I remember pulling the curved metal brake handle of my bike from my stomach. It punctured my lower abdomen when I took a tumble on a rough patch of ground when I was fourteen years old and I told no one. Everything stopped in that moment; I still remember the pain and the fright as I looked down and discovered that I had somehow impaled my body on my bicycle. It was a moment that required a certain amount of composure and I had already developed that skill from early on, as much through necessity as anything else.
It could have been the wrong thing to do, but in that moment I decided to pull the metal straight back out again and once I made my decision, I simply clenched my teeth and pulled. There was no sound but more dramatically there was no rush or spurt of blood. It bled but only just and I looked at the length of metal I had just pulled from my body in disbelief and relief. I was in a good deal of pain, but the absence of an obvious weeping bloody wound, meant I didn’t have to tell my parents and that was the most important thing. Telling them would be to confess that I was riding my bike in a prohibited area, off limits I had been told because it was too dangerous. They were right of course as my accident proved, but the miraculous bloodless hole saved me.
There was a marvellous conflict of bravery and cowardice suddenly thrown into the mix all at once. I was too afraid to confess to my misdemeanour, but brave enough to remain calm and pull the offending object from my body and take the pain. It was not the only time in my young life where I discovered that fear and bravery come hand in hand.
It turned out that discovering your courage could only be achieved by finding your fear and I had long since found both by the time the biking accident occurred. I remember being confronted with a knife for the first time when I was twelve and believing whole heartedly that the wieldier would happily cut my throat for the price of a loose cigarette and a match. How I managed to smirk and softly brush off the threat from a much older and bigger boy is simple. I had already had my courage tested and while I was afraid and didn’t know if I could survive such a potential knife attack, what I had learned was that my choice was limited to hiding from the fear or standing up to it.
It hadn’t always been so but once learned it is the saviour of many a boy and girl and the dark hole of subjugation and terror for many others. I could perhaps flippantly say I was lucky to have been faced with the chance to discover courage at an early age, so that I was enabled to face the many dangers that later came to me in life. But I wasn’t lucky. In many ways I consider my self unfortunate to have had to bear witness to the fear that made me brave. I saw so many others crushed by the same things that I somehow managed to survive. It was something I used in writing Little Big Boy.
So many people considered it to be autobiographical and wondered how I could write with such affinity using my imagination alone. But of course I never write with imagination alone. There are bits of me and my experiences all through my books. In Little Big Boy however, readers are hearing in the first person a voice, a very special and vulnerable voice and how could it not be real? The idea that it is autobiographical is a huge compliment as it means I got the voice right or at least the way I wanted it to sound.
The violence and danger that my Little Big Boy faces is not my personal journey, but I know of it. The world in which he lived in terms of school and church, was the world of my childhood for sure. But I wanted the book to be about so many things, innocence, love, fear; hate, bullying, friendship and I used the presence of abject fear and the search for courage in those moments when it was most needed, to demonstrate their intrinsic connection to each other. Finding it or not finding it, standing up, backing down, making choices never right nor wrong but always surrounded by an urgency to make such choices. In there lies the path to allowing my readers to discover each character in their truest sense. Only through challenging what we know can we discover what we don’t.
This duality is present in Darkly Wood with Daisy May and her almost impossible need to discover courage in the face of incredible odds. In Larry Flynn, I wrote a character so flawed, fearful and desperate, that it made it near impossible for him to find the courage to do the right thing. Martin Doyle, the priest in Bad Blood is a man running away from everything and time and time again it is a theme I love to play with.
Fear creates monsters within and monsters without. I remember the first time I chose not to back down and it was the most terrible and wonderful moment of my life and it is un-writeable. As I write the sequel to Darkly Wood, that fear and how it strips us of courage or helps us to find it, is once more at the heart of my writing.
Little Big Boy perhaps shouts about it louder than the rest. Maybe because the main character is so young or maybe because it is written in the first person I don’t know. I know he made me cry more than any of my other characters when I wrote his story and I know why. I understood his fear, I know his pain and I so much wanted him to be OK in the end. As a writer I always knew the outcome but the reader will not know right to the last.
My writing is very much like I want and expect life to be. In my case for example there will be a definite end. I am not looking forward to it but it’s there waiting some day and we all know that. But it can never be about just the destination. In writing terms getting the end right is very important and I spend a huge amount of time trying to get that part right. Hopefully I get it right each time. I am nearing the end of writing the sequel to Darkly Wood and I’ve always known where it was going and now it is close to the time where I have to wrap it up. I know getting it right is important, but once I’ve done that, I also know in my heart of hearts that like life, reading a book is not just about the end, it’s is all about the journey.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Larry Flynn Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : – http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower