It’s a huge pleasure today to welcome Benjamin J Myers to Bart’s Bookshelf. Benjamin is the author of the popular The Bad Tuesdays series of books. I’ve not had the pleasure (yet) of reading the series, but I’ve heard nothing but fantastic things about them.
The sixth and last book in the series, Spiral Horizon is published today, and to celebrate Benjamin has stopped by to chat about where his characters come from.
Mick hadn’t always been an armed robber. To start with he had stolen cars, then he graduated to burglary and from burglary to robbery. Armed robbery was the pinnacle of his achievements, culminating in a shoot out with the police. Now he’s serving a very long prison sentence. Obviously, what he did was wrong, but there was a lot about Mick that would have been positive, in the right situations. His focus, organizational skills and courage were unquestionable. The problem was how he chose to use them.
I’d known the young man I’m calling Mick since his early teens. As a criminal barrister, I meet a lot of young people who have ended up in very serious trouble. By the time I came to write Twisted Symmetry, the first book in the The Bad Tuesdays sequence, I had a good understanding of how young people who live outside the rules that control most of our lives, live theirs. Although the Tuesdays books are full of strange creatures and weird science, Chess and her brothers, Box and Splinter remain at their heart and it’s their characters which provide the main driving force.
Chess isn’t based on any one person. Neither are Box or Splinter. But they do possess attributes that I’ve experienced in others. I know how people like them think and act. I know why they steal, why they fight and why they struggle to have confidence in themselves, and I use this to tell their story. Because I know so much about them, this makes them full characters. Real characters. They might not be the sort of people you’d take home to meet the family (not at first anyway), but they are true to life. And they’re handy in a tight corner, or when the chips are down and the odds against are overwhelming. By the time of the final book in the series, The Spiral Horizon, the Tuesdays have moved far beyond their starting point, but it’s what makes them tick, their underlying characters that have got them there.
Some characters jump into my head fully formed and some start from a seed and develop. The starting point might be a way of talking, or an aspect of their appearance, or a name, or a personality trait, and more likely than not, this starting point will have come out of real life. So long as they have their roots in real life, the characters become convincing. I recognize them and hopefully, readers do to, and this helps to bring stories to life and gives the story the impact that comes from recognizing its links with our world. In a series of books where the boundary between one reality and another is blurred and where the question of who can be trusted rarely has a clear answer, having lead characters that are rooted in real life is crucial.
Not every aspect of every character in The Bad Tuesdays could have been drawn from reality. You won’t find anyone with the physical characteristics of the biologically engineered intelligence, Lemuel Sprazkin. However, in my work as a criminal barrister, I’ve encountered many offenders whose attitudes towards young people have found their way into his warped appetites. And General Saxmun Vane’s physical combination of dog, man and uncontrollable morphing may be fantastical, but as an ex-army officer, I can see the strengths and weaknesses of a General like Saxmun Vane, although I wouldn’t like to meet him fangs to throat (my throat).
It’s one of the ironies of fiction, even the most imaginative fiction, that the best characters are the ones we recognize. Underneath all the shape-changing, the megalomaniac paranoia, the blade wielding and the time travelling, they have to be enough like real people for us to identify with them and enjoy reading them. Whether the similarity is in their motives, their appearance or their delusions, it doesn’t matter. The best characters are the ones we think we know when we first meet them, or who have become as close to us as real people when it’s time to say goodbye.
BENJAMIN J. MYERS was born in the Potteries in 1967. After studying Philosophy and Psychology at Leeds University, Myers attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He saw active service as a Troop Commander in the First Gulf War and is a qualified battlefield survival instructor.
In 1993, he attained his Diploma in Law from the University of London and subsequently has been a barrister in a busy practice in Manchester, specialising in serious crime, often representing vulnerable defendants, in particular juveniles. He also lectures other legal professions on mentally disordered offenders and human rights. Married with three children, Benjamin Myers lives in North Cheshire.
THE BAD TUESDAYS STORY SO FAR…
Book 1: TWISTED SYMMETRY
Children everywhere are disappearing. Orphan, Chess Tuesday, and her brothers, Box and Splinter, don’t want to be next. But they are being tracked by two powerful enemy organizations, each intent on destroying the other.
Who is good and who is evil? Why do both sides need the Tuesdays? And can anyone escape the hunters? Chess, Box and Splinter are about to embark on a terrifying mission to find out.
Book 2: STRANGE ENERGY
Chess and her brothers, Box and Splinter, are caught in a bitter struggle between two ruthless organizations. Now they face a terrifying choice – carry out a dangerous mission for the Committee, or try to outrun the evil Twisted Symmetry alone.
Chess wants to take the mission. But it could prove fatal. And it will lead the Tuesdays into the heart of the very organization that is hunting them…
Book 3: BLOOD ALCHEMY
Chess Tuesday is on the run…And the deadly Twisted Symmetry isn’t far behind. They’ve already hunted down and imprisoned her brothers, Box and Splinter.
In a world where neither friends, enemies nor family are what they seem, trust is not an option. And Chess is about to discover that the truth may be more dangerous than she ever thought possible.
Book 4: THE NONSUCH KING
Splinter Tuesday is hungry for power, and he has a daring plan to get it – if he can stay alive, that is. His brother, Box, is fighting for his life on a distant planet. His sister, Chess, is learning to walk between the worlds. Only then will she be ready to take on the evil Twisted Symmetry – and win.
But the Twisted Symmetry has plans of its own. Time is running out. Splinter, Box and Chess have never been in more danger.
Book 5: A CRYSTAL HORSEMAN
Chess must decide who to trust as things begin to spiral out of control.
Box is now part of the Twisted Symmetry’s Elite Cavalry. Has he forgotten where his loyalties lie?
Is it too late? Or can he still help Chess in her struggle to stop the Twisted Symmetry’s sinister plan?
Book 6: SPIRAL HORIZON
The time when the twelve suns become one is drawing closer and it could mark the end of all things. Only Chess Tuesday can prevent destruction – or make it happen.
She has a choice to make, but there are powerful forces trying to influence her decision and Chess isn’t sure who the enemy is any more. Is it Splinter, who betrayed her, and who is now falling for ever through time and space? Or could he hold the key to everyone’s salvation?