Ross Welford worked as a business journalist before becoming a freelance writer and television producer, working on shows such as The Big Breakfast, This Morning and Bridezillas. He lives in London with his wife, children, dog and tropical fish.
Ross's highly acclaimed debut novel, Time Travelling with a Hamster, was shortlisted for nearly every major literary award including the Costa Book Award and he has now written eight middle grade novels including The 1000 Year Old Boy, The Kid Who Came From Space, Into the Sideways World and The Monkey Who Fell From the Future.
Time Travelling with a Tortoise (HarperCollins Children's Books) January 2024
In Time Travelling with a Tortoise, the sequel to Time Travelling with a Hamster, we revisit the world of Al Chaudhury and his family to find out how Al's time travel adventures have affected his family. Not everything, we discover, has ended happily ever after... Can time travelling one more time put everything right?
Review: Clever and compelling, Time Travelling with a Tortoise is a worthy sequel to Time Travelling with a Hamster!
Ross Welford introduces Time Travelling with a Hamster, and tells ReadingZone what took him back to
writing about time travel and to revisiting the world of Al Chaudhury and his family:
1. Thank you for joining us on ReadingZone, Ross. Can you tell us a little about the kinds of books you write, and what draws you to writing about subjects like time travel and parallel dimensions?
It's a pleasure to be here! I always struggle to define my stories and usually end up with saying they're blend of science-fiction, fantasy and magic in a real-world setting. Perhaps it would be easier to say that I write about what happens when science and magic collide. I like creating illusions and making impossible things seems as though they may be possible. I'm fond of the quote by Arthur C Clarke: "Any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic."
2. Your latest book, Time Travelling with a Tortoise, follows on from your debut, Time Travelling with a Hamster; what happens in each book?
Time Travelling With A Hamster, opens with 12 year-old Al Chaudhury receiving a mysterious letter containing instructions on where he will find a time machine that his father was working on before he died. Of course, Al experiments with the time machine, going back to 1984 where he meets his own dad as a boy. And that's where things start to go very wrong indeed, and Al must use all his courage and intelligence to put his world back in order.
In Time Travelling With A Tortoise we learn that all is not quite right with Al: the space-time chaos he caused forces him to risk another trip in the time-machine and face up to some difficult - even heart-breaking - decisions, in order to put everything right.
"It was so much fun 'meeting' them again, although I think I'll avoid time travel as a theme
for a while: it's very hard to write!"
3. How has your life changed since your debut was published, and what took you back to the world of the time-travelling hamster?
I had no idea that being a children's writer affords so many opportunities to meet my readers all around the country, and indeed the world. So I travel a lot to schools and festivals, talking to children, parents, librarians and teachers, presenting writing workshops and my show The Magic of Reading.
Everywhere, people tell me of their love for Time Travelling With A Hamster, so it was kind of inevitable that one day I would return to that world and those characters. It was so much fun 'meeting' them again, although I think I'll avoid time travel as a theme for a while: it's very hard to write!
4. Why did you decide to travel back to the time of dinosaurs in this story - would you, if you could? And if not, when would you like to time-travel to?
I think this was probably inspired by meeting so many children and asking them where they would go in a time machine. The answer 'to the time of dinosaurs' was a regular favourite! And no - I'm quite comfortable viewing dinosaurs in a museum or on TV, thank you. If I could time travel, I think I'd choose to go to the future, seeking some sort of reassurance that humanity will be okay in the end.
5. How confusing does time travel get when writing about it, and what are your rules for time travel? Have any films or books helped inspire your own time travel adventures?
It is full of contradictions, that's for sure. The greatest is the so-called "grandfather paradox" which proves that time travel is impossible. (If you had a time machine, you could go back 80 years and kill your own grandfather as a boy; that means you would never be born, therefore you'd never be able to go back in time and kill him…). I try not to pay too much attention to other books and films in that genre otherwise I fear I'd end up copying them.
"Al is so determined to change his world that he causes space-time chaos ... It is only when he accepts
the reality of his situation that he can overcome his hardships and achieve peace and happiness."
6. Al's journeys are great adventures but also leave us with a lot to think about in the 'real world'. What would you like your readers to take from Al's time travels?
Al is so determined to change his world that he causes space-time chaos - and ends up in greater trouble than before. It is only when he accepts the reality of his situation and the world that he is in, that he can overcome his hardships and achieve peace and happiness.
7. Careful readers will spot a cameo appearance from you, the author - do you make an appearance in any of your other books?
Do you mean the collie-owning uncle who does magic tricks? Well spotted - it's not exactly a cameo, but it is indeed inspired by me! I'm not in any other books, apart from Boydy in What Not To Do If You Turn invisible who is a bit like an 11 year-old me.
8. Are you still performing magic tricks? Do you have anything special planned for events with this book - perhaps a disappearing tortoise or hamster?
I definitely still perform magic. My school show includes several science- and magic-related tricks. As yet, I have no plans to vanish a tortoise, though!
9. Do you have any 'real world' adventures planned for 2024? And any New Year resolutions?
I am visiting schools in Saudi Arabia in the spring, and I hope to be going back India soon, where my books are popular. My diary is also filling up with schools all over the UK which is wonderful, especially after the pandemic slump. As for resolutions, I try not to make any; that way I can't feel bad when - inevitably - I break them!
10. Where do you prefer to write, and what distracts you from getting words on paper?
I have two places, luckily. One is my study in my London house. Here I have lots of books and distractions such as magic tricks to practice. If I need complete solitude, I have a place in the country, two hours away. I can go with just my laptop and my dog and hardly talk to anyone for days. It's very productive!
When you're not at your desk:
1. If you could be anything other than an author, what would you be?
I'd love to have been a cartoonist. I can draw quite well, but I would need more training and practice to make it a job.
2. What famous person would you most like to meet, and why?
J.K.Rowling without a doubt. She is a complete genius who has influenced children's writing forever.
3. If you were given a ticket to travel anywhere you wanted, where would you go?
Somewhere warm, with a clean beach, and fresh seafood, and a beach-bar, and a hammock and a good book.
Find out about The Monkey Who Fell from the Future, by Ross Welford (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2023)
When a monkey falls out of a screen and into a live television show, it starts a chain of events that sees two children accidentally sucked into the future. Read a Chapter from The Monkey Who Fell from the Future