What is it about heroes? To help us celebrate his publication day for HERO BORN, an epic fantasy featuring an awesome zero-to-potential-hero tale, debut author Andy Livingstone explains why we all need a hero…
I grew up with heroes. As a child, I loved escaping into books and losing myself in another world, and a hero was, to a young boy, the ultimate character to aspire to, the sort of person I was in my imagination when I lay in bed at night. I’ll give you one guess, therefore, what sort of a character my story follows…
But I didn’t find my heroes just in books, they came from all parts of my life. I adored the concept of someone who could achieve deeds beyond the ability of the rest of us and, in the process, inspire others. Inspiration was a big thing: astounding talent and abilities in someone with the wrong character engender resentment and jealousy; in a hero they bring out admiration and adoration.
My childhood heroes were, as a result, many and varied. The first was a WWI pilot. When I first discovered reading, I devoured the Secret Seven and Famous Five (in a literary respect, not a cannibalistic one, you understand) before being prompted by my dad towards Biggles. In his father’s loft, I discovered a host of old Capt. WE Johns (who, incidentally, died the year I was born – make of that what you will) and Sapper books and while I joyfully also worked my way through an Aladdin’s Cave of Gimlet and Bulldog Drummond, James Bigglesworth was my first hero. A never-say-die attitude, skill, gallantry and the capacity to blow his enemies out of the sky without hesitation was a potent combination.
Then there was my first fantasy hero. By the age of 14, I had read The Lord of the Rings three times but had read various passages involving Strider/Aragorn hundreds of times more than that. The dark, brooding, secretive stranger with calmly effective weapons skills and a hidden nobility? Superb. David Gemmell’s Waylander came close, as did Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter, but ‘Stridagorn’ was always the main man for me.
Then there were the real-life heroes. My two loves growing up were stories (in print and on film) and football. My club was, is and, of course (because that’s how it goes), always will be Motherwell, and the first team I remember watching had two players who have always been my footballing heroes: Joe Wark, a supremely skilled left-back who made the most difficult situations look easy, and Willie Pettigrew, a jet-heeled striker who scored with awe-inspiring effectiveness and frequency. I have had the privilege to get to know both of them in later years, and found both to be as brilliant in person as they were on the pitch.
Then there was the SAS. I remember watching , as a wide-eyed 12 year old, scenes unfold that I had never imagined could be witnessed live on TV. It introduced me to the concept of special forces and left me in hero-worshipping wonder at the thought of these soldiers of ‘The Regiment’. I have always been fascinated by the concept of elite groups, and these men were, to me, the elite of the elite and my military heroes. It is inevitable that something along these lines will find a fantasy equivalent in my books at some point.
And in films, it has to be Conan. In the first Arnie film, of course. Action movies love a hero and so there is a host of them out there, but Conan the Barbarian was the first fantasy film that I loved and there are so many scenes in it that caused the teenaged me to hit rewind on the old VHS player and lap them up over and again.
We all need heroes, and find them where we can. We love the inspiration they give us and the place they hold in our imagination (picture the small boys having a kick-about with a football and shouting the names of the superstars they are ‘being’)… and long may this be so.