Flight instructor Martyn Blunden and his series of children's books
PUBLISHED: 15:03 16 June 2017
With his new series of time-travelling adventures Shoreham's Martyn Blunden is allowing his imagination to take flight, as he tells Duncan Hall
When Martyn Blunden was a youngster he and his friends spent hours pretending a triangular chicken coop was an aeroplane he could fly around the world.
Now Shoreham Beach-based Martyn, 61, lives out his flight dreams as an instructor based at Brighton City Airport, and allows his imagination to roam in a series of books for nine to 14-year-olds based around young time traveller Charlie Green.
The first book, Charlie Green and the Pirate Treasure, was published by Matador last year, and is followed this month by Charlie Green and the Underground Railroad. Both books, and a projected third about King Arthur, are based around the titular 11-year-old Charlie and the magical time-travelling aeroplane he finds in a deserted aerodrome behind his new family home.
Martyn describes Charlie as a mix of himself and his youngest daughter Lexie, 10, just part of the influence his family has on his writing, from the support of his wife Helen, 47, to the advice from elder daughter Jaye, 14, who not only created the initial designs for his front covers but also makes suggestions on his first drafts.
The first book was penned longhand over several years during family holidays. Health problems last year meant he was grounded from flying, but that gave him time to focus on his second novel, completing it in four months. It takes inspiration from escaped slave Harriet Tubman, who set up the titular underground railroad in the US to help fellow slaves escape their oppressors. In 2020 her portrait will appear on a redesigned US 20 dollar bill.
His ulterior motive is to encourage young readers to explore history. Each book has a glossary giving details of real-life characters featured in the story. “It’s about bringing history to life,” says Martyn, who regularly visits local schools to talk about his book, armed with a sabre, a compass on a gimbal to help counter the rocking of a ship, and a very popular flintlock pistol, all featured in the story.
Being a published writer is a third career for Steyning-born Martyn who left school at 18 with a dream of being a pilot. After missing out on the RAF he took a job on a farm to make some money, and after five years had set up his own business as an agricultural engineer. He decided to become a flight instructor in his late 30s, having learnt how to fly in the mid-1970s. “I didn’t want to be mending tractors in cold fields for the next 15 or 20 years,” he says. “I used to work in places where your hands would get so cold they would stick to the spanners.” He has spent the last 20 years teaching and examining wannabe pilots.
Born in Steyning, and having lived in Henfield and Beding, he has spent the last decade-and-a-half in Shoreham Beach. His favourite places include the Shoreham to Steyning cycle path, following the old steam train line which ran past the rear of his childhood home and an ancient hill fort north-west of his childhood home. “When I was at school we used to do cross country runs up to the Chanctonbury Ring,” he says. “I still like going up to the beech woods above Wiston – there are some fantastic views.”
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