Monday, 27 August 2012

Author’s First Book Leads To Fight To Save The Spitfire

A Lancashire author who has spent years getting inside kids’ psyche through his day job – as a theme park designer – has published his first children’s book, and sparked his part in an unexpected quest to save a British icon.
Ian Hewitt’s book ‘The Ghost of Cameron Crowe’ is an unashamedly nostalgic tale, darkly illustrated, and, says the author, perfect for reading under the duvet by torchlight.

His tale charts the story of a war hero. The hero is the WWII Spitfire and the story-telling style is of intimacy delivered wrapped in blankets and lit only by the flames of fire and candle. Nostalgia hangs in the air as the story begins and continues in percussive heart-beat rhythm because, it is the night before Christmas, and this time there’s a twist.
Deciding to talk to the people best placed to help launch the book Hewitt approached The Spitfire Society: a band of aviation purists who’ve never got over their first love and are now the aircraft’s white knights.

Hewitt’s book signing at the Tribute to the Spitfire Festival in the gardens of Polesden Lacey House in Surrey was an unmitigated success and now he’s been asked to step inside a very elite inner circle to help ensure the future for the most charismatic fighter plane of all time.
He said: “I am so in awe of these men, and they are mostly men, who have dedicated themselves not only to preserving these machines and keeping them in the skies, but to building future generations of enthusiasts. They want to make sure the glamour isn’t lost as we recede over time from those who knew the nimblest WWII war horse first hand. I am absolutely privileged to have been asked to be involved. There’s a much, much bigger story to be told about the plans they have to keep the Spitfire aloft, but now is not the time, nor am I the person to steal their thunder.”

What is certain is that there is a pressing need for funds and awareness building ,the ghost of Cameron Crowe will be making its contribution, albeit posthumously.

The book, available from Waterstones, Amazon and priced at £20.00 has been beautifully illustrated by Kayleigh Radcliffe with images that wander wildly between pipe and slipper comfort and Grimms Fairy tale edge. It is suitable for children aged from 5 to 105 but aimed at the 5-11 years market.

About the Author:

1. Where were you born/school/where do you live now

Born Chorley Hospital 1965, Went to The Bishop Rawstorne School, Croston, I live in Mawdesley, Lancashire

2. This your first book?

This is my first Book, but far from my first story. I have been making up children's stories since my first child was born fourteen years ago. "What do you want tonight guys made up story or readie story?" Made up stories usually won.
3. Where did the story come from?

One of the other versions of me is a singer songwriter. I love the folk tradition for telling a tale within the song. Most of my songs are about real people and events. Towards the end of writing my album Dugdales Flowers I began to dabble with making up people and writing about them.

Then one day I wrote a song called The Ghost Of Cameron Crowe. I would calm an audience down and tell the tale, and they would oblige by stopping dancing and sitting quietly as I unfolded that tale. Then as the song began, they would remain seated and listen to my story set to music.

I think that this is reflected in the rhythm of my book, each page is an open poem. And the story a sonnet to the Spitfire.

4. Tell me why you love spitfires?

The Spitfire is the Peter Pan of the Second World War. It is elusive, dangerous, cheeky, yet noble. It is shrouded in romance, whereas the brave men who flew them have aged it has not. It is a beautiful piece of design. And when you talk to the men that flew them and of course to those that still do fly Spitfires, you will notice a rye glint in their eyes, as if they are recalling a special time with an old friend.

5. What is the relationship with the Spitfire Society and why is it important to keep this icon in the skies

Since writing The Ghost Of Cameron Crowe I have struck up a friendship with David Spencer Evans, Chairman of the Spitfire Society. An absolutely charming chap with a wonderful sense of fun. The Society aims to continue to build the Spitfire as a national and commonwealth icon, my role will be to advise in the communicating of this icon to young people. There are exciting plans afoot with regard to the Burmese Spitfires (but that is not for now, there will be announcements over the next few months).

The Spitfire and the stories of the men who flew them are a wonderfully important way to connect young people with the older generation.

The old man before you casts a shadow of a titan.
6. What do your own kids think of the story?

They love it. I have always made up bed time and car journey stories for them. It’s odd to think that the first time they heard dad tell the story of The Ghost Of Cameron Crowe was three years at the Ingleton Folk Festival when it was still just a song. And then just a few months ago my wife Sarah sat them down at bedtime and read them The Ghost Of Cameron Crowe the tale that became a song the song that became a story the story that became a book the book that will become a Hewitt clan Christmas tradition.

7. What age is it aimed at?

I have had very enthusiastic feedback from Junior school teachers, who tell me that The Ghost Of Cameron Crowe is a wonderful book to read to a group. It leaves space for interpretation and discussion. It introduces a historical element and builds tension and excitement.

The book is intended for the 5 to11years market, however parents and grandparents alike have been drawn to reading The Ghost Of Cameron Crowe for themselves.

8. Tell us about your collaboration with the illustrator, why choose her? Is it her first book illustration>?

I was talking to a number of illustrators, but nothing inspired me. Then one day I was introduced to an eccentric young lady called Kayleigh. We began talking about art, design and the creative process. Upon this subject, like water to a flower, Kayleigh Radcliffe bloomed, her shyness gone, her eyes a fire. I took her business card and days later checked out her web page....pow!...There it was. The thing that I had been looking for ....the odd dark soul of Grimms fairytales wrapped in a cloak of Beatrice Potter.

I knew at that very instant that Kayleigh was my illustrator. And so began very easy natural journey into the soul of Cameron Crowe.

The Ghost Of Cameron Crowe is Kayleigh’s first book commission, I’m currently writing her second.

9. How long did it take you to write?

Forty six years...

I wrote the song in an evening then honed the tale over a six month period of music festival performances. Then sat down for a week and wrote the book. Searching for Kayleigh took four months. Once found, the illustrative process lasted a further four months. Artwork printing and binding was a six week journey.

So all in all The Ghost Of Cameron Crowe took one year, twelve weeks and one evening of those forty six years.

10. What is your writing pattern – organised, set times, sporadic, written in a stream of consciousness or constantly re-editing

I’m very ritualistic. I need to be alone in my house, in my office, in a zone. I like to write in artificial lamp light with a cup of tea going cold to my left. And I walk around and around, delivering lines and conversations, that feel more like I’m recalling them rather than writing them.

11. Your wife is a school teacher, did she give you a useful sounding board?

Anybody who is married to a school teacher will tell you that there is no time for outside projects. Of course Sarah inspires and encourages me on all my journeying.

I handed her my finished manuscript and dared her not to like it.

12. Your current favourite read?

Tim Willocks – The Religion

13. How old are you (sorry). You can lie if you must.

I’m eighty four.

14. Is the story ‘out of time and place’ did you write it with a calculated dollop of nostalgia?

As I walk around holding my conversations, I am in that place where they occur, I recalled my own childhood, and my grandfather, and rolled us back to my father’s childhood.

I had a wonderful upbringing that is impossible to not be nostalgic about. A granddad with a shed full of motorbikes another with a head full of war, grandmother’s that baked and tended gardens. A mother full of love and a father that needed to change the world.

Yes The Ghost of Cameron Crowe is nostalgic.

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