A few years ago, when I became a published author, I was thrust into a world of writers, readers and of generally charming people who love books. And I mean LOVE books. I listened to their reminisces of devouring all kinds of books from an early age, of excited visits to libraries or bookshops and tales of their favourite childhood books and the special nooks in which they would be read. All wonderfully passionate reasons for how they had become the writer/reader they are today. But all of this was so far removed from my own childhood experiences.
If the term had existed then, I would have been regarded as a ‘reluctant reader’. I didn’t like or engage with reading at all, in fact, (prepare yourself for a shock, bookworms) I found books utterly boring.
My parents were not readers, and as they struggled to pay the bills and put food on our table, books were never on any shopping list. Opening up a book at bedtime to encourage a beautiful dream-filled sleep, didn’t happen either. But before you get your violin out, I must say I had a fantastic childhood with a loving and hardworking family – we were just not readers.
The books we read at school, with a few exceptions (Stig of the Dump and The Machine Gunners), and the way reading was almost treated as a punishment, did nothing but enforce my reluctance to read.
But looking back, I realise that even though I didn’t read stories, I still loved stories. Being a painfully shy and quiet young lad, I would often happily sit back and listen to other people talking. This is something that continued into my adult life. During my service in the military and later as an environmental scientist visiting factories, crew room banter has always been a favourite part of the job. I’ve listened to countless stories of simple occurrences, elaborate retellings of nights out, memories of crazy days in far-flung places, and always filled with huge dollops of humour throughout. Great stories told with flair and drama.
Stories come in many forms. The way I accessed most of them as a child was through TV and films. So many episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man or The Professionals are still imprinted in my head. Watching the 1960 version of The Time Machine one evening curled up on the settee with my Dad was a total gamechanger in how I viewed the world. I lived, breathed and dreamed those stories.
I also wrote my own stories. I found writing far more interesting than reading. My head was always full of crazy characters and unbelievable situations. I used to write my own episodes of Danger Mouse and, believe it or not, Last of the Summer Wine. I was never in any danger of being regarded at school as one of the ‘cool kids’!
When I was putting together an idea for a series of books for reluctant readers, I became completely selfish and thought, “What would have tempted me to pick up a book when I was a kid?” I remembered all those TV programmes I watched instead of reading and thought of how much fun it would have been to summon Colonel Steve Austin into my house and go off on a bionic adventure or to break down a door and summersault into a room with Bodie and Doyle. And so, the idea of Shinoy and the glitch in his phone came about. A young lad with a head full of excitement, who was able to call upon his TV heroes, The Chaos Crew, and take part in their outrageous adventures.
These stories were written by a young (at heart) lad with a head full of excitement, hoping that they might engage with young people just like him. It would be amazing to think that as a result of enjoying these stories a ‘reluctant reader’ would simply become a ‘reader’.
To find out more about the Shinoy and the Chaos Crew series visit collins.co.uk/CollinsBigCat