Getting behind the little boy’s smile

Getting behind the little boy’s smile

I had to make this little boy on the cover of my book cry, but not too much.  Getting into his head meant getting into his heart and that’s a strange place to go when you know what he has been through.  When I wrote Little Big Boy, I always knew where I was bringing him and it wasn’t always going to be a very nice place to be.

One of the nicest compliments I have received about this book, is that it felt almost autobiographical.  It isn’t an autobiography but of course there is a big piece of me in Little Big Boy.  I think there was always going to be something of me in there and I knew if I was to get to the heart of this story, I would have to volunteer a good deal of mine.

Making a five, six or seven year old cry in a book sounds easy.  It isn’t hard to find a reason for him to cry.  My challenge was more often than not, finding a way for him not to cry.  The title is all important.  His internal conflict is not unique.  For him being big is an aspiration.  As a little boy, like most little boys and girls for that matter, there is often an urgency to grow up.  How many boys now men, recall their first attempt at a moustache or beard?  I have the pictures and they still make me laugh.

In the case of Little Big Boy, I wanted the desire to be big to revolve around something far more important than vanity.  My little boy, has less a desire than a need to grow up because of the world in which he lives.  The little part in the title, refers to the fact that he is still just that, a small boy, an innocent.

There is something truly special about being the apple of another’s eye.  Be it you girlfriend or your boyfriend, it doesn’t matter.  Being that someone special creates a warmth in your heart that is the subject of countless love songs.  My little boy is introduced at a very difficult transition in his life.  The arrival of his sister denudes him of his special status, that of the ‘baby’ of the family.

That conflict, the desire to stay as his mother’s baby versus his need to be a big boy at the same time because of peer pressure and more compelling pressures that I can’t mention without spoiling the story, is very much the device around which the plot revolves.

We have that much in common Little Big Boy and I, as I was the baby for seven years and I recall the shock to my system when I was usurped by my sister much like Little Big Boy experiences.  Such connections can be important as a writer, well they are for me at least.   I need to feel my characters so I can make them shed a tear or be terrified when they need to be.  But there is more to it than that.

I didn’t want Little Big Boy to be just tale of woe and abuse.  This couldn’t be just be an adults perspective.  My little boy needed to tell his story from his point of view.  There are some things that go unexplained in the book and they are deliberate.  A seven year old does not understand the world as I do.  Sometimes things go over their little heads and that’s just the way it is.  For Little Big Boy to work, he couldn’t know the inner workings of his alcoholic father’s mind.  He shouldn’t know the thoughts that cross the minds of the more evil creatures that he encounters.

Importantly, the horror and awfulness that Little Big Boy encounters,  is balanced by a love and compassion that is instilled by his one beacon of light, his mother.   His misunderstanding of evil is equalled by his lack of understanding for the suffering of others.  What makes his mother’s influence important in the story, is that she has planted the seed of kindness in him which is something he cannot ignore.

Making my Little Big Boy cry was harder than you might imagine in the end, because as he grew on the page before me, I found strength in him that I envied.  I began to admire him the more I developed his character and that is probably true of most of the characters I write about.   Somehow it is what I instinctively feel the reader might want.

Writing stories, strange as it might seem to some, is exactly like telling a story in person for me.  If I was to tell you what happened to me today, I would only tell you that story if I felt I could grab you and pull you in.  I feed off the response of the listener.  Some people say I belong on the stage but I know I don’t.  My stories can’t be rehearsed or ever the same on the second time of telling.   Call it exaggeration, embellishment, call it whatever but I have to get your attention or there’s no point in telling you the story.  It has to come from the heart.

That is the place from which I write.  But it comes at a price.  Pouring your heart into a book, baring a piece of your soul to the world can be dangerous.  It opens you up to be vulnerable and makes it hard to let go.  But I have an analogy that helps me carry on with this reckless behaviour anyway.

When people meet and fall in love, the ultimate success of that relationship hinges on their ability to trust one another with their biggest vulnerability.  To entrust your weakness to another can backfire and often does, but when someone takes that gift and cherishes it, true and lasting love is born.

Little Big Boy is all about vulnerability, but more than that it is about strength and courage and ultimately, true unflinching love.  As I wrote the book, I knew where it was leading me and the challenge was enormous.

Some books are easy to finish.  Some books can have a nice bow tied up and wrapped around the final page and that is that.  Clear cut villains and heroes make for easier conclusions.  Little Big Boy had to end in a way appropriate to the telling of the story and it took one final push, one last dig into my soul, to find the flourish to bring his story to a conclusion on the right note.

There is no more I can do now, I have entrusted my little book into the hands of those that choose to read it and all I can do is wait and hope and trust

Little Big Boy is available on amazon here :

Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Larry Flynn Bad Blood and Little Big Boy, all available on amazon to download or in paperback.

You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –

twitter @maxpowerbooks1

2 thoughts on “Getting behind the little boy’s smile

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s