On The Origins Of Tim

‘St Mallory’s Forever!’ Trivia: Episode 1 ~ In which Miriam takes you ‘behind the scenes’ for some trivia and amusing information about book one.

Warning: this post may include mild spoilers for St Mallory’s Forever! for those who haven’t yet read/finished it.

If you’ve read the reviews of St Mall’s that have been left on Amazon and Goodreads (some are excerpted on the “St Mallory’s Forever page and in the right-hand sidebar of this blog, which I redesigned because I was procrastinating on writing a Classics essay last week. Which, for the record, is also what I’m doing right now), you’ll see that a lot of people have commented on our use of geek culture etc throughout the story. It’s true – there are overt references to Doctor Who, Sherlock, and Star Trek, among other things. There are also covert ones, and most of them relate to Tim Morrigan.

I’m responsible for naming him. This wasn’t a deliberate decision – we didn’t sit down and say, “Hey, Miriam, do you want to invent the antagonist of book one?” (Collaboration over distance means I don’t think we ever ‘sat down’ and discussed anything, although Charley and I did meet up in the summer and we talked about book two then.) I don’t even remember if he was originally meant to play the role he played: I think we had some inkling that he’d be a significant ‘baddie’, but nothing concrete.

So his introduction happened to fall in a chapter that I wrote, which meant I needed to name him. He’s introduced to us as Tim Morrigan, but as those who have read the book will know, he is also known as Ben Phillips. For the benefit of those who haven’t, or haven’t yet got that far, I won’t go into the details of how that came to be – simply why those names were chosen in the first place.

And it’s at this point that I display what a total nerd I am, since his name is actually a threefold joke.

Joke one: it’s a play on Jim Moriarty.

With all the Sherlock references that went into St Mall’s and the fact that we wrote it at a time when I was working my way through all the Sherlock Holmes books, it seemed like a good plan for the bad guy to evoke the idea of Moriarty. I went with the BBC Sherlock “Jim” instead of “James”, though, and that’s where Tim came from. “Morrigan”, on the other hand, has a similar phonetic structure to “Moriarty” and is also an Irish word.

Joke two: it’s a reference to the Morrigan.

The Morrigan is one part of the Irish triple goddess of war, death, destruction etc. She’s a shape-changer, which is fitting for a devious and mischievous character. She’s associated with general misery, and interacts with the hero Cu Chulainn. Some theories associate her with the Welsh Morgan le Fay, though they don’t have a lot in common, even taking the French ‘Vulgate Cycle’ of Arthurian legends into account.

… I think my nerd is showing. I recently wrote a research project about women in mythology, so I was examining that particular comparison. Don’t worry if that went straight over your heads.

Basically, the Morrigan is a troublemaker, a shapechanger, and a nasty piece of work.

Joke three: it’s another Sherlock reference.

You know we were talking about BBC Sherlock? Well, that means Benedict Cumberbatch is involved. And you see, his full name is Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch, which meant that Tim/Timothy was easily paired with Ben/Benedict. He references his older sister as a factor in the name choice, and given that she’s probably about the age of most Sherlock fangirls, it makes perfect sense that she would have done that deliberately.

I mean, I’m neither confirming nor denying that she did, or that she even likes Sherlock. But it’s a possibility, isn’t it? (The answer is right there in the book, if you’re looking for it. I was wondering if the others would notice.)

Okay, but what about Phillips?

I don’t remember where the Phillips came from. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t motivated by a desire to include the dreadful amazing pun in the title of chapter 64 (or 65 if we ever fix the fact there are two chapter 12s in that edition, hee hee): “IT’S PHILLIPS, TIM, BUT NOT AS WE KNOW IT.” Being, of course, an extra-nerdy joke on the Star Trek quote, “It’s Physics, Jim, but not as we know it.”

Like I said, pretty sure that wasn’t the motivation – just a result that I was very pleased with. I remember sending Charley that chapter and babbling incoherently about the title because I was unbelievably proud of myself, despite knowing that 90% of people wouldn’t even pick up on my genius.

She appreciated it, though.

It might have been that it went well with Morrigan, because it does. It might have been an entirely random name plucked from the ether. Possibly I was looking at my bookshelves and saw the Mortal Engines quartet by Philip Reeve – I have a habit of naming characters after authors. Helen and her mother both owe their surname to Jonathan Stroud, as it seemed appropriate and fit well with both their names, and it’s probably just as well nobody else’s surnames were left up to me or we’d have an entire library of them.

