Tin Boy

Guest Q&A with Steve Cole.

The unforgettable new story from Steve Cole Tin Boy is published on 15th September and to celebrate it’s publication from Barrington Stoke we asked Steve questions about where he got inspiration for the book and a variety of other questions.

1. Describe your book in 5 words.
‘Miracles need people to happen.’

2. Can you tell us a bit about where the inspiration for Tin Boy came from?
I was actually researching another book when I discovered how important tin is to electronics. It’s used as solder for circuit boards in phones, laptops, cars and so on – and much of it is produced at a cost both to the environment and to the people who mine it. The big companies that use the tin aren’t always careful about where it comes from, and when I learned about the thousands of illegal tin miners in Indonesia, and how whole families, even children, would risk their lives scavenging in exhausted pits left behind by the official companies, it was a reminder that our consumerist society comes with hidden costs. The basics of Tono’s story came into my head almost at once: his finding the stone in the bottom of a pit and believing he might have special powers to help people.

3. Tono is fascinated with the idea of superheroes and comic books. What were your favourites as a child and now?
Spider-Man and the Hulk were my special favourites. It wasn’t just the action stuff I loved; I found the trials of their personal lives just as compelling. When danger threatened, Peter Parker was always running off to change into Spider-Man so people thought he was a coward. And thanks to the Hulk, Bruce Banner was a hunted fugitive who longed for a normal life. So there was a price to being a hero. I still love Spidey today. But Iron Man comes a close second, and of course ‘Tin Boy’ plays on his name.  

4. The issues around tin mining and exploitation that Tin Boy touches on are very deftly handled in the book. How did you learn about it and why did you want to write about this? 
Thank you. After finding out something of the cost of unregulated tin mining by chance I did a lot more research and found that the situation generally isn’t well documented or discussed. So, without preaching, I just wanted to tell a human story in that setting and explore some of the attitudes. Tono is more of an idealist dreamer who wants to change the world about him, whereas Kemala is more pragmatic, wanting to better her lot in the world she knows. 

5. What appeals to you about reading or writing short stories and novellas?
I love the pace and energy of short fiction, the attack. Growing up I loved reading spooky anthologies from the library, or short SF stories by John Wyndham or Isaac Asimov. They were like portals to different worlds and times. You could read one tale in a day and explore another the next.

6. Who or what made you into a reader? Can you remember a specific book or moment?
My childhood reading was dominated by Doctor Who novelisations, Peanuts cartoon paperbacks and Spider-Man comics. From my point of view, these made for pretty well-rounded and complementary reading – Doctor Who always won, Charlie Brown always lost and while Spider-Man was often victorious, his alter-ego was forever losing the war. I built large collections and would read and re-read them. So I can relate to Tono, staring at the same old comics over and over again.

7. What are you currently reading at the moment, and who would you recommend it to?

I’m in a bit of a time warp at the moment. Currently reading The Travels of Maudie Tipstaff by Margaret Forster, which as well as being brilliant fun is also a fascinating social document of the late 1960s. 

8. What will we see from you next?
Next up is young series fiction with the third title in my Adventure Duck trilogy in January and another Mr Dog title with Ben Fogle. And after that … we shall see.

Tin Boy is written by Steve Cole, Illustrated by Oriol Vidal and published by Barrington Stoke.

The views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the FCBG.

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