Ladies and gentlemen, you are in for a TREAT. Well, TWO treats actually, because Mondays are horrendous and we need all the help we can get to make it through. Well, I am here to save your sanity, oh yes. Firstly, the estimable Sarwat Chadda, author of Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress (remember how much I loved it?), has provided me with a suitably bad-ass guest post – and SECONDLY you can win a signed copy of the book! I’ll tell you more about that later. You’ve got to read this though, it will fill you with the bad-ass spirit you need to tackle this Monday head on.
Generation Bad-ass by Sarwat Chadda
Have you watched Game of Thrones? Beyond it being really rather awesome it stars Sean Bean. Now, I am a long time Bean fan, but he is something else entirely in GoT. Brooding with a quiet air of extreme menace his aquiline, classically handsome features of his youth have crumbled to a craggy, hard and brutal visage. He has become bad-ass.
History is made by bad-asses. Without the bad-ass gene, Napoleon would have remained a funny little man in a big hat. Genghis a lonely goat herder in Mongolia. Boudicca a quiet little housewife in East Anglia. Bad-ass is the difference between curling up in a ball and sobbing and going out there and burning your enemy’s cities to the ground, having their armies driven before you and having the smoke-swollen night filled with the lamentation of their women.
My first meeting with HarperCollins revolved around the nature of bad-ass. My editor and I were clear we were not going to produce a soft, sensitive hero who deep down, despite the tough bad-boy exterior is just a big softy looking for love. That was sick-bag territory than has been well explored by others. We wanted a guy who was going to wade chest deep in gore, rip out hearts and eat them whole. Raw.
But the question was, is one born bad-ass, or does one become bad-ass. It’s the nature v. Nurture argument. I felt it would be far more interesting in seeing how someone utterly normal, even a bit cowardly could, given the right (or wrong) incentives, can become bad-ass.
Think of it as an experiment on exactly how civilized are we. What would it take to go wild, brutal and barbaric? The first draft was written during last summer’s riots. I think that may have influenced the book.
Take a boy, 13 years old. He’s got a loving, supportive family life (no orphans, too easy). Never been hungry a day in his life. He’s not well off, but comfortable. Not the smartest boy in school, not the dumbest. He’s a bit plump, a bit unhealthy, a bit lazy. I called him Ash.
Then, slowly, strip that all away. Remove family. Take him out of his environment and put him in somewhere less…easy. Give him enemies. Not a couple of kids that just want to nick his mobile, but enemies who will kill him, his friends, his mother, father, sister and anyone who has even looked in his direction to get what they want. Enemies richer, smarter, older and far more ruthless than anyone you’ve ever known. And give them the home advantage.
Brutalize him. Now we all have those stories where the hero-in-the-making has his training sequence (usually a montage) with the wise and kindly mentor. Yawn. Give Ash a teacher who’s quite happy to beat him, starve him, imprison him and do all those truly nasty things absolutely essential in becoming the bad-ass he needs to be.
No breaks. No mornings off. No tea and sympathy. Hunt him, attack him, torture him. You either break him or he becomes bad-ass.
I’ve had a lot of fun writing about Ash. He’s my antidote to the nice-guy heroes that dominate mid-grade action. I loved it that he moaned and sweated and everything was hard for him, because isn’t that really what it’s like? When faced with challenges don’t we often complain that ‘life isn’t fair’ and hope the problems will sort themselves out or someone else will do it for us? Isn’t the first step in becoming any sort of hero, especially a bad-ass one, the realization it’s down to us and no-one else? There’s a lot of heart-ache and doubt, but that’s the heroes I love to read, the ones who despair but push and, sometimes, come through. Success is never for certain and perhaps just making it to the next day is victory enough. But that’s what being bad-ass is all about.
To win a copy of Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress all you need to do is either retweet a link to this post or comment below before the 19th of April. Do both and you get entered into the draw for it TWICE! (UK only!)