When Nosy Crow approached Alastair Chisholm to create a young drama series about dragons, the Lost orion self-confessed “geek” author and writer and computer programmer jumped at the chance. “They already had a series called Unicorn Academy and their original pitch was Unicorn Academy for boys. Pretty quickly, I said, “Well, there are a lot of girls who love dragons, and there are probably a lot of boys who love unicorns, so let’s do a series for kids who prefer dragons to unicorns.” .
The Dragon Storm series takes place in the town of Rivven, once populated by humans and dragons. About 1,000 years before this story began, there was a great war (the eponymous Dragon Storm) and all the dragons are gone. A secret guild attempts to connect with these wonderful creatures, although their work falls under the purview of Rivven’s leader, King Godfic.
Children’s books based on internally generated intellectual property can sometimes seem artificial or outdated, but Chisholm’s story is a compelling one. He attributes this to the collaborative nature of his work; Nosy Crow put forward the initial idea, but Chisholm decided to focus on the relationships between the protagonists and their dragons, as well as set the tale in a bustling medieval town, which he later revealed to be probably a version of Edinburgh Old Town. , Where he lives. “At the end of the day, I felt like it was something I owned, which made it much easier to write about it.”
The first book, Dragon Storm: Tomás and Ironskin, introduces the reader to the world of Rivven via a boy called Tomás; we meet him when he is apprenticed to his father, a blacksmith. Tomás knows the stories about dragons and that his father makes dragon swords (swords that can cut the skin of a dragon), but when he begins to see a dragon in the flames of a fire, his life is turned upside down. . He is in fact not a blacksmith in training, but a “dragonseer”, so he is invited to join the Guild of Dragons.
One of the things I really enjoyed about the story was Tomás’ reluctance to leave his parents and join the guild, and the nuanced way Chisholm creates the heroes in his story. This also turns out to have plot ramifications. “Tomás is there at the guild, a secret and hidden place in the city, and he decides he can’t do this anymore,” says Chisholm. “He’s so homesick that he wants to leave. He begins to return home but on the way he hears a ferocious noise. There is a flying dragon and it is not the one he recognizes. He sets fire to various buildings, including his parents’ smithy, where they live. Tomás must go and try to save them. The problem is, how can he do that? What is it based on?
Tomás and Ironskin will be published in January, and books two to six will follow shortly thereafter. Each title will focus on a different child and his dragon. Book two, for example, deals with the mysterious Cara and her dragon Silthrief, who has the ability to vanish into her surroundings, and Chisholm says one of the funniest things was deciding what type of dragon would be right for her. what a child, all of which have their own strengths and weaknesses.
Readers will also find out more about adults. “As the series goes on, there are people who know more than you might think, and there are mysteries about dragon artifacts being revealed,” he says.
Chisholm comes from a family of great storytellers and says he always wondered if he could write stories from a young age. But his breakthrough in publishing ultimately came thanks to an interest in Sudoko. “About 10 or 12 years ago, when the craze started, I was pretty drawn to Sudoku puzzles,” he says. “I figured out how to solve them, then how to create them, then I started to write puzzles about them. From there, I was fortunate to have an agent.
Walker Books bought his first picture book, The prince and the witch and the thief and the bears, a shaggy dog story in which a son keeps interrupting his father, who tries to tell the story. It was shortlisted for the Bookbug Picture Book Prize 2020 and was included in the Bookbug P1 family bag, given to every child in Primary 1 in Scotland.
Walker also posted The Story of the Valiant Ninja Frog and Inch and Grub: A Story About Cavemen, and Chisholm got involved with Nosy Crow when he picked up his manuscript for Orion Lost, a sci-fi novel that was then shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.
Write by numbers
Writing fiction for young people, as opposed to mid-level or picture books, was a challenge, he says. “It’s a short book that someone can devour quickly. It should have short chapters, but in every chapter something has to happen. There must be a reason why you would like to continue.
For books aimed at this age group, the language needs to be at a level where a person of about seven could read it comfortably, he says, but the author still needs to pin down the essential information about the characters. “You have to convey in about a paragraph what the characters look like. You can attach other pieces of information to it, but you must integrate them right away. [the reader’s] to manage. I was trying to think about what I liked at that age … and what I really wanted to know was what a Great Hall would look like? When Tomás works in the forge, what are they doing? Can I hear the sound of the hammer? “
He recently reduced his work days as a computer programmer and therefore has a day and a half a week to write, although the work also affects his weekends and evenings. Chisholm wrote the first four books in the series and is currently working on the fifth book, as well as editing a new science fiction novel, his third, for Nosy Crow.
He also writes two picture books, one for Walker and another for Hachette Children’s Group. “Suddenly there is a lot to do,” he says. “I write all the time.”
Tom turned and faced his dragon.
He was twice as tall as him and long. Her skin was a deep red, like weathered iron. But it wasn’t a hard metal thing; it was alive. Thin orange and yellow lines ran the length of his body like cracks, glowing as if a fire was burning inside.
It sat like a cat, with its hind legs curled up and its front legs on the dirt floor, its claws digging into the earth. A thick tail swept behind her and a long neck stretched upwards. His forehead was bony and ridged, just as Tom had seen it in the flames, and his eyes were shining.
He stared at Tom, tilting his head slightly to the side, and he stared back at her.
“What a beauty,” Drun whispered. “Can that…” Tom swallowed. “Can it talk?” The dragon made a deep, hoarse sound and opened its mouth to reveal huge white teeth. “Oh, yeah,” he said, growling. It sounded amused. “And I’m a she, not an it.”
She studied it. “You are … Tomás,” she said. “And I…” She frowned, looking down as if seeing herself for the first time. “I am… Ironskin. Ouisssss … ”