DOWN UNDER: Moment Two

This complimentary excerpt from DOWN UNDER: Kussins. Read the Introduction and Moment One also.

—•—

MOMENT TWO

PESTER

Located off Old Hospital Road, the farm wasn’t a historic home place to his father, Marq, or to Marq’s father, Pap. Qweepie history prior to these men didn’t exist.

Named after the Dawson family’s water well, Dawson Springs became historic to water boarders. They traveled near and far seeking tallo water’s minerals and healing powers. Water pours from refrigerators, why travel any distance beyond the kitchen, Driew thought.

From the safety of the front porch, Driew looked over his father’s farm, pondering how long this rural life might continue. Less than a year ago, the home place was a wasteland of vehicles, a home covered in despair in the midst of his family disparity, a reflection of a life of defeat—not on the homeowner, but upon the people who had left the worthless mess. Now, Outback was growing into a marvelous Eden home.

Just because a place’s beauty is hidden doesn’t mean beauty doesn’t exist. Dawson Springs is very special too; however, sharing the town with his larrikin bother Pester tainted summer’s shine. Pester’s pranks were an ugly part of this special place.

Driew’s summer started with a violent blue between him and his oldest sister, Killiope. After their confrontation, he had decided to run away from Dawson Springs.

Gulia convinced Driew of an undiscovered spring of magic—his story. His sibling confrontation and friend’s motivational speech canceled out one another. Driew opted for an adventurous Outback life.

Resting in the side porch monkey swing, Driew reflected on the evening’s incomplete chase. Tomorrow’s chase eminently awaits. Since the blue, his body had surprised him. Not only did the fight correct his vision, but also increased his physical endurance.

”Where you chasing lightning bugs, baby doll?” asked Marq Qweepie, Driew’s father.

Marq Qweepie had adapted the lazy talk of the neither northern nor southern state called Kentucky. Lightning bugs replaced fireflies. G’Day replaced hello. And supper replaced dinner. Marq had either adopted or regressed into new habits living in Dawson Springs, as had Driew.

Lazy talk didn’t seem lazy anymore. The words flowed like sweet tea over ice. Smooth and popping at just the right syllable. Yonder didn’t make sense before. Yonder was now a safe distance away.

A winded Pester rounded the porch then wedged his way into Driew’s relaxing monkey swing. Like a pack animal, Pester displayed his hierarchy. In the Qweepie pack, Pester ruled as top dog. Pester had assumed the leader role in Killiope’s absence. As Big Bother, Pester reigned a larrikin like his name implied.

Driew knew of only one other big bother worse than his own—Jameson Hayder, his bully kussin. Driew avoided that bounce. Pester shared Driew’s bedroom—no escaping family.

“Where have you been?” asked Nieve Qweepie, caring for her oldest son’s whereabouts as mothers do.

“I ran Old Hospital Road. Gotta keep in shape for the lacrosse tryouts next spring. There are no teams. If I want to be recognized, I gotta be on point,” said Pester, munching on his third supper.

”We found a team in Clarksville, Tennessee. But we need your help to cover costs,” said Marq.

”Why?” asked Pester.

”We can afford the transportation and time. You need to supply the dues and gear,” said Nieve, more into sports than Marq.

”Boys, we’ve discussed letting all three of you work this summer. Since Payne is working at Pennyrile State Park, Piper Brown has neighborly offered to hire the two of you for jobs in her garden. We are fine with you helping as long as you commit until Gulia returns,” said Nieve.

”Killiope never worked. Why should I?” Pester countered the idea of employment.

”Fine! Work here. Wash the van and mow the fast-growing lawn and fields for free,” said Marq, frustrated by Pester’s response.

”Cleaning a minivan is like cleaning a house without air conditioning,” said Pester.

”How about mowing grass in town? You’ll earn fifteen dollars an hour,” Marq suggested. ”You won’t make that bagging groceries!”

”Mowing is too hot and boring. Back and forth, clipping the same grass week after week!” said Pester.

”This summer is your last opportunity to earn money before graduation. Money doesn’t grow on trees, you know.” Marq kicked off his soiled farm boots, the same boots he used to mow the same fields week after week at Pester’s age.

”I shouldn’t have to work,” said Pester, sulking in the chair.

”If you want spending money, you’re working! Help Piper or you and I are applying at the DQ, DG, and every tobacco patch within three counties. You’re not gaming this summer away!” Nieve sipped her sweet tea.

Driew had hoped to enjoy the cool evening and sweet tea conversations peacefully—not tonight.

Pester brushed past Driew, flicking his ear. If ever a time for a kid to snap, Driew chose the wrong one. In a reflex action, Driew swung at his pain, hitting Pester.

Pester snatched Driew in a headlock, spilling Nieve’s drink and breaking the Mason jar.

”Stop this bickering! You’re working for Piper! No sass talk. If you two want to touch, sit face-to-face and hold hands!” There are two sides to a story, Nieve always said when resolving conflicts. She ignored the motto today.

“I don’t want to hold his stinking hand,” said Pester.

“Do as I say or you’ll be cleaning this mess and the house too!” said Nieve.

Pester locked hands with Driew, face-to-face in the wooden porch swing.

“Stay there, while I get something to clean this mess,” said Nieve, slamming the screen door. The 1930s farmhouse wood floors whined from the force of her punishing march to the kitchen.

”You jerks, your mom is worried about finding a job herself. Don’t add to her stress by being lazy and spoiled. No one in this house wants to work this summer. To leave, that’s our only other choice.”  Marq collected the broken Mason jar then joined Nieve inside.

Driew contemplated where issues began in his life. Rid of a big sinister, left with an even bigger bother picking up where Killiope left off.

Pester manipulated the punishment into Driew’s torment. ”You’ve never cared for anything but yourself, lil’ bother. You’ll clearly never hafta be responsible,” said Pester, clenching Driew’s fingers. With his strong sweaty grip, Pester forcefully squeezed.

