Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Chris Platt: Peachtree's Renaissance Woman

If I was an eighteenth century lady and you and I were wearing petticoats and chatting over tea and scones, I'd probably refer to Chris Platt as accomplished.

Since I'm wearing jeans and typing this while munching on a microwaved veggie burger, I'll say instead that Chris is pretty awesome

She's broken barriers as one of the first female jockeys in Oregon, can often be found shooting bows, and has a black belt in a hard-style karate discipline called "Shotokan." She's played the drums since she was a kid and is currently taking a break after playing for 12 or so years in a bagpipe band. She's also run a couple of marathons, and even had a pot-bellied pig that lived in her house for a while.

Somewhere in there, Chris has found time to author more than a dozen books for young readers, including the popular horse novels Willow King, its sequel Race the Wind, and many titles in the Thoroughbred series.

This month, she published Wind Dancer, and we at Peachtree couldn't be more excited about it! It's the story of a neglected horse who helps a girl named Ali get through to her brother, a young man suffering from PTSD after his tour in Afghanistan. 

Chris dropped by the blog to chat about her new book, writing professionally, and her (ADORABLE) horses.

Chris Platt on the Daily Life of a Writer

Aside from writing, how do you spend your days?

Chris shooting her bow
I’m a crazy-busy person.  A usual day for me is getting up around 8:30, feeding my 4 horses and cleaning stalls, taking care of the cats and parrot, and feeding all the neighbor cats that hang out in my yard. (I’m the only one in the neighborhood who doesn’t have a dog. lol) 

I’ll go for a run 2-4 times a week, or the gym, karate, or horseback riding.  

I live on an acre of land, and have another 5-acre parcel, so I do a TON of weeding and cleaning outside, plus building fences, painting, roofing, etc. 

I also have a part-time job in a mall, so I squeeze work days in there, too. I have friends and elderly people that I help out doing odd chores and errands. I’m currently sewing a quilt for my 91-year-old grandma. Gotta squeeze time in for the hubby and doing some fun things. We love to go to the movies.  

I do my writing on the back end of the day, and don’t get to bed until about 1 or 2 am.

If you could invite any 3 people (living or dead) to a dinner party, who would you pick?

One would be my grandmother.  She’s 91 and one of my favorite people in the world. Her cancer just came back and we don’t know how much longer she has. I’m going back to see her in a few days.  I just want to spend every minute I have with her talking, enjoying her.

Another would be God. Lots of questions to ask.

And just for fun a favorite author, Ray Bradbury, or an actor like Russell Crowe.

Chris as a jockey!

Tell us a little about your career as a jockey.

I’ve been riding since I was two. My uncle used to take me out to a field of ponies and put me on one of them and slap it on the rear end. I’d hang on to the mane and we’d go jetting off across the pasture.  That came to an abrupt halt when my mom found out. Ha, ha!

As far as the jockeying… when I was 16 I started helping someone out at the racetrack in Salem, Oregon.  He let me get on a few of his horses and gallop them around the track.  A few of the more experienced exercise riders took me under their wings and taught me how to do things correctly.  I galloped horses in the morning workouts for a few years and then got approved for a jockey’s license.

There were only a few women riders at that time. Some of the male jockeys used to give the girls a hard time: cutting them off in a race, or slapping them across the seat of their pants with a whip as they rode past. I didn’t have much trouble with them.

I spent 5 years on the track, and loved every minute of it, but eventually, you’ve gotta eat. Ha, ha! I got tired of the constant diet and always having to weigh in. You needed to weight about 103-108 lbs.  I naturally weighed about 120 lbs at that time.  When I turned 21, I moved to Reno, Nevada, and that was the end of my jockey career.  

Storm Chaser & Trip
Tell us about your horses!

I’m down to only 4 horses now: 2 black and white paints that are beautiful, and a cute little miniature mare and her baby.  I used to have 8 horses.  I don’t know how I did it. It’s a lot of work.

