Q&A: Brian Chalmers

From the author of our latest children's book, Oscar's Wings.

 

Tell us a bit about yourself? What’s your background?

I was brought up in a town called Whitburn, West Lothian. As a child growing up, I loved to play outdoors at every opportunity. Where I lived, there was an expanse of woodland where I would play with my friends. It was our favourite place. We built dens, played soldiers and explored the open spaces beyond the woods on days when we were equipped with food and water flasks packed in camouflaged rucksacks! Sometimes, when I was a bit older, I would spend some hours exploring the woods on my own, complete with a pair of binoculars, a bird observer’s book and a notebook and pen to write down my observations. I guess that my new book, ‘Oscar’s Wings’, has a connection with those happy childhood days when I loved to be away from the noise of traffic and people bustling about the place, to surround myself with the beautiful sounds and sights of nature.

As a young teenager, I trusted in the Lord Jesus as my Saviour, was baptised and received into church fellowship. From almost the word go, I was involved in children’s work, helped at the Sunday School and eventually ran a kids’ Bible club at the other side of town from where the gospel hall was. Before long, I decided to produce my first magazine for the Bible Class. Whilst I saved up my pennies for my first computer, I made do with a typewriter (it was 1995 after all!). With the aid of Pritt Stick, letter stencils and a bit of freehand drawing, each issue was prepared for photocopying at a local shop. This probably started my love of design and print as well as writing. I later went on to study print media as a mature student in my twenties and worked afterwards for various publishing houses and printers. Interestingly, I worked for John Ritchie Ltd, the publisher of my new book, during one summer - back when I was a student!

Today I and my wife, Ruthanna, live in the north east of Scotland with our three daughters and I work as a freelance graphic designer.

 

Could you give us a quick summary of your new book, Oscar’s Wings?

‘Oscars Wings’ tells the story of an escape plan for a small group of captive birds by the birds of Mucklewood forest. Our main character and hero of the story, Oscar, is a Northern Saw-whet owl who was born in captivity. Prior to this, his mother was captured with her clutch of eggs and sold to an aviary owner who the birds call ‘Miserly Shakes’. But there are complications with their plan: the bird who came up with the idea in the first place, goes missing; Miserly Shakes moves the captive birds to a cabin whilst he renovates the enclosures; the Hoodies of Dark Moor have a plan of their own to take over Mucklewood forest; and a large bird visits Mucklewood which the birds see as a potential threat to their safety. Lessons and verses from the Bible are given at the end of each chapter.

 

What inspired you to write the book?

My interest in nature and wildlife continued right throughout my childhood to the present day. I’m privileged to live in a beautiful part of the countryside where there is an abundance of woodland and riverside walks at my doorstep – each thriving with wildlife which is almost impossible to ignore. I had been wondering about how to fill two pages of a children’s magazine* I had recently become the editor of, when the idea of writing a serial story came to me. The choice of a story set in woodland with animals as my main characters, was an easy one, if not automatic!

*Our Treasury children’s magazine, published by John Ritchie Ltd.

 

How long did it take you to write?

I hadn’t long to write the story due to the fact I felt it had to be complete before its first appearance as a serial story in Our Treasury magazine - just two months from when I had the idea. Most of the story was written within a couple of weeks, but it wasn’t completely finished until two months – just in time!

 

When you started writing, did you know how the book would end?

Yes and no! I had what I thought was the perfect ending for the story when I initially plotted the whole story out. However, as I sat down to write it, the storyline and characters developed in a way which changed the final outcome with regards to some of the characters.

 

What’s your favourite part of the book?

That’s difficult for me to answer because I have several favourite parts in the story, but since I have to select just one, it would be the second last chapter – chapter 19, on the reopening of the aviary. I can’t tell you why though - that would spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read the book yet!

 

What do you think makes a good children’s story?

I think a story which educates, creates intrigue, develops the characters of the story properly and locks the reader into their personality (using vivid descriptions, dialog and familiar behaviour traits, for example), as well as good storyline with twists and turns and which engages the reader’s emotions, goes a long way to a making a good story.    

 

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Oscar's Wings is an adventure about a Northern Saw-whet Owl born in captivity. Oscar longs for the day when he will be free from his enclosure and the cruel aviary owner, 'Miserly Shakes', to live among the birds of Mucklewood forest. The forest birds have planned a mission to this end, code-named: 'Operation Flight. There are many things threatening to thwart their plan however: the bird who came up with the plan in the first place - a Wood Pigeon called Charlotte - goes missing; the Hooded Crows of Dark Moor have concocted their own plan to take over Mucklewood forest for themselves, and Miserly Shakes decides to move the captive birds into a cabin while he renovates the aviary. Added to all this, the forest is visited by a large bird which the birds of Mucklewood forest cannot make up their mind about. Is it friend or foe? Will Oscar and the other eight birds of captivity ever have their dreams of freedom turned into a reality? To find out how this adventure ends you can purchase the book here: https://www.ritchiechristianmedia.co.uk/product/oscars-wings.