Driew collapsed onto the porch, whimpering in pain.

Pester didn’t let go.

Get back, Driew thought, replacing his whimper with his newfound strength. Driew clinched forcefully as Pester’s hold eased. Getting even, Driew thought.

Pester attempted to break the hand holding bond. He hocked a spit wad, dangling his saliva over Driew’s face. Footsteps creaked over the wood floors inside and toward the porch. Pester jerked Driew off the floor and into the swing beside him.

”Aw, you the lovingest bunch of boys,” Ida Mae said. “Your momma gots a job call. She said you boys bess clean this mess and get off to bed fer work.” She left towels and a bucket of soapy water beside the swing.

”I’m done! Night, lil’ bother.” Pester jumped the porch banister, leaving Driew to clean up.

Driew had become Pester’s keeper, cleaning responsibly, with no verbal appreciation. Pester’s lack of words hit harder than his punches. Driew cared for his family and took on added responsibilities to show his love.

Killiope and I grew closer before she left for bootcamp. Could Pester and I do the same? Driew thought, empowered by his show of strength.

I don’t want to live another torturous year as Pester’s little bother. Can’t Pester resolve his issues to become a loving brother?

—•—

Text and illustrations copyright © 2016 by Mark Wayne Adams. All rights reserved. Family Tree Novel is a SYP Kids imprint.

Advertisements

Summer Reading List: “DOWN UNDER: Kussins”

The Family Tree Novel series’ steady, enduring story is like a tree growing against nature’s will toward the sky. Driew Qweepie’s perennial story buds, blossoms, grows, and falls from the twisted branches of the Qweepie family tree. The story’s sing-song rhythm creates a songline for readers to follow, scanning a century all told.

The book series begins with a boy starting walkabout, a historical rite of passage into manhood. The moments throughout walkabout are viewed by a magic man chasing along an untimely move from Dawson City, Victoria, Australia’s Outback, to Dawson Springs in rural western Kentucky. This journey becomes a boy’s tracing of his bloodline, discovery of country, and possible death.

DOWN UNDER: Kussins is part of our Summer Reading List for Students! Purchase your own or check the book out at the local library. If it’s not available at the library, request it be added.

DOWN UNDER: Kussins is written by Mark Wayne Adams. This is one of books in his award-winning Family Tree Novel series of chapter books:  STATION: OutlawsOZ: InlawsNO WORRIES: Momus & MamaaysOUTBACK: Bothers & SinistersDOWN UNDER: KussinsG’DAY: AintsMATES: Uncools, and WALKABOUT: Mates.

Kussins on The Authors Show

  • M. W. Adams give us a quick synopsis of your Family Tree Novel series and DOWN UNDER: Kussins.

The Family Tree Novel series is a real and relevant story about modern family relationships and hometown history.

In DOWN UNDER: Kussins, Pester’s unyielding pranks force Driew to question his biggest bother’s not-so-loving intentions. During Driew’s countrified lessons with twins, Able and Cain Poe, a brotherly secret surfaces. Driew vows to protect family secrets and moments, carving their words down under the Outback tree’s protective bark.

  • Is there a specific type of reader you had in mind when you wrote your book?

I wrote this book for tween/teen readers to understand family roles and how love works. Whether readers are the oldest, middle, youngest, adopted, blended, or an only child, they’ll related to a Family Tree Novel character. The series’ Walkabout moments offer family perspectives of Driew’s journey along an uprooted Aboriginal songline.

  • What influences your writing style?

Reading is a strong influence. When writing middle grade YA, I must research myself at that age: fears, actions, and reactions to surviving your social tribe. In my youthful exploration of love and family, I used books like: The Five Love Languages of Teenagers, Gary Chapman and Growing Up First Born, Kevin Leman.

Research is a fascinating influence. In the Family Tree Novel series I decided to include my research as second source reading for educators. Beyond the book reading includes: local history, traditions, foods, and social factors.

Lastly words and language are important influence in writing. Words have unique meanings in various cultures. Take for example Caddywompus, (a non-derogatory word to describe functions or actions associated with uncharacteristic behaviors, socially or physically). My neighbor used the word to describe a table with a short leg, or a photo that hung off-centered on the wall.

  • What makes your characters unique?

Each teen characters express love differently based on the role they play in family hierarchy. I also like that each has their own sense of humor that sparkles throughout.

  • Where can we purchase your book?

If visiting the small town from the book, Dawson Springs, Kentucky, Southern Belles and Notions on the town square or Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park gift shop are my two favorites. The books are available at my publisher’s website: syppublishing.com, my website: markwayneadams.com, or any major retailer.

The full interview and original broadcast are available at The Authors Show.

 

Anna Faktorovich, PhD: Interview with Mark

 

Interview with Mark Adams, Award-Winning Illustrator

With: Anna Faktorovich, PhD

Adams-Author Bio Photo-mwa.company-templateMark Wayne Adams is an award-winning illustrator, author, publisher, and owner of Mark Wayne Adams, Inc, an independent book publishing company. He has a Bachelors of Fine Arts, illustrated fifty books, and published 15 books, working with more than 18 authors. Adams has 19 years’ experience in graphic design and has worked for companies including Walt Disney World Company, SeaWorld Orlando, and Sprint Print, Commercial Printing. He is also a board member and past-president of Florida Authors and Publishers Association, a nonprofit organization that provides information, resources, and professional development to its members and others interested in the writing and publishing profession. Mark serves as the international Readers’ Favorite Illustration Awards judge.

