Perhaps one of the best reads I’ve indulged in of late is Fallen Heroes by first time published author Barry Nugent. The book weaves a complex plot, which involves a computer disk that everyone wants, and a group of unlikely characters who are all connected and share the same mission to uncover the mystery behind the disk and save the world from destruction via a 900 plus year old supernatural enemy.
Released last year the book has won critical acclaim and has been nominated for the coveted Pearson Prize. A huge achievement for a first time author. Added to this Barry has been asked by Insomnia comics if they can adapt the book to a comic book mini series.
Like most aspiring and successful writers, Barry has written many things. And when asked how Fallen Heroes came into being, Barry provided an answer that was just as intricate and compelling as the book.
“I suppose I’ve always been writing. I started writing when I was eleven and it’s something I’ve kept going with. This isn’t my first book; I’ve written two or three books before but didn’t really do anything with them.
“The way it came about was a few of my friends were always saying that, ‘they wanted to be in the story, they wanted to be in the book.’ So I said, ‘Ok… if you guys come up with the characters I’ll do a book about them.’
“It turned out that the characters they came up with were really good compelling characters. After a little work on them I decided to base a story around them, and the more I got into it the more I moved away from some of their characters and got my own story out of it. And that was kind of where Fallen Heroes started.
“It took me seven years to write because I’m quite lazy by nature. But you know it just went through treatment after treatment and draft after draft until it became what I wanted it to be. Originally it was over Two Hundred Thousand words. And that’s the history of it really.”
As any writer will tell you. When you develop characters and storylines you live, breath and think about them all the time. And one thing Barry would often be caught doing would be writing in his notepad on the 5-minute walk to his day job as a computer programmer.
A lot has happened for Barry with Fallen Heroes in the last year, and it is well deserved given the amount of promotion and work he has put in. One big thing happening right now is that Insomnia Publications want to do a straight adaptation of the book. And when Barry and I touched on the subject of comics in the general sense, he revealed that he has a lot of admiration and respect for the many comic book creators out there.
“People have said to me, ‘Why don’t you have a go at writing a comic.’ And I just can’t get my head around it. And some people would think it would be easier but it’s not.”
When I said Prose was probably easier Barry agreed wholeheartedly.
“I agree,” said Barry ” because you’ve got more to play with. I also feel that it’s easier to get down on paper, when you have a scene playing out in your head because you have more words to work with. Describing a scene with as few words as possible is something I find really difficult so I say hats off to comic writers.”
When touching on the characters from Fallen Heroes. Barry added that after awhile, they went from being character templates his friends had given him, into something entirely different.
“They started off as fairly basic characters. Some of the characters they gave me I really had to do a lot with. Ben was originally a thief, but he was more like a James Brown type of character. He was a really flamboyant club owner who probably had a little more in common with Shaft, more than anyone else.
“And I thought that won’t work. So I changed that.
“The Reverend was basically a psychopath and was really overdone originally. So again I just toned it down a bit.
“The funny thing was the more I looked at these characters the more I realised they kind of represented different archetypal characters. You had the master thief and the vigilante. My own character Napoleon Stone is a character I’ve had in my mind since I was a kid. He’s kind of like an Indiana Jones kind of character. But they all seem to fit certain archetypes that worked really well with the kind of story I decided to tell. Which was a kind of throwback to the old pulp type books I enjoyed reading when I was a kid, but with a modern spin.”
One thing that Fallen Heroes has a lot of is plot twists. And this is helped by the fact that each individual character has their own story, which gradually makes up the whole as the characters all meet up towards the latter part of the book. And it’s also at this point in the story where the reader is given perhaps one of the biggest plot twists in the book. Which was perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of writing the book.
“You are trying to deal with so many different characters, and even though there is only one main plot. There are so many different plot threads that need to be pulled together without it coming off as to contrived. It was quite difficult, and to be honest the few chapters where all the Fallen Heroes meet was the hardest part of the book for me to write.
“Having them all in the same room. And having a huge talking heads scene where a lot of exposition came up. Trying to keep it all natural because they are all pretty strong characters in their own right.”
The main problem Barry had to deal with was making sure that the right characters didn’t get along due to them being on opposite sides of the fence. But he also had to insure that certain other characters were drawn together, in order to keep the big talking heads scene as natural and real as possible.
