By Owen Quinn author of the Time Warriors and Zombie Blues
There’s no easy answer to bullying but what I can do is share how it made me feel through the story The Survivor. I needed to show others that bullying doesn’t end in your head. Even when you physically move beyond the circle of bullies to somewhere they can’t reach you, those scars stay with you shaping you in ways you don’t even realise.
Every writer will put something of themselves in a character or characters by using their own life experiences or those of friends and family to enhance their characters and the story. In my case Michael McManus, the other male lead character that makes up the Time Warriors is me.
Others have commented on the similarity in stuff he says to me but every character has some aspect of me in there. Michael was the most defined when I first put the idea together. I didn’t want him to be the Xander character but I needed that slight nerd aspect to him. He would be the one who often put his foot in it and say the wrong thing at the most inappropriate time. He is the dreamer just as I was looking up at the far horizon and dreaming of something else all the while knowing the world was much bigger than the place I grew up in. I was fascinated by tales of flying saucers and monsters like Sasquatch and sea monsters. Like Michael I screwed up my A levels and worked in a supermarket. It was fun and a great lesson in life and social interaction but it was repressing too. You got used to the money and the desire to go back to education faded with every paycheck and bit of promotion. I found my adventure in my stories and travelled to places in my head. For Michael, his life changing adventure came the day he was swept up in Varran’s life.
When I first wrote the first seventeen stories Michael was always going to be the poster boy for the victim of bullies, the ultimate survivor which impacted him in every way. The Survivor was one of the first stories I ever wrote and features in The Time Warriors book 2 The Voalox Horror. There’s no easy answer to bullying but what I can do is share how it made me feel through the story The Survivor. I needed to show others that bullying doesn’t end in your head. Even when you physically move beyond the circle of bullies to somewhere they can’t reach you, those bullying scars stay with you shaping you in ways you don’t even realise. They hold you back in a lot of cases and ways but you must learn to rise above them and live life to the best of your ability. You own the scars of bullying and use them to empower you to be the better person as best you can. It is through his time with Jacke, Varran and Tyran that Michael learns to be a better man. His adventures give him the platform to truly show the man he really is.
In Experiment Four he is the comedy value and the big brother to Jacke and Tyran. He is especially close to Tyran but it is his falling in love with Rachel that makes him grow up. He and Tyran form a comedy duo as they explore an insane asylum in Victorian London pretending they are undercover agents for a secret organisation inspired by the real life television programme, Torchwood. Over the course of the first four books culminating in Tempest we see Michael grow as a person from a frightened bullied boy to a man ready to give his life for those he loves. When Michael gives up Rachel and their daughter to save the Ganti species it causes friction between Michael and Varran to the point Jacke has to separate them when they row.
My characters need to have something to make the reader identify with them so they see no only a real person but something of themselves in that character also. This allows a writer to draw a reader into the story much more. We paint pictures with words but words defined by all of our common life experiences. That was why Michael was never going to be a muscle bound character and never will be. He is also body conscious so like millions of others and for me the trick is to make him see he is beautiful as a person through the character around him. For example when he is surrounded by the perfectly body sculpted Mordans in Soul Scream he feels a little self conscious and annoyed that Tyran looks at them differently than she does him.
Despite being the one character who never feels worthy enough in the eyes of others, Michael has a fierce optimism that everything will turn out alright in the end. Fuelled by the Xereban mantra that everything happens for a reason, Michael inspires Rachel that they will be reunited some day which rubs off on the others too. It is Michael who goes after the family hardest of all when they use Rachel and Sarah as part of their attack on the Time Warriors. He has an intense dislike of bullies and especially tyran’s brother, Robert who is everything Michael isn’t; rich, parents, popular with the girls and a confidence that can break stone. We see the softer more grown up side of Michael in The Gift when life tears Robert down when in the beginning he would have left the rich playboy in the gutter.
In Venom we see Michael has found true happiness but is waiting for the other shoe to fall. In Spooklight he is possessed by the titular Spooklights. Raised by his grandmother, Maisy, named in honour of my late granny, Michael is put through his paces in Homecoming when he saves a kid from a house fire and faces an old bully. He has a one night stand with an old flame and commits the ultimate sin while in bed with her by calling out someone else’s name- Rachel’s. His parents having been killed in a car ancient years ago, Michael only wants to have a family of his own and to be more than he is. This he does through his adventures with Varran and the others. But happiness has a habit of being taken away in a heartbeat so will the honeymoon last for Michael? Time as they say will tell…..