The Benevolent Dictator by Tom Trott #GuestPost #BlogTour

Ben longs to be prime minister one day. But with no political connections, he is about to crash out of a Masters degree with no future ahead. So when by chance he becomes fast friends with a young Arab prince, and is offered a job in his government, he jumps at the chance to get on the political ladder.

Amal dreads the throne. And with Ben’s help he wants to reform his country, steering it onto a path towards democracy. But with the king’s health failing, revolutionaries in the streets, and terrorism threatening everyone, the country is ready to tear itself apart.

Alone in a hostile land, Ben must help Amal weigh what is best against what is right, making decisions that will risk his country, his family, and his life.

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Benevolent Dictator by Tom Trott today, many thanks to the author and Rachel Gilbey from Rachel's Random Resources for inviting me to take part. I love the sound of The Benevolent Dictator but unfortunately my reading schedule was just too packed to commit to reading it in time for the tour. I hope to read it in the future but in the meantime I'm so pleased to welcome Tom Trott to Hair Past A Freckle. Tom has very kindly written a guest post about one source of inspiration for his novella.

Inspiration can often come from the most unlikely of sources, and it can affect your work in a variety of ways. You need to pick it apart to understand what you’re taking from it, and what you need to leave. In this post I’m going to examine one source of inspiration for my political-thriller, The Benevolent Dictator, and talk about how it influenced it, and how it didn’t. We’re going to talk about Ozymandias, the poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

We have all heard bits of Ozymandias, we’re all aware it’s an episode of Breaking Bad (and of that trailer where Bryan Cranston narrates it), but nonetheless, it’s worth reading again:

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

It’s a work of genius. It’s short, but it packs one hell of a punch. It’s even more amazing when you learn that Shelley wrote it for a bet.

To make sure I learnt the right lessons from it I had to make sure I understood what I was reacting to, what inspired me about it. I loved the fact that it was short and punchy, I liked the floral language, and I used extracts of it throughout the novella as well as naming each chapter after a line or a variation of a line (chapter one is “I Meet a Traveller”).

But that wasn’t it. The inspiration was coming from somewhere else. It was the idea of a once powerful empire, so certain of its immutability, reduced to rubble and sand, every trace destroyed except the statue. And I realised my story was about the moment that fate turned against that empire, about the events that led to this destruction, about the hubris.

It wasn’t the image I wanted to take, or the narrative of the poem, or any of the iconography. It was about the theme beyond all that, my novella would be a different route to the same themes. (But I would borrow the iconography for the cover)

This is a short and simple case study, but if I hadn’t been diligent enough to work through this I would have ended up taking the wrong things from Ozymandias and not ended up with the novella I wanted. So always take a breath, and spend time to think about why it is you’re inspired by something to make sure you get the most out of it.

Thank you so much Tom, I'm sure your post will be a great help to budding writers who have been inspired by something but haven't yet quite worked out where that inspiration is going to take them. The Benevolent Dictator sounds a fascinating read and I wish you every success with it.

Purchase links for The Benevolent Dictator can be found on Tom Trott's website here.
If you'd like to know more about The Benevolent Dictator then don't forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author
Tom Trott was born in Brighton. He first started writing at Junior School, where he and a group of friends devised and performed comedy plays for school assemblies, much to the amusement of their fellow pupils. Since leaving school and growing up to be a big boy, he has written a short comedy play that was performed at the Theatre Royal Brighton in May 2014 as part of the Brighton Festival; he has written Daye's Work, a television pilot for the local Brighton channel, and he has won the Empire Award (thriller category) in the 2015 New York Screenplay Contest. He is the proverbial Brighton rock, and currently lives in the city with his wife.
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