• Interview with Jeremy Zimmerman, of Cobalt City Rookies: Kensei

    by  • November 15, 2012 • Interviews

    Cobalt City Rookies is a young adult trilogy that features three novels with superhero, teenage protagonists. They all take place in Cobalt City, where superheroes have always run rampant. However, in recent years there’s been a decided lack of heroes, and these teens are stepping into the gap, like Jamie, who can see and talk to the spirits of places. Jamie faces bullying, cyber-bullying, her parents splitting up, being asked out on her first date and sneaky Greek gods kidnapping kids from the City in this book.

    This interview is with Jeremy Zimmerman, who wrote the third book in the trilogy: Kensei.

    Original Photo By Shahed Salehian, Modified by Timid Pirate

    TPP: How did you dream up Kensei, and do you see a future for her in other tales?

    Jeremy Zimmerman: When I volunteered to contribute to the Cobalt City Neighborhoods, I thought one way to look at the neighborhood was to have someone who could actually talk to the spirit of the neighborhood. Not wanting to fall into the trap of always writing 30-something straight white males, especially in a melting-pot neighborhood like Karlsburg, I thought I’d try to write a protagonist very different from myself. And you can’t get more different from me than Kensei.

    As for future tales, I definitely wrote this book with a larger plot in mind. And I planted the seeds for a lot of future subplots throughout the book.

    TPP: What kind of research did you have to do to get into the mind of a derby-skating teen girl?

    Jeremy Zimmerman: Prior to ever thinking about this book, I spent several years running roleplaying games for some of the strangest and most foul-mouthed teenage girls I have ever met. As I started working on the book, I volunteered as a non-skating official for the Seattle Derby Brats (and, by extension, Jet City Roller Girls as well). I built up a writing playlist for my iPod based on recommendations from my younger friends and family. And my beta readers were predominantly female and willing to be brutally honest.

    TPP: They say that many authors put a little of themselves in their main character, yet Kensei could hardly be more different from you, Yet she feels like a very real, grounded character. Was there anything from yourself that ended up in Kensei?

    Jeremy Zimmerman: The smart-ass elements of Kensei, and many of the other characters, all come from me. Also a lot of her awkwardness and love of Hello Kitty.

    TPP: Bullying and cyber-bullying are both addressed in this YA, particularly around being gay. As an author, do you have a message you’d like to put out there on this subject?

    Jeremy Zimmerman: “Message” is a strong word. It implies that I have answers, when I don’t. In the story I tried to have Kensei having to solve problems by reaching out and forming friendships outside of her masked lifestyle. So I like the idea of countering feelings of isolation with building your own community. But looking back at my own high school experience I can’t stand behind that as a solution for everyone. The only bullying I ever experienced was at the hands of friends.

    Since Kensei’s Buddhist, I tried to mix in Buddhist themes as well. I tried not to reduce anyone to simply a bully or simply a victim. They are people who have a lot of influences going on in their life.

    To crib a line from the Dalai Lama’s website, “[A]ll things arise in dependence on a complex web of interrelated causes and conditions.” Bullies don’t spring out from nothing. They are shaped by their world. Stigmatizing bullying is fine for slowing it, but to truly remove it you have to change the causes and conditions which create them.

    All three books, including Jeremy’s Kensei, can be found in the Cobalt City Rookies e-book. The trilogy is available for the Kindle, the Nook, or DRM-free in both formats plus a bonus PDF. It’s $4.99 and free to librarians (just email [email protected]!). Listen to a free audio excerpt from Kensei right here!

    Jeremy Zimmerman is a teller of tales who dislikes cute euphemisms for writing like “teller of tales.” His fiction has most recently appeared in 10Flash Quarterly, Arcane and anthologies from Timid Pirate Publishing. He is also the editor for Mad Scientist Journal. He lives in Seattle with five cats and his lovely wife (and fellow author) Dawn Vogel.

    Tags: book, cobalt city, Cobalt City Rookies, jeremy zimmerman, novels, rookies, , teen, trilogy, YA, young adult


    I got my first red pen at the age of nine, editing for a neighbor's grant publications. Little did she know she'd created a professional nitpicker, someone who would later mark up paperbacks and mail them to the publisher with tsk-tsk notes. Making stories better makes me happy.