Mary Irvine’s Blog: The Magic Scales by Paul Murdoch
I recently met with author Paul Murdoch , who is asthmatic, to talk about his latest publication ‘The Magic Scales’.
Living with asthma
“At four years old I remember rolling down a grassy hill on a summer’s day. I tried to take a breath, but I couldn’t. This carried on throughout my childhood. Sometimes I would be fine, but then I’d start wheezing – usually when I caught a cold – and I just got used to it. I wasn’t formally diagnosed with asthma until I was in my early 20s. I was flying back home to Glasgow from a skiing holiday, and I began struggling to breathe – perhaps from being constantly exposed to cold air. When we landed I went straight to hospital.”
What are the Life-time effects?
“Initially, I used a reliever and a preventer inhaler every day but, I admit, I was rubbish at taking them and I stopped using the preventer, only taking the reliever when I felt short of breath. My pharmacist reminded me that I was overdue for an asthma check-up the other day, so I’m going in a few weeks, I know regular reviews are really important.”
How did asthma inspire a story idea?
“I have two sons who live with asthma. Joe has it mildly while Ryan has more severe symptoms. One had a really bad attack at the age of eleven. We were on holiday staying a very damp cottage. Ryan, then 11, had an asthma attack and had to go to hospital. He was there for four days on a nebuliser and it was a really scary time. To entertain him, I began telling stories about a boy who had adventures in fantasy lands with dragons and monsters. He was frustrated with me because I kept forgetting the characters’ names and wanted me to write them down, so that’s how the idea for my books were born.
The hero, James Peck lives with asthma. Why?
“Ryan asked me if could make the main character have asthma like him, so I did.”
“I created the boy-hero James Peck, who has asthma. People with asthma are often portrayed as weak in films and books, so I wanted to show children with asthma that they are just as able as other children and their condition shouldn’t stop them doing things. Just look at all the people with asthma who have achieved great things, like David Beckham and Bradley Wiggins. The book also mentions James using his asthma inhaler. This will hopefully help kids who are embarrassed to take out their inhaler in front of their peers, and help spread the message that, when managed properly, asthma need not be a barrier to living a full, healthy and adventurous lifestyle.”
Review of ‘The Magic Scales’
Although this book will probably be categorised as ‘Young Adult’ and end up in that section in many libraries I would recommend that many adults would enjoy the story, especially if they are ‘into’ fantasy. All the elements are there – adventure, magic, excitement, drama, together with that touch of humour so characteristic of this author, who has a fantastic imagination. All are woven together in a story packed with action which keeps the reader spell-bound to the very end. The characters are well written, distinct and believable – even the fantasy ones. Particularly intriguing is the wizard goldfish, Mendel. An important aspect of the book is that the hero, James Peck, lives with asthma. This is one of those ‘hidden’ disabilities that can be ignored but James (or rather Paul) shows how a boy deals with asthma while embarking on his quest. There are occasions, not overdone, when James’ asthma does come to the fore but with Mendel’s help, he overcomes those times. A well crafted book all round and a joy to read good writing. I would recommend you join James in his truly ‘fantastic’ quest to find his father.
Launches of the book will be taking place throughout October/November, 2023 so keep an eye out for dates in your area.
Mary Irvine, September, 2023
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- George Paterson Book Launch: Westerwick
- Reclaim the River, Poetry and Music