Tina: Hi Maddie. Thank you for stopping by today. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Maddie: Oh sure. I go to Walker Elementary School and I am the oldest in my family. The best part about school is I am in the same class as my best friend Stella. I see her every day, all day long.
Tina: What do you like to do when you are not at school?
Maddie: That’s simple. I love to draw with my crayons and markers and play with my friends.
Tina: I heard you were part of a school walkout recently? Can you tell us a little about it?
Maddie: Yea, I was. Our school was having one but it was only for the big kids and I really wanted to walk out with them.
Tina: How did you become a part of it then?
Maddie: Well, it was School Safety Week and I just thought everyone should be included, not just the big kids.
Tina: That makes perfect sense. Did you walk out with the big kids by yourself?
Maddie: Oh no… I asked my friends for some help and everyone got together during lunch to make signs about safe schools. Even our teacher helped us. Only Stella didn’t.
Tina: I am sure she was just busy.
Maddie: Actually, she was scared. Our principal told us it was for the big kids only. He even said so during announcements. She just didn’t want to get into trouble.
Tina: I understand how she felt. Didn’t you?
Maddie: Yes, I did. But I also didn’t want her to feel left out. I really wanted all my friends to help the big kids stand up for safe schools so I kept asking her to see if she would change her mind.
Tina: And did she?
Maddie: That was a really busy week at school, plus I had homework every night too. If you want to find out if Stella changed her mind and even how you can help schools stay safe, you have to read WALKOUT.
Tina: That is a good idea Maddie, and thank you for telling us about your experience.
Maddie: Bye, see you later!
Andy, tell us a little bit about the work that Bear With Us Productions does. What services do you offer?
Bear With Us Productions is a one stop shop providing authors who are looking to self publish with everything they need to take their story and turn it into a fully developed children’s book.
We specialise in illustrations, cover designs, editing, formatting and marketing. We even help new authors upload their book onto Amazon.
What’s your process for matching an author and illustrator?
We really get to know our illustrator’s styles and comfort zones. When we discuss the project with the author, we get a feel for what they are looking for and then we offer a choice of illustrators by providing samples of their work. There are a few elements we need to consider such as age group of the reader, the genre of the story, timescale and budget. We’re pleased to say that so far we’ve been on the nail and have matched the right illustrator with the project. Sometimes the author will request a certain illustrator from our social media posts and that makes our job just a little bit easier.
How does the author, illustrator and Bear With Us Productions work together to bring a book to life?
Well regular communication is key. I project manage everything myself and work very closely with both illustrator and author to ensure that expectations are met. Recently, we developed a new online project management set up where we invite authors into the system and they can discuss things with the BWUP team and approve illustrations in real time all under one roof.
Bear With Us Productions offers typesetting, formatting and book design. How do you go about the process of choosing the right fonts and layout for a book?
Richie is a designer and teacher. His knowledge of fonts and creative styles is incredible. We both discuss how we want the book to look and we seem to have a sixth sense in that so far everything we’ve put together up until now has been received so well. Author approval at the first final draft is something that we aim for and our batting average on that is quite high.
Andy, what’s your favourite type of book to work on? Do you have a preference personally?
I love monsters and scary stories. Halloween is my favourite holiday and I enjoy both writing and developing stories and books in this genre.
Eduardo, where do you draw your inspiration from? Do you have any particular influences?
Since I was a boy, I have been a huge fan of Disney animation. The complexity of the movements, backgrounds, and the beauty of the characters have been a huge inspiration for my work.
How and when did you decide that being an illustrator was what you wanted to do as a career?
Since I can remember I have been into drawing and painting. My mother used to paint as well so I am sure seeing her work had an influence on me. My parents were working as writers for a mayor editorial company and when I turned 14 I had a chance to work for this company, as well. I saw that I could do something that I really loved and make a living doing that. I guess this is how it all began.
What kinds of mediums do you use for your illustrations generally and what did you use specifically for My Llama Drama?
