Shinoy and the Chaos Crew

Chris
Callaghan

I was a reluctant reader when I was young, although that term wasn’t around then. Like most writers, I write what I would like to read. So, I’ve always made stories that get straight into the action. I think a lot of reluctant readers have huge imaginations and want to get into the story quickly and they see reading as a slow way of doing that. My debut novel, The Great Chocoplot, has often been mentioned in getting reluctant readers reading. Therefore, planning for reluctant readers didn’t really happen, it’s just the way I naturally write.

Chris Callaghan

Shinoy discovers that he has the power to bring his TV heroes into the real world. They must unite to fight an evil artificial intelligence lurking nearby. Inspired by gaming and fantasy, this is a sure-fire hit with reluctant readers and perfect for ages 7 – 9. Brilliantly written and superbly illustrated, it’s a must have for school libraries! It truly is a SUPER series!


I’d like to thank the wonderful Chris Callaghan, who has supported VIP Reading since it beginnings in 2018, for joining us today in the VIP Reading blog. 

First, congratulations to you and the Chaos Crew team for producing a wonderful series, which I have thoroughly enjoyed reading. Can you describe the series for anyone interested?

Awww, thank you, that is so good to hear!

This action and adventure series is about a young boy called Shinoy whose favourite TV programme is called The Chaos Crew. He has a Chaos Crew app on his phone, which would normally allow him to play games or watch clips of the show, but it has a glitch! This glitch means that whenever he presses the app, members of the Chaos Crew are transported directly to him at home or at school or wherever. The glitch creates a link between the TV world and the real world, and lots of crazy things start to happen – usually caused by S.N.A.I.R., the Chaos Crew’s evil nemesis! Shinoy’s family and best friend (and dog, Milo) are often brought into the unexpected adventures and chaos follows.

The series touches on themes of fantasy and gaming, but where did the inspiration behind the series come from? 

I imagined myself a young lad again, but in the present day, and wondered what kind of things would interest me. I used to love TV programmes like ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ and ‘The Professionals’, so I made up my own modern TV series – The Chaos Crew. I thought how cool it would be to bring your heroes into your own house and go off on adventures with them. The stories had to be contemporary and revolve around the things that kids do today.

Can you name a few of your favourite titles from the series and why they mean so much to you?

Oh, this is so difficult! The very first Shinoy story I wrote was ‘The Day the Rain Fell Up’, so that will always be special. It also became a kind of benchmark and was often used as an example of the sort of wacky and surreal sense that we wanted in the rest of the stories. Similarly, the very last story I wrote (from the reading books) was ‘The Day of the Risky Rescue’ and that was a pleasure to write. Even though the books can be read in any order, this had a Season Finale feel to me. Shinoy gets to go into the Chaos Crew’s world with his dad and come to their rescue for a change, which was great fun.

But of the graphic novels, ‘Mission: Mega Meteorite’ appeals to my sense of humour with an unexpected event in the Science Museum. Also, as I’ve always had in interest in the Moon, it was great to write “Mission: Lunar Lander’ where Shinoy and his family accidentally arrive on the Moon in their car. As you do!

Shinoy finds that he has the power to summon his TV heroes into the real world. Where did the inspiration for him and his ‘super’ friends come from?

The name Shinoy came about after looking for days and days through lists and lists of names. I wanted something distinctive and short (as I’m lazy and knew I would have to type it out a gazillion times!) and I came across this Hindu name that meant ‘peacemaker’. This seemed an appropriate name for the main character in a series of adventures between good and evil. It’s also a great word to say out loud. Try it, it’s very pleasing!

I’ve always loved superhero comics and I think we have recently seen a golden age of superhero films. I wanted my own batch of heroes, but to make them different. They don’t have superpowers but have their own special abilities. They fight the powers of chaos using their experience, science and cunning. And there’s a talking dog too!

With such a large series, many people have been involved. What was it like collaborating with other talented folk?

A real joy of this process has been working with so many incredibly talented people. I got on immediately with my Editor, Zoë Clarke (who also wrote seven of the books). We have the same sense of humour and were always on the same wavelength – we often emailed each other, at the same time with similar ideas – weird! But the whole team at Collins Big Cat were hugely supportive and everyone just wanted to make these books as good as we could.

It has been especially wonderful seeing all the artwork from our amazing illustrator, Amit Tayal. His art is such a massive part of these books and really make them stand out. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve said, “Wow!” whenever I see his stuff. It’s been an honour to work with such a friendly and professional bunch of people and I have learned a LOT.

Aimed at reluctant readers, this series is keen to engage them in things that may be of interest. Where did you start when planning for this audience?

I was a reluctant reader when I was young, although that term wasn’t around then. Like most writers, I write what I would like to read. So, I’ve always made stories that get straight into the action. I think a lot of reluctant readers have huge imaginations and want to get into the story quickly and they see reading as a slow way of doing that. My debut novel, The Great Chocoplot, has often been mentioned in getting reluctant readers reading. Therefore, planning for reluctant readers didn’t really happen, it’s just the way I naturally write. I believe this was one of the reasons I was asked to create a new Big Cat series. I hope it works!!

What was it like writing a book-banded series for Collins Primary?

Thankfully, the good people at Collins just wanted me to concentrate of writing fun stories. Even though these are technically ‘educational’ books, the emphasis has always been on engaging young readers. The lower banded books are only 600 words long, which are staggeringly hard to fit a complete story into! But as the bands increased, so did the wordcount and we were able to put more descriptions and complex ideas into the stories.

The team at Big Cat are so experienced at producing fabulous books that they guided me along without it ever feeling like it was a chore.

Writing such a large series of books, I can imagine there must have been challenges as well as some exciting positives. What were they?

Oh yes. So much time and effort has gone into making each story completely different from the others. In a large series this has been so much hard work but such a great challenge. Whenever some similarities did creep in, Zoë (my eagle-eyed editor) would spot them, and we’d think of something else.

Also, because of the global market hopefully awaiting Shinoy’s adventures, we had to be considerate of so many customs and superstitions. For example, when writing the stories, I often wanted someone to give a simple ‘thumbs-up’ sign, but in some places of the world this means something very different, so we couldn’t do it. And because of some belief systems we couldn’t mention sausages, which I usually forgot about. I’ve surprised myself how often I want to write about sausages!

What do you hope children will get from reading the Shinoy and the Chaos crew series?

Most of all, I’d want them to have FUN! But I would love it if children, who don’t normally pick up a book or who don’t enjoy reading, would feel a sense of achievement by finishing a story and realise that reading can be a pleasure. Hopefully, they might pick up another Shinoy story to read. Then another and another. Then maybe find other books to read. That would be amazing!

I’m sure that we would all love to know whether you are working on any other books. What are you allowed to tell us?

Ha! I’d love to return to Shinoy’s world at some point. There were lots of ideas that we couldn’t fit into the series, and they have been so much fun to work on. But it’s been lovely returning to a story I was writing before the Shinoy adventures took over my life. It’s about a young boy who discovers his teacher has a secret. It’s a good secret and it’s a BIG secret! But then I also have a story in my head about a girl who has a particularly crazy thing happen to her … sorry, I’ve said too much. Us writers like to keep our ideas to ourselves!  I have so many bonkers things whizzing around in my head that I’m trying to type out. We’ll see what happens!

Finally, can you describe the series in 3 words?

Fan. Flipping. Tastic.


Q & A hosted by
Rob McCann