Interview: Stefan Mohamed on Stanly’s Ghost

Interview: Stefan Mohamed on Stanly’s Ghost

The author of Stanly’s Ghost, the time-warping, monster-crushing finale to the Bitter Sixteen Trilogy, talks writing, superpowers and essential Welsh vocabulary.

Dysfunctional Welsh superhero Stanly has fought giant-headed child-eating monsters like Smiley Joe, evil corporations, superpowered soldiers and existential ennui – what terrible foes can we expect in his latest adventure? And is this the last time we’ll read about his exploits?

In the latest book, Stanly will face his greatest challenge yet – getting on the housing ladder in the UK. This will probably be his last adventure for the foreseeable future, yes, but I may check in with him again in twenty years or so, when he’s nursing a receding hairline and a paunch, sighing his way through a tedious office job, wondering where that wide-eyed young superhero went. Stanly Bird: The Cappuccino Years.

Is your writing mind filled with ten billion movie scenes?

Something like that! Being a massive film geek I do tend to visualise scenes, especially action, quite cinematically. I find it’s helpful when plotting out the rhythms, beats and logic of a scene. And often while I’m wandering around with headphones on I imagine scenes playing out to whatever music I happen to be listening to. Again that can be helpful, coming at a tricky scene from a slightly different angle, but sometimes it’s just cool imagining a film trailer for the movie version of your book set to an epic Radiohead song or something.

Are apocalypses an essential part of superhero adolescence?

I think so. Everything always feels like the end of the world when you’re a teenager, whether it’s something as ultimately insignificant as a test, or a crush on someone you will never ever see (or think about) again after you leave secondary school, or a really nasty spot appearing on the day of an official photograph (actually that’s always pretty bad), the intensity is always dialled up to 11. Your brain isn’t developed enough to plot things out on any kind of rational scale, so every day is another Armageddon. It’s exhausting. So yeah, I think when extrapolating from adolescent life into a superhero narrative, it makes sense that those apocalyptic stakes would become literal. Plus, apocalypses are fun.

Fake ones, that is. Not so much the one we’re all currently living through.

Do you have a real talking dog and if so what’s he like to live with?

I do but he’s less like Stanly’s dog Daryl, who is very sharp-witted and highly opinionated, and more like Manchee from Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking series – sweet but very simple, and basically only communicates with me when he’s hungry or needs to go to the toilet.

Should we feel sorry for Smiley Joe, is he just poorly parented?

As far as I know, Smiley Joe’s home life was pretty OK, but he was bullied quite savagely at school on account of having a massive great big creepy head, so that would put a chip on anyone’s shoulder. I think it makes sense that he would go on to lash out against children, after that.

Should we feel sorry for him, though? I think it’s important to empathise with people, no matter how monstrous their behaviour. But that shouldn’t stop you from splitting their head open with an axe if necessary. Just make sure to feel vaguely pensive and melancholy about it afterwards.

If you could have another superpower, besides like being a writer and poet and stuff, what would it be?

My boring answer would have to be flight, because I can’t imagine anything more amazing than that. But I feel like I should come up with something a bit different … I think being able to find lost things would be a really handy one. Whether that’s your own keys or someone else’s cat. Or billions of pounds of misplaced tax revenue.

If Stanly was President of Wales, what would his first ‘Executive Order’ be?

That’s a great question. I think, once he’d stopped freaking out, and had appointed Daryl to a high-level position, it would be a toss-up between putting a decent cinema in every town in the country, implementing an effective nation-wide anti-bullying initiative, and securing an early screening of the next Star Wars film.

What are your five essential Welsh words and phrases?

“Bendigedig”, meaning “brilliant”, is pretty essential.

“Now in a minute” – e.g. “I’ll be there now in a minute” / “I’ll do that now in a minute”, for whenever you need to let someone know you’re going to do something or be somewhere, but don’t want to let them know exactly when.

“Boyo” / “Butt” - general purpose terms of endearment for either a male or female.

“Cwtch” – a particularly warm cuddle.


Discover Stefan Mohamed’s final instalment of the Bitter Sixteen Trilogy, Stanly’s Ghost

by Stefan Mohamed
ISBN 9781784630768
£7.99 | 560pp

Cynical, solitary Stanly Bird used to be a fairly typical teenager – unless you count the fact that his best friend was a talking beagle named Daryl. Then came the superpowers. And the superpowered allies. And the mysterious enemies. And the terrifying monsters. And the stunning revelations. And the apocalypse. Now he’s not sure what he is. Or where he is. Or how exactly one is supposed to proceed after saving the world.

All he knows is that his story isn’t finished.

Not quite yet …

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