OUTBACK-Bothers & Sinisters-www.mwa.companyOutback: Bothers & Sinisters: Family Tree Novel: There are no chapters in life—only moments. The Family Tree Novel Series is written and illustrated for adventurous readers. Not only can readers explore the content by researching facts and fiction, but also learn a new Australian vocabulary within the story. For generations, the family tree records words and sing-song that wind deep in its core. Children playing in or around the tree may accidentally sever or uproot disturbing moments hidden in their Outback. Adopting new words and terms helps better describe your Outback and how you lived it. Family Tree Novel readers are introduced to a variety of Australian, American, and Qweepie vernacular throughout the novel series. Choose to adopt or to adapt these terms in your Outback language using the “Language of the Outback” glossary included.

 

Faktorovich: What kind of work did you do at Disney? You mentioned during our chat at ALA that you started in illustration when a friend told you that because you are such a quick animator, you could make a lot of money in illustration. Can you give an example of the timeline for one of the projects you did for Disney or another company you animated for, with details on how long each image, or set of images took? What are the daily tasks you had to complete as a professional animator? How are they different for an illustrator?

98-Ronnie Mesa-Mark AdamsAdams: I participated in the WDW College Program Internship, MGM Studios Food Service, Professional Lifeguard for both waterparks and resorts, which ranged from lifeguard, health club, to caricature artist. In every WDW position, I continued to submit portfolios to the Disney Animation Studios in Lake Buena Vista, Florida until the studio closed. At that point, I gave up my animation dream for the reality of a house and family in Florida. I drew ridiculously fast and was referred by a coworker, Ronnie Mesa, to a publisher in Tavares, Florida. I illustrated two children’s books within 45 days. The publisher said, “You’ll make a lot of money in this business, if you keep illustrating at this speed.” A second of animation is composed of 12-24 drawings. Most animators create hundreds of drawings a day. The standard children’s book has 32 full page illustrations, which is less than a day’s work for an animator. The $500 the publisher paid me in 1997 wasn’t going to help me quit my day job.

 

Faktorovich: Most illustrated books today look very similar to each other in style and technique. Why do you think this is the case? Is there pressure to mimic popular books in any genre because failure to conform to genre norms is seen as a mistake by reviewers, award organizers and others in the publishing industry? In other words, the styles of classical painters such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo are sharply different, but if an art historian attempted to tell two popular illustrated children’s illustrators’ work apart, they would be stomped as to how to tell them apart. For example, paint types, brushstroke style, and various other elements differ in the best canonical painters, but modern digital illustrations lack most of these characteristics, and frequently top illustrators mimic techniques others utilize to conform their art to the industry standard. If an illustrator attempts radically different art, the work is typically either ignored by reviewers or negatively criticized as a mistake. Have you made any attempts to break with these formulaic requirements, and if so, what was the result of this experiment?

Adams: Fine artists and illustrators are educated using not only paint mediums, brushstrokes, and art history, but also computers. My college drawing professor, Dale Leys, refused to let me draw cartoons during my four year degree program. He believed a fine artist could become a great cartoonist, but not the reverse. Talented illustrators rely on art techniques that apply in a variety of medium using any tool.

Many of my clients are independent authors or publishers who take liberty in pushing the bounds of traditional publishing. Reviewers, award organizers, and publishing purists stubbornly hold to publishing tradition and labels.

Nicholas,That's Ridiculous!-Carpenter-www.mwa.companyWith Nicholas, That’s Ridiculous! I learned even “mistakes” add value. I had flooded an illustration with water and dropped magenta paint onto the page of a story about being a boy. Rather than discard the illustration, I submitted it for author approval. Author Christa Carpenter loved the liberty I took. Many clients request my bold color choices for their books.

When I was younger, my librarian mother never allowed me to fold pages, write in margins, or cut my books. I experimented doing this in my Best Sketchbooks. In the illustrated edition of OUTBACK: Bothers & Sinisters, readers are allowed to cut or fold the over 100 illustrations. Each illustration is an experiment from the first sketch to the final cut illustration.

 

Faktorovich: Last year I did a Kentucky Historical Society short fellowship for my Radical Agrarian Economics: Wendell Berry and Beyond book, spending some time at the society, and at neighboring archives, as well as talking to the region’s farmers. You mention in the version of your bio in the OUTBACK book that the magic there was based on your childhood experiences with the “creeks, caves and bluffs of western Kentucky.” Can you elaborate on what about Kentucky, as opposed to other states, makes it a place that so many American writers from Wendell Berry to Abe Lincoln were inspired by or wrote about? Is the nature in Kentucky somehow more magical; is it more accessible; are people living there trained to love it more than in other places? And if you love Kentucky so much, why did you move to Florida? Do you want to go back? In the Acknowledgements you thank your parents, Larry Wayne Adams and Mary Francis Adams, “for sharing their Kentucky childhood memories” with you, so are the reminiscences in this novel theirs more so than your own? It seems that Australia’s Outback is as different in climate to the bluegrass Kentucky as a place can be, so why the parallel?

Adams: The OUTBACK magic is based on my Kentucky childhood experiences. My grandfather, Eliose Trotter, worked for the Kentucky State Parks’ Department of Forestry. Eliose harvested nuts, nurtured saplings, and planted acres of trees. My father, Larry Adams, worked 40 hours a week in a plastic factory. Every afternoon and weekend he farmed until late at night. If dad took a day off, he was fishing or hunting. My two male role models respected the earth and everything that came from it.

Why did I leave? I was told if you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it’s meant to be. I moved to Florida to chase my animation dream. When I left, family and friends said, “You can always come home.” As a public speaker in elementary schools, I return “home” to Kentucky often. I’m greeted with, “Welcome home!” I don’t get this greeting in the suburbs of Central Florida.

IMG_0153I spent eight years shipping books from the Florida across the United States. I realized shipping from the central United States reduces shipping cost drastically. In 2015 I moved my book warehouse/distribution center to Dawson Springs, Kentucky. Kentucky is better location if you’re in the distribution business. I now understand why factories locate in the Central United States.

