On a windy and dark Friday 13th we finally got around to celebrating the launch of my book, 'Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress', at the rather fabulously redecorated Waterstones Oxford Street Plaza. Once again I'd like to send BIG THANKS to Ann, the mastermind at Waterstones who arranged EVERYTHING and also came suitably dressed in a rather fab sari. Her photo is now doing the rounds at many matchmakers in India and we're in final negotiations over the dowry with the maharajah of Jaipur.
It kinda made me realise quiet how long it's taken for me to get this book out. The first version was as a comic book, way back in 1995. I was travelling around the East on a fairly meandering trip which took in Cambodia, China, Tibet, Nepal and India, crossing the Himalayas in the depths of winter and stumbling around India during the mind-boiling heights of summer. You don't know pain until you've been riding a grumpy camel for 2 days in a desert when the temp is 45degC and you get caught in a thunderstorm at night without a tent.
The story stayed, drawn, unpublished and up in the loft for years and years, but never quite forgotten. To be honest I never had great hopes in ever getting it out until...
2009. I was working on Dark Goddess and wondering what to do next. My BIG agenda was I wanted an Asian hero without all the cliches. People may argue with me over this, but non-white heroes are VERY thin on the ground in children's fiction. They are common in 'issues' books, like gang culture, or Islamic fundamentalism and forced marriages and wibble-wobble headed tales about the Raj. This was not the sort of story I was going to tell nor the sort of hero I was going to write about. Now I'm not saying I'm against these other forms of stories. One of the best in Guantanamo Boy written by the ever brilliant Anna Perera and one of the best books I've ever read. What I'm against is that with an ethnic hero, that seems to be the only type of story they can appear in. They never get the chance to fly on broomsticks or face off with vampires or defeat dragons. They can be in issues type books, but not in rip-roaring IN YOU FACE action and horror. They can't be HEROES in the classic 'taking out the monsters' sense. They, simply put, cannot be BADASS.
It may have taken a while (like 17 years) but I'm rather pleased (sod it, INSANELY pleased)to have finally got an Asian badass hero onto the children's scene. His skin-tone is incidental, not the sum of him. He is not here to teach you what it is to be Asian (because there is no such thing) nor give you a heart-warming tale of Indian family life with irate aunts and meddling parents and struggles to resolve the culture clash. The only clash you will hear will be the clash of swords. The only struggle the battle to save the world and the the heats will be red, bloody and torn pumping from the chests of the bad guys. If you have any doubt, just remember this. Ash Mistry was born to be BADASS. Period.