You’ve lived such an interesting life so far, do you ever put your own experiences into your books?

Yes, all the time.  I use a lot of things that happened to me during my years of owning and working with horses. Sometimes I model characters after people I’ve known.  I don’t use the exact person, but I’ll take many of his/her characteristics and toss in a few of other people’s that I’ve known. It adds a lot to the book when you use real life experiences.

Chris signing copies of Star Gazer
What is your favorite part about being a writer? What is your least favorite part?

Favorite part is getting to create characters and the world they live in. Getting to see my book in a book store.  Talking to fans.

My least favorite part is deadlines. Ugh!

Have you always wanted to be a writer? When did you start writing?

From the time I was about 11 or 12, I knew I wanted to be a writer.  I started out writing poems and then moved to short stories and eventually books.

Do you have anything in common with your characters?

Yes.  My values and viewpoints go into many of my characters. I think every writer has a character in their book that has same point-of-view as themselves. I think they’re fibbing if they tell you they don’t. lol.   

Whom, of all the characters you've written about, would you most like to meet?

Probably Katie, my main character from my first book, Willow King.  She was born with a slight handicap and had to overcome a lot of things.  She was a strong character.  I think I’d also like to meet Camela, from the sequel, Race the Wind.  She was a blind girl and a real pill.  She was very smart, but also a bit mischievous. In the book, she uses her cane to trip people that she doesn’t like, or who are mean to her or others.  Then she sits there looking all innocent. Nobody suspects that it was her.

Do you have a favorite of your books?

Of my horse books, Willow King and Race the Wind were probably my favorites. They were loosely based on a real racehorse I used to ride and a great trainer I worked for.

But my favorite book is the one I’ve been trying to write for years now, in between writing horse books.  It’s a coming of age book about 4 teenage girls growing up in a small town. One can’t wait to grow up and leave, another discovers her roots, and how deeply they’re buried in the town, another is trying to hold her family together and the last is trying to prevent changes that will drive them all apart.

Maybe I can finish it this summer. J

Chris Platt on Her Writing Process
Were there any authors who inspired you to write?

Yes, when I was young, I LOVED to read Marguerite Henry’s horse books (Misty of Chincoteague, King of the Wind) and Walter Farley (Black Stallion, Man O’ War).  When I was in my teens, my favorite English teacher helped me discovered Ray Bradbury and his science fiction books (R is for Rocket, S is for Space, Martian Chronicals). They taught me to love books.

Where do you get your ideas from?

I’m not really sure “where” they come from.  Mostly they pop into my head when I’m jogging, or as I go about my day.  Things just kind of come to me, and then I flesh out the idea.

Where do you do your writing? Do you have one place where you feel most inspired?

I do most of my writing in my work office at my house.  I have a room that is set up just for me and my writing.  But I do a lot of my plotting in my head while I’m jogging.  I’ve always been a runner.  I love to run long distance. That’s my quiet time that I reserve just for myself. I make lists in my head, think about things I have to do, and plot books. (I know, I’m a crazy person. lol) 

How do you get your creative thoughts flowing?

Like I said, a lot of things come to me while I’m running, but I don’t say to myself, “Hey, I need an idea, so I’m going to go for a run.”  When it’s time to write, I write.  I have a degree in Journalism.  I know a lot of people like to get inspiration from special routines or such, but I’m trained to park my behind in the chair and write. No time for waiting around for things to happen or to “feel” like it.  I make things happen by sitting down in the writer’s chair and writing.

What part of a story comes to you first?

The basic plot.  I just get a loose idea of a plot line: “Girl rescues abused horses.”  Then I flesh it out a bit: “Girl lost her beloved horse a few years earlier and vows to never love another horse.”  Then throw in the idea of the girl having a brother who returned from the war with PTSD, and parents who bring home the abused horses for the girl to care for, and there you have it... Wind Dancer.

Are you a meticulous plot planner or do you just let the story flow?

