I’m a huge fan of ‘Defender of the Realm’ by Mark Huckerby & Nick Ostler and it seems forever that I have waited for the sequel ‘Dark Age’ after being left with a huge revelation and cliff hanger at the end. Fortunately, it was definitely worth the wait as it proves to be another thrilling and dramatic adventure guaranteed to enthral and entertain the reader. After the great battle at the young king’s coronation, the nation thinks that the Black Dragon has gone for good. Alfie tries desperately to learn the ropes but unaware that there is danger is on the horizon, an epic battle beyond anyone’s imagination awaits him. Can he defeat this new enemy and prove to his doubters that he is a worthy successor to the throne and Defender of the nation? Undoubtedly one of the most exciting and compelling action stories I have read this year, superb storytelling that mixes real life and fantasy brilliantly. I simply couldn’t put it down it was fast, frenetic and furious and demands to be read!
To celebrate the release of ‘Defender of the Realm Dark Age’ I am delighted to welcome Mark Huckerby to the blog with a special guest post.
FAIL BETTER – Mark Huckerby
Hi, my name is Mark Huckerby and I am a failure. Not only that, my writing partner of some twenty years Nick Ostler is also one. FAIL. It’s a pretty loaded word at the moment. I see it everywhere, from memes of hapless fathers trying to relive glory days on skateboards, to kids yelling it when one of their friends misses a penalty in football. But the effects of the dreaded ‘F-word’ run deeper in society than we can imagine. It’s a big enough issue for some schools to have a “Failure Week”, where pupils are encouraged to take a risk and try out new sports, subjects and hobbies, even if it means they might fail at the first attempt.
After twenty years as a professional writer, I’ve pretty much made my peace with failure and come to embrace it as an occupational hazard. In the same way that failure is built into the ventures of entrepreneurs and researchers using the scientific method, at the micro-level, failure is hard-baked into the act of writing itself. Every time you write a sentence, go back over it, hit delete and write a new one, you’re failing and trying again. It’s just how it is, and as long as you don’t give up, you’re learning and progressing.
So it should come as no surprise that on a wider level, your career as a writer is going to face some set backs before you move forward. After twenty years of doing this with my writing partner Nick, we’ve had some pretty epic fails. In fact, we started with this one:
“THIS SCRIPT IS POOP ON A STICK.”
And he didn’t use the word ‘poop’. That was honestly the first proper note we ever received on our first proper script submission. As we sat in our cold little office in East Dulwich, we looked at each other with expressions of outrage, hurt and disbelief. Rewind a month or so and we’d been full of beans. We were to be fully commissioned writers on a show for ITV. Success! It felt like we’d made it. We truly believed the script we’d just written and sent off was pure story gold and we sat back and waited to be love-bombed by the producer. Then that note arrived and ruined our day. But it worked. We slaved over our rewrite, polished every line, honed every gag – there was no way we were getting THAT note ever again. Word came back, the rewrite was ‘not bad’. We were on our way.
Since then we’ve had scripts rejected, movie ideas trashed, outlines for books obliterated. Of course, in between the lows we’ve also had scripts praised, movies made and a book series published, but if you charted the graph of our career – of any writer’s career for that matter – it’s going to be peaks and troughs. And it’s all interlinked, without the failures you don’t learn anything so you’ll never progress to the successes.
We all fail at some time or another and it’s something we embraced when we came up with Alfie, the boy-king hero of Defender of the Realm. Alfie is a sensitive, clumsy kid who makes nervous jokes and is pretty unsure of himself. In fact, fear of failure stalks his every move, he doesn’t think he’s cut out to be king let alone a superhero and he doesn’t want to let anyone down. But within all the mistakes and muck ups that characterize Alfie are the building blocks of what will eventually make him a hero who can live up to his ancient namesake, Alfred the Great. Alfie is resilient, stubborn and tougher than he looks, the product of all the setbacks he’s faced in life including the divorce of his parents and the death of his father. And for those of you who’ve read the first book, you’ll know that in Defender of the Realm: Dark Age, there’s going to be something else that will test Alfie’s resilience to the limit. And I’m not just talking about the hordes of smelly undead Vikings that are set to invade Britain.
So, I’m a failure. Nick’s a failure. Our young hero, Alfie is a failure. And that’s fine. It’s human. It’s real. And as Samuel Beckett wrote:
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Mark Huckerby & Nick Ostler
Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler are Emmy and BAFTA-nominated screenwriters best known for writing popular TV shows such as Danger Mouse and Thunderbirds Are Go! Thank you to Mark for his special guest post, you can find out more about about ‘Defender of the Realm ‘ by visiting their website or follow them on Twitter @Huckywucky and @nickostler