My parents’ childhood stories encouraged me to explore the simple pleasures of being a kid. I ran barefoot and rode horses bareback, because luxuries like shoes and saddles weren’t required for adventure. Books were required. My librarian mother made sure the Adams kids were registered for the Dawson Springs Branch Library’s annual Summer Reading Program. We read for points and for fun!

Reading is a powerful tool in the hands of children. Words change the world. Peter Pan flew to Neverland, an imaginary place without problems. I traveled to the Never Never land, a vastly remote area of Australia’s Outback that I read about. Kentucky “out back” where I played and Australia’s Outback parallel not in “temperature” climate, but in being Never Never lands where a lost boy like me played.

Climate, like many words, has alternate meanings depending on who, what, when, where, and how it is used. Anna, you see Kentucky and Australia as vastly different. I see them as two sides of the same coin. I folded a rectangular world map in half and half again. The United States and Australia are similar in size; located in the same position in opposite hemispheres; and both had natives displaced by western civilization. Digging a hole from Dawson Springs, Kentucky to the other side of the world, would place me near Dawson City, Victoria, Australia. Dawson Springs, Kentucky once thrived, and Dawson City, Australia did too. Coincidence or a great story of parallels?

 

Faktorovich: You have done a lot of illustration, but the OUTBACK seems to be your first self-written children’s book. Why didn’t you attempt to publish one of your authored books with your own publishing company or with other previously? Did you try to sell this book to other publishers before releasing it with your own press? I am writing a book on author-publishers (Dickens, Twain, Woolf, Scott, Poe, etc.) and as part of this research I am curious why authors, artists and others are frequently driven to found their own publishing companies when they encounter problems with other publishers as they attempt to create traditional careers. It seems that you have had great success finding well-paying employment as an illustrator, animator, and the like, so I am curious where you faced challenges that made you realize that the independence that comes with running your own company was necessary. I believe you also wrote some of your picture books, including: King for a Day, the Story of Stories, Best Sketchbook, and Good Night Mare.

Adams: Well-paying employment is called a JOB. “Don’t work hard—work smart,” my dad once said. I’d been working hard since I was about thirteen. This phrase inspired me to graduate college and work for several major companies, where I managed or lead others. I never felt fulfilled. So, I began illustrating books again in 2007, while working as an Art Director.

steven_rileySteve Riley, fellow illustrator of the Little Ty Cooney National Wonder Series and college friend, gave me great advice! “Two incomes are better than one. Don’t quit your day job until your employer asks you to leave.” I paid attention while building my illustration business 2 hours a night, 5 days a week. Every four weeks I finished another children’s book in only 40 hours. When I finally left my day job, I was an award-winning illustrator of children’s books and a national public speaker.

I sold thousands of books annually for my publishers making about a 10–20% royalty. Authors who were illustrators made double royalties. I had a college degree, so I decided, I’ll write a children’s book and illustrate it too! My publishers said my books would never sell; there was no audience for my writing. I visited 45 plus schools a year, selling thousands of books to my audience.

Jilli thats Silly-3D-bookPeople say, “No!” for control. I had illustrated and created layouts for numerous published books. I had been an Art Director and Printing Manager in control of large production budgets. Taking control of my publishing journey wasn’t a difficult decision. Adams Illustration & Design, my illustration and graphic design business, became Mark Wayne Adams, Inc., mine and my wife Angela’s publishing company. MWA, Inc. purchased a block of 1,000 ISBNs and published award-winning books like: King for a Day, the Story of Stories; Nicholas, That’s Ridiculous!; Jilli, That’s Silly!and Teddy TalesThese four books combined won 14 children’s book awards.

If you’re passionate about writing and drawing make them a second JOB until they become the bread winner. Once the second job makes a small income, the day JOB becomes more bearable. Treat writing and illustration like a business and you’ll be in business.

 

Faktorovich: In the OUTBACK, one of your characters, Marq, seems to reflect some of your thoughts when he tells Driew, “‘I think I-4’s been under construction since they started. It’s like a house or this studio – a perpetual work in progress. Seventeen years of seeking a studio when what I wanted was out back all along.’” Then Driew proposes visiting a Kentucky State Park, and Marq agrees, and then he says he admires Marq’s drawings, and asks if they are for a new book, but Marq explains: “‘Actually, they’re not for new books. They’re from thoughts – past and present. I figured getting them on paper would free me to focus on the money makers…’” (148). Have you had any difficulties building an art studio in terms of constructing it, gathering funds for it and the like? Do you currently have a great studio? Is it open to the public? Do you think a modern artist needs a studio, and if so why?

Adams: I-4 (Interstate 4) is the highway that extends from the East Coast to West Coast of Central Florida. Informational text is included throughout OUTBACK and the series to educate both U.S. and international readers who may visit the places in the books. The continuous construction of I-4 and of a home is to show how environment shapes family life. The Family Tree Novel Series will have two editions: a novel and an illustrated novel version.

As an illustrator no one asks me, “Which character are you?” As an author, that’s the first question readers ask. My answer: I’m every character, action, and moment. In OUTBACK, Marq, Driew Qweepie’s father, is a freelance illustrator who never became a professional. I won’t cause a spoiler, but Marq’s back story is reveled throughout the series. His character is a compilation of numerous illustrator friends and the challenges we all face. Marq voices his concerns, like a parent, to help Driew and readers understand an illustrator’s career. Rarely do illustrators have a studio bigger than a table in a remote corner of their house. And when we get a studio, it’s years in the making.

Mark Wayne Adams and Elaine Goldberg.

I do think some artists need a studio, not a hideout. Every book I illustrate is created remotely: kitchen table, poolside, gymnastics practice, airport, or a Costa Rican rooftop deck. I’m an illustrator dad. While my children finish homework at the kitchen table, I work. During gymnastics practice, I work. Even while the family sleeps in on vacation, I work. Author/Illustrator is a family friendly career. Managing and committing to a work schedule is the greatest challenge.

