It’s appropriate enough that Nashvillian Jeremy Scott, the son of a minister, co-founded a YouTube channel called CinemaSins, which pokes fun at logical and practical flaws of popular movies. He also took his own hearing loss as an inspiration for his young adult novel series, The Ables, focused on teen superheroes, known as custodians, who must reconcile their extraordinary powers with the physical challenges that landed them in a special needs class together. The series narrator, Phillip Sallinger, is blind but also has psychokinetic powers, which only flourish when he works with his telepathic best friend, Henry, who uses a wheelchair to get around. In the second installment, Strings, the teens must deal with a national government hostile to the powers of custodians and a sinister force manipulating them for its own purposes.
Chapter 16: How did Phillip Sallinger end up in Freepoint, and where the heck is Freepoint?
Jeremy Scott: Phillip’s family moved from Manhattan to Freepoint because it is a hero city. For lingo, I call my heroes “custodians,” based on the Latin word custo meaning “guardian.” Most of the people who live in Freepoint are custodians. There are humans without powers who help the heroes through clerical duties, being doctors, what have you. Freepoint is a fictional location. I’m sort of doing a Simpsons thing here, not wanting to tell you where Springfield’s located. It’s basically the kind of town I grew up in, Ossian, Indiana. At the time, it had 2,000 residents, one grocery store, one stop light. They teach you to write what you know, and I think one of the reasons they say that is that it creates this sort of subconscious authenticity that maybe isn’t something you can put your finger on, but it’s more just a general tone.
Chapter 16: So you’re the voice of CinemaSins on YouTube. Why aren’t you doing the audio books yourself?
Scott: I did the audio book in 2015 when I self-published, but it made me super anxious. I have depression and anxiety, and I’m also more than 50 percent deaf. So that’s sort of where it came from, writing about disabled superheroes. But being cooped up in an audio booth for hours at a time really spiked my anxiety. So I came close to a couple of panic attacks, and it just seemed, at the end of the day, better for my own mental health to hire a professional who does these audio books for a living. The guy we got to do the rerelease and the sequel, Strings, is fantastic. I’m also, while a narrator of a YouTube channel, not a professional voiceover actor. I don’t know that I’m very good at doing the voices and what have you. That was made with my own self interests in mind, and I’m pretty happy with that decision.
Scott: I see a therapist regularly. He’s fantastic. He challenges me, keeps me on my toes. I take medication. I’m overly open about this stuff, by the way. There’s too much stigma about therapy and mental health medications. My anxiety is basically fight or flight, and it goes off for no reason sometimes. So if untreated, I might be in the grocery store with a basket half-full of items and just have to set it down and leave because my brain thinks I’m being attacked even though I’m not. So the medicine and the therapy do most of the work, and then I just have to make sure I eat healthy and exercise. And you know, over three or four years since being diagnosed, it’s done a lot to really help me.
Chapter 16: So this is around the time that The Ables first came out, that you were diagnosed?
Scott: I was diagnosed because I couldn’t sleep. I’m lying in bed and my heart is pounding. I thought, “I’m gonna have a heart attack.” So I went to my MD and said, “Uh, I got a heart problem,” and she started asking all these questions. She was like, “No, you have anxiety.” That was the beginning of my anxiety journey and now, now I’ve written it into the sequel where my main character, Phillip, is dealing with PTSD from the events of the first book, trying to again, do what I can to destigmatize that stuff.
Stephen Usery is the producer of Book Talk, an author-interview program that airs Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. Central Time on WYPL FM 89.3, a service of Memphis Public Libraries. He lives in Memphis.