Notably, Philip Reeve and Jonathan Stroud used to be on the same bookshelf which was opposite my desk, although it’s now moved, and I think they were named at about the same time, so I’m going to assume that’s the reason. It’s not quite as entertaining as the rest of his name, but hey, we got four jokes out of it and that’s fairly good going for a single character.

This has been St Mallory’s Forever! trivia. Next time, I’ll probably be talking about Helen, unless there’s anything else you want to know – in which case, please feel free to leave comments!

A Question Of Sport: Lacrosse

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day, on a slightly soggy August afternoon, that I crossed the threshold of the school shop. It was a bit like Harry Potter’s first time in Diagon Ally, full of weird and wonderful things that I’d heard of, but never quite believed in – kilts, skorts (more on them later), trunks, tuck boxes … and lacrosse sticks.

stick

Seriously – who thought THIS was any sort of sensible?

Lacrosse, to those who don’t know, is a sport that originated in North America – I do believe the Native American tribes used it as a substitute for war to settle inter-tribal disputes. It’s still fairly popular in the US, as far as I know, but over here in the UK it’s rather been relegated to a thing them posh types do when we’re not out drinking tea on the cricket lawn or mercilessly hunting down innocent foxes with packs of baying hounds.

It’s also a very weird sport. You only have to look at the sticks to realise that much.

Those of you who remember way back to when you first read St Mallory’s Forever! may recall a few of Abby’s ramblings on the sport. Abby, however, comes from a world where spending your Saturday morning chasing each other up and down a field after a flying rubber ball is a perfectly normal affair – she’s known the rules since she was about seven, and started having to play the game in P.E.   

It may surprise you to know that I, however, had no such knowledge of the game when I was first flung head-first onto the pitch to play against a worryingly competent contingent from the local state school – not even a rudimentary what’s-where, or any sort of assurance that I’d even know which way up the field to run.

It probably won’t surprise you to know that lacrosse very swiftly became one of my least favourite things in the entire world. Particularly, after a few games, extremely chilly practice sessions, and bruises un-numbered, when I began to realise just how scary it is.

In which the game is (apparently) played sensibly.

Lacrosse, as I said before, is a weird sport, and thus it has rather a lot of rules. The picture on the right here is of a boys’ team in America. Doubtless you’d be impressed at the care taken to ensure they all wear proper headgear and rudimentary padding – a neccessity, you would think, given that lacrosse is a (usually unintentionally) contact game featuring a 13-a-side team, theoretically boundless pitch, and focusses on a small, solid projectile flying through the air at speeds occasionally matched by the Red Arrows.

You’ll probably notice, too, that it’s sunny. Lacrosse is a fairly versatile sport – any muddy old field will do, so long as you’ve a couple of goal posts at the end of it – but summer, on the whole, is preferable for such excursions of sporting prowess.

shers lacrosse

I recognise the referee, too. Fun fact.

I now invite you to throw all these conceptions out of the window, and observe the picture on the left.

This is what lacrosse looks like to my memory – in fact, the player in green is, in fact, a girl I spotted once or twice passing down the corridor when I was in the Lower Sixth.

Padding? What padding? Nah, a mouthguard will do you just fine! And who cares if the pitch is a bit frozen – it’s November, of course it’s going to be a little chilly! What’s that? You’re cold? Suck it up! Your parents spent money on those wretchedly overcomplicated skorts, you might as well get some use out of them! Anyone caught in more than three pairs of thermal leggings will be made to run laps until the paramedics arrive!

Alright, alright, maybe I’m being a little overdramatic. Basically, what I’ve been trying to get at, is that anything – a sport, a word, a way of speaking – can mean any number of different things, depending on its treatment and execution in different environments. I never liked lacrosse, and retreated at the first opportunity to make a half-decent defensive player for the third-rank hockey team at the first chance. Perhaps this might have, just a little, coloured how the sport was portrayed in the book.

But, unless you played lacrosse yourself, you’d never have known that, would you? If you had your own experience, you’d have taken my death-mongering as the symptom of one who’d been smacked in the face one time too many, not as any sort of verifiable truth.

The moral of this little horror story, I suppose, is to say that experience, personal or cultural, can count for a lot in one’s understanding of something. A vague point, perhaps, but relevant. After all, it was only through the co-operative union of mine, Miriam’s and Mark’s experiences of life and publishing that St Mall’s came into existence at all.

However, for all I may rant and rail and waggle my fingers like some hyperactive Cassandra lookalike, I have to admit that my experience with lacrosse was valuable. It taught me about what sort of world I had come into in getting myself enrolled in this school, in this country, with these people, and the sort of values that lay behind the game – though I shall maintain until the day I die that “fair play” stepped aside to admit “homicidal inent” the instant the referee blew the starting whistle.