I have three main “studios”: an outdoor patio table by my screened pool, the Kentucky book warehouse, and a Panera Bread. My best work is created in public. While illustrating Parts of Speech Parade: New York City, written by Irina Dolinskiy, I painted in various Orlando, Florida Panera Bread locations. Patrons compelled to comment would say, “I’ve been to New York City before!” Instant feedback and a new fan eager to purchase a prerelease copy of the book!

Ciao Rolling Carry On BagHonestly my art studio is a rolling bag, stocked with several pads of watercolor paper, Prismacolor pens, five favorite brush sizes, and a Grumbacher watercolor set (24 colors). One $40.00 watercolor set creates illustrations for approximately fifteen children’s books. The watercolor paper investment in each 32 page book is about 3 pads of 12 sheets (roughly $30.00). Gathering funds to start an illustration business is easy. For under $100, anyone can start an illustration business!

IMG_3796My business model is unique in that I license the digital illustrations to the publisher. All physical artwork remains property of MWA, Inc. The words “digital illustrations” in my contracts helped my business make choices. MWA, Inc. owns illustrations from over 40 children’s books (approximately 1,200 original illustrations). My CPA says the art is valued at the cost of the paper, $1,200.00. When sold as art, the value ranges from $500–$1,000 each. Most fine artists don’t consider illustration as art, but I beg to differ. This children’s book illustration collection could cover a football field; fill multiple art galleries at once; and continues to generate an annual income through reproductions. The reproductions generate more money than the original is worth. I’ve only sold a few originals to serious collectors.

 

IMG_2335Faktorovich: You were drawing for visitors to your booth at the ALA. I believe you also do these types of drawings during your art presentations at schools. Do you do these public art projects because of your desire to perform your art before a live audience? Do you ever make money on these appearances? Do you use them for research or to market your illustrations to kids? At ALA, were you giving any of the resulting drawings away? You had tossed a few of them onto the carpet in front of you at ALA, and you toss them on the floor of auditoriums etc. in your school presentations. Do you toss them down for symbolic reasons or to illicit sympathy, or because you want to display them and you don’t have board to clip them onto? Were you drawing what visitors asked for, or whatever came to mind? Do you doodle and free-draw to come up with ideas for your illustrations? If not, what do you do to research ideas or to come up with initial character sketches?

AdamsDrawing Is My Super Power! That would be my t-shirt slogan. I find an audience, whether drawing on a pad, a napkin, or in a Best Sketchbook. I drew for free when I was younger. Some people appreciated the gesture, other discarded my effort. In the 3rd grade, I began to charge for my time and the appreciation level increase. This remains true today.

My first professional illustration contracts came from tossing drawings on the floor at Book Expo America in Los Angeles, California. I did this both for symbolic and sympathetic purposes, depending on the audience.

Publishing (writing, illustration, and marketing) is about inspiring an emotion. I can’t keep every drawing, so I give them to conference audiences who feel sympathy when they step on a “pretty picture.” I also joke, “This drawing is worthless until I sign it!” Publishing audiences find my personality a plus in the working relationship.

IMG_6356I’ve meet over 1 million students through paid elementary school visits. I walk on “pretty pictures” to show students and teachers sheets of paper have less value than the pages within a book. This reinforces the need to journal in hardbound books.

Do I give away drawings for free? Yes, I’ve given away over 45,000 drawings in eight years like the ones you mentioned at ALA. My gift makes others happy and in return makes me happy. I do have two rules. Children are the recipients of most drawings unless it’s for a teacher’s classroom or at a conference. Also, I only draw one picture per person, per day. This rule stemmed from my own children asking me to draw instead of doing it themselves. My children get one picture, just like anyone else’s child.

IMG_3952I have over 100 journals (23,000 pages of drawing and writing). These journals are 20 years of research and inspiration. Illustration clients are asked to provide me a list of 5 of their favorite children’s books, 5 new books they discovered at the library or bookstore, and 5 things they’d do for free. Their favorite children’s books tell me who they were. The new books tell me what they expect based on paper types, finishes, and dimensions. Lastly, incorporating something they love in the illustrations will boost discussion topics with readers.

 

Faktorovich: Which software do you use to illustrate children’s books, to design books and for other components of illustration and design? Do you prefer some over others, and if so why? Which guide to illustration has helped you the most to illustrate professionally and to make your covers appealing to the mainstream market?

Adams: I use Adobe’s Creative Suite: Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign. Every traditional watercolor illustration is scanned and manipulated using Adobe Photoshop. Sometimes illustrations are created with Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, upon the publisher’s request. Vector logos are created using Adobe Illustrator to eliminate the need of recreation for vector routers. All programs have unique benefits. I recommend learning the basics. Go to the program’s help menu or YouTube to learn something in a pinch.

UnknownThe Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines is for any professional or aspiring artist. Illustration is a broad term covering line art to oil paintings. I’ve used this book for over eight years as a business resource. Pricing projects and creating contracts has been profitable using industry standards found within the handbook.

Every graphic artist is unique. No two illustration projects are the same. Use the Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines to set pricing guidelines for your business. Authors, Art Directors, and Publishers can use this book to budget projects. If you need a used copy, email me. I’ll sell you mine and get the latest.

 

Faktorovich: If you were teaching a class on beginner digital illustration for children, can you summarize what you would tell your students on the first day of class (after you cover the syllabus etc.)? They are eager to get going with making a great illustration and hope for some practical advice, having some basic drawing skills under their belt.


IMG_1726
Adams: Anna, you should invite me to speak at a local school to see firsthand. I have 3 rules for students of any age: raise your hand if you have a question; pay attention; and ask good questions. Raise your hand and use your voice, the best time to learn is now. Pay attention because the knowledge you want is in front of you. And ask good questions because you’ll get good answers. Average question: “Mr. Adams do you like being an illustrator?” Answer: “Yes.” Good Question: “Everything you’ve asked in this interview!”

