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Writing Is a Superpower

Click below to see highlights of Maxwell’s conversation with author Lisa Yee.

Children’s book author Lisa Yee is flying high with her new Super Hero Girls series. The middle grade books reimagine DC Comics’ female superheroes and supervillains as high schoolers.

So far, Yee has written about Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Batgirl. “We’re still celebrating the male superheroes,” Yee said. “But we’re putting the females in the forefront.”


Max with Lisa Yee, author of a new book series for DC Comics

Maxwell with Lisa Yee, author of a new book series about female superheroes

I spoke with Yee on March 9, when she visited Blue Bunny Books in Dedham, Massachusetts. Here are some of her insights on reading, writing, eating, and discovering one’s own superpowers.

When and how did you discover that writing was your superpower?
When I was really little, what I loved to do was read. That was my obsession. I always knew that I wanted to be a part of the world of books. But I didn’t know if I had it in me to be a writer. It wasn’t until I was older that I did things like write for television and work as a journalist. Of all the different kinds of writing, I wanted to write books. In terms of writing being my superpower, I worked really hard to get there.

What is most exciting—and challenging—about writing the Super Hero Girls series?
I have to write stories that are fresh and new because these are all original stories. At the same time, I have to be respectful of who these characters are and where they came from. We have a lot of superhero character fans who know everything about every character, everything they’ve ever done. I get to create these new stories, but I can’t get them wrong or else I’m going to hear from people.

Can you tell us about some of your fun experiences doing research?
I like to do a lot of research. For the book coming out next—Katana at Super Hero High—I went to Japan last summer and took Ninja lessons. I learned how to kill with chopsticks and use stars to slice necks. I went to Samurai museums and temples. Often, people say that when you’re a writer, you should write about what you know. But I think that you should write about what you want to know.

Besides writing, what do you think is the best superpower?
I think the best superpower is your brain. That’s why I’m excited about Batgirl at Super Hero High. She wasn’t born with superpowers, but she’s curious and smart. She’s a volunteer at the library. Any of us can be Batgirl if we question things and read a lot.

Can you tell us about your “literary lunches”?
First of all, you need to know that I like to eat. Lunch is my favorite meal because it breaks up the day. I have a lot of author friends, so I like to have these literary lunches. We meet to talk about writing. We also gossip and goof off. Then we take a picture. The literary lunches are a lot of fun.

What is your favorite meal, and what is your favorite dessert?
Yes, all of them. I love eating breakfast, but I’m never up in time. So, a lot of times, I’ll eat pancakes for dinner. My favorite dessert is donuts, cake, ice cream, candy bars, chocolate, cupcakes, cookies that are slightly burned, pop tarts that are slightly burned, fruit…. I already said donuts, right?

Who is your literary hero?
My mom is my literary hero because she introduced me to reading. She was a teacher. When I was little, she would read to me every night before bed. Then, when I was old enough to know how to read, I would read to her every night before I went to bed. Sometimes, she would fall asleep because she was tired. Teachers work really hard. She would fall asleep, and I would keep reading.

What is your advice for kids who want to become writers?
Don’t just read the classics. Sometimes, you have to read things that aren’t great to understand what is great. If you go to a library or a bookstore, you might find that you always go to the same section. But every now and then, take a book off the shelf that you would not normally read. It might introduce you to another genre that could become your favorite.