"Reading not only helps academically, but develops greater empathy, imagination and understanding of the world around us."
Ben Mears, author and illustrator
An author who started writing a fantasy series to encourage his daughter to read and learn about social injustice has been offered a book deal.
Ben Mears, who runs graphic design firm The Dream Loft in Clevedon, thought up story ideas while stuck in a traffic jam with then 10-year-old Henna.
The Haunting of Tyler May was the first of six instalments based on the adventures of a teenage girl.
And now the writer and illustrator’s A Banyard and Mingle Mystery series has been published – to rave reviews.
Ben, who runs creative writing workshops at schools, academies and sixth forms, said: “I think it’s so important for young people to read.
“Reading not only helps academically, but develops greater empathy, imagination and understanding of the world around us.
“I have written books which look at inequality and social injustice in an age-appropriate way. I also created a female lead in the first series, with a disorder, to encourage female empowerment and let my readers know that it’s OK to be different.”
The dad-of-three daughters self-published the young adult Tyler May series. A Sock Full of Bones was the first of his novels to be traditionally published.
Ben, 51, who started writing as a hobby 25 years ago and now plans to write full-time, said: “I’ve been submitting to agents for years and came close before - but it didn’t quite fit. I honed my skills and was thrilled to get a book deal after years of hard work and dedication.”
Ben, who is also a published songwriter, had several requests from publishers to see the full manuscript and struck a deal with Instant Apostle – which addresses pressing and sometimes overlooked social issues of our day.
A Sock Full of Bones set in a quasi-Victorian future dystopia, with Banyard and Mingle as the detective duo fighting crime in a divided and unjust society.
Ben said: “I write adventures and fantasy, which the reader can escape into. There is also an underlying message of tolerance, self-acceptance and the drive to fight the good fight.”
Henna, now 19, who is studying psychology at the University of Reading, added: “These books raise a lot of social issues, such as how people may be treated differently or unjustly because they are not accepted by society.”
The follow-up books The Green Ink Ghost and The Shadow of Grayrton Mire are also out now and available online.