Scottish children’s author Molly Arbuthnott on taking her hit series to the big screen

It was a story that was inspired by her cat after it got lost on a ferry to South Uist.

But ten years later Scottish children’s author Molly Arbuthnott, 36, is now trying to secure funding from the British Film Institute to make her hit series Oscar the Ferry Cat into an animated TV show.

Molly, who was shortlisted for the People’s Book Prize in 2017 and won The Wishing Shelf Book Award the same year, talks to Scottish Field about creating the much loved characters and why she finds children so inspiring.


Tell us a little about your inspiration for ‘Oscar the Ferry Cat’?

We lost our Siamese cat on the ferry about 10 years ago- going from Oban to South Uist. This upset my family hugely and so I decided to write a story about the adventures he may have had. I was feeling a bit lost in London at the time so the feeling of needing a home resonated with me.

I grew up in Perthshire. My family are naturally creative, my granny was a professional artist, my grandfather made glass paperweights and my other grandfather was a headmaster of a school. I don’t know where I call home- a bit like Oscar.

I always want the best for my family and friends, my books are my way of doing that- painting the world in the way I always long to see it- bright, colourful and beautiful. I find children always so inspiring, I’ve always found them easier to get along with than adults, they have no ulterior motives and say what they think which is really refreshing. I do all of this for them so it is important that they enjoy what I have done. If adults like the stories too that’s great but the children are the ones I aim to impress.

Oscar the ferry cat

Oscar the ferry cat

You’ve worked with a few illustrators, how have they helped shape the characters in the book?

It has been fun. I’ve loved the experience of working with friends in a professional manner to create something beautiful. Each illustrator has their own particular style which serves to bring that particular book alive. Each story is unique, just as we all are.

How did you create the rest of your stable of wonderful characters, Simon the Sloth, David the Pizzly Bear, Athena the Cheetah?

I find I can relate people to different animals, I meet someone and can identify the animal they will be then the story sort of writes itself. It was important for Oscar to have friends too, he’d have been lonely on his own.

Why do you think the series would make such a great animated TV show?

It would propel Oscar into another dimension. Television is how children learn about the world around them, how they can explore places they will never see in person. It makes Oscar a more relatable character to a generation of children and will hopefully serve to encourage more children to read too.

Do you need to travel to some of the places your books are set to become inspired?

I don’t think you can write about somewhere unless you know it- this doesn’t mean ‘doing’ a country because you can’t know somewhere after that, it means living there, getting to know somewhere intimately and all the hidden places too.

Game of Thrones star Rose Leslie was snapped posing with a copy of one of the books, how did that come about?

We were at prep School together- she is originally an ‘Arbuthnot’ Leslie too so almost family. We’ve stayed friends and always will, I hope.

When did you realise you wanted to write and tell stories full time?

It makes me really happy to do, being master of your own time, accountable to no one but yourself and your imagination just makes me happy. The thought of having nothing to do freaks some people out but it’s heaven for me. Only boring people get bored.

What do you think makes a good young children’s book?

Putting yourself into the mind of a child-nothing is impossible. Keeping it simple and honest and true and not being afraid to speak the truth- kids can deal with more than you think.

Are you working on any books currently or largely focused on the potential animated series?

I’m always working on ideas- George and the Steam Museum is launching in June and Peanut the Hamster in December- it is about a hamster who gets lost on a sleeper. Everyday I try to write something, just to keep my hand in.

Find all the ‘Oscar the Ferry Cat’ adventures and his friends at – https://www.oscartheferrycat.co.uk/

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