“I think there is a certain commonality between the Reverend and Napoleon, which is my character. There is a kind of natural link between the two of them, which is revealed during the second half of the book.”
If Fallen Heroes has two central characters, then it is fair to say that the book belongs to Napoleon Stone the demon hunter and the Reverend. Both these characters seem to be the real meat of the book and both as Barry points out share a certain commonality. The only thing separating the two being the choices they’ve made.
“It’s really difficult to do six individual back stories for the different characters. But as I was working on the characters and story I began to see the similarities between Napoleon Stone and The Reverend and thought that if Napoleon was going to open up to anyone. It would probably be the Reverend because they’re both quite rich characters. And what you realise when you hear Napoleons story is that they’ve both lost a lot. They’ve sacrificed a lot. Only one of them has just gone that little bit to far. And Napoleon can see that, and he’s trying to bring him back from that. A lot of the story is around The Reverend. A lot of it is his arc I think. Him and Napoleon were my favourite characters to write.”
Barry like many of us is a huge fan of big event movies, and as a writer there are certain things he tries to bring to his stories.
“I learned this lesson from the Star Wars films. The original Star Wars films and I think good old George Lucas forgot this when he did the newer movies. When you’ve got these really fantastic events taking place. You need to have someone in there that’s going to bring you down to earth and say, ‘Come on this is crap isn’t it.’ And in the Star Wars trilogy you have that in the Han Solo character. And you kind of need that character because otherwise things become just a bit too overblown, which is what I felt happened with the latest Star Wars movies. They just become to overblown because he didn’t have that character to ground it.”
Writing is not Barry’s only outlet though. For the last few years Barry along with his best friend David Monteith have been hosting their own syndicated weekly Podcast called The Geek Syndicate, which over a period of time has built a very large following. When asked how it all began Barry explains that it all started life from his and David’s phone conversations.
“Obviously you can tell that me and Dave by the way we argue on the podcast have been friends for some time. I’ve known Dave for nearly 30 years now. We sort of grew up together and went to the same school and that sort of stuff. And what happened was I moved away to Northampton to study. But originally I lived in London, and Dave stayed in London. We kind of lost touch a little, but a couple of times a year I’d ring up Dave and we’d talk for a couple of hours and basically catch up on the sort of Geek TV and stuff that we’d watched in the last three months.
“Dave had been listening to a couple of Podcasts. I think he’d been listening to Comic Geek Speak. And he sort of said, ‘Why don’t we try doing a Podcast.’ Because basically that’s what we’d been doing. Having these long conversations. And I thought, ‘Is anyone really going to want to listen to us sort of rambling on?’ This kind of went back and forth for about six months and we decided to give it a go. And Dave actually come to Northampton. And I always remember. He brought two bottles of Whisky with him. Because I said, ‘If we’re going to do this I need to be drunk.’ If anyone goes back and listens to the first episode where we actually did a review of all six Star Wars movies. I actually can’t remember most of that episode.”
“I think with Dave and me. You get what you get. You get what you see really. We’re no different on the Podcast than we are; I think real life is the wrong words really. We’re just two guys chatting and having a laugh.”
Barry is quick to point out that the Podcast is very much a team effort.
“I do the editing and a lot of contacting people. Dave takes the lead on all the interviews he also covers a lot of events on his own and does a lot of interviewing at the events. That’s an area that I really struggle with. I guess what I’m saying is we both play to our strengths and between us we cover our bases.”
As you can tell by reading Barry and I shared a fantastic phone call, and this transcript doesn’t really do the whole call justice, but does provide an insight into what was shared about Fallen Heroes, which I’d describe as a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond, Heroes and Sanctuary.
In closing I’d like to thank Barry for taking the time to speak with me and recommend that you all give both his book and Geek Syndicate a go. Because you don’t know what you’re missing.
- Barry has informed me that he will be doing a book signing at Waterstones on Saturday 28th Feb between 11am – 1pm at the Milton Keynes branch.
- Geek Syndicate Main Podcast website
- The Fallen Heroes Website
- You can get your own copy of Fallen Heroes by clicking here
By Ian M. Cullen