John Wright brings a beautifully written children's fable to Magic Mouse Books, of a cursed princess, who uses nature's gifts to save herself. This is a brilliant educational read, that teaches its audience all about Mother Nature's wildlife and animals, whilst telling a fun fairytale.
We caught up with him to learn all about his writing process, and how his impressive life experience influenced his story. Read below for more:
John Wright can be found on Facebook.
Illustrations by the amazing Happydesigner
I was born in Altrincham, a town on the outskirts of Manchester in 1947 and for the first two years of my life I was brought up in a small, terraced house in Stretford, a suburb of Manchester.
In 1949, my mother and I moved to London where my father had joined the Metropolitan Police force after leaving service with both the Royal Navy and the RAF during the Second World War. I remained in London until I left grammar school and gained a place at a teacher training college in Birmingham in 1967 where I studied Physical Education and general studies.
Upon the successful completion of my training, I realised that I would not be able to afford to live in London on a teacher’s salary, and so I made the decision to move back to Manchester to take up lodgings with an aunt, and very shortly after I gained my first teaching position in a primary school in Cheadle Hulme, an affluent middle class suburb of the city. The children were well mannered, respectful and a joy to teach, in complete contrast to that which was soon to follow.
After two enjoyable and successful years in primary education, I was attracted to a position being advertised in a school for boys with special educational needs, where a teacher with skills in outdoor education and rural pursuits was required. Since I had some basic skills in camping, hill walking, climbing, canoeing and sailing, I applied (although not altogether confidently) for the job.
I duly received an application form and further information about the school and its pupils.
The school itself was an imposing country hall situated in the depths of rural Cheshire and very close to the western edge of the Peak District National Park. It was a residential establishment, catering for twenty five pupils from inner city areas of Manchester, all of whom suffered from severe educational, behavioural, social and emotional problems.
My interview by the Head, Doctor Andrews (Doc to both staff and pupils) was unorthodox and in complete contrast to what I had anticipated. He had taken note of my outdoor sporting interests and presumably my references and he asked me what knowledge I had of the wider countryside. So, having lived, studied and worked in the three biggest cities in the country my honest answer was, “Very little Sir, but I am willing and eager to learn.”
I got the job, and the Head’s parting words to me were,
“Mr Wright, when you come to work here, your classroom will be the countryside and the school is where you will return to research the discoveries that you have made in that classroom.”
Those words were to have a profound and lasting effect upon my ensuing career and would completely change my life.
I currently divide my time between my home in Cheshire and my two hundred and fifty year old stone cottage in a tiny village called Llandwrog in North Wales where I spend my time walking coastal paths, enjoying the wonders of the natural world.
What inspired you to start writing?
As a child I always loved to write stories, particularly about animals. My first published story was entitled “The Pike.” As a keen fisherman this predatory fish fascinated me. The story was entered into a competition sponsored by the Metropolitan Police magazine for serving officer’s children. More recently I have written articles for a countryside magazine.
How much research did you need do for your book?
As my interest in the natural world deepened, I became totally absorbed in the variety and range of ecosystems and the flora and fauna which they support. As such, my research was a great pleasure as I was able to learn more of the habits and locations of the animals and plants that feature in the book. I would say that my research was lengthy, absorbing and very enjoyable.
What is your writing process like?
Once I have the initial ideas, facts and the plot in my head, I tend to write and rewrite each small plot until I am satisfied that things are starting to take shape and come together. Once everything is complete, I return to the beginning of the story and edit once again, I re-check my facts to ensure that nothing has been overlooked.
What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?
I am not sure that I am qualified to give advice to a new writer as I am so new to it myself. All I would say, is if you have an idea for a story, then give it a go. You will find that putting your own ideas and the results of your research into print is exciting, rewarding and very satisfying. If things get difficult, persevere, you will get there in the end.
"My inspiration is drawn from the natural world, its variety, its moods, mysteries and infinite beauty."
What book could you read over and over again?
In 1973 it was my great privilege and honour to be invited for afternoon tea with Sir Phillip Brocklehurst Bt. on whose estate in the Peak District National Park I was camping and undertaking a range of outdoor pursuits with a group of pupils. I was unaware at the time that Sir Phillip was a member of the 1907-09 Nimrod Expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton.
I asked Sir Phillip what kind of a man Shackleton was. His reply was……
”We were trying to haul sleds across the ice pack in the teeth of storm and one of the men shouted that he thought that it would be impossible. Shackleton screamed back at him, “In my dictionaries Sir, there is no such word as impossible.”
When Sir Phillip checked two dictionaries at the base, the word impossible had been crossed out.
He then advised me to read Shackleton’s book “South”, saying, “That book will give you a true measure of the man.” I have read that book several times. It is truly awe inspiring.
Who is your favourite Author/what is your favourite book?
I do not have a particular favourite author, but the two authors that readily come to mind as a result of the enjoyment their books gave me are Gavin Maxwell for his Ring of Bright Water trilogy, and Leo Walmsley for his book Three Fevers, all of which I read many years ago. However, South by Shackleton has to be my favourite read.
If you could meet one person dead or alive, who would it be?
Having read his book South, it would have to be Sir Ernest Shackleton.
What is the best part of your day?
The last hour before bedtime, savouring a good single malt whisky and reflecting upon another day well spent.
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
To outlaw the destruction and over exploitation of the world’s natural habitats and ecosystems.
What’s the best advice you have ever been given and by whom?
The best advice I have ever been given is encapsulated in the words of a piece of writing entitled “Desiderata.” The author seems to be unknown, but the message within its lines should be food for thought on how we conduct ourselves and live our lives.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
A good malt whisky!
What did you want to be as a child?
After I found a fossilised sea urchin at the age of 9, I wanted to be a geologist.
Which season is your favourite?
Every season has its own magic, but I feel that Spring has to be my favourite season.
Where would you love to travel to?
Given that I am not overkeen on spiders and I am phobic about snakes, I would love to visit Antarctica!