As a career, being a writer has its advantages: you get to work when you want; you get to wear what you want, whether that’s pyjamas or a ballgown (and I’ve worn both to work in); and best of all you get to spend days on end pretending to be other people, in other places. But writing books is a solitary job, and can be a lonely one. I get to be in charge of everything, so there’s no arguing, but there are also missed opportunities too. Quite simply, there are times when two heads are better than one. Flying Fergus is testament to this.
From Chris’s initial idea – “a sort of Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang with a bicycle” – to the finished stories, Flying Fergus is entirely a product of teamwork. We spent hours talking about how books and bikes offer a similar escape from the humdrum of daily life – something we had both experienced. We talked about how Chris had got his first bike from a second-hand junk shop, painted by his dad to look like the BMX he’d dreamed of. We talked about how we both wanted to get across a message about achievement being about hard work and teamwork, rather than being born with rare talent and becoming an overnight success. Chris sent me off to research Graeme Obree, the world record-breaking cyclist who built his own bike out of washing machine parts and I suggested ways to use the information I learned. We thought up names, and borrowed some from Chris’s family and cycling friends. We mapped out the almost-Edinburgh city that Fergus lives in, based on Chris’s childhood home. We dreamed up which Wacky Races-style gadgets you’d have on your bike if reality was no obstacle. Together we came up with two worlds, a complete cast of characters and a whole series of adventures centering on one very ordinary nine-year-old boy: “Flying” Fergus Hamilton.
Fergus himself is partly me – a small child who spends a lot of time on their own, reading and imagining a life where they have fantastic adventures – but mostly Chris – a boy who dreams big but works hard, who knows the smallest success can mean bigger things in the long run, and who understands that without an incredible team, success is almost impossible, and certainly not half as much fun.
Joanna Nadin – co-author of the Flying Fergus series