Tuesday, 24 April 2018

#BlogTour The Picture by Roger Bray

Today it is my pleasure to host the BlogTour for The Picture by Roger Bray. Featuring a fantastic Q&A with Roger Bray and my review. The premise presents an interesting moral conflict and speaks to the need to be famous, to gain celebrity status and a greed of almost epidemic like proportions.

About the Author
Roger Bray –  "I have always loved writing; putting words onto a page and bringing characters to life. I can almost feel myself becoming immersed into their lives, living with their fears and triumphs. Thus, my writing process becomes an endless series of questions. What would she or he do, how would they react, is this in keeping with their character? Strange as it sounds, I don’t like leaving characters in cliffhanging situations without giving them an ending, whichever way it develops.
My life to date is what compels me to seek a just outcome, the good will overcome and the bad will be punished. More though, I tend to see my characters as everyday people in extraordinary circumstances, but in which we may all find our selves if the planets align wrongly or for whatever reason you might consider.

Of course, most novels are autobiographical in some way. You must draw on your own experiences of life and from events you have experienced to get the inspiration. My life has been an endless adventure. Serving in the Navy, fighting in wars, serving as a Police officer and the experiences each one of those have brought have all drawn me to this point, but it was a downside to my police service that was the catalyst for my writing.

Medically retired after being seriously injured while protecting a woman in a domestic violence situation I then experienced the other side of life. Depression and rejection. Giving truth to the oft said saying that when one door closes another opens I pulled myself up and enrolled in college gaining bachelor and master degrees, for my own development rather than any professional need. The process of learning, of getting words down onto the page again relit my passion for writing in a way that I hadn’t felt since high school.

So here we are, two books published and another on track.

Where it will take me I have no idea but I am going to enjoy getting there and if my writing can bring some small pleasure into people’s lives along the way, then I consider that I will have succeeded in life."

About the book
A warehouse in Japan used as an emergency shelter in the aftermath of the 2011 Tsunami. A distraught, young Japanese woman in dishevelled clothes sits on a box, holding her infant daughter. Ben, a US rescue volunteer, kneels in front of her offering comfort. They hug, the baby between them. The moment turns into an hour as the woman sobs into his shoulder; mourning the loss of her husband, her home, the life she knew. A picture is taken, capturing the moment. It becomes a symbol; of help freely given and of the hope of the survivors. The faces in the picture cannot be recognised, and that is how Ben likes it. No celebrity, thanks not required.

But others believe that being identified as the person in the picture is their path to fame and fortune. Ben stands, unknowingly, in their way, but nothing a contract killing cannot fix.

Q&A with Roger Bray
The first part of the Q&A is optional (questions 1 - 5). It is just a fun way for readers to get to know the author. It's up to you whether you choose to answer them, whatever you feel most comfortable with. If any of the book questions are a no-no (spoilers ect) feel free to leave them out or change them slightly, I am flexible.

Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call 'Breaking the Ice.' (readers love to get to know all about their favourite and new authors)
The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms would like to know)
The last book I read was a re-reading of Sebastian Faulks Birdsong.

Books or authors who have inspired you to put pen to paper?
Orwell -1984, Tom Sharpe – Any of them but the Throwback is a favourite, Leo Uris – Exodus and Armageddon.

The last book you read, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet...you name it)
The reboot / continuation call it what you will of the Stieg Larssons Millenium series – what were they thinking?

Are you more of a movie night, series-binger or curl up with a good book kind of guy?
A bit of all of them really, my wife and I like to do a Lord of the Rings Marathon once in a while, harder once we bought the extended version and then the Hobbit trilogy came out.  So more of a weekend event now.

Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet?
Stieg Larsson – see above. Give me a clue, what was the fourth book going to be about (apparently a lot of the fourth manuscript exists but family dramas have caused issues.)

All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let's talk about The Picture!

What was your inspiration for The Picture?
I had an idea for a book highlighting the cult of celebrity in which we live.  This has always been around but with social media it is a lot easier for people to reach a large number of people.  I never have a problem with people who have a talent in something, music, art, acting, anything where some sort of input and effort is required.  I find the current situation of these people who believe they are celebrities and believe they should be because they merely exist but offer absolutely nothing to society absurd.   I then had an idea for a picture being taken in circumstances of suffering and / or hope and how that could be manipulated by the aforementioned oxygen thieves for their own aggrandizement.  The two elements started as different ideas which melded together quite nicely.

Ben’s character and choices as a person play a pivotal part in the story. Kindness and compassion, as a lifestyle choice. Is it your way of saying a little kindness and even a small gesture can go a long way?
Of course, absolutely. A little kindness, a gesture can make all the difference to someone’s day or even their life.  Often you don’t realise that the small gesture has made a difference, but I recall an incidence when I know it did.  I was in a shop and there was a harried looking mother pushing a wheel chair.  She was behind me at the checkout.  I wasn’t taking much notice but I looked down at the pushchair.  The young boy, 3 or 4 years old, had a severe case of (I think) Treacher Collins syndrome.  He looked up at me and I smiled and gave him an Laural and Hardyesque exaggerated finger wave and said something like ‘how are you going buddy, having a good day with mum.’  He started smiling and I looked up at mum and she was beaming as well.  I went through the checkout and was heading towards my bike when they caught up with me.  The mum couldn’t thank me enough although I didn’t think I had actually done anything.  Apparently most people recoil when they see him, or ignore him.  My treating him as a normal kid meant everything to her.
Little things do go a long way and normally cost you absolutely nothing. I wrote a short piece on kindness on my blog

