C.J. Daugherty was born in Texas and now lives in a small town in England. Before she wrote fiction, C.J. authored several travel guides and worked as a crime and investigative reporter. It was a photo of the secret society, The Bullingdon Club, that sparked C.J.’s imagination and inspired Night School. She imagined a secret society for high school students and so Allie Sheridan and Cimmeria Acadmey were born.
C.J. stopped by Figment to share her inspiration for Night School. Check out her story below, and then stayed tuned for our writing challenge! You could see your story on the Figment homepage!
The thing about secret societies in elite private schools and colleges is this: They exist. And we have no idea what they do.
But they are so intriguing, I suppose I was always bound to write about one. How could I resist?
When I was first playing around with the idea for Night School, David Cameron had recently become prime minister of the UK. A photo of him as a young man appeared in all the British newspapers. It was taken in the late 1980s and, in it, he’s wearing a tuxedo and standing on the portico of a grand building with a number of other similarly attired young men. The caption underneath the photo I saw read “The Bullingdon Club – a secret society at Oxford University.”
In the photo, the prime minister is surrounded by other shady young men, all with the same unfortunate wide lapels. London Mayor Boris Johnson’s bright, blonde head is recognizable on the front row. The others are less well-known but they include viscounts, a marquis or two, and some dukes.
Every single one of those young men are now in positions of great power, either as corporate executives, top lawyers, or in the government.
Other photos soon emerged showing George Osborne, the British Chancellor — the second most powerful position in UK politics — also in the same club.
The photos were a minor titillation in Britain — look at that hair! But the more I learned about the club, the more fascinated I became.
It’s generally accepted that the Bullingdon Club is mostly social — a bunch of rich kids, drinking too much in the upscale bars and clubs of Oxford, blowing off steam. On particularly raucous nights they’ve been known to trash restaurants and leave a huge check for the damage on their way out. More recently, the Guardian newspaper reported that the current initiation ceremony for new Bullingdon Club members involves burning a £50 note in front of a homeless person.
Who knows if that’s really true? You’d have to join to find out and after that . . . Well. I for one wouldn’t believe you.
But it all got me thinking: What was it like to be them — the sons of billionaires, CEOs and nobility? So wealthy and protected they could almost get away with anything.
If you were sixteen and could get away with anything . . . What might you do?
That question was the genesis of Night School.
After that I visited boarding schools near where I live for inspiration, read articles about secret societies and conspiracy theories and generally mulled it over. But the Bullingdon Club was where it all began.
I guess you could say I owe those guys.
The idea for Night School was sparked by a photo in the newspaper. Find a photo online that inspires a story you are working on (or thinking of working on). In 100 words or fewer, give a brief summary of your story and how the photo inspires your work. Include a link to the image in your book summary. Tag your story PictureChallenge.
You have until Wednesday, June 5 at 11:59 p.m. ET to enter your summary. Figment editors will read all the entries. We’ll choose our four favorites to be featured on the homepage alongside Night School.
Photo of C.J. by Darren Brade Photography; color photo of the Bullingdon Club via The Guardian; photo of Oxford University by C.J. Daugherty; black and white photo of the Bullingdon Club via The Independent.