Writing World: Sheilah Lukins on Flying Ace

Writing World: Sheilah Lukins on Flying Ace

Flying Ace, the newest adventure of Errol the Mouse, is the backdrop of the adorable children’s series by writer Sheilah Lukins that inspires the kid in us all

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Even the smallest creatures can find themselves on the biggest adventures. That is the backdrop of Flying Ace: Errol’s Gander Adventure, the sequel to the award-winning children’s book Full Speed Ahead: Errol’s Bell Island Adventure by St. Philips native Sheilah Lukins. 

Winner of the 2018 Bruneau Family Children’s/Young Adult Litreature Award, Full Speed Ahead followed an adventurous little mouse from Beachy Cove named Errol. 

In this family-friendly followup, Errol takes to the sky when he meets a young girl with a special toy airplane, which sees him transported across the Atlantic on a top secret mission that may or may not take the young mouse on a trip through time.

Garbage box mice

For Lukins, the Errol saga, like most things, came about by happenstance. 

“Like everything it sorta came out of thin air,” the author begins. “I live out in the country and of course in the country there’s lots of mice and rats and everything imaginable that sort of wander into your garden. And of course we have the old Newfoundland wooden garbage box at the end of the driveway. One day we just noticed there was some digging underneath it, so we figured we had a either a family of rats or a family of mice. So I just thought well mice… The garbage box mice. I just go by sound a lot. I just like the ring of the garbage box mice. And I thought that would make a nice children’s story.”

The nearby Bell Island provided the backdrop for Errol’s first adventure, a welcome and under-appreciated scenic site that sparked what will be a series. Lukins already has ideas to place Errol in Twillingate, L’Anse Aux Meadows, Bonavista and maybe even abroad. The possibilities are limitless. 

“After I had written it the idea came for a series because it just seemed like so much sense to go everywhere,” she admits.  “I’ve got about 15 different ideas already.”

Compliment to a story

Lukins partnered with illustrator Laurel Keating on project, a fruitful relationship that sees the spunky mouse burst off the page with vibrant colour, a perfect compliment to a story that doesn’t take the imaginations, or the intelligence, of children for granted.

“Myself and Laurel, it’s like we were joined at the brain or something,” Lukins laughs. “She saw everything perfectly. I expected working with an illustrator that I would have to go back and forth and say well this detail is not right or that’s not quite what I had in mind. Nope, not once. Everything she did was perfect from the get-go. There was no argument about anything.”

Flying Ace and the rapidly expanding Errol universe provide rich stories, vibrant pictures and an education to both children and adults alike. The adventurous protagonist, as adorable as he is, has all the tools to inspire a new wave of dreamers. 

“Errol is a little bit adventurous and I think that appeals to kids. It’s got a bit of story and a little bit of history as well, a little bit of where they’re from,” Lukins says. “They can relate to Gander, they can relate to Bell Island. They can look out the window if they live in Portugal Cove and say hey that’s just across! That story is about where I live.  

“I sort of thought adventure is something they see in movies but do they really experience themselves?,” she adds. “I’m sort of hoping to plant the germ of adventure in the children. Maybe their parents will take them on an adventure. I know people can’t just wander off now without sort of running into dangers. We keep telling our kids don’t talk to strangers, don’t go out alone. But maybe kids can go on adventures safely with their parents, go places, visit things, learn that way. So that was sort of the concept behind the books.”

And why write? That is a complex question that hearkens Lukins back to her own childhood. The page is her playground, and the ever evolving world of Errol, the toy that keeps on giving. 

“As I said to a friend of mine the other day, I just never grew up,” Lukins laughs.
“So I mean writing is like being back in the play room again. I don’t think I’ll ever leave the play room. I’ve never really grown up properly. Writing is just fun. It’s playing with toys.”

For more on Flying Ace and the adventures of Errol visit breakwaterbooks.com and errolthemouse.com

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