Heroes and Anti-Heroes, by Onil Lad
Around the time of the global financial crisis, when it felt like everything, including my first attempt at a novel, was going down the tubes, I came across Bob Dylan’s autobiography. Jack Kerouac’s book On the Road got a mention. Kerouac’s name appeared in articles everywhere and he was cited as an influence by many of my favourite bands.
I’m not a fan of the classics, but having read so much hype about the book I gave it a go. I hated it and gave up after 20 pages or so. My mind was against it from the start and I admit that I never gave it a chance. I’d spent a lot of time travelling and my experiences were nothing like those presented by Kerouac or by his commentators and fans. In fact my experience of life on the road was pretty much the opposite.
I took a break from what I was doing to put the records straight and write an anti-Kerouac travel story. The Lost Road was loosely based on the mixed-up facts of how I ended up going through Europe to Australia. It told of how On the Road travelled with me for all those years and never got finished.
It wasn’t exactly happy-go-lucky escapism but it was entertaining, won a travel writing competition and became my first writing success.
Sometime later, when I was stalled near the start of another novel, I caught up with the first two series of Heroes on DVD. The concept of a random smattering of people gaining super powers was so simple and exciting. There was no overriding principle holding back the type of abilities that could be handed out, which meant that the canvass was open for the most outrageous powers and story line.
I then spent a couple of years trying to write about super powers in adult and YA fiction. But I never had anything original to add to the genre and in the end I felt cheap trying to re-do Heroes.
Finally, I went back to my anti-Kerouac principles. I thought about a world in which people were saddled with the polar opposite of super powers and what sort of challenges they might face. I’d finally found the concept that I was looking for. It wouldn’t be a Heroes copy or even an anti-Heroes story, but my own Heroes inspired creation.
The plot is as outrageous as any episode of the TV series, but still based on my own experiences, in a twisted and unrecognizable way. I have to admit that I’ve stolen one of my characters and even the feel from the Lost Road.
Someone at a writing group once described the oeuvre of my writing as downbeat. I can’t deny it. My argument is that it’s easy to save the world if you can fly through the sky and wind back time. But, when you’ve lost your way , when the ghosts of your past are queuing up to take you down and when you’re carrying the weight of a cosmic ball and chain and still come up with the goods, that’s when you deserve to be called a hero.
It’s been a long and tortuous road full of dead ends coming up with the concept for my novel – Say No Bad Words. I hope that writing the thing turns out to be less arduous.