As a kid growing up in the U.K., author David Solomons did not like gym class — especially during the cold months. “Gym teachers seemed to like to take us out in the middle of the winter and force us to play rugby,” he says. Those memories made an impression him, so much so that Solomons made phys ed instructors villains in his latest book, My Gym Teacher is an Alien Overlord, the sequel to his 2015 book My Brother is a Superhero.
In the book, Luke, the main character and a fan of graphic novels, feels left out because he’s not granted super powers like brother and friend. In the suspenseful story, Luke has to deal with an attack of aliens disguised as gym teachers. During a recent Skype interview, I talked with Solomons about writing the book, super powers, and growing up across the pond.
What’s the most difficult part in writing a sequel?
I’ve never done it before, so part of the difficulty was that it was fresh to me. And obviously, you set things up in one book — you make references to things — and you have to remember that you did all of that. So that’s the hardest thing, keeping track of everything. And the time frame. Making sure that all of these events make sense, and that the seasons go the way that seasons do go, for instance, so you don’t suddenly jump from summer to Christmas or some sort of thing.
Why did you make the villain the gym teacher?
Well, I wasn’t very good at gym. So that goes back to my childhood. And I think that I was quite scared of my gym teacher, and I don’t think that I’m alone in that regard. I think that gym teachers have a kind of reputation across the world for ferocity, and it seemed quite funny to me that the aliens would take the form of the scariest thing in Luke’s world, which is his gym teacher. And also, I think that part of the story is about moving from (in the U.K.) primary to secondary school, and in the U.S. I guess it’s middle school to high school. That kind of graduation can be quite scary, and so all those things associated with school and the fear of moving from one to the next — that’s what the aliens are tapping into.
Luke's brother and his friend Lara become superheroes. That makes Luke feel left out. What’s your message to readers who feel left out or kids who feel like an outsider?
For me, it’s the big message of the book: You don’t have to be a superhero to save the day. We all miss out and make mistakes. We all fail in life. And actually, it doesn’t matter. You learn from your mistakes. You move on from your failures. You pick yourself up and use what you’re given and you get your own way.
If you could be a superhero, what superpower would you like to have?
It seems to me that after all this research that I was talking about when I went online and looked at lots of forums where people earnestly discuss these very weighty questions, it seems to come down to whether you would rather fly or whether you would rather be invisible. Flight or invisibility. That comes up a lot, and I don’t understand it because given the choice, obviously you would fly. Flight must be the best superpower. It is the one I would choose.
What was your favorite activity in gym growing up?
My favorite activity was getting out alive!
Are you currently working on any books?
I am. I am working on the third superhero story in this sequence. I’m up to number three and I’ve nearly finished it! I’m looking forward to getting to the end of this one!