Meet Champ Thornton, one of the authors of The Kámbur Chronicles. These books are filled with excitement, mystery, and Biblical truth—a great combination for readers between the ages of 9 and 14.
Tell us about yourself!
My wife, Robben, and I have been married for 26 years, and we have three kids who are growing up fast! We have a son who is a senior in high school (and loves running and photography), and we have 7th grade twins, a boy and a girl. The boy enjoys drawing and soccer, and the girl enjoys volleyball and her friends.
Tell us about your books.
Over the last 10 years, I’ve written kids’ books with a variety of ages and genres—from preschool illustrated books to Bible studies for middle and high-schoolers. All of these books (about a half dozen) are nonfiction Christian books aimed to help teach the Bible to the next generation.
Then, in 2020, for the first time I ventured into some new areas: co-authoring and the realm of fiction.
This book, The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles, is part of a larger (yet-to-be-written) series called The Kámbur Chronicles, which follows the adventures of a brother and sister, as they get literally pulled into the stories of the Bible.
The first book, The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles, is aimed at middle-school readers, and while it has an overtly Christian message, it is not intended for only Christian readers.
What kind of child are you trying to reach with your books?
This book and its larger series is aimed at boys and girls, probably between the ages of 9 and 14. They’re fast-paced and full of excitement, cliff-hangers, and a looming sense of mystery about what’s really going on.
Since most middle-schoolers enjoy a good TV show or movie, I tried to write the book as if it were a movie, using the same kind of perspective and even plot structure. Hopefully, even kids who don’t like reading will find this book easy to read and fun and engaging.
Give us a little flavor of some great characters or the setting.
From The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles:
The playing card taped to Emmet’s bike frame—so it would sound like a motorcycle—was working perfectly! But Emmet wasn’t impressed by its roar, not today. Right now, he just hoped they could get away.
Alongside his sister Nomi, Emmet pedaled furiously, standing up, leaning forward. Sweat ran down his olive-toned skin and his mop of thick black hair stood straight up in the wind. His backpack—packed for summer adventures—shifted from side to side as he strained to go as fast as possible.
Out of the corner of his eye, Emmet could see Nomi beside him. Darker skinned, her curly hair bobbed against her back- pack. She was determined, afraid, and keeping up. Not bad.
Though they were both twelve, Nomi was five inches taller and could outrun her brother any day. But on bikes, Emmet was usually the fastest. Today was an exception; they were neck and neck, zooming past trees and houses. Soon they would take the narrow dirt path, deep through the woods—and away from Tobias.
Tobias was eleven, but instead of looking like he was in the fifth grade, he looked like he could’ve been in eighth— for the third time. He was big. And he was new. Tobias lived just down the street from Emmet and Nomi. His family had moved from New York City, four hours away, to their little coastal town of Lewis last year.
Tobias was also loud and annoying. All through last school year, he seemed to delight in making life difficult for Emmet and Nomi. And they didn’t know why. Last Halloween, he snuck up behind Nomi, reached into her sack of candy, grabbed a huge handful, and ran away laughing.
He hadn’t even eaten the candy. Emmet saw him throw it away when he thought no one was looking. Another time, when it snowed, Tobias had thrown snowballs at their snowman. And when Emmet went outside to talk to him, he tackled him and shoved his face in the snow. Now whenever they were outside playing, it seemed that Tobias had nothing better to do than tease them or taunt them or burp so loud even the neighbors could hear.
Now Tobias was chasing them on his blue BMX bike, and he was getting closer every second.
Emmet and Nomi’s trail bikes hit the path with a bump, and their tires dropped off the sidewalk onto the well-worn dirt path. One hundred feet ahead, the trail disappeared into the woods. But they had no plans of stopping. They flew through the woods, up the gulley, and out into the back of the next neighborhood. Now if they could only lose Tobias on a side street.
Emmet, in the lead, pointed to a street up ahead. Turn right. Quick, before . . . Emmet looked back. Tobias’s bike exploded out of the woods. Too late! He had seen them.
Now they had to make another turn—fast. Emmet whipped around to face front.
Ugh! He had led them onto a dead-end street.
“Between the houses!” yelled Nomi, pointing ahead at two houses—a brick one and a bright yellow one—at the end of the street.
“Don’t yell,” said Emmet. “He’ll hear us.”
Nomi crinkled her eyebrows, “Says the guy on the ‘motorcycle’?”
