Author Interview | Colm McElwain

Every now and then, I am blessed with the opportunity to communicate with authors directly and more often than not, these interactions, no matter how little it may be, never cease to amaze and inspire me. Recently I read and reviewed Colm McElwain’s James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra. I believe every writer has two stories to tell – one is of the book itself and the other is on their writing journey.

Here’s my recent interview with him! If you have further questions, do give me a buzz and I’ll be sure to let him know. 🙂

1) What and/or who inspired you to write James Clyde? 

A lot of different things really! I was inspired by other popular children’s books and films. This would include Disney films, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones and Superman, to name just a few.  Sometimes scenes within a film helped me write certain sequences. For example, if I was writing a battle scene I would watch a war or battle sequence and try to describe what was happening. If I was writing a flying sequence I might watch ‘Superman’ and again try to write down what I was watching. Then I would go back to my manuscript and rewrite my sequence until I was happy with it. I really wanted the reader to feel like they were right there with the characters. I must admit that one of the scenes with the children flying was inspired by ‘The Snowman.’ Do you know the scene where the young boy flies into the sky holding the snowman’s hand?  I thought that was a magical moment and tried to capture that sense of wonderment in my opening flying sequence. My story was set at Christmas and it was snowing too!  This helps – the setup is very magical to begin with, so the rest of the story can take off from there. Ideas are everywhere. Some of the sequences in my book would cost a fortune to produce in a film, but the joy of writing means I can write them down for free.

2) What are some of the challenges you face in your writing journey?

In the actual writing, linking all the loose ends together can be tricky.  However, there’s nothing that can’t be overcome. The answers are there.  It might take several rewrites and a lot of hard work and head scratching, but I found the solution always presented itself, eventually. I sometimes encountered problems with the story, but that might happen in draft 2 or 3.  By draft 25 or 30 I would have solved the problem.  It just takes time and effort. Perhaps leaving the story for a while and then coming back to it with a fresh perspective. I’m afraid, writing a book is a long-term project. Everyone is capable of it though. I still do face challenges in promoting my book. I would love to write a sequel one day, but first I want James Clyde’s first adventure to do well. So thank you for reading and reviewing.

3) Who is your favourite character in the book and why?

Well the obvious answer is James, I suppose, but I really do love them all.  I do like James’s story arc.  It feels complete by the end.  However, any good story needs strong bad guys! I had to see things from Gilbert’s point of view, just as much as I did from James’s.  I went with the idea that Gilbert doesn’t actually believe he is evil. He believes he’s doing the right thing.  I felt this would be an interesting angle.  The reader can actually put themselves in Gilbert’s shoes.  He is a man in his 60’s and feels like things have passed him by.  He wants more.  I think in a way everyone can relate to that. The lure and mystic of the diamonds and obtaining power entices him into making bad decisions. His greed also gets the better of him.  Then I also like Kila.  He is obviously a strong character in the story and James needs him in order to survive.  I like the relationship that exists between these two characters.

4) Are you looking into writing a sequel for James Clyde?

Yes I do feel 2017 would be a good year to make a start.  Why not?  I do have a good idea of where the story could progress. I just needed a break after writing, James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra. I worked six years on it and it’s still an on-going process with promotion now the main objective. It’s important to enjoy life, as it’s an adventure too!  So instead of writing about an adventure I decided to live my own for a bit. However, I do intend to give it a shot in 2017.  Hopefully it might happen one day!

5) If you could mention only 3 unique points about the book, what would it be?

Magical diamonds sought by many, faith in miracles and in oneself, and a young boy who will never give up on his grandfather’s wish.


More on the Author 

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Colm was raised and educated in Monaghan, Ireland. He is a business and physical education teacher and likes reading books, watching films and playing sport. He has always loved storytelling, whether through literature or film.  James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra is his first novel and brings a very fulfilling creative experience spanning a number of years to an end. Colm’s inspiration for James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra were other great books and films in the children’s fantasy genre. He grew up reading Roald Dahl’s magical books and journeyed to Narnia whenever he read C.S. Lewis’s book series. In film he loved the ‘Indiana Jones’ and ‘Back to the Future’ movies.  Colm wanted to instill that sense of swashbuckling adventure into his own novel.

Review – James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra | Colm McElwain

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  • Title: James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra
  • Author: Colm McElwain
  • Publisher: Matador
  • Release date: February 1st 2012
  • Pages: 246

Blurb

Alongside his friends Ben and Mary Forester, James Clyde must protect a powerful diamond from falling into the wrong hands. A strange and sinister man dressed in black is also pursuing the diamond and will stop at nothing to obtain it.