I’m what’s known as a “pantster.”  I fly by the seat of my pants, writing as I go. lol. It’s a crazy process and probably not the best, but I HATE doing a synopsis, or chapter outlines.  When I wrote for the Ashleigh Thoroughbred series, I had to write a chapter-by-chapter outline.  I hated it, but I have to admit, it definitely made writing the book soooo much easier.

Do you ever get writer's block? How do you overcome?

I don’t let myself have writer’s block.  I just sit down and write.  If I read it later, and don’t like what I’ve written, I can always change it.  Never be afraid to change things and make your work better.

How do you know that a story’s finished?

When it feels like all the loose ends are wrapped up and there’s nothing more to say. 

How do you go about revising your writing?

I’m one of those writers who writes a few pages, then goes back over those to make sure everything looks good.  Or, if I find something that’s wrong, I fix it then and there.  Then I continue on writing the next few pages.  I’m a really busy person, with a gazillion things I’m doing all at once.  So, sometimes I will go days or weeks without writing anything.  (I probably shouldn’t admit that. lol) When I get back to writing, I need to go over a chapter or two and refresh my memory before I continue on with the book. When I get to the end of the book, I may or may not go over it, depending on how many times I’ve re-read and re-written it as I go.

Do you have any advice/resources (books, blogs, etc.) for aspiring authors?

Yes… If you truly want to be an author, don’t EVER give up! Keep writing until you get it right.  Every author has a book or two under their bed that will never see the light of day. Learn to take criticism. Too many writers have very thin skin and quit when someone points out their weaknesses. Listen, learn, and grow.  Get into a GOOD critique group.
As far as books on writing… Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation & Conflict is the best.  Also anything from the Reader’s Digest books on writing series is good.

Christ Platt on Wind Dancer

Are all of your stories about horses? Why do you write about them?

Yes, so far, all of my books are about horses. I love horses and I loved reading about them when I was growing up. They made me happy.  I want to write books like the ones I read as a child.  I hope they’ll make others happy.
Little Bit

Do you think of the horses in your stories as characters? Do they need the same kind of development?

Yes, the horses all have a distinct personality, just like they do in real life.  They often will develop right along with the human character.
Tell us about the inspiration for Wind Dancer.

Wind Dancer was another story that came to me when I was jogging. I pull crazy ideas out of the air and say, “What if?” 

I have a friend who came home from the war with PTSD, and he doesn’t think he has it.  I wanted to put a character that has some of those issues in the story in hopes that it will help others learn to deal with it.

The story deals with some serious issues. Did you have to do a lot of research on PTSD?

Yes, there’s a lot of stuff on the internet that explains what PTSD is.  But I also used a lot of the behaviors of my friend, and what his family went through with him.

How would you use this book in a classroom?

There are several ways this book could be used in the classroom.  The first one is intertainment value for those who love to read.  The second it to teach kids about caring for animals, and for our friends and members of our families.  The third is to approach the subject of PTSD and make kids aware of what it is, and some of the warning signs, and where to get help if needed.

      What do you hope your readers get out of this book?

I hope that they learn a little about being aware of what’s going on around you; about caring for people and animals; about friendships, about PTSD, and I hope that they enjoy the story and find value through either entertainment or gaining of knowledge.

Thanks so much to Chris for spending time with us this morning! 

Leave a comment about your own favorite horse memories, and one of you will win a copy of Wind Dancer!

You can pick up your own copy of Wind Dancer at your local bookstore and visit Chris' website to see the rest of her fabulous work.

Psst! Follow the Wind Dancer blog tour here!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Blog Tour for Wind Dancer

Our final book for this season's Blog Tour concludes with a middle grade fiction novel, "Wind Dancer" by Chris Platt. 