I use a variety of software and I always work with Wacom Cintiq. However, one of the things I enjoy the most is to draw by hand, using white paper and a pencil. For My Llama Drama I started sketching by hand to get the feeling of the characters and to develop the personality of each one. I also did a lot of research on llamas and I spent some time creating textures and hairdos for each character. I think that was important because I can see that each one of them has its own fun and interesting personality.
What’s your favourite part of the illustration process?
Definitely it is the character development. I feel it is the moment when you bring to life the most important aspect of a story. Seeing your character’s first smile, movement of the eyes, or style is really inspiring for an illustrator.
What’s the funniest, strangest or most memorable thing you’ve been asked to draw?
I think all the projects have these three aspects. They are funny and challenging in their own particular way, and every one of them is a different experience and they become fun to work on.
For My Llama Drama I had a blast creating the characters. I will definitely remember all the llamas.
Can each of you tell me what your all-time favourite children’s book is and why?
Andy - Enid Blyton ‘The Far-away Tree’
Just incredibly lovely memories of being read to by my Grandmother and the story has just stayed with me. I also love Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Richie - A Flight of Dragons - Peter Dickinson
Loved the illustrations and the book introduced me to the world of Tolkien (hobbit) to games workshop warhammer 40k that feed my creative juices.
Ed - I like all the classic stories with the morals.
Somehow they help you shape your personality and become a better person. Now, I read them to my kids and I can enjoy the stories again. If I had to choose one, my favourite would be The Little Prince because it has a lot of quotes that I have been cherishing for my whole life.
Andy, how can people find you, Eduardo and the rest of your illustration team at Bear With Us Productions if they are keen to turn their picture book manuscript into a beautiful, physical book?
Just reach out to us via our Facebook page or via our website.
We will have a brand new website going live in early Oct at www.justbearwithus.com
where we will be promoting new packages and also all our author’s books will be listed for sale.
~CHARACTER INTERVIEW~ Author June Mccrary Jacobs's Interview with Main Character, Weston Gregg, From Res-Q Tyler Stop, A Middle-Grade Historical Adventure Set In Northern California In 1968
June: Hello, Weston. It's nice to meet you. Tell us a little about yourself.
Weston: Hi. Well, I'm eleven-years-old and I live with my family on our property in Tyler Stop, California. I'm a sixth grader this year. My little sister, Wendy, is nine-years old; she's a fourth grader. What else do you want to know?
June: Tell us about your hobbies. Do you belong to any clubs or groups?
Weston: I'm the president of our RES-Q Tyler Stop animal rescue group. Wendy is the vice-president. I'm a Boy Scout, so I like to hike, camp, fish, go on adventures, and learn new stuff. I love animals, so we have a lot of pets at home. Wendy and I take care of them together. Here are some pictures of our dog, cat, turtle, and rabbit.
I like to explore our property and play with our dog, Diamond. When I'm inside I like to read and make model airplanes. Sometimes I watch TV or listen to the radio or records. Oh, and I love baseball. The San Francisco Giants are my favorite team, but there's a brand new team down in Oakland called the Athletics that I follow too.
June: Tell us a little bit more about your animal rescue group. RES-Q Tyler Stop is a neat name.
Weston: Sure! I love to talk about our group. Back in the summer my sister and I found six rabbits that were abandoned at the fairgrounds. We were in the exhibit hall helping our dad clean up after the fair ended and we saw these bunnies in their cages. It was really hot, and they didn't have any food or water. We didn't think they were going to make it. It was scary.
June: What happened next?
Weston: Oh, right. We called my dad over and he told us what to do to cool down the rabbits. Then Tyler Stop's new veterinarian, Dr. Lake, came and checked them out. He said we saved the rabbits by giving them water and trying to cool them down. We found out the family who owned the rabbits was in a car wreck and that's why they left their pets at the fairgrounds. Do you want to hear more?
June: Yes. I'd like you to share how you and Wendy hatched the idea for RES-Q Tyler Stop.
Weston: OK. The family couldn't come to get their rabbits until they got out of the hospital, so Wendy and I asked Dad if we could foster the rabbits at our house until the owners could come over to take them home. He asked Mom, and she said yes. And the rest is history.