James and his friends set off on a perilous journey to return the diamond to its rightful place. But they are being hunted every step of the way by the relentless man in black and his blood-thirsty army. Outnumbered, James finds he must use the power of the diamond to escape their clutches – or become another victim of their murderous quest. So begins a journey that will transport them to an alternative world where they must confront the mysterious man in black for a final, winner-takes-all battle…


Magic? Children as heroes and heroines? A fantasy world?

Being in the Harry Potter fandom does come with very high expectations especially when I read a book with similar themes. Despite that, I decided to give this middle grade fantasy book a try. Safe to say – I am extremely happy with how it turned out to be!

It was hardly recognisable: the fabric was in tatters and the strap was cut in half. Knees trembling, he walked slowly forward. I have to get out of here! They’re getting closer. 

The first thought that came to my mind when I started reading this book was – omg, Colm can really write. He writes with so much heart and conviction. The flow was wonderful, the use of language simple yet outstanding, and overall it just made me dive into the story instantly. I was drawn to it. The chapters are short too which really helps in making good reading progress, especially for those with short attention spans! I’m sure you can relate when I say that there are some books out there that require extra effort to get through the chapters. James Clyde does not pose such a challenge – extra points for sure!

Without delay, he went to the wardrobe, took from it the black cloak and laid it out on the bed.

This was his anonymity.

This was his disguise.

James, Ben and Mary are strong characters to the plot. The trio are just knee-high to a grasshopper but their struggles and actions are monumental. Their adventures are extremely interesting to follow till the extent that they brought back old childhood memories – of the carefree life and wild imaginations. Elements of suspense in the story were also very well-crafted and added so much depth to the build-up.

“You still have much to learn and you will. You’re young. One day, you’ll claim your revenge. That I promise you.” He laid a comforting hand on James’s shoulder.

Will these children have a chance against the villains?

James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra is a book which will keep you glued – the writing, plot and characters are packed with so much thought; it’s no surprise that it’s truly spot on. It was also written by an exceptional, hardworking and humble writer. I have high hopes that he will soon publish a sequel for it – and for that I am indeed excited!

Rating: 

I would like to thank the author, Colm McElwain, for this review copy in exchange for my honest review!

Review – Finding Jamilah and The Story of Yusuf | Raidah Shah Idil

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  • Title: Finding Jamilah and The Story of Yusuf
  • Author: Raidah Shah Idil
  • Publisher: MyLegacy Publications
  • Publication Year: 2013
  • Pages: 133

Blurb

Finding Jamilah

Jamilah Henderson knows three things: her mother is invincible, her hamster can’t stay still, and no matter how much she tries, she won’t fit in. When tragedy strikes her family, her world turns upside down. Will she heal the twenty-year rift between her grandparents and her parents? Finding Jamilah is a story about love, identity, and the gift of forgiveness.

The Story of Yusuf

“Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment, and especially on their children, than the unlived life of the parents.” – Carl Jung.

Yusuf Mohamed is in his final year of high school, and the stakes are high. The pressure is on for him to excel, and to be the doctor that his father always wanted him to be. Truth be told, Yusuf doesn’t want to be a doctor. He wants to be the opposite of the medical or anatomical; he wants to be a poet and explore metre and rhyme. How will he reconcile his dreams and his father’s?


With Hari Raya Aidilfitri (Eid al-Fitr) around the corner, I’ve been involved in loads of discussions among fellow bookish friends along the lines of – How many books should I bring back to my hometown?  What books/ebooks should I read? So this review is dedicated to helping you guys sort this out especially if you’re looking for something more local (Malaysian), short and meaningful to read.

Finding Jamilah and The Story of Yusuf are two novellas compiled into one book. Both stories have similar themes – family, love, relationships, and identity.

In Finding Jamilah, you will be following Jamilah’s journey to Malaysia to meet her grandparents and relatives for the first time after her mother left the country to marry a man they did not approve off. The quest for reconciliation is both heart-warming and interesting to read, shedding light on a common yet less talked about issue in society today, mixed marriages.

In The Story of Yusuf, the author writes on Yusuf’s struggles to speak out and follow his dreams – to become a poet. With his father constantly reminding him to study hard and become a doctor, his life is a roller coaster of emotions, trying to find his voice to express what he really wants to do in life.

Both plots are very easy to follow, interesting and engaging. Coupled with clearly-defined characters, this was certainly an enjoyable read. However, I do wish the author paid a little bit more attention on the plot progression. There were times when I felt that it lacked description and connectivity which is why I am struggling with the overall rating.

Having said that, both are really great family stories with good lessons to learn from on relationships, sacrifices and cultures. They are very light too, making it a fantastic choice to read in the car ride back to your hometown or in between visiting relatives!

 Rating: 

Muslims all around the world will be celebrating Eid al-Fitr this week to mark the end of Ramadhan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. Selamat Hari Raya from @heyitsbookishme!