Today is the day! My newest picture book, BROBARIANS, is officially out and I’m so excited to share it with all of you. To order, click here.
One of my favorite things about being a children’s book author/illustrator is seeing how young readers experience my books. I received a lovely email from a teacher here in Ohio who has been teaching Please Bring Balloons in her classroom for the last couple years. Each time she does the unit with a new group of students she shares the artwork with me. Today, it made my day. Look at these adorable kiddos and their beautiful artwork. Keep in mind these are second graders. Look how amazing their artwork is! So impressed. Thank you to all the kids at Buckeye Elementary for sharing your lovely artwork with me.
To say that last summer was crazy would be an understatement. Within a matter of three months I finished Brobarians and we sold our house. By the end of the summer, we were in tow with a baby and dog and no place to live (our house sold much faster than we anticipated). Thankfully our parents were willing to take us in until we could close on a new house (we bid and lost out on FOUR houses until we found our current house, which was totally worth the wait, but still it was crazy!) Here’s a look at some of the photos I took while making Brobarians last summer:
The beginning of making a picture book. Lots of staring at a wall filled with drawings.
This was the first color sample I did for Brobarians.
The tiniest Brobarian you’ve ever seen!
Making a Brobarian in cut paper (back + front!)
Illustrating my own dog Sally into the book.
Seen here with her own Brobarian.
Adding in the rain.
In order to make the Map of Brobaria endpapers look like it was actually drawn by a kid, I drew it left-handed. It was much harder than I thought it would be.
The red squares = complete. This is how I kept track of which spreads I had finished as I typically don’t work chronologically.
The aftermath of a picture book. I’m usually finding bits of paper from a book months after I’ve finished it. The paper gets EVERYWHERE!
Not to worry, even thought I finished the book, I still have my own little Brobarian who keeps me on my toes.
Until next time,
Making the cover for any book is stressful. So many things factor into the design and overall look. And of course there is the ultimate question bouncing around in the back of your mind…Will this cover sell this book? For most books I work on, I go through many revisions before I settle on the right look for the cover. So far my record is 40 cover sketches (When Blue Met Egg). Thankfully Brobarians didn’t require quite that many. Here’s a look at the sketches that lead up to the final cover I chose for Brobarians with the wonderful team I worked with at Two Lions:
Brobarians Cover Sketch 1
I think I was a little gung-ho on this one. We ultimately didn’t go with this option because we didn’t want to give away the fantasy scenes included in the interior of the book. This is where the reader sees how the brothers actually see themselves in their imagination.
Brobarians Cover Sketch 2
Although this really conveyed the action and energy of the story through the movement of the brothers running, we wanted readers to connect with the characters, which is tough through a profile image.
Brobarians Cover Sketch 3
Now we were getting somewhere. We could see the brother’s environment, we had a head on perspective to connect with them. But, by closing Iggy’s eyes, the reader loses the connection with him. So this cover option didn’t make it either.
Brobarians Cover Sketch 4
I tried a variation on Cover Sketch 3 by doing more of a close-up on the brothers. Obviously Iggy’s eyes closed was still an issue, but I wanted to see if a close-up would make a difference. Ultimately, we felt that we understood the context better if we could see more of the background and the objects they were holding on to.
Brobarians Cover Sketch 5
Again, super gung-ho. I loved the idea of this cover, but it would have given away too much. And this spread in the book is one of my favorites. Having gone this way for the cover would have taken away from the climax of their battle scene.
Brobarians Cover Sketch 6
While I was sketching all of the cover options, this was one of my favorites. But after some back and forth over it with the team at Two Lions, we decided the attitude the boys had was a little too much and didn’t really reflect the feel of the book.
Brobarians Cover Sketch 7
Finally, we had a winner! I say finally like seven sketches is a lot, it’s really not. But I was thrilled with this sketch and so happy that the team at Two Lions loved it too. It showed the environment, the brother’s personalities, and the feeling of the book. It was the whole package! You’ll also notice we dropped the hyphen in the title. We thought this would be much easier for readers when looking for the book in a search engine. Next, we had to make the jacket…
Brobarians Cover Sketch 7 – Final
Here’s the final sketch.
