ANYONE who’s ever wondered if there’s more to the British weather than meets the eye will be right at home with an author’s debut short story collection.
Tony Smith’s unusual first book, Making Rain and Other Things is Our Business, follows the adventures of the crew of cloud machine Nimbus carrying out top-secret work creating weather for the Government.
The Atherton author came up with the idea for his quirky and imaginative set of tales as a way of combining his interests in aviation and writing, and has seen his stories reach the market thanks to an American on-demand publishing house.
Tony, who hopes to secure enough success for his debut to be able to publish two further collections of short stories he has written, says he started out on his path to becoming an author in an unusual way.
Tony, 70, said: “I was on holiday with my family in the Netherlands in 1987 and my youngest daughter met a Dutch girl who amazed me with her fluency in the English language. She hadn’t been taught it, she’d just picked it up from the TV.
“When I got home I started writing a couple of short stories and sent them off to the girl’s father for him to translate and read to the Dutch schoolchildren.
“After that I was too busy to write until about 2011 when I had retired and decided to write some more stories.
“I wanted the new ones to be more adult, as the Dutch children I had originally written for had grown up.”
Tony’s stories are based around the intriguing premise that, during World War Two, the government set up a secret system of cloud machines delivering weather to order, based at a headquarters in the North West.
He decided to make the crew of a cloud machine the centre of the book due to a long-standing love of aviation, including spending time as a gliding enthusiast and working with air cadets, and takes them on adventures the length and breadth of the British Isles with stories set in locations including Northern Ireland and the remote Scottish island of St Kilda.
Tony also credits an inspirational lecturer he met while doing an education degree for his love of the written word.
He said: “I was teaching radio and TV at a technical college and one of the things we had to do in the degree course was English.
“Up until then I’d never really read anything other than aviation and military books, but he got me interested in all sorts of things I would never have dreamed of reading, such as George Orwell’s essays and Aldous Huxley’s books.
“My interest in aviation gave me a lot of the technical details in the book, and I also became interested in the weather because as a glider pilot you have to know about that.”
Tony was also persuaded to pick up his pen again by his love of brass bands, as while helping out Westhoughton’s Wingates Band as contest secretary he met composer and tenor horn player Lucy Pankhurst, who said she wanted to make his fiction the subject of a series of pieces.
She has completed four works based on his stories, and the first, Mr Sonneman’s Unusual Solution, received its premiere by the Leyland Band yesterday.
He said: “I think it was the music that actually inspired me to write again.
“Lucy’s pieces are very individual and distinctive, so when she said she wanted to write pieces for me I was very excited.”
Making Rain and Other Things is Our Business, by Tony Smith, is out now. To find out more, visit www.makingrainandotherthingsisourbusiness.com