LITTLE RIDGE – Jan Lister Caldwell of Little Ridge has recently released second editions of two books in her children’s series, The Bill Little Adventures. She is also working on two more stories for the series, which will be published as soon as she does the rewrites and new covers. Lister Caldwell wrote the first version several years ago when her son encouraged her to write because he liked her stories better than the ones she read to him from other books.
“When he was a kid, dinosaurs were his love,” said Lister Caldwell. “I always wrote. I wrote as a kid, and that’s what I wanted. Then I thought, ‘it’s not something I can do. It’s too much. I’ll never get there’. But when I was reading to him and made up stories, he liked what I made up better. I thought, ‘heck, if you don’t try, I’m not going to be sitting here thinking later I didn’t try’, so I started back into writing again.”
Lister Caldwell said the books are not based on her son. She created a story of a young boy who travels back in time and ends up being surrounded by dinosaurs. The first book in the series centers around the main character, Bill, and it is about survival and growing up.
“I just put kind of a situation of, what can a kid get into, that maybe they were able to travel back in time and put him in that situation for survival with dinosaurs and growing up,” said Lister Caldwell. “Then I wrote a second one with dinosaurs, and I wrote a third one. One of the characters is young Prince Richard, you know, King Richard the Lionhearted. It’s got some pictures. They’re all based on using a machine by a mysterious character. Nobody seems to know who he is or where he came from, but he has this thing.”
When writing about time travel and fantasy, it can be difficult to make the story realistic. Lister Caldwell said she does her best to make her books as realistic as possible, all while keeping that element of fantasy. In Time-Travel Runaway, Bill has to deal with things like bullying, survival, and growing up, along with moving and his frustrations with his parents.
“I try to make it as real as possible, as much as you can with time travel and fantasy, and then I did a lot of research on dinosaurs,” said Lister Caldwell. “In the two that have dinosaurs, I’ve got a glossary in the back explaining how pronounce things and where people might look up things, and just encourage kids to read. As the characters get older, the story line might get a little harder. It’s kind of graded reading. As they get older, it gets a little more involved.”
The second book in the series, Only Child, sees a new character introduced. Donnie is Bill’s cousin, and Lister Caldwell said he has been “knocked around a bit”, which caused him to become a bully. She said the book deals with a lot of family issues, as well as growing up and accepting things as they are. The third installment in the series, The Young Lion: The Castle Curse, will see a female character, who will become Bill’s first love. In the fourth book, Captain Blackheart’s Gold, cousin Donnie will have a larger role, and will have to be “more heroic”.
“There’s another character, they go back to the early 20th century, and it’s kind of a pirate thing,” said Lister Caldwell. “The character that’s tied to this mysterious neighbour is a really bad guy and they have to deal with him. There’s another female character that, she wants to be more than she is, and people don’t think much of her. They kind of help her see her for what she really is. One of the things is her looks. She’s not a good looking girl, so people were dismissing her, but she is super-smart.”
Lister Caldwell, a former writer for the Daily Gleaner in Fredericton, said she has been asked several times if she is going to write for adults. She said she doesn’t like to think of her work as “writing down” to kids, and she adds things to her books that will make them think and have to do a bit of research, such as learning about dinosaurs. She said she loved to read as a child, and often read books that were older than what was available for her own age group, and these are the stories that have stuck with her in her adult life.
“The stories you read as a kid, they really open your mind to literature and adventure,” said Lister Caldwell. “They always hang with you. A lot of them weren’t obviously meant for kids, but kids are our treasure, and I think having any kind of a positive impact and maybe they can learn a little bit is more important than anything. It’s not that I don’t want to write for adults. I did it for feature stories. I enjoy this, and I enjoy thinking maybe somebody would read these and remember them.”
Lister Caldwell, who will be retiring from her position at the Dragonfly Centre for Autism in Saint Andrews in a couple of weeks, said she plans to continue with her writing. She also does all of her own artwork, and said she hates to just do a piece of art and hang it on her own wall for no one to be able to see, so she incorporates photos of her artwork into her books. One that she plans to use in the future is a painting she did of her dog, which sadly had to be put down in April. The picture is of her dog walking along a wooded path in the winter time, and she said it was the last time the dog was able to walk this far.
“I’ve got children’s poetry that I want to put out again with some re-writes, and colour photos of my artwork. I thought The Winter Walk, because it’s one of my favourites. It was the last time we were walking together.”
Lister Caldwell’s books are available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.