Can a rescued horse help Ali get through to her brother, who has returned from Afghanistan with PTSD?
Ali used to love horses. But that was before the accident, when she was injured and her pony died. Before her brother Danny joined the military.
Now Danny has returned from Afghanistan. He's learning to walk with the prosthetic that has replaced one of his legs, but he can't seem to find a way to reconnect with family and friends. Withdrawn and quick to anger, Danny suffers from terrible nightmares and frightening mood changes.
When Ali realizes that an elderly neighbor has been neglecting her horses, she decides she has to act. Can Ali rise above her painful memories and love a horse again? And can Wind Dancer, also injured and traumatized, help Danny rediscover meaning in his life?
You can follow along this last Blog Tour here:
Follow along on the blog tour:

Monday 4/28-Blue Owl and Sally's Bookshelf

Tuesday – Chat with Vera
Wednesday- Horse Book Reviews
Thursday- Kid Lit Reviews

Friday, April 18, 2014

Blog Tour for Claude at the Beach

Claude is no ordinary dog - he leads an extraordinary life!

In the third installment of Claude's hilarious adventures, Claude and Sir Bobblysock pack their bags and go on vacation to the beach. They rescue a man from a shark, win a sandcastle-building competition, and hunt for pirate treasure. Of course, they make it back home just before Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes come home from work.

Buy the book/ borrow the book

Kirkus calls this early chapter book "hilarious", but what do our readers have to say? Follow along on the blog tour:

Monday 4/21-Blue Owl

Tuesday – Kid Lit Reviews

Wednesday- Chat with Vera

Thursday-Geo Librarian

Monday, April 14, 2014

Blog Tour for Beneath the Sun

Welcome to our first title for our April Blog Tour! We will be discussing Melissa Stewart's title "Beneath the Sun" (library).

This lyrical tour of a variety of habitats offers young readers vivid glimpses of animals as they live out the hot season under the blazing sun.
Journey from your neighborhood to a field where an earthworm loops its long body into a ball underground, and to a desert where a jackrabbit loses heat through its oversized ears. Beneath the Sun shows readers how animals survive the hottest time of the year.
Follow along with what our bloggers have to say:
Monday 4/14- Jean Little Library and Blue Owl
Tuesday – Geo Librarian
Wednesday- Kid Lit Reviews

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Printable CLAUDE Coloring Book Pages!

Question: What is the most fun thing in the world that doesn't directly include reading?

Answer: Coloring in the illustrations from your favorite picture book.

Before you start typing horrified comments, hear me out.

When I was in second grade, my school library was giving away old books. We all know, getting a free book is great any day, but this was no ordinary time...

This was in the glory days of gel pens.

You remember, right? Showing up to school with that rolling backpack filled with Lisa Frank folders and a 45,832 pack of gels... Yeah, the 90's were awesome.

Anyway, while I would normally cringe at the thought of defacing a book, these books were sad. Their plastic covers were yellowing, they were stamped with a scarlet DISCARD. I wanted to rescue them and make them beautiful again. So I adopted my orphan book specifically because it was filled with black and white line-drawing illustrations--perfect for coloring with gel pens.

You know which books also have excellent gel pen-ready illustrations?

While I wouldn't dare take a writing implement of any kind to the pages of Alex T. Smith's cheeky stories, I would make you printable coloring pages :) Yep, everybody's favorite posh pup is yours for the coloring.

Just click the link below, download, and color away! If you're feeling really ambitious, snap a picture and tweet it at us ( @PeachtreePub ).


Download your FREE printable coloring book pages from Claude at the Beach!

Pick up a copy of Claude at the Beach at your local bookstore, and visit Alex T. Smith's website to see his other fabulous work! 

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Making of The Grudge Keeper

Have you ever wondered how a story that begins as just black words on a white page is transformed into a fully illustrated picture book? 

I could lay out the logistics myself, but I thought you'd rather hear it from someone a little closer to the action. We asked the lovely and talented author (Mara Rockliff) & illustrator (Eliza Wheeler) of The Grudge Keeper to walk us through the process of creating a picture book from an original story with original art!

Let's meet them, shall we?

