Ordinary heroes, not superheroes

Author Brad Meltzer has turned his hand to everything from comics to television shows, and thrillers to works of nonfiction.

His latest book, Heroes for my Daughter, a work of nonfiction, has been six years in the making. The second in a two-book deal, which began with Heroes for my Son, Heroes for my Daughter is filled with photographs and anecdotal and biographical accounts of numerous individuals, some internationally famous, others family members, who Brad has identified as inspirational role models for his daughter. Brad will be giving a presentation and signing copies of his book at Books & Books on Saturday, 28 April.

Ahead of his visit to Cayman, Brad shared some background on his life and work with the Weekender.

Can you explain the idea behind the Heroes books?

Six years ago, on the night my daughter was born, I began writing this book for her. I did the same for my sons when I wrote Heroes For My Son. But as for where this book actually came from, in these past few years, my mother died after losing her battle with breast cancer. And in the past year, I also lost my dad and my grandmother (who’s one of the heroes in here). It’s been a heck of a year. And as I wrote this book, I was forced to look to the world for women (and men) who, like my own parents, could serve as ideal heroes for my daughter.

How does Heroes for my Daughter differ from Heroes for my Son?

To be honest, I really thought both books would be the same – as a dad, I wanted to treat my daughter and sons exactly the same. But when I handed in the manuscript for my daughter’s book, the editor came back with a surprising reply. She noticed that I kept overusing one word throughout the manuscript. That word? Fighter. By my editor’s count, fourteen of the fifty profiles had the word “fight” or “fighter” in it.

As I now often tell my daughter Lila, no matter what stage of life you’re in, when you want something – no matter how impossible it seems – you need to fight for it. When you believe in something, fight for it. And when you see injustice, fight harder than you’ve ever fought before.

How do you find the heroes that you have included?

To pick a hero, it’s like the Supreme Court definition of pornography: You know it when you see it. But in the book, there’s another thing every hero has in common. They all had to do this: Help someone. Some people help thousands of people directly, like Marie Curie or Susan B. Anthony. Others help us by inspiring us, like Amelia Earhart. But you do have to help someone.

Who are some of your greatest heroes?

My grandmother would’ve been 94 years old this week – on the day the book came out. And years ago, when my grandfather died, everyone thought my grandmother wouldn’t be able to go on. But she did. And when she went blind, they thought she wouldn’t be able to go on. But she did. And when she went deaf – barely hearing with her hearing aids – they thought she wouldn’t be able to go on. But she did. I’d go visit her on Sundays and say, “How you doing, Na?” And she’d say, “I can’t complain.” She was wrong. She was blind and deaf and living without her beloved husband and daughter, who both were already dead. She could’ve complained all day long. But to her, as long as she had her family, she had everything.

What are you working on now?

The next thriller, a sequel to The Inner Circle. Also, during the past year, I was looking for clothes for my kids, and all I could find were princesses and sports teams. And I just kept thinking: I have better heroes for them than that.

So I started designing inspiration they could wear. In the end, we brought together the estates of Amelia Earhart, Lucille Ball and Muhammad Ali, plus Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and others – and launched what I keep saying is one of the most inspiring clothing lines in history: Ordinary People Change the World (www.OPCTW.com). It is my core belief – I don’t care how much money you make or what your job title is – I believe in the power of regular people.

And to me, the best part is, when you buy a shirt, YOU get to change the world, because you get to vote on which charity we donate 10 per cent of the profits to.