Days spent holidaying with family on the Mornington Peninsula fuelled Reuben Cullen’s creativity and imagination from a young age. He’s always got a real kick out of showing people the world through his eyes, and has used his own experience with addiction and recovery to inspire and empower children to be their own hero in his new book, A Hero Born. Kate Sears speaks to Reuben – writer to writer.
Could you tell our readers about your book and the inspiration behind it?
A Hero Born is a story about looking within yourself to discover who your real hero is. The message is conveyed through two parallel stories, one being a superhero doing super things and the other being an ordinary child doing ordinary things. It’s a self-reflective piece for the reader to say to themselves, “I don’t have to do anything extraordinary; I can be a hero just by being the best person I can be”. It was inspired out of my own long struggles with drug addiction and wanting to change my life for myself and for my loved ones. I wanted to be proud of who I was again.
You aren’t the average children’s book author – you’re a down-to-earth construction worker and you wrote this book during your recovery from addiction. How was the writing process and concept of the book related to your experience?
I think looking back, writing A Hero Born played a huge role in guiding me down the right path and allowing me to focus on the simple things in life again. A Hero Born covers nine traits or values I identified as being needed to be your own hero. Those traits are ambition, health, reliability, selflessness, care, honesty, confidence, determination and happiness. When writing A Hero Born I began to live my life through the words I was writing and reading. Whether it was around my family and friends or on site working, things started to improve for me every day and it was like every time I opened a door it was filled with sunshine and not rain. I wrote this book for children to realise that they were their own heroes, but this journey led me to realising that I too was my own hero. That right there – realisation – is the 10th and probably most important trait: I am me and I’m damn proud of it. It was like I was no longer a drug addict anymore; I was Reuben again.
A Hero Born is dedicated to Kasey Jane, your former partner’s daughter. You credit Kasey as the reason behind writing the book. Why?
We had a very special relationship. Kasey brought out the best in me and she loved me for that. I didn’t have to be anybody but me and it brought her joy. It was my time and shared memories with her that reminded me that all I needed was to be myself again. If I was to ever see her again, I want to be the person that she helped me realise I was.
Could you give our readers an insight into what inspires you?
Just to appreciate everything that happens in your life as the gift of experience. Experience is what shapes us to be who we are, and if we can use those experiences to put something back into the world to teach ourselves and others, then we’re making the most out of ourselves.
To find your inner hero, check out Reuben’s website at www.reubencullenkids.com or his Facebook and Instagram accounts @reubencullenkids