Alastair Chisholm - Orion Lost - Interview (Nosy Crow) - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books
Good Morning, Everybody. I hope you are all keeping well and safe. I'd like to welcome you to this fantastic interview with Alastair Chisholm. Some of you may recognise Alastair as the author of Orion Lost - a fantastic action-adventure story - published in January 2020 by Nosy Crow. This story is perfect for Star Wars/Star Trek and SCI-FI fans. If you would like to read my book review to find out more then click on this Link. Otherwise, keep on reading until you reach this fascinating interview. It gives a very interesting insight into the characters, the processes and even allows us to learn more about the author. I'm sure you will find it thoroughly interesting (I know that I did). Hopefully, it will entice you into obtaining a copy to READ and enjoying this brilliant book. Tell us a little about Orion Lost and what can people expect when they read it?
Orion Lost is a sci-fi adventure story set on a stranded starship, about a group of children who have to take command and try to get everyone home. There’s excitement, and danger, and aliens, and space pirates … and someone is lying to them.
Did you let the story and the characters take you on a journey or did you map out the whole plot and know exactly what you wanted to write?
I had the bones of the story in my head, and it more or less went that way. My editor at Nosy Crow, Tom Bonnick, had some great suggestions that we adapted into the book. I find characters are much more fluid, and I tend to discover their personalities as I write them. Like Mikkel, for example – I had no idea really what he was like at first, but suddenly he was telling me all about his world. And some of the children were originally more like villains, but I couldn’t help liking them!
How did the process differ between writing a picture book to that of a middle-grade fiction book?
With picture books you’re thinking about it page by page, planning how the words and pictures will work together. (Especially once you get to know the artist – I worked with the fantastic Jez Tuya on The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears, and for the sequel, I was thinking all about how Jez might draw characters and scenes). With middle-grade it’s about creating the pictures yourself, in the readers’ minds. I love both types, but middle-grade (8-12, roughly) is a brilliant age to write for, because the readers are very sophisticated but still willing to take on fantastical ideas.
What were your thoughts/ideas behind the interesting place and character names?
In some cases, I look through name lists to find one that feels right. Sometimes a name just happens – like for Arnold, the big brash American jock. Once he was Arnold, I couldn’t imagine him being anything else!
For others, like the Videshi aliens, it came from a mix of the world I was building and what I wanted from them. Videshi are mysterious and strange, and I imagined India being a future space power, and so picked a Hindi word – Videshi – meaning stranger, or foreigner.
What inspired you to write this book?
Well, I love good sci-fi, especially the Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars kind of thing. So I wanted to create something with that feel. But also, a big theme of the book is the idea of command and responsibility, self-control and self-confidence. Beth, the main character, has to step up and become the Captain, and figure out what she can and can’t do. And for me, this was a lot like the experience my daughters were going through as teenagers, stepping up to take part in the adult world. Much of what Beth learns are things I was trying to say to my own daughters.
How important are stories to you? What books are you currently reading?
I think stories are what really make us human. As many others have said, we’re basically storytelling apes. We look at a world that’s far too big and complex to hold in our heads, and we turn it into stories that we can hold. And we say, I know this isn’t true, but it’s true enough to get going with. We say, these things didn’t happen, but when I tell you them, you can understand how they would feel. We say, you haven’t been here, but I can make you feel like you have.
At the moment I’m reading a lot of middle-grade fiction, which is great fun! I’ve just finished Dashe Roberts’ Bigwoof Conspiracy, which is hilarious, some zombie excitement in Wranglestone by Darren Charlton, and Joan Haig’s really lovely Tiger Skin Rug book. I’m also chomping through absolutely tons of old Judge Dredd comics :-)
It was lovely to see quotes from children on the Press Release. What has been your favourite quote to date and why?
It was fantastic, wasn’t it? I was so chuffed! I think my favourites are the ones that say, “I’m not normally into science fiction, but …”. I love sci-fi, and I love how it allows you to tell stories about people, and I hope I’ve managed to convert a few readers!
Oh, and this year some children dressed as Orion Lost characters for World Book Day, and that was amazing! 🤩
How do you think children's books can help children and families during the pandemic we are currently facing?
It’s all very strange right now, isn’t it? The news is grim, people are stockpiling, parents are worried, and kids pick up on that. But it’s also weirdly boring, because you can’t go out, even to school.
I love all stories, including TV, film, and games. But books (and audiobooks) have a special magic because they change depending on what you bring to them, and what you need right now. The same book can deliver adventure and escape, comfort and hope, laughter and empathy, danger and courage. When you’re inside a book, you are its heroes, and some of that stays with you. With the best books, it stays with you forever. That’s probably something we all need right now.
What are you currently working on?
I’m editing my next sci-fi novel, which is a story about robots, and in between that I’m writing a series of dragon books for younger children. It’s quite a mix!