Beloved of Beasts began with an amazing picture, that led to a poem, that led to a story, that led to the first Beloved of Beasts book, “Princess Ramona, Beloved of Beasts.” Here is the story of the story:
“You!” shows up as the “Deviation of the Day” on a popular artists’ forum and gets tons of attention and oodles of favorites and is noticed by a librarian/author’s daughter who falls in love with the picture.
“Mom! You have got to see this; the dragon is amazing. Just look at this illustration.”
And it is amazing. And the librarian is suddenly compelled to stay up way past her bedtime writing a story about this picture. The tale of a dragon and a very protective princess emerges as a lopsided, cheeky rhyme that seems to fit the characters in the picture.
The librarian, who is also a teacher, and works at an international school in Tokyo, contacts the artist, who is also a professional illustrator and works in Sweden. “I love your illustration and it sparked a whole story, and here it is, and what do you think?” turns into “What a fantastic story, and I have always wanted to do a picture book, and what are we waiting for, let’s do it!” And so the construction of the story begins.
As the book progresses, both the writer and illustrator have to make changes and adjustments. They email, Skype, and iChat as the book takes shape. As both have full-time jobs, deadlines zoom by and expectations have to be adjusted to fit reality.
December 1, 2012 finally emerges as the last possible date that this amazing digital book can be published. A few nail-biters pop up along the way. For example… just about a week before the book is ready to launch and the pre-orders are already rolling in, the artist, astute observer that she is says,”Wait! There is a problem!” She claims that the sun should not rise and set in the same location, and of course, she is right… but right there, in two of the illustrations, there is the sun, setting and rising in the exact same spot. The artist grabs her trusty digital pen and within the space of a few days, moves the sun. (Amazing what you can do if you are an artist.) Ta-da! The book is fixed, resubmitted to the iTunes Bookstore and the book launches on time.
One of the reasons that this book is so appealing to grade school kids is that they were a part of quality control. Instead of locking herself in a writer’s garret for weeks and months at a time and shutting out the world while she concentrated on writing a children’s literature masterpiece, the author continued to go to work everyday at a school with lots of little kids running around who had so much to say about everything.
And we all know that kids say really important stuff and it is always best to listen. So the author shows the students her book-in-progress. They see early versions of the rhymes and early versions of the illustrations and they make rather astute observations, positive and negative, which are written down for posterity:
- “The animals are cute and funny. So much detail! I think this book is hilarious in the pictures.” – Eryn Mae
- “Pretty; kind of like a poem; like a song. Like someone is really telling the story. It’s funny and it rhymes.” – Grace
- “I like it that it had colors that match the pictures. I like it that there are a lot of details in the pictures. The words were good because it had good details and it explained things well.” – Reeko
- “The girl had a key to unlock the animals. (How did she get the key?)” –Yuki (Good point Yuki; we actually altered a previous drawing to make this more clear.)
- “The princess likes animals. She does not want to be seen; I like that. The princess’s dress should be dirty.” – Sarah (Yes, Sarah; a princess who runs about the woods freeing animals would have a dirty dress, so we altered the illustration.)
- “The picture are very neat. The king is so mean! I like the part where the princess ran fast. The old grandma’s face is too scary.” – Chiko (Yes, others commented on how the ‘musty old maid’ had a face that was too scary so we changed it.)
- “I like the animals that always sticked together. It is great how the artist made the hair on the animal; one side is bright and the other is dark. It was so fast how the dragon turned from a carnivore to a herbivore.” – Eugene (Yes, Eugene. The change in character was too fast so we added a bit to the story to explain how that happened.)
Here we come to the hardest part, because who really wants to toot their own horn? But if no one knows you exist, then they will never see your awesome creations. As a self-publishing, first-time children’s book author, I am an inconspicuous critter, a peon, if you will… and no one is going to take notice of me unless I can create some noise. (Talk to the Horton the Elephant; he knows about inconspicuous critters.) And so I am trying to be noticed through the use of various digital megaphones… Facebook, Twitter, websites, book reviews, and book trailers. Who knows, I may dress up and hire my dog to help get the word out. If you happen to have any bright ideas, let me know… I can always use more illumination. And we are always fishing for new ideas.