…tainted by a smile…

…tainted by a smile…

… A short writer’s perspective on finding my way to the heart of a story…

There is no way past fear only through it. Courage isn’t available without being afraid. For me, choice is probably the key to surviving the worst of times and choice has been my way of finding the best of times. The choices we make, dictate how or if we discover the courage many never find. Circumstance however, often directs the choices we make, or indeed circumstance may help us avoid making a choice when different options are available.

Many things help decide the choices we make and often, the choice to do nothing cripples us. When things are going good, when we don’t have to worry about poverty, hunger or fear, it can be easy to make a decision. Being in the worst possible position on the other hand can make a person feel powerless to make choices.   Others living in relative comfort, can fail to comprehend the stifling, smothering that can swallow you whole, when you fear making the wrong choice, which may have devastating consequences.

The greatest gift I ever gave my self, was choosing not to be afraid. It sounds easy when strung together in a sentence, but making that choice, freed me and changed my life. Fear is what holds us back more than almost anything else. Fear of embarrassment, fear of loneliness, fear that comes from direct physical danger, I am a writer who constantly turns to fear for effect.

When I wrote Little Big Boy I knew what I wanted to achieve, but I have been surprised by some of the reaction to the book.  It was quite an emotional painful journey for me.  I took my little boy of the title and placed him in a perilous world.  I gave him a special gift, the gift of courage that he acquired through the love of his mother.  At times I have him paralysed with fear in quite traumatic circumstances, but ultimately I force him to make a choice and it is an almost impossible choice, for someone so small and seemingly helpless.

I have had many personal enquiries and messages about this book, many more than for my other books. People asking questions, people often suffering, some touched deeply by the connection the book has made to them.  I wanted the reality of what happens inside a child’s head connect to the reader.  Some people anthropomorphise their pets, giving them human emotions in an effort to understand and connect with them.  We do something similar with children.  We imagine how we might react as adults when considering a child’s eye view of the world and it is so far from the truth. We often fail to understand the most vulnerable among us, because we choose to see things from only our own limited perspective.


To help get to the child’s eye perspective, I chose a very particular technique as I wrote the book. When things happened that the little boy didn’t understand, I intentionally didn’t explain them.  I left the interpretation to the reader.  It is written in the first person, so at every juncture my Little Big Boy has to make sense of the sometimes cruel world of adults.  He witnesses and suffers abuse at home and outside the home.  People he loves, those he looks up to and often fears, dish it out or are on the receiving end of it.  Little Big Boy is all about how one little boy interprets and deals with such alien concepts.  Centred as he is by the love of his mother, a vital pivot for this story, the contrast is stark both for him and the reader.

Importantly I gave him a happy start and he springs into life for the reader as a much loved, happy little chap. I say importantly because the contrast between his initial safe secure, loved world and what follows, becomes the key to letting the reader in, on this very small innocent’s understanding of the world.  Even when he gets it totally wrong, as an adult, the reader knows the truth and it makes his choice to be or not be afraid, all the more significant.

Little Big Boy was my greatest writing challenge. It took the most out of me but it was genuinely a labour of love.

I tend to fall a bit in love with one character or other in my books. I still adore the often disliked Larry Flynn from my book with his name as the title, and Darkly Wood is sprinkled with many I adore.  Even Bad Blood has a villain I can’t resist, but for me Little Big Boy is truly special.

One fellow writer asked me how I managed to make him cry when he read Little Big Boy. He sent me a lengthy mail and said he never cried reading books, but he did reading my book.  His tears were tainted by a smile, that’s how he put it and I thought it quite lyrical.  My answer isn’t advice for other writers, I daren’t be so pompous, but it was true so I’ll share it.  I told him simply that I am an emotional writer and when I write I am very much part of the story.

I opened this blog by saying I gifted myself the choice not to be afraid in life and that is true. But when I write, I re-expose myself to fear and worse.  When  my Little Big Boy peeps out from under the sofa, I was him, peeping with him.  I knew where my book was going before I wrote it but in that moment beneath the sofa for example, I had no idea what I was about to see.   Sometimes it seems, fear can be useful….


Read free previews here;

Little Big Boy https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B00WRP0J8E&preview

Darkly Wood https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B004DL0PMU&preview

Larry Flynn https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B00MZGSY3M&preview

Bad Blood https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B00Q39HGEK&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_8ZOMwb0RPBYZE

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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 : –




twitter @maxpowerbooks1

3 thoughts on “…tainted by a smile…

  1. How interesting that you made a conscious choice not to be afraid! Sometimes we start out with an intention for a novel and it takes off on a life of its own. I wonder how often that happens… You do explore dark subjects: I greatly enjoyed Bad Blood and will get to the others eventually. Good post, Max.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I learned relatively late in life that there are always choices, even when circumstances seem to say otherwise. How we choose to react is a powerful decision and not alway easy to stick to, nevertheless, choice is a gift.

    Liked by 1 person

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