Mara & Eliza on the Collaborative Process

“Brimming with movement, a bounce here and there, billowing dresses and courtly shirts, Wheeler's lyrical drawings perfectly complement Rockliff's tale of forgiveness. This is a warm-hearted book to savor and read over and over again.” 
―Maureen Palacios, The Indie Next List

Have you two ever met in person?
E.W.   That’s a great story! Mara gave a shout-out to me in the middle of her Golden Kiteacceptance award speech at the 2013 SCBWI Summer Conference. We waved to each other, but it wasn’t exactly the right time for chit-chat. After the awards I went over to give her a hug and said a quick hello, but Henry Winkler was waiting behind me to talk to her. So that wasn’t exactly the right time for chit-chat either. I’m looking forward to a future chance to meet more fully.

Had you heard of each other before this project?
M.R.   Nope. But I definitely heard about Eliza afterward, when Miss Maple’s Seeds debuted on the New York Times bestseller list.

E.W.   Getting The Grudge Keeper manuscript was my first introduction to Mara’s work.

Who came up with the idea for the book?
E.W.   That’s all Mara!

M.R.   I did. There may be rare exceptions, but usually when a picture book has a separate author and illustrator, the author writes the story long before the illustrator gets involved. I think this is something that confuses kids (and maybe grownups, too) when they hear that the author “writes the words.” It’s probably more accurate to say the author makes up the story.

How did your manuscript end up at Peachtree?
M.R.   I actually wrote this story seven years ago! It was turned down by LOTS of publishers. Some of them said it was impossible to illustrate. J (I think they couldn’t picture how the grudges would look, which puzzled me…I originally pictured them as scraps of paper, although I love Eliza’s little scrolls.)

Anyway, The Grudge Keeper floated around for quite a while until it washed up on a welcoming shore. My editors at Peachtree, K.L. and J.A., really “got” the story and helped whip it into shape.

Did you pick Eliza to illustrate your story? Or is that someone else’s job?
M.R.   No, Peachtree gets all the credit for finding Eliza—although, as it happens, we’re both with the same agency (Andrea Brown Literary Agency, which specializes in superb agents named Jennifer). So once we heard Eliza was considering the project, MY Jennifer was able to tell HER Jennifer how much we hoped she would say yes!

Okay, so Eliza, how did you get involved with the project?
E.W.   My agent, Jen Rofe, emailed the manuscript to me, and she knew it was right up my alley. It was fun to find out Mara was another Andrea Brown Literary agent’s client – it’s like we’re cousins of a sort.

Mara, did you get veto power if you didn’t like the artistic direction the project was taking? Or did you just let your baby go?
M.R.   Well, that’s a little hard to answer, because this is my first book with Peachtree and I loved the artistic direction the project was taking. I did get to see sketches and felt welcome to share my reactions, but I wouldn’t call it “veto power.” I see my job as mainly to spot places where the art and text conflict, and then decide whether to change the text or suggest a possible change in the art.

For instance, in the wedding scene, I’d written that Big Otto spilled the punch, but Eliza drew Lily Belle between Otto and the punch bowl. That didn’t hurt the story, so I just changed the text. But in the same scene, I did ask if she could show Elvira sneaking cake to Minnie Fletcher’s goat. I thought it was important to the story, because readers need that visual to understand the joke when Minnie tells Elvira, “You can’t get my goat!”

Eliza, did you get to see the full manuscript before you agreed to accept the project? Or did you just have to take our word for it when we promised you a beautiful story to work on?
E.W.   I saw the full manuscript first.  Considering how much time and dedication it takes to create picture-book art, I can’t imagine a case in which I would be able to say ‘yes’ to a project without reading it!

Did you ever call each other while you were working on TGK?
M.R.   I’ve never called an illustrator. Publishers prefer to mediate between the writer and the illustrator. So any time I have suggestions about illustrations, I email my editor, who talks to the designer, who talks to the illustrator. But I did indulge in occasional tweets about how great Eliza’s sketches looked.

