Colin MacIntyre: Writing My First Picture Book
Growing up on the Isle of Mull, the standout book from my childhood was Fungus the Bogeyman by Raymond Briggs. It was something of a surprise, some thirty-five years later, when I bought it for my two little girls and realised it wasn't exactly how I remembered it as a child. It was a lot darker and more advanced than I recalled and made me think how we should never underestimate the minds of young children.
About two years ago, I woke one morning with a story almost fully formed in my head. My debut novel, The Letters of Ivor Punch, had recently been published, but this story was one for children. Since having my two girls I have often made up little bedtime stories for them and some fun songs too. The title of the story I had was The Humdrum Drum. The main character, an orchestra drum, decides he doesn’t like being banged and boomed all the time. He feels humdrum and stops playing; soon all the other instruments follow suit. Without the beat of Drum, the concert hall is in chaos – not only do the orchestra and the audience depend on Drum, but the mice in the basement iron to his beat and the ants wash their dishes in time as well. The story comes to a wonderful crescendo and we realise how important it is to work together.
Some months later at the 2016 Borders Book Festival, I met with Alan and Susan Windram who run Little Door Books. I shared my Humdrum Drum idea and, thankfully, they liked it! I'm also a musician (I've written and recorded eight albums under the moniker Mull Historical Society) and I wrote several songs relating to the story, some of which my girls helped me compose. They now come on a CD which can be bought with the book. My girls sang on the CD, really making it a family affair, and there's also a track of me reading the audiobook too.
Catherine Thomann was chosen to do the illustrations. I loved Catherine’s style. She has taken the story and really brought Drum and the characters to glorious life. The story features an embarrassed orchestra conductor — who the audience throw tomatoes at — and Catherine beautifully (and comically) made him a reality. She provided so many nice touches.
We launched The Humdrum Drum in 2018 to a room full of children and parents. As I stood on the stage with the finished book and a guitar in hand, I suddenly realised I was a children’s author now too, like Raymond Briggs. It was so special to have my daughters there to help me with the event, ever-willing to hand out the scrunched-up paper ‘tomatoes’ to throw at me on the stage.
I’m delighted to say the Drum is now out there in all good (tomato) and book shops. Next stop is my appearance, this time with Catherine Thomann to do live illustrations, at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Thursday 16 August. Make sure you bring your singing voice (and your pretend tomatoes)!