Also I use the visual example that at three years old, I scribbled and my mom said “Wow!” One day I drew an obscure heart-shaped image. My mom didn’t say anything but loved on me. I kept drawing the heart and received the same response from my dad. When I arrived in Kindergarten, I showed my teacher I could write my ABC’s. She said, “One day you’ll be a writer.” From age 3 to 5, I wasn’t born an artist or a writer, but through practice and positive feedback I became one. Every person is a product of the type of effort and encouragement we give and receive.

I think this is why I’ve visited so many elementary schools. I’m not there to sell a book; I’m there to inspire at least one person to achieve their dream.

 

Faktorovich: How did you come to be president and board member of the Florida Authors and Publishers Association? For how many years were you a member before you were elected/ nominated to the presidency? Were you actively volunteering your time and energy for the association to make your candidacy? What would you recommend to somebody new to an association that wants to attain these positions?

Adams: For over five years I’ve served as a Board Member for the Florida Authors and Publishers Association (FAPA). From day one, I brought the same drive and vision used in my publishing business. My main concern was, how much time would volunteering take?

During my terms as VP of Communications to the President, I illustrated over 30 picture books. 15 of those were published for other authors. My marketing efforts included more than 90 school visits each year, encouraging over 100,000 students annually to write and illustrate books. Creating and marketing books while serving as a board member had challenging but manageable moments.

IMG_5042Rewards to volunteering began with the creation of annual conference sessions, and grew into implementation of new programs like the BookExpo Display Opportunity and the national FAPA President’s Book Awards growth. Writers’ conferences and book festivals invited me to share publishing knowledge that I gained through the FAPA organization. My personal network of publishing professionals also grew through educational events, social media, and annual board retreats.

I remain active in the organization as Past President—mentoring future board members and members. My goal has always been to make a positive impact on FAPA through guidance and encouragement. Unexpectedly, FAPA positively impacted my publishing success. Volunteering was the greatest reward!

 

Faktorovich: You also served as a Readers’ Favorite Illustration Awards judge. How did you win this job? Did somebody else nominate you or did you nominate yourself? You won several awards from this group, so did they automatically nominate you to judge when you hit a certain number of award wins? Beyond what appears on the official rules for contests, what practically makes a difference between illustrations that win an award and those that don’t? Is there an obvious difference between the winners and losers? And if so, what are the most common mistakes made by the losers?

IMG_0638Adams: I met the Readers’ Favorite founder, Debra Gaynor, several times in Miami, Atlanta, Nashville and Frankfort. She solicited me like every author who had a quality book that would grow the now international Reader’s Favorite Awards and Review program. Jilli, That’s Silly! written by Christa Carpenter, received a gold medal and I planned to attend the ceremony in Miami. Debra also invited me to present on the Value of Illustration during the Readers’ Favorite two night annual awards ceremony. While at breakfast, I sketched in my current Best Sketchbook. James Ventrillo, current CEO of Readers’ Favorite, introduced himself and began an impromptu interview for the Reader’s Favorite Illustration Awards judge position.

IMG_0523The awards won through their organization did not automatically make me judge. Professional experience earned the position. Several hundred books in various genres are submitted each year. Judging occurs throughout the year based on: character development, storytelling, cover design, layout, etc. Once a book is scored, the score is final. Until the scoring is complete, who the winner is remains a surprise for them and me.

We’ve all seen books that are obvious winners and losers. I judge on the criteria specifically. Common mistakes made are strong illustrations and a weak graphic design. Cover design is 10 points. If the cover design scores low, great illustrations may not win. Another common mistake is inexperience. The art must relay the story to a non-reader.

My biggest reward in participating as the Readers’ Favorite Illustration Awards Judge is hearing a winner say, “I didn’t think I was that good,” or “There are more talented artists than me.” Receiving feedback from your peers is important!

 

Faktorovich: You boast on your website that over 5 years the authors you’ve published with MWA, Inc. have won over 50 major awards. To how many awards do you submit each of your releases to? How expensive is it to do a mass submission to so many awards for several books? Do you or your authors fund these submissions? Do you see a positive return in terms of sales after a book ends up winning awards? Do you think awards, reviews, or some other components are key to the sales of a new release in the illustrated children’s book category?

Christa Carpenter receives the Evelyn Thurman Young Readers Award.
Christa Carpenter receives the Evelyn Thurman Young Readers Award.

Adams: Awards—we all want them, but why? Most authors rely on publishers to submit for book awards. The publisher works within a fixed budget and may only enter a few awards competitions. What authors and illustrators may not realize is they can submit for book awards. Some awards offer monetary compensation, while all offer either local, regional, or national exposure. What value is an award? Awards offer something different for each person. Authors may use awards to validate their profession to consumers, peers, or family. Readers may see awards as a quality review from book professionals. Publishers may see the award as a reason to contract for future books. No matter what the reason, be confident that your book is of professional quality before submitting. Be open to the fact that not all submissions win. Being a finalist is as important as receiving a medal. For my fifty published books, only eleven have won awards. I use critiques from judges to enhance the next book or second edition printing of the current book. Not every book is a winner, so why not learn from each.

 

Faktorovich: How did you convince the first person that hired you as an animator/ illustrator that you deserved the job? Would you/ have you showed your portfolio from those days to the general public? Why or why not? (Can you share any of your early illustrations/ drawings as part of this interview?) What was the highest amount you’ve made for one of your illustrations? Was it from a flat payment for freelance work, or a percentage in royalties based on sales of the book? How did you get that project? Did you work with an agent? While in theory people told you that you can grow rich from illustration, has this really been the case in your experience. This is probably of top interest to new illustrators who are considering if this path is worth the sacrifice of more artsy pursuits.

