Nigel Canepa is another Gibraltarian author whose first book will be launched very soon. He is a 22-year-old student, who studied English and Creative Writing for three years at St. Mary’s University in London, and is currently enrolled in a PGCE (teacher training course) at Roe Hampton University.
“I have always had a passion for reading and writing. I started writing a novel when I was 17. The novel was a war story set in Afghanistan. I have always had an interest in the military and thoroughly enjoyed writing action sequences. I was very inspired by the elite units of the army. Unfortunately, I never got back to writing it after I went to university, though I hope someday I will look back and complete it.”
Throughout his teens, he wrote short horror stories as part of his degree and he got a first-class honours for his dissertation.
“I suppose my fascination with horror stems from the films I would watch as a child – I am a big fan of visual director Tim Burton, whose work is often described as uncanny. I am a reader of the gothic genre of fiction; I find it interesting that humans enjoy watching or reading scenes of awful torture and pure horror, all while sitting comfortably in the safety of their home. It is strange; I still can’t find a reason for why so many of us enjoy horror, as much as we do.”
Later, in his second year at university, he was inspired to write a children’s book after having enrolled in a ‘writing children’s fiction’ module where he was deeply inspired by Lecturer Christie Watson. Christie is the winner of the Costa Award, an award presented to a newly published writer for outstanding first novels. It is inspiring to see a young student want to be the one to encourage children to read at an early age!
“I started writing ‘Selfish Mr. Raven’ while at university and finished it shortly after I graduated.”
This book features a number of short stories for children, each with a moral message. All the stories are set in the woods, and the four main characters (Mr. Raven, Pumble, Todo and Banjo) appear collectively in every story. In a way like a TV series, each chapter has a different story line but the same characters play the parts! Children’s books need illustrations and this book is peppered with them under the creativity of Romanian artist Natalia Maroz whose art is usually very dark.
“Her illustrations remind me of the work done by Tim Burton, and I needed to find an illustrator who could capture that dark aspect while keeping it child-friendly. The strange personifications of animals as humans (as seen through Mr. Raven on the cover art) suited my stories perfectly. With the little money I had as a student, I bought the rights to use the illustrations and bring the stories to life.”
The book is aimed at three to five-year-olds; even though it does contain some dark themes. The author wants these stories to help enhance the reader’s dreams while they learn new things in the process. It is an ideal book for parents to read to their children. Some stories contain big words that are perhaps better explained by an adult thus encouraging children to ask questions and learn new vocabulary.
The story is about this selfish individual who never has time for anyone, thus the Selfish Mr. Raven title. The story starts a storm in the woods and Mr. Raven gets very frightened. He seeks someone to help him, but nobody wants to help as he has never bothered about others. Throughout the story, Mr. Raven experiences a sense of rebirth and becomes a better person in the process; learning his lessons through his mistakes. Through this, children can become more conscience of helping others and not become selfish but more empathetic instead. Amongst the other characters featured in the stories is Pumble, a small white rabbit that has a lot to tell.
“As a child, I would always ask my mum to read me a story before bed. I was always very interested in uncanny tales with an element of darkness (perhaps this is why I also write horror). I remember my grandmother used to read me stories from the ‘ladybird’ collection whenever I would visit, and on days when I would stay over to sleep she would narrate me stories about my favourite game character, Sonic the Hedgehog, completely improvised before bedtime.” This improvisation must have given reign to this young man’s mind so early in life he decided to write a book himself.
The book will be launched online at lulu.com and amazon.com. Locally, buyers can also get in touch with the author to obtain a copy.
words | Sonia Golt BEM