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Author encourages tolerance in students

An author  has been offered a book deal started after writing a fantasy series to encourage students to read and learn about social issues.

Ben Mears, who runs creative writing workshops at schools, academies and sixth forms, thought up story ideas while stuck in a traffic jam with his then 10-year-old daughter Henna.

The Haunting of Tyler Maywas the first of six instalments based on the adventures of a teenage girl.

Ben, who also runs graphic design firm The Dream Loft, 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 but his A Banyard and Mingle Mystery books have been traditionally published.

Self-acceptance, tolerance and empowerment

The Tyler May series includes a goth character with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) tendencies and look at themes of tolerance and self-acceptance.

There have been a number of high-profile attacks on goths across the country and police now classify them as hate crimes – in the same way as abuse based on religion, race, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity.

Daughter Henna said: “I think there were elements of my personality in each of the characters, particularly the goth. It helped me to realise that it’s OK to be different – and I became more accepting of others too. 

“Teenagers often want to fit-in, but no one quite fits the mould they think they should. After reading the books, I felt prouder of who I was and wanted to experiment more as a goth.

“It was also inspiring to read stories where the main characters were female, doing incredible things. They also accepted each other’s differences and worked together.”


The stories also inspired Henna to better understand mental health issues as a child and she is now studying psychology at the University of Reading.

Henna, now 19, said: “I liked the fact that Tyler May had OCD tendencies, but it was simply one of her traits and didn’t define her.

“I had previously thought that mental health conditions would take over the whole personality and life of a person but came to recognise people could still form relationships and live fulfilling lives. I gained many valuable insights and lessons from my dad’s books.

“The books made me more deeply aware of mental health conditions at an age where I hadn’t been exposed to them before and I think this sparked my interest in the topic.”

OCD in the pandemic

The series is pertinent as the number of people seeking help for OCD has risen sharply since the coronavirus outbreak, charity OCD Action has reported.

OCD involves ‘intensely negative, repetitive and intrusive thoughts’ (obsessions) and a repeat action (compulsion) may be used to stop the thought or quieten the anxiety.

But OCD Action has found misconceptions and stigma persist, which can lead to a delay between the onset of OCD and treatment being received.

Henna said: “I think there are definitely stigmas and misunderstandings around OCD and other conditions, though more people are currently experiencing mental health issues.

“I believe reading about other people’s experiences, be it real or accurately portrayed fiction, can help create greater awareness and empathy.”

Social injustice

Ben, who is also inspired by his two younger daughters, struck a deal with Instant Apostle – a publishing house which addresses pressing and sometimes overlooked social issues.

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 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.

“There are underlying morals, but it’s also a gripping read with a fantastic storyline. They are real page-turners and leave you feeling uplifted.”

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