories? What are you working on currently and where are you writing it?

I walk the Welsh hills and find inspiration in the forests, but I also go back to work in the theatre. For me, being around people creating art is one of the most inspirational places there is.

I'm working on Jenna and Blaze's sequel right now and a few other projects that I can't share just yet, but which I'm incredibly excited about.

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