…can be a dangerous thing.
I remember as a child and young(er) adult that sense of disappointment and betrayal when you meet someone you idolise, either in person or through a biography, only to discover your hero has feet of clay. Is rude, arrogant, or otherwise obnoxious. How can this be!? you ask yourself. How can the person that made something I love not be lovely themselves?
That seems to be the heart of the betrayal. If you love a band, or a piece of music, and the composer turns out to be a racist bigot, it betrays your understanding of why you liked it in the first place, perhaps even who you are yourself. That’s even more true with writing I think – books are full of the personality who wrote them, something some people seem to find hard to believe. So if you have thought the same way as the words that floated off the page and into your head, it seems impossible that you would not like the author who wrote them.
Which brings me to Thursday, when I met the very first writing hero who entered my life: Susan Cooper. I am not alone in people of my generation of having had my imagination fired and shaped and moulded by Susan’s Dark Is Rising sequence. It’s an absolute classic of children’s fiction and remains quite rightly in print today, and still as revered as ever.
On Thursday I had the pleasure of interviewing Susan about her new book, Ghost Hawk, in front of a live audience at Waterstones, Piccadilly in London. Around 100 ardent fans arrived to hear what she had to say, and I was in seventh heaven, for the very first hero I ever had in writing turned out also to be charming, funny, modest, generous, deeply intelligent and, that thing I prize more highly than anything else: kind.
Over the course of the evening I only had this opinion reinforced, for Susan is a fascinating lady with a wonderful life story to tell. Furthermore, her new book, Ghost Hawk, is brilliant, and I urge you to go and buy a copy. A real physical one, because it’s beautiful.
So sometimes, meeting your heroes turns out to be a very wonderful thing indeed.