Do you think parental alienation (Ben and Anna) is becoming more frequent and perhaps isn’t dealt with the way it should be by the courts, thereby leaving many broken parent-child relationships in its wake?
In The Picture I directed the story of Ben and Anna in a particular direction for the narrative of the story.  I only touched on the idea of courts getting involved in family breakups and custody fights.
I am not an expert in this but I do know usually Courts and social workers try to do the right thing, sometimes parents do the right thing with out court involvement and if an amicable arrangement can be reached outside the Court system it is probably best all around.    There are many reason why relationships break down as you have suggested. The Courts are an attempt by society as the last chance to reach some accord.  Once people get to Court the situation is dire anyway and to blame the Courts is too simplistic, they are trying to deal with human emotions which are often totally illogical    Without jumping on a soap box, moral direction, personal responsibility and a little selflessness on the part of parents may go a long way to fix some of the issues.  But some just cannot be fixed, with or without the Courts.

Greed, and an obsession with fame and celebrity, seems to be the bane of our existence in this day and age. Do you think the expansion of social media and a general lack of boundaries exacerbate these traits in people?
Yes.  As described above I think the whole thing is absurd.  Of course, as individuals, we can choose to engage or disengage with this but it is difficult, it is all pervading.   Think back thirty years and consider the type of people who were role models and those who were not.  The whole thing has been reversed and those who were not considered role models now are.  No wonder the youth are confused being bombarded with the beautiful, morally bankrupt people day in day out.   And rock music was better when ugly people made it. :o)

These snapshots in time and history often take on a life of their own. What is more important, the image and the situation or moment it represents, or the image and knowing who is in the image?
That would very much depend on the image and the situation.
For example in June 1963 a Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc,  sat in the centre of an intersection in Saigon.  He poured petrol over himself and set himself on fire.  The picture of the event is world renown taken by Associated Press photographer Malcolm Browne.  JFK said “No news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one.”  Look at it today, search ‘Burning Monk and there he is Quang Duc sitting serenely as he self immolated.   That picture changed world events, it changed US foreign policy.  One picture.  Even today it promotes awe at Quang Duc’s sacrifice.  Ask people ‘what was the specific reason for Quang Duc’s actions’ and I doubt many would know.  So the picture has survived while the reason for it has been lost to general knowledge.   Some images and events are linked intimately, some take on a general impression of what occurred, but the full reason, are not always apparent.  A difficult question to definitively answer beyond that.

Ben doesn’t make a big deal out of his act of compassion or the fact he has helped during an extreme time of despair. There are plenty of nameless and faceless heroes, why do the majority choose to stay nameless, faceless and unknown? Instead of using their acts to become famous or infamous?
Because it is their job.  They do what needs to be done and move on to the next one. Police officers, fire fighters, doctors nurses, paramedics, rescue volunteers,  social workers the list is endless.  They do it because they believe they are doing good in their communities.  Unfortunately we don’t often hear anything about them unless something goes wrong in which case the press is there to pillory them.   You don’t hear stories of police officers who have had to deal with a SIDS death, then go home to their own young families, or a doctor crying because they have lost a patient or firefighters carrying victims from a house blaze.  It is their job, they get up each morning and do it.  Most emergency service workers would be deeply suspicious of someone trying to use a tragic event to their own advantage.

Thank you for answering all my questions, even the odder ones!
Thanks very much Cheryl for having me.  I really enjoyed the questions, especially the odder ones. Sorry if I ranted a bit, I’ll slip the soap box back under the desk now. :o)

The story is split into two sections, although that is probably unintentional and both story-lines do link up. The first half of the book is all about how Ben reconnects with his past, in particular with the daughter he has never met before. Like many other families who are torn apart by separation, the children often hear one-sided accounts of their own history, and of their parents relationship.

In this case Ben's daughter believes he made a conscious choice to abandon his child. With those kind of negative emotions it is hard to try and build a new relationship, which is exactly what Ben's ex-police partner asks her to do when Ben is seriously injured in an armed robbery. She finds it difficult to just bury her anger and become the doting daughter. There are some things that are unforgivable.

Paul spends a lot of time filling Anna in on the past. Explaining what he thinks happened between her parents and trying to give her an idea of what kind of man Ben really is. To demonstrate how selfless Ben is, Paul tells her the story of how Ben helped a young woman in her most vulnerable moment by acknowledging what she needed most at that moment in time. That moment of humanity was captured on photograph, and has since become a viral and global sensation. It's now synonymous for the pain, loss and destruction during the Japanese tsunami. A young woman and her baby in the aftermath of chaos and death. This leads the reader to the focus of the second half of the book.

Another man takes credit for the kind actions in the photo, and gains both money and celebrity through this fraudulent association. This is the core point of The Picture. The lengths people will go to to become famous, to make money and gain celebrity in our society. There is no sense of guilt, just a brazen attitude of privilege and self- preservation. The fraudster doesn't care about the girl in the picture or how the picture came to be, he is only interested in maximum profit and not being discovered for the criminal he is.

Bray brings two quite different topics to the table, the emotional upheaval and one-sided narrative of parental alienation and the endless need for attention and validation by the masses, in our 21st century society, especially in the era of social media and instant gratification.The premise presents an interesting moral conflict and speaks to the need to be famous, to gain celebrity status and a greed of almost epidemic like proportions.

Buy The Picture at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.
Read Psychosis by Roger Bray
Read Blood Ribbon by Roger Bray

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