1 Jul 2015

The Damaged Hero - a guest post by Gilli Allan

What makes us write what we write?
There are few writers who can turn their hand to any genre with equal enthusiasm and success. Most of us, I suspect, have a particular bee in our bonnet that impels us to write what we write. Can you imagine Katie Fforde suddenly inspired to write Science Fiction, or Hilary Mantel to write blood and guts urban thrillers? So what is the trigger that impels us to set off in the individual directions we choose?
Though I love the Bront├ęs, Austen and Heyer, my own urge to write historical fiction has never been strong enough to overcome my aversion to all that research. I enjoy thrillers and crime fiction, but have never been seriously tempted to delve into police procedures or forensics. Yuk! I was enthralled by J G Ballard’s early science fiction, but the idea of trying to create my own dystopia just depresses me. Mervyn Peake’s ‘Gormenghast’ trilogy is a favourite all-time read, but his fantasy world is so perfectly realised, anything I could dream up would only ever be an insipid imitation.
As a child and a young teenager, the theme that drew me in and kept me fascinated, was ‘the damaged hero’. At some point, in every one of my favourite films, TV programmes and stories, the hero would be wounded. To me, the handsome prince, the cowboy, the ‘Red Indian’ brave, the knight in armour, brought low by their injuries, was a very powerful and moving image. The heroine’s role in the story was always to minister to his wounds and to ‘save him’. I was an un-emancipated little girl!
My own early stories centred on drug addicted pop-stars, wounded soldiers and leather-clad motor-cyclists involved in horrific accidents. But as I grew older, I no longer needed a physically damaged hero - psychological torture was sufficient, which possibly explains my passion for Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (although I can’t promise not to injure my hero, or even throw him off a ladder, when an impasse in the central relationship needs a shake up!)
I can perceive this dark thread still running through the books I write. My hero needs to be fully realised, carrying with him the damage of past mistakes. After all, it is the trials and tribulations he has experienced in life that have made him what he is. Maybe he is cautious and guarded. Maybe he seems proud and overbearing. Maybe he is suspicious and prickly. Maybe - like Patrick in FLY OR FALL - he seems like a careless Jack-the lad, who spreads his favours around to any willing woman, and nothing he says about himself can be trusted. Character flaws like these are methods of self-preservation, a second skin my hero has grown to protect himself - and the reasons behind his bad behaviour will only be revealed gradually, as the heroine herself grows to understand him.
Her part in the unfolding drama is no longer what it was in my early stories - simply to care for the misunderstood hero, employing her maternal, pastoral or nursing skills and, ultimately, to be fallen in love with! She will have baggage of her own and will be as much in need of understanding as he is! But by the end of the story they will both have let down their guard, and there will be healing and trust and the promise of a better, more fulfilled future.
I realise I’ve not really addressed the central question I posed. What is the trigger that impels us writers to set off in the individual directions we choose? To be honest, I don’t think I know the answer. I would probably need months - if not years - of psychoanalysis to get to the bottom of that mystery.


Wife and mother, Nell, fears change, but it is forced upon her by her manipulative husband, Trevor. Finding herself in a new world of flirtation and casual infidelity, her principles are undermined and she’s tempted. Should she emulate the behaviour of her new friends or stick with the safe and familiar?
But everything Nell has accepted at face value has a dark side. Everyone - even her nearest and dearest - has been lying. She’s even deceived herself. The presentiment of disaster, first felt as a tremor at the start of the story, rumbles into a full blown earthquake. When the dust settles, nothing is as it previously seemed. And when an unlikely love blossoms from the wreckage of her life, she believes it is doomed.
The future, for the woman who feared change, is irrevocably altered. But has she been broken, or has she transformed herself? 


Gilli Allan started to write in childhood, a hobby only abandoned when real life supplanted the fiction. Gilli didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge but, after just enough exam passes to squeak in, she attended Croydon Art College. 
She didn’t work on any of the broadsheets, in publishing or television. Instead she was a shop assistant, a beauty consultant and a barmaid before landing her dream job as an illustrator in advertising. It was only when she was at home with her young son that Gilli began writing seriously. Her first two novels were quickly published, but when her publisher ceased to trade, Gilli went independent.
Over the years, Gilli has been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers, and a driving force behind the community shop in her Gloucestershire village. Still a keen artist, she designs Christmas cards and has begun book illustration. Gilli is particularly delighted to have recently gained a new mainstream publisher - Accent Press. FLY OR FALL is the second book to be published in the three book deal. 
Twitter (@gilliallan)


  1. Thanks for having me, Suzy. I very much appreciate the opportunity to talk about myself and my writing.
    I appear not to have sent you my links, so I'll pop them in here. gx

    And the 'buy' link for Fly or Fall - myBook.to/GilliAllan

  2. Its a pleasure, Gilli!! The links are all there though :D xx

  3. You DO know I'm dyslexic? : ) gx


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