Skim Reading: From Plasterer to Children’s Author

Skim Reading: From Plasterer to Children’s Author

Professional Builder’s Kieran Nee has a chat with a tradesman who has gone down the less well trodden path from plasterer to children’s author.

“The plot is about a family of magnets called the Magnetix,” John Flynn enthusiastically tells me, referring to his recently published book The Magnetix, “who live in a cardboard box at a car boot sale.

“In the end a girl buys the box and takes the magnets out and puts them on her magnet wall at home, which has a painted background and is called Magchester.”

Now, this may sound like something the Beatles may have come up with in their more ‘imaginative’ moments, but as John explained to me, this surreal tale has rather more humble origins.

“It was started because I discovered this new product on the market essentially – magnetic plaster! I originally plastered a wall at home using it, in my children’s play room. I ended up painting a landscape scene on it with hills, trees and a little lake and we incorporated that into our story time.”

John’s two young children Matilda, 4, and Maxwell, 7, both played a crucial role in making the story a reality, and British Gypsum actually donated some magnetic plaster so John could do a wall at his children’s school.

“I made some characters with magnets attached so we could really make the wall come to life. Obviously my children wanted to be part of the stories we told, and once I made the magnet characters they could be. We made up a family called the Magnetix. So the story really began on the wall at home, and eventually I decided to put it onto page.”

It wasn’t only John’s two youngest children that have been invaluable in the creative process. “My older son John Ashcroft did the illustration in the book for me. I provided the words, and he produced the pictures on the page.

“John lives in Manchester and I live in Grimsby so there was a lot of going back and forth to be done. I was busy working as well of course so it was a matter of fitting it in after work and on the weekends.”

You might think that going from plasterer to writer is a hard route to go down, and that the creative process might not come naturally. I put this to John: “Actually it was surprisingly easy to write. The whole book rhymes as it goes along but it didn’t take long to put it all together. Of course, the kids helped too. Truth be told however, I’ve always been a bit arty. I’ve produced the world’s first magnetic wall art on the wall of a local restaurant. It’s great.”

“The publication process was hard, however, and it seemed to go on forever. We self-published the book, and I’d never produced anything like this before. Getting the illustrations right was a long process. In fact we did the whole thing once but it wasn’t the right size for the publishing software so we had to do it all over again!”

But was it worth the hassle? “Definitely. It is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always read to the kids and looked at the books and thought, I could write one of these! However I never thought it would be about plastering!”

The book has been well received, perhaps John may have to lay down the hawk in favour of the notepad. “I’ve also got plans for the second book and even a third book. The kids are delighted, they think they’re famous. The children bring the book into school and show their friends, they’re doing book signings!”

And his work mates? “Generally the blokes I work with like the idea of the book, some of them think it’s a bit mad though. I love winding people up by going around telling everyone I’m a children’s author! I tell people I’m packing in the plastering to focus on my writing!”

But at the end of the day, I don’t think John’s the type to let fame and glory go to his head, as he explains: “It’s not money or fame that’s driven me to do this. My goal was to sell one book, and after that I can say, I’ve sold a book. Which I’ve now done!”

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