Sometimes, you never know how useful a seemingly pointless experience is until you’ve had it. Rather like this post, I suppose.

But seriously. Look at those sticks. Just look at them!

~ Charley R

Friday Posting, and A Top Five

And lo, the author cometh! Out of the freezing void, dripping wet, and wondering why the laundry machines not only have to be situated on the floor below, but also have to devour such awkward amounts of her spare change.

First things first: apologies. We’ve left this poor blog alone for far too long, we know. Very naughty of us. Ten points from Marylebone and all those good things.

The good news is, this is all going to change. Despite my self-appointed status as Queen of the Procrastinators (a job I’ll start doing tomorrow, honestly!), I’ve also appointed myself another job. That is, posting. My aim and goal is to post on this blog every Friday. Maybe this will devolve to every other Friday during times of high stress, such as holidays or exam periods, but this is my sticky bun and I, like Sticky the Stick Insect, am sticking to it.

And what manner of excitement shall herald my return from the great beyond? Trumpets? Celestial choirs? Exploding toasters made of cookie dough?

A list. But not just any list. This! Is!

Charley’s Top Five Proofs That You Went To Boarding School!

  • Latin. Although the subject is offered in a great many schools across the UK, and quite possibly a great many more across the globe, there’s nothing like a jolly old boarding experience to convince you it’s perfectly normal for modern English to co-exist with a language that’s not been spoken since our ancestors were running around painted blue. Bonus points if you can still remember your old school motto!
  • Matrons. You can tell a lot about a student by what they thought of their pastoral staff. But, whether she was a welcome friend and comfort during the tough times, or a fire-breathing gorgon come to turn you to stone as she steals your duvet to get you out of bed first thing on a far-too-early Monday Morning, there’s no greater example of the boarding experience than good ol’ matron.
  • House Pride. Sports day is terrifying enough anywhere, particularly if you’re like me and have the sporting prowess of a beansprout. Same goes for any competition, I suppose. But things get raised to a whole new level when each boarding house becomes its own little city state, dons its war paint, raises its banners and marches onto the field (quite literally!) to sing, scream and sprint itself hoarse for its members. Celebratory or comiserative pyjama parties in the snug and hiding the stains from the spilled celebratory lemonade are, of course, compulsory follow-ups.
  • Outdated Language. “We’d better hurry up to lessons, or it’ll be tardy slips all round. No, I will not lend you my history prep, the last time that happened you forgot to give it back and I got gated for a week! I’m not missing out on another night at the stick again for all the jelly beans in the world.” The exactitudes will vary from school to school, many taking root from something particular in the school’s history, but there’s nothing like the confused looks from all your new university friends to remind you what a strange educational plane you came from.
  • Tearful Goodbyes. I do so hate to end on a somber note, but it’s true. With only the occasional weekend set aside for homeward travel, the bonds you make in a boarding school are as close, I think, as those of a family. Years are spent with these people, misadventures are had, victories celebrated, defeats suffered, and sometimes you wonder how you’ll ever cope outside of your second home. When goodbye comes, it’s like leaving home for a second time. You never realise how far away your best friends are until you remember they live on the other side of the world – and this year, there’ll be no half-crazed travelling day to allow for a cramped reunion in the corridor.

There you have it! The first post of the New Year, and of the new St Mallory’s blog posting schedule! All questions, comments, and lampooning remarks are welcome!

See you next week,

~ Charley R.

To Have And To Hold

Yes, you guessed it — this is not a Valentine’s Day post, but a post to let you know that as of today, you can now actually buy a copy of St Mallory’s Forever! which is like, a physical book.

Exciting, right?

For me, personally, this is a pretty significant thing. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve dreamed of being an author, and that always meant physical books. E-books are awesome. I love e-books. Of course, back then I had no inkling that one day a lot of books would be available only in a digital form, so it was a very different vision I had inside my head.

Even so, I’m grinning like a weirdo at the idea of being able to pose next to a copy of a book that I wrote (because somehow, holding a Kindle up isn’t quite the same!).

It’s a little more expensive than the e-book, which is obviously to do with printing costs. As a print on demand book, we can’t do print runs of ten thousand and then sell them off cheap. But, I’m sure I speak for the others too when I say if you have a copy, and you ever see me (in the street or something), I’d be more than happy to sign it.

I’ve been practising and everything.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to work on my “posing next to books” smile.

— M

UK Paperback
(I’m sure there’ll be a US one soon, but there isn’t as of writing this post. Stay tuned!)