June: It is history for you, but for those of us who don't know what happened please tell us a little more about your group and how it started.
Weston: Got it. After the rabbits, we found some newborn kittens on our property. They were the kittens of our next-door neighbor's cat, Patches. We called Dr. Lake over, and he checked them out. One thing led to another and Wendy and I realized our town needed a place to take rescued animals or pets that people couldn't keep any longer. It was the summer and we had extra time on our hands, so we made up the name and asked our mom and dad if we could have an animal rescue on our property.
June: I guess they said 'yes'.
Weston: Well, you know how moms and dads are; they have to think about things before they give you an answer. But after they thought about it, they said we could do it, and they even agreed to be the secretary and treasurer for our group. So far we've taken care of a lot of dogs and cats, a snake, some guinea pigs, a turtle, and the bunnies, of course.
Weston: Am I telling too much of the story? I mean maybe people should read the book to find out everything that happened in Tyler Stop this summer and to learn what the name, 'RES-Q Tyler Stop', means.
June: I think that's a very good idea, Weston. Thanks for sharing with us today. Good luck with your rescue group and have a great year in sixth grade.
Weston: Thank you!
Photo Credits: All photos are courtesy of Canva.
Spoiler alert: Withstand the temptation to scroll down. ;-}
It was thrilling to reveal the cover of The Heart Changer back in April. I remember it fondly! So, I’d love to share it with you. I think the process involved in creating an image to suit a story will fascinate you. So, stick with me and be patient, okay?
I was asked what I envisioned for my cover in Ambassador International's marketing questionnaire. I like that about my publisher. They want you to have as much input as possible to feel a part of the process. Since I have a Pinterest account, I gave them a link to a secret board with ideas pulled from other middle grade novels. Trouble is, I chose fantasy covers as well as historical fiction, because I loved the swirly themes -- almost Medieval-like. Looking back, they didn't fit The Heart Changer.
So, when Hannah Nichols, the creative director at Ambassador (who read my book before beginning her design), sent this first image around Thanksgiving, I had a strange reaction. Actually, almost no reaction, and I don't know why. It was a feeling of peace and contentment.
But, as I studied the cover which, to this day, I love, I quickly surmised, although the woman on the cover was beautiful, it sadly was not my main character. Also, my first name was misspelled, and was not my nom de plume. I had chosen Jarm Del Boccio, for many reasons. And another thing, the story is set in the middle eastern country of Syria, which is largely desert. The best part of the first image was the title. I was mesmerized with the font and the gold to burgundy progression.
In quick succession, the next four images arrived in my inbox. This one below was better, but still not my MC, the title color too plain,
and I missed the contrasting blue sky!
Then this image, which was my least favorite . . .Nope. I didn't like her legs showing. And in Old Testament days, they would not have been allowed to show off their legs. On to the next image.
I had asked Hannah to try a sunset instead of blue sky. When I saw it, I didn't care for it at all. I had also asked her to place a flowery image of a heart in the title. I didn't like that either! And I missed the gorgeous title.
So I sent her an image from the Internet with my vision for Miriam, my main character.
This was my MC - a servant girl, scruffy, but cute, with a bit of sass. Even though I sent her this photo, I made it clear I did not want her facing outward. Readers love to imagine their own MC, so I chose to leave it up to them.
I LOVED the one above, even though it had a ghostly appearance. For some reason, that appealed to me. But, it needed to be filled in, which she did below. The color and pattern on the shawl I was not crazy about, although this was the closest yet!
Maybe because I am right handed, or maybe it’s my visual artistic bent— I preferred Miriam on the right side of the cover instead of the left. And burgundy would suit her shawl instead of red. She also needed to bring the image down or disguise the colored sleeve.
One more go!
Ta Da! Here is the final image. Lonely, deserted, isolated. Just like my MC. True to her character, and true to the story. And it’s rather ironic that I am becoming a minimalist in every way — including my artistic choices! What think ye? What you imagined?