The bikes hit the curb, zipped down the driveway, bounced across the grass, and into the backyard behind one of the houses. They skidded to a dusty stop at the edge of the trees and peered back.
Nomi’s white metal water bottle had flown out of her backpack and was lying in plain sight on the grass beside the driveway of the yellow house. She must have forgotten to zip the pouch.
Though Nomi was mature for her age, Emmet couldn’t believe how disorganized she could be. He always said her room looked like a middle-school art show that had been struck by a tornado. Finding her homework, or even her hairbrush, was quite the feat.
“Your new water bottle!” sighed Emmet. Then he added, “I’ll go get it.”
“No, wait. He’ll see you,” said Nomi.
“I just hope he doesn’t see your water bott—” Emmet began, just as Tobias skidded to a squealing stop, right in front of the water bottle. He grinned, picked it up, and held it up with his right hand.
“Hey, you dropped something!” he shouted. “You want this? You’re going to have to come get it.”
“You’re going to get it,” whispered Emmet.
Tobias repeated, “Come and get it!” He dropped his bike to the ground and was now tossing the water bottle back and forth between his hands. “Come. And. Get. It.”
Something inside Emmet snapped. He threw his bike to the ground. When the bike landed with a thud, Tobias took his eyes off the water bottle to see what Emmet was up to. And at that moment, he missed the water bottle. Instead of catching it, Tobias hit it with his left hand and sent it clanging across the driveway.
“That’s it!” Emmet shouted. Enough of Tobias and his huge, annoying self, thought Emmet.
Enough of Tobias’s bullying. He might have gotten away with stealing Nomi’s Halloween candy, but he wasn’t going to get away with stealing her new water bottle.
He was furious at Tobias—so angry he wasn’t thinking. And what happened next would replay in Emmet’s mind for quite some time. Emmet lunged toward the ground, grabbed the closest rock he could find, and threw it at Tobias as hard as he could. Too hard.
The rock missed Tobias by a long shot. But it didn’t miss the window.
What inspired you to write this series?
In 2019, a friend of mine, Andy Naselli, contacted New Growth Press about publishing a wonderful, simplified summary of an excellent book for adults that he had written for Crossway—a biblical theology of serpents and dragons. So Andy and New Growth reached out to me and graciously asked if I’d collaborate on how to turn Andy’s summary into a children’s book.
We explored various formats and potential age groups and eventually settled on an adventure story for middle-grade readers. So as I wrote chapters for the story, Andy read through the manuscript several times (once he even read it out loud with his family), and he offered many helpful suggestions and edits all along the way. The collaboration process with Andy has been excellent.
How did you know you wanted to be an author?
I’ve always enjoyed books, even when I was a child and my mother read to me. As I got older, I continued to enjoy reading, even as an adult, but I never really envisioned that I would write.
In my mid-thirties, I began working as a staff writer for a small Christian curriculum publisher. I enjoyed the years I spent in that role, and then later, as an associate pastor, I was able to continue writing on the side—mostly for New Growth Press.
As to what inspires me to write, I try to keep my own three children in mind when I write. They’re getting older now (they’re between the ages of 12 and 17, presently), but they’re still my main audience when I write for that age group.
When I was 29, I was diagnosed with serious blood clots and also a genetic disorder that, I learned, makes me more susceptible to future clots. So it was driven home to me, in a very personal way, that life is short and uncertain. At minimum, then, much of what I write are truths that either I’ve taught our own children, or that I want them to know and love. My writing is a way to pass along to the next generation the truths that God has impressed on my heart.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Read a lot, especially in the area/genre/topic of book you have an interest to write. And then write, write, write. The consistent practice is invaluable.
And get really comfortable with writing terrible first drafts. As has been said, “There are no ‘great writers,’ only great re-writers.”
What formats are your books available in?
Find them here.
At the time of this interview, what is your most recent or upcoming release?
In November 2022, my second illustrated book came out. It’s a Dr. Seuss-esque picture book about a grumpy boy who never says thank you. Through the story he learns what true thankfulness is all about.
And coming up in March 2023, New Growth Press is releasing the sequel to my 2016 nonfiction book for middle-schoolers, The Radical Book for Kids: Exploring the Roots and Shoots of Faith. The sequel is called The Really Radical Book for Kids: More Truth, More Fun. It’s a fun assortment of facts, games, jokes, and truths about living life in this world that God has created and is redeeming.
If you’re in the market for chapter books, I’d love to share my series with you! Collar Cases is a Christian mystery series for readers 7-12.
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