Disclaimer: I was provided with a digital copy of this book, courtesy of Parliament Press, in exchange for a fair review.
I was super excited to join the tour for this book, and Parliament provided all sorts of great content for us to go through. Not only will I give a summary and brief review, but there will also be a mini Q&A with the author at the end of this post. Collateral Damage is Taylor Simonds‘ debut novel and it. is. awesome!! Let’s kick things off with the summary, shall we?
Power. Courage. Invincibility. The marks of a true hero.
Meg Sawyer has none of these things.
Meg has never stopped a moving bus with her bare hands, been bitten by a radioactive insect, or done anything moderately resembling saving the world. She doesn’t have to. She’s a background citizen, a nobody, one of the swarms of faceless civilians of Lunar City–where genetically enhanced superhumans straight out of the comics have thwarted evil for years.
For as long as the Supers have existed, Meg has had one goal: to not become a casualty in their near-daily battles for justice. And for the last seventeen years, she’s managed to do just that. Sure, her minimum-wage job at the local coffee shop isn’t great, she can’t even leave her apartment without loading herself up with protective gear, and her car was just hijacked to throw at a supervillain (again), but she’s not dead yet.
But when Meg accidentally finds one of the city’s perfect, invincible protectors murdered under extremely suspicious circumstances, her whole “innocent bystander” strategy falls apart. After being coerced by his determined girlfriend into a mission to help prevent the deaths of the remaining Supers, Meg finds herself forced into the foreground of a story she never wanted to be part of—one that challenges everything she thought she knew about both her city and herself.
I adored this book from start to finish! For starters, any book where the main character shares my name gets an instant boost. I would challenge anyone who doesn’t feel the same way. Meg is such an awesome MC and she had me laughing constantly with her dry wit and chronic exasperation.
I instantly loved Oliver, Meg’s best friend, who is a total cinnamon roll. This book contains no romance (which is always refreshing) but I totally ship them in my mind. BFFL to BF is one of my fav tropes. Sorry not sorry. I am also perfectly okay with them staying besties. But also I married my BFFL so we CAN HAVE OUR CAKE AND EAT IT TOO (also…why wouldn’t you eat a cake that you had? That’s just wasteful). Ships aside, their friendship is awesome and totally something to aspire to.
I love the whole Super aspect to this story. The whole of Lunar City adores their heroes, except Meg, who is tired of her car getting smashed by falling billboards, and having to submit accident reports when the roof of her work gets ripped off…again. It was such a fun take on what it means to live in a city policed by superheroes. From the constant ruckus to the poor abused secretary in the insurance claims office, this was the background character story we didn’t know we needed. Meg even gets to tell off a Super for being so oblivious, which was so funny.
The identities of the Supers are kept secret, of course, but I love Meg’s determination to find them anyway and alert them to upcoming danger. I won’t give any spoilers, but I was totally surprised by the identities of 2 out of 3 of the remaining Supers, and only suspected on the third! The author did a great job hiding the signs and keeping us guessing. Or maybe the signs were there but I was just too focused on everything else to notice them? Either way, well played madam.
This is a standalone novel, but I would LOVE to see more from this universe. The book also left openings for future books, which is awesome and also leaves me hopeful for more. Also, I am lowkey obsessed with the author, and you probably will be too after reading the Q&A.
Parliament provided me with a great Q&A with author Taylor Simonds!
Q: Tell us about your writing process and the way you brainstorm story ideas.
I don’t know if two books is enough to supply a scientifically justifiable pattern, but pretending it is, here’s the process:
1) A book premise and ending drop themselves into my head fully formed. I know who my characters are and where they’re going and I have no idea how they’re going to get there.
2) I pants. I write without an outline. It is bad. “The first draft is telling the story to yourself!” I scream at myself as I write many, many bad words that I know I will delete later.
3) Somewhere around the 40,000-word mark, I realize that I have made a crucial error in developing one of my lead characters. That personality isn’t right at all. I have to fix it. Wait, I need to change the opening scene to match the characterization I actually want them to have. Wait, none of these characters are right. This worldbuilding is so half-baked. This would make a much better inciting incident. What am I doing?
4) I move all 40,000 words to a file labeled “WIP Dumping Grounds” and start over from scratch.
5) I do this three more times until I have 40,000 words I don’t hate and then I finish the book, still screaming.
Q: When you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go?
I have to know who my characters are before I start writing, or the story will never get written—I’m the world’s worst pantser, so all I ever know going into a book is who my book is about and where they’re trying to get to. For COLLATERAL DAMAGE I had a set of references for each character to use as a template for if I got stuck (Meg was Mia Thermopolis x Veronica Sawyer x Darcy Lewis x Haruhi Fujioka, for example, mixed with a few friends I know in real life). I feel like if I can understand my characters on as many levels as possible—what they want, what they fear, what they’re trying to accomplish, who or what raised them, how they connect to others, how they talk and move—they’ll become as familiar to me as real people. And if I let them act like real people, they’ll naturally make choices that create the plot.
Q: Where is your favorite place to write?
DISNEY WORLD RESORTS. I’m so lucky that I live so close to them. I work from home as an editor most of the time and if I had to stay in my bedroom all day I’d go crazy, so my favorite thing to do is go work at one of the themed hotels. It makes me feel like I’m on vacation, and it’s so easy to be inspired when every aspect of the Disney brand relies so heavily on thematic storytelling. My top three spots are Beach Club, which makes me feel like I’m on a cruise ship, Wilderness Lodge, which makes me feel like I’m on a writing retreat in the woods, and the Grand Floridian, which is just fancy.
Q: Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Yes! COLLATERAL DAMAGE is a play on the superhero genre, which I’m a huge fan of, so there are Easter eggs and references all over the place. No real names or exact details are used, of course, but they’re clear enough for a potential fellow nerd to be like “Wait, this feels like Spider-Man. That’s a Flash joke. That thing covered in gemstones they just walked past in the vault is totally the Infinity Gauntlet.” Stuff like that.
Q: Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I prefer each book to stand on its own! One of my favorite concepts is “leave the reader wanting more, not needing more.” I’m an advocate for letting books work on their own as a self-contained unit; I don’t like it when a story ends with all of its ends still loose. I shouldn’t have to buy another book to know how the first book’s conflict wraps up! I think of it as a TV series—you know how each season typically has a central theme, antagonist, character arc, collection of new characters, etc.? By the end of the season, almost everything that has been presented should have reached a conclusion—but then the last episode will hit you with a tease that there’s more to come, like the camera shift to the looming Upside-Down after the school dance scene at the end of Stranger Things. I prefer books in a series to work in the same way—when a reader picks up a book, they’re being invited on a journey, and it’s unfair to the reader to cut that journey short. Without giving anything away from the end of COLLATERAL DAMAGE, there is definitely room for a sequel eventually because it’s superheroes, but I don’t think anyone would feel confused or infuriated if this was the only book in this world that ever got written. I like to put bows on things!
Collateral Damage is out now and you can purchase it here!
I would also suggest adding it to you Goodreads shelf using this link here.