Someone asked me recently how the idea for Blaggard’s School for Tomorrow’s Tyrants came to me. I hope the question wasn’t a complaint, as in ‘why did you bother writing that?’ On the off chance that it was genuine interest, rather than regretful reproach that prompted the query, here’s how it came about.

The first begetter was my son. I won’t name him for fear of being disowned. When he was small and innocent, he used to answer questions about what he wanted to be when he grew up with an unexpected answer: ‘an evil genius,’ he’d say, with a disquieting smile. He was a strange boy. Now he has a degree in History and is off to Taiwan to teach English. I expect they’re cunningly planned footsteps towards his Ultimate Goal of World Domination.

Anyway, that got me thinking. Where would evil geniuses go to learn their skills? What would a school with that specialism look like? What subjects would be taught there? What would the teachers be like? And the students? My brain started whirring.

My second spur was entertaining a friend’s daughter during the Easter holidays, a few years ago. She was (and still is) bright as a button and I was having trouble keeping her mind occupied. ‘Draw an unusual villain,’ I suggested with an over bright smile, trying to make it sound as it would the most enjoyable thing EVER. ‘I’ll do one too!’

Mine was useless. I can’t remember a single detail about it. Hers was brilliant. A Wanted poster featuring a young girl in a striped top and robber’s mask. Her hair was in a ponytail. She looked fearless. The text behind her read; WANTED FOR TRYING TO DESTROY THE MOON! I knew her name straight away – Milly Dillane. I had my protagonist. Once I knew Milly, her best friend, Charlie Partridge, and the rest of my characters – Ms Martinet, the Headmistress; Mr Borgia, the Fabrication teacher; Miss Vipond, the teacher of Defiance and Discourtesy and Pecunia Badpenny, the arch villain, fell into place.

My final spur – the thing that finally prompted me to sit down and start writing – was my son’s departure for university. For about a month afterwards I drooped around the house, nobly biting my lip to keep back the tears every time I passed his room. After that I got fed up with myself. Time to focus on something else. I decided to try to marshal all those ideas and scenarios spinning in my brain into some kind of coherent form.

I’m still trying.

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