D’ya hear yer man

Blame Bateman

When it comes to heroes I don’t like mine to be too far flung.

This is why I can claim to have met a fair few of those people from whom I take inspiration.

On a couple of occasions I’ve chatted with Andy and Michael from my favourite band Therapy? at in-store gigs in HMV. I also got to interview Andy for the Lurgan Mail.

One New Year’s Eve in a Belfast watering hole I encountered rugby legend Stephen Ferris.

After a gig at the Empire myself and my then fiancee Karen met musician Duke Special and informed him he would be providing the song for the first dance at our wedding - though not personally.

Avid fans of Yer Man may also remember a less fragrant encounter with Duke Special in the gents’ toilets of the Oh Yeah centre.

Anyway, what I’m getting at is when your idols don’t live a million miles from you, there’s a good chance you’ll bump into them.

On Monday I had a chat with another of my homegrown heroes when I met Colin Bateman at Lurgan Junior High School.

For those of you who don’t know Bateman - he’s an author who mixes comedy and crime to great effect.

It was the second time I’d had the pleasure of his company. I’d interviewed him roughly eight years ago when I was getting my first taste of journalism at the Newtownards Chronicle.

Colin Bateman has a lot to answer for. If it wasn’t for him you probably wouldn’t be reading this.

I shall explain. When I was a child, I loved to read and write. My favourite authors were Roald Dahl and Franklin W Dixon who wrote the Hardy Boys books. I loved books that made me laugh and kept me in suspense.

Under the tutelage of my English teacher at Lurgan Junior High, Miss Nelson, I learnt to become a creative writer in my own right.

It was good to see when I visited the school on Monday Miss Nelson was still championing the cause of creative writing. She even admitted to reading this very column.

While researching this week’s column - that’s right, it’s not just off the top of my head - I found out that Spanish author Corin Tellado has written a lot of books.

I discovered she writes romance novels. 4,000 of them to be precise.

Even if she’d written 4,000 pamphlets I’d have been impressed. But 4,000 books, surely that can’t be possible.

Given that the majority of love stories start off as boy meets girl and finish up with boy and girl living happily ever after, there’s only so many ways you can tweak the middle bit.

I’m guessing she just changes the names of the lead characters and republishes the books under new titles. Even then, she’s done well to invent 4,000 different titles.

So back to the Junior High and my passion for stories and storytelling continued to develop during my early teens. My yearning grew as I moved through Lurgan College, but by the time I’d finished university I’d lost interest in anything other than cider and lie-ins.

It seemed that every book I picked up was full of death, hardship, betrayal and spite. Where was the fun and adventure?

Then I discovered Colin Bateman. Having digested his entire back catalogue in superfast time I delved to find out more about the author...

Born in Bangor, got a job at his local paper, started writing a column, wrote a book in his spare time, got a publishing deal with Harper Collins and has since written 21 books for adults, eight for children and worked on screenplays for TV and film.

I was keeping up with him pretty well until it got to the bit about the publishing deal.

And so to the point - it was Bateman who inspired me to put pen to paper for the first time since school and it was Bateman’s back story that helped me conclude that my passion for making things up could be well suited to a career as a journalist.

So next time you puff out your cheeks in despair at one of my stories - blame Bateman!

Weekly teaser

The answer to last week’s teaser was: so many famous painters are Dutch because they’re born in Holland.

Here’s this week’s teaser: What occurs once in June, once in July, but twice in August?