To celebrate the re-launch of the Alfie Bowman novellas with their new covers, I thought it might be an idea to tell you abit more about the man himself.
Many of my fellow authors spend hours creating a detailed backstory for each of their characters. They tell me this is something you simply must do to create believable characters… Oh dear! I've always done the opposite. I start with the bare minimum and let my characters evolve as the story goes on.
Apparently I'm doing it all wrong, but it seems to work for me so I don't plan to change the way I work any time soon. However, I thought it might be fun to revisit the first character I created back in 2013 and write his backstory four years late!
I'll let him share his backstory with you in his own words.
Hello everyone, my name’s Alfie Bowman. If you’ve not come across me before, here’s the story of how I’ve come to be where I am, and who I am. I’m not looking for sympathy here, I made my own mistakes, and fortunately I’ve learned from them, even if it has taken me most of my life to do so.
I often describe myself as a refugee from a failed life. I mean, a man in his fifties should have his life sorted, right? I should have had a good job, and been looking forward to retiring in ten years time, but instead, here I am just beginning, all over again. Let’s just say it’s not quite how it was supposed to work out.
I was bright enough as a kid. Back then we still had Grammar schools, and I was clever enough to pass the exam to get in, but the problem was, when I got there I was expected to have a voice and opinion of my own. Encouraging kids to know who they are and develop their self-esteem sounds good, doesn’t it? The thing is I’d been raised to think everyone else was better than me and no-one would be interested in anything I had to say. Needless to say, the rules I grew up by – keeping your head down, saying nothing, and staying out of trouble – weren’t an option at this school because doing the first two only got me into trouble! And the more often I was made an example of, the less self-esteem I had.
I hated that school, and I couldn’t wait to get out, so, instead of making my way to university and finishing my education, I dropped out at sixteen. I still had no self-esteem, and had no idea what I wanted to do, but at least I wasn’t being picked on and humiliated by teachers every day. Now I just had my Dad to contend with, but he seemed to think because I was clever enough to get to Grammar school that should mean I knew everything. Because I dropped out he saw me as a failure, and was quite happy to tell me so. Looking back now, I think its fair to say he was about as much use to me as a chocolate teapot.
And so, with no direction, and no ideas, I drifted into my twenties. Imagine water in a bath when someone pulls the plug out, and in that water there’s a tiny ant. When the water starts to drain from the bath, the ant is powerless as the water spirals round and round the plug hole, finally disappearing without trace. That’s a perfect metaphor for my life back then. The only hope for the ant is if someone comes to his rescue, and that’s exactly what happened to me; I got rescued.
Her name was Gloria, and I thought she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. Of course, when I first met her I knew she wouldn’t be interested in someone like me, but to my great surprise she soon proved me wrong. It’s amazing how much confidence you can suddenly find when someone shows an interest in you; I couldn’t believe it when I plucked up the courage to ask her out, and she said yes!
I fell in love with Gloria and she quickly became my confidence. She said she loved me, and I grew to believe I could do anything as long as she was there with me. I even managed to face up to her dad who, of course, didn’t want his daughter spending her time with a loser like me. But he wasn’t going to put me off, and if it meant I had to get a ‘proper job’ to convince him, that’s what I would do. Eventually we got married, moved to this little town in Hampshire, called Tinton, and bought a house.
That was nearly thirty years ago now, and at that point, I thought we were going to be happy ever after, and by the time I reached my fifties we would be sorted and looking forward to retirement, but there were a couple of problems I hadn’t reckoned with. The warning signs were there for me even back then, but with my love blinkers on I missed them.
The first problem was that I wasn’t being me. I was trying to be the person everyone else seemed to want me to be. This can only work if the people behind you continue to love and support you. If that stops, then like a house of cards, your whole life comes tumbling down.
The second problem was Gloria. She didn’t want to share her life with me, she just wanted me use me as a front. You see, I didn’t know it when I met Gloria, but she liked to play the field, and she still does. I was just her patsy. I was the doting husband she could produce to show what a great marriage she had and how no-one should ever suspect her of cheating. Yeah, right.
When I first found out, I tried to forgive her. I told myself she could change and we were strong enough to get through this. But, my confidence had been built on my trust in her, and now it began to escape me. Over the next few years I quit my job, tried to start a business of my own (never a good idea when your confidence is at rock bottom) and slowly began to revert back to the teenage me, with no self-esteem.
This didn’t happen overnight, of course, it was a gradual process that took several years, but because she could see it was happening, Gloria started yet another affair and spent less and less time at home. As my life fell apart, and my debts began to grow, so she began to despise me which just added to my misery. I was the ant swirling around the plughole all over again.
But this time I was a lot older, and while I still might I not know exactly what I wanted, I did know what I didn’t want. And so I told Gloria we were selling our house and going our separate ways. I told her I didn’t want a thing from her, just my half of the proceeds from the house, and that was just to cover my debts. Of course, she didn’t think I had the guts to do it, but I did.
I walked away from her with nothing. Well, almost nothing. What she didn’t know, (because she had stopped taking an interest in me and my life), was that I had written and self-published a couple of novels, and they were beginning to sell. I was never going to top any best-seller lists, but if I could write one or two more, I reckoned I could make enough to live on, and that would be my new start.
And that’s where I am now. I’ve got a nice little flat in the centre of Tinton, and over the last year or so I’ve grown very comfortable in my own skin, writing my books, and being the real me. I try to live by the principle that I don’t have to keep everyone else happy, and I don’t let people push me around like I used to. It’s a pity it took me so long to get here, but now I am here, I can honestly say I’m happy being me.
This backstory now appears as the introduction to the first Alfie Bowman Novella, “An Unlikely Hero” which has just been republished (with a new cover) and is available in the Amazon Kindle store.