Thanks for stopping by to watch the evolution of my book cover! And being so good about reading the story before scrolling down to the end. You were good, weren’t you? I’d love to hear your thoughts about the process. Did anything surprise you?
By Sarah Glenn Fortson
This is probably not your first introduction to illustrator and author, Russ Cox. His client list is long and stellar. If you haven’t met him in person, chances are you’ve met his art. I’m not sure how I got so lucky. Partnering with him in the creation of THIS COWGIRL AIN’T KIDDIN’ ABOUT THE POTTY, (Peter Pauper Press, October 2019) has been an honor and a privilege.
Thank you, Russ, for agreeing to answer a few questions.
I was struck by how you, not only absolutely “got” Cowgirl A.K.’s personality, but you made her come alive in ways I had never anticipated. How do you “go so deep” when creating characters?
Howdy partner! Thanks for the interview but more importantly, THANK YOU for such a wonderfully fun story. It makes my part easy when the story is well thought out and executed. I tip my ten gallon hat to you.
I usually read the story once and put it away for a few days so it can incubate in my noggin’. The character, or characters, just start to appear in my head and spill out onto the paper. I will then go back to the story and reread it several times to find the little traits that begin to become obvious from the words. From there, I just sketch and sketch until several versions of the character appear. Many times, they are loosely based on people I know. Each time I sketch the character, they begin to tell me more about them and I start to understand them. That is how I find the depth in the characters and the story.
I try to come up with 3-5 variations that I like and think will work.
The front cover is striking and the back cover, wonderfully bold. Was this a conscious choice based on the personality you were creating?
Yes! A.K. is a bit sassy and very proud of who she is so it was obvious they are the poses she would strike. She is very excited to be on the cover. She told me so and not to mess it up. Has she seen it? Gulp!
In the text there is no mention of a pet cat, yet you added one and I love that you did! Could you talk about that decision?
I like for characters to have sidekicks who help tell the story or move it forward from a different point of few. Animals are perfect since they do not talk like humans but say a ton with their facial expressions and body. I see A.K. having a cat that she takes everywhere, except school, and enjoys it’s company because the cat understands her.
In this story, which illustration was the most challenging and why?
Hmmmm, good question. Since this is a different style than I normally do, the whole book may have been a challenge but in a wonderful way. Maybe the scenes with the horses since I find them difficult to draw.
How did your techniques in this project differ from other projects?
This book is very different from the others I’ve done. I have gone back to painting traditionally with gouache, colored pencil, and pencil.
When I submitted the sketches, the folks at Peter Pauper Press loved the look and feel of the sketches. They wanted to see a quick color study so I did one digitally. They really liked the looseness and energy of the study so that is the style we went with. I was thinking of traditionally painting the book and did a sample but everyone kept going back to the color study. It really made working digitally fun again.
You have a naturally terrific sense of humor. Did you ever consider doing “stand-up”?
Thank you, you are too kind. No, I have never thought about doing standup but I love comedians and what they do. They have the hardest job in entertainment. My kids are super funny and they could do standup or write for tv shows. Their wit is so sharp and quick.
Do you still play the banjo? Maybe, use that in your stand-up routine?
I do still play but not as much any more. I am chatting with some folks about putting together a surf instrumental band in which I would play bass. It has been ages since I picked up the bass. Hopefully I still remember how to play the thing. The strings face front, right?
Could you tell us a little about your school-visit presentations?
Sure. My visits consist of a brief history about me, some samples of my work, The books I worked on, the process, and then some interactive drawing/writing exercises with the kids. For me, it is important to have the kids involved.
What is your favorite thing to doodle?
Robots and monsters and now, cowgirls.
What would you like to tell us that I neglected to ask?
I am 6’5”.
Thank you, Russ! This was so much fun for me. And only a few more weeks until book birthday! …Sarah Glenn Fortson
Don’t miss out on our Back-To-School Book Giveaway. You can enter for your chance to win a collection of autographed children’s books from our very own authors. Click on the image below to learn more about how to enter and how to increase your odds of winning. One lucky winner will be announced on September 20th.