IMG_1991Adams: The first person who hired me as an illustrator chose me because I had a sketchbook full of drawings with me. I had the person describe in words a character: appearance, emotion, and action. As they spoke, I drew. When they asked for my card, I told them I didn’t have one, but wrote their name inside my journal. They left hoping I’d call or email, because I had the drawing of their character in my sketchbook.

That’s how you get the job. Don’t carry a cumbersome portfolio of messy charcoal figure drawings. Don’t send them to your weak website, because they won’t bother viewing your portfolio page. Don’t wait!

Drawing in public was my best portfolio. Developing the spiel took some time, but worth every failure. It goes kinda like this:

Contact: “Hey, you’re talented. Are you a professional illustrator?”

Me: “Yes, I’m an award-winning children’s book illustrator.”

Contact: “Wow, I know a friend who has written a children’s book and needs an illustrator.”

Me: “That’s wonderful, I don’t have a card, but I’ll write down your email and you can forward it on to your friend. They can contact me when they’re ready.”

Contact: “Wonderful. Where can I get one of your books?”

Me: “I’ve illustrated over 50. If you go to the Barnes and Noble in the mall and buy a book, I’ll sign it now before I leave.”

Contact: “I’ll be right back!”

See how working on the spiel can land contracts and sell books. It took time though.

The most I’ve ever received for a single painting was $2,500 freelance for Marc Michaels Interior Design in Orlando, Florida. Nancy Short, Principal at Ansana Interior Design, Inc., commissioned my services after seeing art and furniture I had created for my own home.

My children’s book illustrations pay a deposit up front (average $8,000.00) and a royalty for the life of the book including merchandising (average 10-20%). I tend to be my own agent, actively interviewing prospective clients. The more hands in the cookie jar, the fewer cookies for everyone.

FullSizeRenderGetting “rich” as an illustrator is one of those words with double meaning. Is rich money? Is rich knowledge? Is rich cultivating strong relationships? As an illustrator, I invested $100 in supplies and generated $8,000 and a 10% royalty for life. That’s rich when you finish 6-8 books a year. As a publisher, holiday book sales make you rich! Until January, when you reorder 20,000 books to replenish inventory.

The knowledge and relationships cultivated through this journey are priceless. My animation dream was the stepping stone to my full potential. Authors and Illustrators create new realities for themselves and others.

 

Faktorovich: If the young you, fresh out of a BFA program, strolled into your office today and asked you for advice on managing his coming illustration, animation, and writing career, what advice would you give him? What has been the biggest problem on your path you wish you could have avoided? Has there been an opportunity you now wish you had taken?

How to Win Friends & Influence PeopleAdams: I’d give him the best advice I’ve ever received from a stranger. I met her on a flight returning from Los Angeles. She recommended I read these three books: The Greatest Salesman in the World, because we all want to give up. Love is Letting Go of Fear, we all have a personal obstacles to overcome. How to Win Friends and Influence People, because you’re not a people person until you learn to listen.

When the student returns after reading these, I’d recommend, The Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines. And I’d recommend he select two fields of illustration. The first being his focus; the second an alternate income stream. Next I’d recommend seeking out the ugly books in the world and being a better illustrator than the publisher’s existing illustrator.

My greatest problems were not understanding my value and not having a mentor/support system. My first illustration clients took advantage of my inexperience by underpaying and not sharing profits through royalties. I also invested thousands of dollars displaying my portfolio along with hundreds of other illustrators. I also joined organizations that charged to critique my portfolio.

IMG_2307Through trial and error, I learned good clients want to share their success; hanging with publishers is more profitable than hanging with illustrators; and non-paid critiques from professionals are genuine. The opportunities I would have taken sooner, are joining a publishing organization like IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association); cultivating a professional mentor relationship with an illustrator—not as a crutch; and starting my business fresh after graduation.

If I started again from college graduation, I would purchase a building with two storefronts in a small town for the price of a house. One unit’s rent would cover the mortgage. The second unit would serve as my business/studio. The upstairs would be converted to my loft/home. My clients would be found at large conferences where publishers and authors congregate. Technology makes small businesses into global business.

Who says being 20-something is a requirement to start a business. I might retire at 50 and start something new!

“Do you currently have a great studio?”—Anna Faktorovich, PhD Interview

Faktorovich: In the OUTBACK, one of your characters, Marq, seems to reflect some of your thoughts when he tells Driew, “‘I think I-4’s been under construction since they started. It’s like a house or this studio – a perpetual work in progress. Seventeen years of seeking a studio when what I wanted was out back all along.’” Then Driew proposes visiting a Kentucky State Park, and Marq agrees, and then he says he admires Marq’s drawings, and asks if they are for a new book, but Marq explains: “‘Actually, they’re not for new books. They’re from thoughts – past and present. I figured getting them on paper would free me to focus on the money makers…’” (148). Have you had any difficulties building an art studio in terms of constructing it, gathering funds for it and the like? Do you currently have a great studio? Is it open to the public? Do you think a modern artist needs a studio, and if so why?

AdamsI-4 (Interstate 4) is the highway that extends from the East Coast to West Coast of Central Florida. Informational text is included throughout OUTBACK and the series to educate both U.S. and international readers who may visit the places in the books. The continuous construction of I-4 and of a home is to show how environment shapes family life. The Family Tree Novel Series will have two editions: a novel and an illustrated novel version.

As an illustrator no one asks me, “Which character are you?” As an author, that’s the first question readers ask. My answer: I’m every character, action, and moment. In OUTBACK, Marq, Driew Qweepie’s father, is a freelance illustrator who never became a professional. I won’t cause a spoiler, but Marq’s back story is reveled throughout the series. His character is a compilation of numerous illustrator friends and the challenges we all face. Marq voices his concerns, like a parent, to help Driew and readers understand an illustrator’s career. Rarely do illustrators have a studio bigger than a table in a remote corner of their house. And when we get a studio, it’s years in the making.

