How to write non-fiction
PUBLISHED: 18:49 25 October 2013 | UPDATED: 18:49 25 October 2013
‘Truth is stranger than fiction’ and these Kent authors show just how diverse and entertaining it can be
Genre: Big history
Location: Leigh, nr Tonbridge
Christopher Lloyd’s wallbooks are proof that history and science don’t have to be boring. Taking inspiration from the Bayeux tapestry, their timeline designs are filled with pictures and captions that allow the reader to start anywhere they choose and see an overview of what happened globally at a given point in time.
Unfolding like a concertina, the books can be spread out on the floor, put up on the wall or read like a book. The challenge, says Christopher, “is that it needs to look good from a distance and not disappoint close up.”
Planning such a detailed book could be an overwhelming task, but Christopher says: “What I do is create a massive great big spreadsheet and put everything in it. It doesn’t involve any particular new research, but it is a redesign and reformulation of what’s already known in a more accessible format.”
It took Christopher two months to create the initial hand-drawn, scaled draft of his first wallbook, From the Big Bang to the Present Day, and he ended up with 16 pieces of paper sellotaped together.
This painstaking process was repeated for the next book, but he happily admits that using a design programme for his forthcoming book on Shakespeare is making the process much quicker.
When he’s not writing, Christopher gives talks in schools and museums and has a ‘coat of many pockets’ that allows him to present each wallbook through the use of props in 60 minutes.
When asked what’s inside the pockets an array of toy trains, paints, empty jam jars, knitting needles, matches and even a pair of comedy breasts appear.
Christopher’s favourite visit was to a school in Wales, where he suggested that the most amazing moment in golf history was when Alan Shepherd became the first person to take a golf shot on the moon.
A little girl called Naomi put up her hand and asked: “Excuse me sir, did he go and pick it up or is it still there?”
Christopher says: “That comment was everything I could wish for, a child who is thinking beyond, she’s not just listening, she’s engaging and wondering.” n