David Ellrod is a writer of science fiction, horror, and history, previously published in Aurealis Magazine, The Alethea, and Philologia, in addition to research content released on U.S. National Park Service platforms and Listverse.com. As a lifelong aficionado of both history and fiction, he remains most interested in how the former informs the latter. He lives in Maryland with his wife, four children, and two very excitable dogs. He can be reached online at ourfamilycanvas.wordpress.com.
What inspired you to start writing this book?
Look at what a top-notch Olympian can do with their body—the feats of strength and agility—and compare it to a newborn infant or an octogenarian. Heck, compare those opposite ends of a lifespan with any reasonably fit person in the prime of life. Youth is a superpower! That got me thinking: What untapped potential does the superhero genre have to explore this idea?
Also, I think a lot about where we, as a civilization, have been and where we are going—in particular, the unprecedented prospect of a world with a shrinking population. I also wondered what would happen if a great mass of superpowered individuals began to feel the effects of degenerative aging, seeing superpowers as a metaphor for each person’s youth, vigor, and vitality. Powerful, but ephemeral.
While you have it, what will you do with it? And what would the world look like if superpowers and children were mutually exclusive?
Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?
The working title was Senile Superheroes, but I knew I wanted something different for the final product. I wanted to reference the heroine’s Amish roots and settled on “rumspringa”—the Amish trial period of entering the rest of American society—as the best titular shorthand of doing so.
What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?
My past professional work (and several hobbies) revolves around public parks and history. I’ve chased sheep and ground flour as a costumed interpreter at Mount Vernon, driven a concessions trailer at a Maryland State Park, written April Fools’ jokes about Civil War facial hair for a National Park Service Facebook page, and served as an extra in an Amazon Prime history show’s pilot episode.
Ask me sometime about the moment I got pulled over in Alexandria by a police officer, with several Ziploc bags full of the Mount Vernon gristmill’s pure white discard flour in my trunk!
What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?
Reading classic fiction to my kids during COVID lockdowns, mostly. The Lord of the Rings, Little Women, and the Chronicles of Prydain. Those works always have much to say about a morally resonant triumph through adversity. Considering, always, Tolkien’s “long defeat, through to ultimate victory.”
What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?
My perfect reader is one with an open mind, who not only reads books for pleasure but digests them for any wisdom they may contain. The reflections I hope to provoke? What you do with the power given to you matters, and to more than just you. Everyone has some powerful potential for good in them. Will you bury your talents in a field, or multiply them? Will you dissipate your potential in self-serving entertainment? Or will you serve a higher Good and commit to the hard work of preserving the gifts of the past and conveying them to the future? Sometimes being a force for good means being a fiery sword of justice—and sometimes it means being a gardener who tends. And an Amish girl just might find it in herself to be both.
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