A feminist twist on a classic DC superhero, with an origin story unlike any other, Black Canary: Breaking the Silence pushes for equality, stands against injustice, and makes clear that the most powerful weapon we all have is our voice.
In Black Canary, best-selling author Alexandra Monir has written a strong female protagonist who does not allow herself to be silenced. Dinah Lance’s origin story is full of relevant messages delivered in a fantasy world that suppresses women. Kirkus Reviews calls it “a refreshing spin on the feminist dystopia.”
As the newest edition in the popular young adult DC Icon series, Black Canary continues the origin story legacy as a worthy asset, and does not disappoint readers. The novel is a story of empowerment, and the strength it takes to be the only one singing in a world full of silence.
We are thrilled to get the chance to speak to Alexandra Monir about her first superhero book!
First off, I loved your take on Black Canary’s story. Where did that come from?
The idea came from my own family history. I’m the daughter of Iranian immigrants, and my grandmother was Iran’s foremost opera singer before the 1979 Revolution. She was an absolute female icon in her country, but when the regime changed after the Revolution, women’s rights were dramatically stripped–including their right to sing. Even today, women in Iran can still be jailed for singing publicly. My grandmother lost her career and her country, and although I was born years later in the relative safety of America, this loss of the female voice–literally and figuratively–is something I was acutely aware of growing up. So when I sat down to write a story about a superhero whose power is her voice, the themes of my background were an instant fit.
With Black Canary, you are adding the fifth installment to a series that features best-selling YA authors such as Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo, and their takes on popular DC superheroes. How did you get involved in the DC Icons series? Did they contact you, or did you pitch your idea for Black Canary?
It’s definitely the coolest thing to ever happen in my career thus far!! So it started when I was attending a bunch of fan conventions and book festivals for my 2018 YA sci-fi novel, The Final Six, and I got to know a couple amazing editors at DC Comics through these events. They suggested I’d be a good fit to write a Black Canary story because of my musical background. I was instantly inspired and wrote up a pitch. We were initially talking about a graphic novel, but the more I wrote, the more I felt this was a prose novel in the vein of DC Icons. So, I decided to take a leap of faith! I checked the Acknowledgments in the other DC Icons books and found the name of the Random House editor who spearheaded the series, and since I knew I’d be going to NYC the following month, I asked my agent to send the editor my pitch and see if she’d be interested in taking a meeting. It was a longshot, but miraculously, she loved the pitch and shared it with her DC and Random House colleagues who felt the same. And soon I was signed on to write the 5th Icons book! A dream made real.
The world of DC superheroes is very well established. Did you feel obliged to follow certain guidelines regarding the story, or did you feel like you could make it your own?
I was very fortunate to have the freedom to make Black Canary’s origin story my own, but I was also careful to keep the core tenets of her character intact. I made a point of incorporating relationships with the DC characters she’s most connected to in the comics, and that was a lot of fun for me, to write new relationships for them that hopefully complement the canon!
How was the publishing process for Black Canary different from that of your other books?
The writing process for this book was very similar to my others; the main difference was that there were a couple more pairs of editorial eyes reviewing and giving notes on my manuscript once I reached the end, from Warner Bros. and DC in addition to Random House. They were all amazing in giving me the freedom to tell the story I wanted to tell, so it was mostly about making sure I was just staying true to the core characters and what their behavior would likely be.
Your protagonist, Dinah, lives in a world where women are not allowed to sing. But music is vital to who Dinah is, especially since her power as Black Canary comes from the use of her voice. As a recording artist yourself, what does music mean to you, and how is this reflected through Dinah?
Music is everything to me, which I’m sure is evident in the book! I’ve always felt that music is how we express ourselves when emotions are too big for words alone, and with all that Dinah goes through in the story, music is really the most fitting expression!
Black Canary is a superhero story, but also a feminist novel, with themes of women’s empowerment. If your young adult readers take one thing away from the corrupt Owl Society and Dinah’s experience as a woman standing against injustice, what would it be?
I hope the main takeaway is that the key power we need to change the world is something we already possess—our voice. It’s about using our voices to speak up for what’s right, to make the world a fairer, better place, and it’s something all of us can do!
What has it been like releasing a book during this pandemic, and what have you been doing to promote your book during this time?
Oh man, the pandemic has been brutal for all of us on so many levels! It’s tough. This book represents a year of writing my tail off. I poured my heart and soul into it, and so I wish I could publish it at a more normal time in the world, when the usual promotional avenues are available again and our industry isn’t faced with so many challenges. But I realize this is small stuff compared to the tragedy of COVID, so while I’m doing everything I possibly can to get the word out and make the book a success despite the circumstances, I’m also trying to keep it all in perspective.
What is the best writing advice you’ve received that you could pass on to a young, aspiring writer like me?
Keep going! There will inevitably be times when writing is just hard, or you start to lose excitement in a story or you doubt yourself—those feelings are all normal, so you just need to ride out that wave and finish your story. Then you’ll have a manuscript you can work with and revise, and as you make it a little better and stronger each day, your excitement and confidence will come rushing back until you have a book you absolutely love. Hopefully that book will sell, but if it doesn’t, no biggie! Sit down with a new idea and begin again—as long as you keep at it, success will come.
And lastly, growing up, did you have a favorite superhero (aside from Black Canary, of course!)?
I got really into the Spider-Man canon in high school. I still love him. Into the Spider-Verse is my favorite!
Black Canary is out now. Get your copy today at IndieBound!
Alexandra Monir is the Iranian-American author of the YA sci-fi novel The Final Six, the best-selling time-travel romance Timeless, and three other young adult novels. She is also a professional recording artist and composer. Monir lives in Los Angeles with her husband and newborn son, where she is at work on her next novel. To learn more about Monir, visit www.alexandramonir.com.