LOCAL author Derek Keilty has been shortlisted for the CBI (Children’s Book Ireland) Book of the Year Award, the biggest prize for authors in Ireland.
Dunmurry man Derek, whose tale of Will Gallows, a young elfling sky cowboy, has captured children’s imaginations, is one of nine authors shortlisted for six awards, including the Children’s Choice Award voted for by ten junior juries located across the country. Derek’s tale of cowboys and snake bellied trolls will compete against the likes of Roddy Doyle for the Book of the Year Award and a top prize of 10,000 Euros. Derek’s nomination comes hot on the heels of the film rights to Will Gallows and the Snake-bellied Troll, the first in the Will Gallows series, having been snapped up by Elton John’s production company, Rocket Pictures.
Speaking about his nomination, Derek said: “It’s surreal. I was delighted to be shortlisted as this competition is Ireland-wide. A ceremony to announce the winners will be held in Dublin in May, I’m looking forward to it. With the film as well, it has been a good year.”
Derek has met with producers in London every few months for updates on the movie of Will Gallows and the Snake-bellied Troll, which will be a live-action/CGI-animated feature, since the announcement of the film last July. With Rocket Pictures the brains behind smash hits such as Gnomeo and Juliet in recent years and Shrek 2 director, Kelly Asbury, on board as director, hopes are high that Will Gallows and his quest for justice will triumph at the box office. Derek, however, is impatient to see Will brought to life. “I hate waiting,” he admitted. “At least I know it’s ahead of me, but I just want it now. I get updates and a few months ago I met with the producer. He was very excited and I got a good impression. In the film industry you never know what will happen, especially in today’s climate, but last July everyone was on board and the screenplay was being written.”
Derek has also been shown a mood reel, which producers hope the finished article will look like. “They had put together clips from films, westerns mixed with Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, to show what it will be like. It’s amazing,” said Derek.
Derek, who previously worked in Bow House in the city and is still with the Civil Service, was inspired to write by his children Sarah-Jane and Rebekah, now 17. He explained: “Even from Primary School I would write and create my own books and write the blurbs for them and in my teens I sent poems away to be published. I didn’t write much in my 20’s and it was in my 30’s that I started to think about it again when my own two children were bringing books home. My children inspired me. I decided to write a children’s book as it would be shorter and I didn’t have much time with work. My first book was out in 2003 with a small publisher in Dublin and it’s gone from there.”
Derek’s inspiration for Will Gallows came from his own interests. “I enjoyed watching western films when I was growing up and reading fantasy books like The Hobbit and decided to put the two together.”
Derek’s series has now been translated into five languages and are sold in Spain, Germany, Brazil and Israel, with the books going on sale in France in May. With Will Gallows and the Thunder Dragon’s Roar, the second book in the series released in February, Derek will write another two books for the series, however, there could still be more. “I have just finished the third book which will be released in February 2013 with the fourth in February 2014. The contract is for four but there could be more, if possible. If the publishers want them, I’m happy to write them.”