E.W.   We didn’t talk through the process, apart from a few fun tweets back and forth. It makes sense to work directly with the art director or editor during each stage of the process, but it’s definitely fun to get some validation from the author once they have something to respond to. It would be a bummer to create a whole picture-book only to find out the author hates the art!

Once the manuscript is polished and all of the art is in, then what happens?
E.W.   I mail the final artwork to the publisher, which requires a bit of nail-biting (Will it get there safely? Will they be happy with the final art?). At that point it feels like it disappears behind the magician’s curtain and reappears a year later as a real-life, in your hands book. A pretty amazing trick!

How do you feel about the finished product? Is it anything like either of you imagined it would be?
M.R.   Well, by the time the book came out I had a pretty good idea of how it would look, since I’d seen all the proof stages up to F&Gs (folded and gathered sheets, which are the unbound pages of the finished book). And, of course, it looked wonderful.

But there was one last surprise. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but if you have the book, be sure to peek under the flaps!

E.W.   From the time that I first read the manuscript and imagine how the artwork will look in my head, there are ways in which it deviates from that vision through the process along the way. By the time I finish the artwork I’m so cross-eyed that I can’t see it objectively anymore. That’s why I appreciate that buffer of time (typically a year) from the time I finish to the time the book comes out, so I can see (and appreciate) it with new eyes.

Mara Rockliff on the Writing of The Grudge Keeper

“Rockliff has created a clever fable characterized by ornate language, extraordinary characters and billowy atmosphere.” 

Where did your inspiration for the story come from?
M.R.   It just popped into my head. I heard the phrase “keeping a grudge,” and I thought, wouldn’t it be funny if being a grudge keeper was a job, like being a beekeeper or a zookeeper? So I went off to my computer and I typed:

No one in the town of Bonnyripple ever kept a grudge.
            No one, that is, except old Cornelius, the Grudge Keeper.

I just went back and looked and, amazingly, those two opening lines stayed the same from my first draft to the finished book.

The language is so beautiful & clever. I love that it challenges young readers to expand their vocabulary and to think critically about literary fiction. Was this intentional?
M.R.   No, not at all. I just had fun playing around with words, and hoped it would be fun for readers, too. Kids love new words when they are “sparkle words” (a phrase I first heard from author Marcia Thornton Jones). Squabbles and quibbles and tiffs and huffs are definitely sparkle words, and so are funny idioms like “getting someone’s goat” or “having a bone to pick”—especially if you can toss that bone to the pet peeves!

What was the editing process like? How many drafts did TGK go through before you and your editor were satisfied?
M.R.   Wow, I have no idea. I’ve got five drafts of the manuscript before it was laid out in pages, but after that we kept on tinkering right up until it went off to the printer. Working with K.L. was a cinch. She’s the perfect combination: easygoing personality, sharp editorial eye. I agreed with nearly all of her suggested changes, and she agreed with nearly all of mine, so we had a swell time egging each other on.

You wrote the book without the artwork, right? Did you imagine illustrations for TGK as you were writing?
M.R.   I always imagine illustrations as I’m writing, and it’s always a surprise the first time I see sketches. The characters might look really different than I expect, or the artist might have chosen to illustrate certain scenes or actions and leave others out. Sometimes the page turns are completely unexpected—what I envisioned as the first five or six pages of the book might turn out to be all on the opening spread. 

Eventually, of course, I get used to it and can’t imagine the book any other way. With The Grudge Keeper, the big surprise was that there was no adjustment period. I couldn’t have imagined all the clever things Eliza did, but the story felt exactly as I’d pictured it. For me, it was love at first sight.

In novels, the author has the final word on world building and character development. What is it like to let someone else take on creating the visual identity of your world and characters?
M.R.   It’s like mixing eggs and flour and sugar and milk and sticking it in the oven and then coming back and finding a spectacularly decorated three-tier cake. Magical!

