THE LIGHTHOUSE OF
BY CHRIS WARDLE
Mr. Tinfish the penguin lives with his family in an old oil drum at the edge of the sea, which he likes to think of as his barrel-lighthouse. Unfortunately since the time of the people the climate has been subject to sudden changes and a rapid rise in sea level creates problems, not only for the barrel-lighthouse, but for all of the animals and birds who are part of the colony. Luckily Mr. Vinegar the Walrus enjoys feeling important during a good crisis, and enlists the help of Mr. Choli and Mr. Ginger, the cats.
Mr. Choli is the head detective of the colony, although his laziness usually gets the better of him as, being a cat, sleeping and eating roast fish are his main priorities. Luckily his companions, including Mrs. Cat-biscuit the goat, and his sidekick Mr. Ginger with his ever-rumbling tummy, are there to assist in his haphazard expeditions to help the colony whenever there is a problem.
The sea level is not the only environmental problem facing the colony, and an expedition party is dispatched to investigate the drying river, led by Mr. Choli, who after all has his own magnifying glass and pipe to help him appear more detective-ish. The exploits of the companions continue with secret tunnels and a sea voyage to Volcano Island. As the adventures unfold, it turns out that being the keeper of a barrel-lighthouse is quite a useful innovation for penguin.ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Chris Wardle holds a bachelor’s degree in physical geography as well as a Master’s degree for water supply in developing countries from Cranfield University in the UK.
Over the last ten years Chris has travelled extensively in developing countries working on charity projects in poor communities. He has been able to draw on his numerous experiences to inspire his creative works, particularly living for long periods in communities with different cultures in Africa and Asia.
An orphaned kitten in Northern Uganda was the inspiration for Mr. Choli’s character in the Tinfish series. He now lives in the UK with Chris’s family (via a few months with a foster family in France to organize his European passport).
1. What is the next or current book/project you are working on?
I am just completing the fourth book in the Mr. Tinfish Series call “Mrs. Cat-biscuit and the downward land.” In the story, tectonic movement brings with it a number of problems, as the land at the coast rises upwards. Mrs. Chutney the wallaby suggests that things that go up also go down. Therefore they should find out where the land has also gone down, in order to assess the problems it has caused. Mr. Choli the cat feels that he’s led enough expeditions recently, particularly ones which involved getting wet, as getting wet is his least favourite thing. Fortunately Mrs. Cat-biscuit the goat steps up to the challenge and decides to lead the team along the coast to find out the full impact of the problem for herself. Mr. Choli, meanwhile, offers to lead a small expedition inland to inspect drier places. I’ve really enjoyed writing it and there are some very funny moments in there.
2. What have you just finished reading?
I’ve recently finished reading the book “Hippo Eats Dwarf” which is about urban myths from around the world. – very entertaining if you’re after something that’s not too heavy.
3. What books would you say have made the biggest impression on you, especially starting out?
About ten years ago I was living in a small village in Cameroon. It was my first oversees posting and I was a lone volunteer managing the construction of a water supply project. The village was remote so there was no televison, telephone, or electricity. At weekends, or in the evening by candlelight, I started to do a lot of reading, as slouching in front of the TV was no longer an option in my life. I soon discovered that in rural Cameroon it was very difficult to get hold of literature, other than second-hand copies of the English A-level syllabus. Consequently, in my desperation I found I was reading Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, and Charlotte Brontë for the first time. Something I would have never done if it had not been for the circumstances. However, I discovered that I really appreciated this expanding of my horizons, and by the time I left Cameroon I was almost tempted to go and sit the exam.
4. What gets you started on a new book? A character or story idea or….?
The initial idea for the Mr. Tinfish series came from the invention of two characters called Mr. Tinfish and Mrs. Cat-biscuit (who were based on what I was trying to get my very fussy Ugandan cat to eat at the time in order to wean it off roast chicken – unsuccessfully I might add). When my wife asked me what Mr. Tinfish and Mrs. Cat-biscuit did, I told her that they would have exciting adventures and live in a lighthouse. I then faced the challenge of developing this idea into a gripping story, which took considerably longer. However, the concept gradually fell into place, and it inevitably ended up as a humorous children’s book. In the process, Mr. Choli the eccentric and slight difficult cat also joined the cast.
5. What is something about you that you would want people to know about you that we probably don’t know?
I am the inventor of the game called ‘Mouse Wedges’. When Mr. Choli the cat moved in with my family, he needed someone to help him play with his toy mice. At the same time my mum needed someone to practice her golf with. Therefore the game of ‘mouse wedges’ was invented and involves my mum using a sand-wedge golf club to chip small rubber mice down the garden. Meanwhile, Choli hides behind a tree and then pounces on the mice as they go past. It’s also a bit like lawn bowls, in that once mum runs out of mice she goes to the other end of the garden and chips the mice back towards the house. Meanwhile, Choli also swaps sides and hides behind a different tree. I recommend this game for anyone who finds themselves with a similar golf-mouse predicament.
6. What is your best advice to anyone, including young people, who want to be writers?
I am a new author myself. However, I have learned a lot from being part of a virtual book tour. It is very clear that to get a book promoted, having it on eBay is not enough, I need help from marketing professionals to give it targeted exposure, and I’m sure this must be the case for most people entering the publishing world.
7. What is something you would like to share with us about writing your favorite genre in general?
The Mr. Tinfish books fall, amongst other things, within the genre of humour. Something I’ve really enjoyed is developing the comical banter between the characters, particularly between Mr. Vinegar the walrus and Mr. Choli the cat. Mr. Choli has a very dead-pan approach to dealing with Mr. Vinegar, who is always trying to exert his authority on him. As the series progresses the two of them develop a very interesting relationship which combines a mutual respect and genuine friendship with frustration, niggling, and a general divergence in how they think problems should be tackled. It’s worked as a great platform for humorous conversations and I’ve got a lot of fun out of writing their ‘scripts’.
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