Brobarians Jacket Sketch
Then I created the rest of the art for the jacket. Now I needed to add color…
Brobarians Jacket – Color Finish
This is how the art looks when I send it to my editor and art director for approval. Everything is taped down so that I can still make changes. I had run out of drafting tape at this point and all I had left was floral wasabi tape, thus the patterned tape everywhere. I don’t glue anything down until the very end.
Then the book designer goes in and lays out all the copy on the flaps and spine of the book. We went through a few changes with this until we settled on the perfect one. I’m thrilled with how it all came together. I worked with an amazing team of people at Two Lions.
Brobarians – Final Cover
Ta-da! Here’s the final cover! I’d come along way since the cover I submitted with my book dummy during the submission process:
Brobarians – Original Book Dummy Cover
So all that for one cover – no big deal right? I hope you enjoy Brobarians as much as I do. For more information about the book or to pre-order Brobarians, click here.
Until next time, Happy Reading!
At the end of this month, my newest picture book BROBARIANS with Two Lions, an imprint of Amazon Publishing, will pub on March 28th. I’m so excited to share this book with all of you for many reasons, but mostly because I never thought this book would be published. I honestly didn’t think anyone would get it. It’s weird and quirky and has nods to the writing of John Milius, who isn’t exactly the poster boy for childhood. Yet here we are, a month out from publication thanks to all the fabulous people at Two Lions who believed in it too.
Let me start from the beginning. My husband has this list of must-see movies. He’s very particular about them and feels that they are necessary to be a well-rounded viewer/human being. In other words, if you haven’t seen them, he won’t think much of your movie taste. What can I say, he’s particular about his movies. One of the movies on his list is Conan the Barbarian, written and directed by John Milius, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. I know what you’re thinking. Really, that’s on the list? Yes. And like all of you, I thought could this movie really be worth two hours of my life? But my husband insisted. Apparently my life would be stunted without it this viewing experience. So we watched it. And to be honest, I hated the first half hour of it. It was campy, cheesy, and completely ridiculous. But then something strange happened, I started to enjoy the campy, cheesy, and completely ridiculous dialogue. It was so over the top. This movie represented everything I would typically pass on, but for some reason it all worked. By the end of the two hours I loved it. And better yet…and book idea was forming.
I realized that the voice of Conan the Barbarian is what really sets it apart. I don’t mean Arnold’s voice, but rather the words of John Milius, the writer. This is the same guy who wrote Red Dawn, Apocalypse Now, Dirty Harry, etc. An over the top, larger than life writer and director in the movie business. In fact, if any of you have seen The Big Lebowski (another movie on my husband’s list) the character played by John Goodman is based on Milius. I imagine you have to be pretty bold to create his resume. Days after watching Conan, the voice stayed with me.
And then I remembered a story my husband told me about he and his brother when they were little. My husband is two years older than his younger brother. By the time his younger brother was walking around with a bottle, my husband had already been weened off of them. But that didn’t change the fact that he still wanted one all the time. So on occasion my husband was known to steal his younger brother’s bottle and go hide behind a chair while he gulped it down. This lasted a whole of five minutes before their mom would figure out what had happened and take the bottle away. Apparently this became a household routine.
So between the Conan voice bouncing around in my head and the story my husband told me…BROBARIANS was created. As soon as the idea popped into my head, I wrote the first draft in one go. The story went through many, many, many drafts and revisions. But finally I was ready to create a dummy and send it to my agent. She must have thought I was crazy the first time she read BROBARIANS. I knew it was going to be a tough sell because the voice was so adult. But I also knew that’s where the humor was. This idea of babies juxtaposed with this over-the-top narration was too funny not to try.
We went out on two rounds of general submission and magically two houses were interested! I couldn’t believe someone was going to let me publish this book. Even now I still feel that way. Ultimately we felt that Two Lions and Amazon were a great fit for BROBARIANS.
After finishing the book, I received the best editorial letter yet, to which my editor said:
“I can say with certainty that this is the only time I have ever said this to anyone: thanks for watching Conan the Barbarian.”
So…here’s the point of this post: you never know where your ideas will come from, least of all a movie night with your husband starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Who’d of thought?
I’m thrilled to share BROBARIANS on March 28th! I hope you all find it as funny as I do!
To pre-order BROBARIANS, please click here.
Make sure to check back during the month of March for more posts about the making of BROBARIANS!