What was your initial reaction when you saw Eliza’s art?
M.R.   !©!©!©!©!©!©!

Eliza Wheeler on the Illustrating of The Grudge Keeper

“Wheeler's (Miss Maple's Seeds) sure hand and lyrical pen-and-ink spreads are the source of this story's charm. Long skirts billow, the fairy-tale cottage of Cornelius the Grudge Keeper leans sweetly to one side, and the white scraps of paper on which villagers have written their grudges billow and drift like sea foam.”

What was your initial reaction to Mara’s story?
E.W.   I remember very clearly my first thought was, “Brilliant. I wish I had thought of this!” If that thought ever pops into my head it makes for a clear and resounding ‘yes’ that it’s the right fit for me. I’m a big sucker for classic fairytales, folktales, and fables, so it was really exciting to be handed a manuscript that felt like one of those classics, but it’s completely new.

It’s amazing that you were able to translate the mood of her words into images. Was the manuscript your sole source of inspiration?
E.W.   Thank you! Well, of course the manuscript is the main source of inspiration, but I did turn to some of my favorite artists for visual inspiration. For this project in particular I looked at the art of many Golden Age artists – ArthurRackham, Edmund Dulac, etc. And Lisbeth Zwerger is also a constant source of inspiration for me. I make color-copies of their work to hang around the drawing table.

Eliza's table while working on The Grudge Keeper!

Since you’re also an author, what was it like developing the vision for someone else’s world and characters?
E.W.   It’s so much fun to get a story that someone else has brought to completion! Writing is such hard brain-work, and I’m really slow at it, so it can be refreshing to pick up a story that’s ready for illustrations. I’m not coming into it attached to certain visuals the way I might be with my own story. Plus, Mara’s writing is brilliant. Did I say that already?

Do you get free reign in your visual character development? For example, do you get to decide ethnicities, weights, ages, etc. if an author doesn’t specify in her text?
E.W.   I did some character sketches before diving into the book illustrations, and I don’t think the Peachtree team had one complaint! I was able to just run with it. This book has a large cast, and I tried to combine a classic and fresh approach to them. For example, the name ‘Lily Belle’ first conjures an image of a blonde girl with ringlets. To change it up, I sketched an African-American girl with ringlets, and loved that unexpected twist. I saw the two characters Elvira Bogg and Minnie Fletcher as sort of soul mates, they’re visually opposite in some ways, but the same in others. It was fun to come up with a variety of silhouettes to match the different personalities.

For an author, the primary contact is her editor. Is the same true for an illustrator? Or do you work more with the art department?
E.W.   My main contact was Peachtree’s art director, L.J. We worked back and forth together, and then she would collect feedback from others along the way. Since there were a lot of visual challenges to consider (especially how we wanted to depict the grudges), there were more art notes right off the bat than might typically come with a manuscript. Working with L.J. was so great because she was always completely open and made me feel comfortable to offer different visual ideas and approaches from what might have been noted. The whole process was very smooth.

Tell us about the mediums you used.
E.W.   I work on Arches cold-pressed paper, and begin with pen-work (using dip pens and India ink). The color is all watercolors, with occasional highlights in acrylics.

Did you choose the font and how the text is laid out on the page?
E.W.   Apart from hand-lettering the title, Peachtree worked on all the book design, font-choice, and layout. I was so pleased with how they brought it all together!

There you have it! 

A ZILLION "thank yous" to Mara and Eliza for taking the time to share their experience with us. You're both wonderful!

Make sure you pick up your own copy of The Grudge Keeper at your local bookstore and visit Eliza & Mara's websites to see their other fabulous work. 

Want more on the ins and outs of publishing? Ask a question in the comments & we'll try to answer it in a future post! In the meantime, check these out:

#DearPublisher Part Two: Straight from the Editors Mouth

#DearPublisher Part Three: Art Direction

It Takes a Village to Acquire a Book...

So You Want to Submit a Manuscript...

Thanks for stopping by!