Mark Wayne Adams and Elaine Goldberg.

I do think some artists need a studio, not a hideout. Every book I illustrate is created remotely: kitchen table, poolside, gymnastics practice, airport, or a Costa Rican rooftop deck. I’m an illustrator dad. While my children finish homework at the kitchen table, I work. During gymnastics practice, I work. Even while the family sleeps in on vacation, I work. Author/Illustrator is a family friendly career. Managing and committing to a work schedule is the greatest challenge.

I have three main “studios”: an outdoor patio table by my screened pool, the Kentucky book warehouse, and a Panera Bread. My best work is created in public. While illustrating Parts of Speech Parade: New York City, written by Irina Dolinskiy, I painted in various Orlando, Florida Panera Bread locations. Patrons compelled to comment would say, “I’ve been to New York City before!” Instant feedback and a new fan eager to purchase a prerelease copy of the book!

Ciao Rolling Carry On BagHonestly my art studio is a rolling bag, stocked with several pads of watercolor paper, Prismacolor pens, five favorite brush sizes, and a Grumbacher watercolor set (24 colors). One $40.00 watercolor set creates illustrations for approximately fifteen children’s books. The watercolor paper investment in each 32 page book is about 3 pads of 12 sheets (roughly $30.00). Gathering funds to start an illustration business is easy. For under $100, anyone can start an illustration business!

IMG_3796My business model is unique in that I license the digital illustrations to the publisher. All physical artwork remains property of MWA, Inc. The words “digital illustrations” in my contracts helped my business make choices. MWA, Inc. owns illustrations from over 40 children’s books (approximately 1,200 original illustrations). My CPA says the art is valued at the cost of the paper, $1,200.00. When sold as art, the value ranges from $500–$1,000 each. Most fine artists don’t consider illustration as art, but I beg to differ. This children’s book illustration collection could cover a football field; fill multiple art galleries at once; and continues to generate an annual income through reproductions. The reproductions generate more money than the original is worth. I’ve only sold a few originals to serious collectors.
Read the complete interview with Mark Adams, Award-Winning IllustratorAdams-Author Bio Photo-mwa.company-template with Anna Faktorovich, PhD

“If you love Kentucky so much, why move?”—Anna Faktorovich, PhD Interview

Faktorovich: Last year I did a Kentucky Historical Society short fellowship for my Radical Agrarian Economics: Wendell Berry and Beyond book, spending some time at the society, and at neighboring archives, as well as talking to the region’s farmers. You mention in the version of your bio in the OUTBACK book that the magic there was based on your childhood experiences with the “creeks, caves and bluffs of western Kentucky.” Can you elaborate on what about Kentucky, as opposed to other states, makes it a place that so many American writers from Wendell Berry to Abe Lincoln were inspired by or wrote about? Is the nature in Kentucky somehow more magical; is it more accessible; are people living there trained to love it more than in other places? And if you love Kentucky so much, why did you move to Florida? Do you want to go back? In the Acknowledgements you thank your parents, Larry Wayne Adams and Mary Francis Adams, “for sharing their Kentucky childhood memories” with you, so are the reminiscences in this novel theirs more so than your own? It seems that Australia’s Outback is as different in climate to the bluegrass Kentucky as a place can be, so why the parallel?

Adams: The OUTBACK magic is based on my Kentucky childhood experiences. My grandfather, Eliose Trotter, worked for the Kentucky State Parks’ Department of Forestry. Eliose harvested nuts, nurtured saplings, and planted acres of trees. My father, Larry Adams, worked 40 hours a week in a plastic factory. Every afternoon and weekend he farmed until late at night. If dad took a day off, he was fishing or hunting. My two male role models respected the earth and everything that came from it.

Why did I leave? I was told if you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it’s meant to be. I moved to Florida to chase my animation dream. When I left, family and friends said, “You can always come home.” As a public speaker in elementary schools, I return “home” to Kentucky often. I’m greeted with, “Welcome home!” I don’t get this greeting in the suburbs of Central Florida.

IMG_0153I spent eight years shipping books from Florida across the United States. I realized shipping from the central United States reduces shipping cost drastically. In 2015, I moved my book warehouse/distribution center to Dawson Springs, Kentucky. Kentucky is a better location, if you’re in the distribution business. I now understand why factories locate in the Central United States.

My parents’ childhood stories encouraged me to explore the simple pleasures of being a kid. I ran barefoot and rode horses bareback because luxuries like shoes and saddles weren’t required for adventure. Books were required. My librarian mother made sure the Adams kids were registered for the Dawson Springs Branch Library’s annual Summer Reading Program. We read for points and for fun!

Reading is a powerful tool in the hands of children. Words change the world. Peter Pan flew to Neverland, an imaginary place without problems. I traveled to the Never Never land, a vastly remote area of Australia’s Outback that I read about. Kentucky “out back” where I played and Australia’s Outback parallel not in “temperature” climate, but as Never Never lands where a lost boy like me played.

Climate, like many words, has alternate meanings depending on who, what, when, where, and how it is used. Anna, you see Kentucky and Australia as vastly different. I see them as two sides of the same coin. I folded a rectangular world map in half and half again. The United States and Australia are similar in size; located in the same position in opposite hemispheres; and both had natives displaced by western civilization. Digging a hole from Dawson Springs, Kentucky to the other side of the world, would place me near Dawson CityVictoria, Australia. Dawson Springs, Kentucky once thrived, and Dawson City, Australia did too. Coincidence or a great story of parallels?
Read the complete interview with Mark Adams, Award-Winning IllustratorAdams-Author Bio Photo-mwa.company-template with Anna Faktorovich, PhD

“I was captivated by the mood and magic that pervades.” —Jack Mangus, Readers’ Favorite

OUTBACK 3D-book-72DPI-RGBReviewed By Jack Mangus for Readers’ Favorite

Outback: Bothers and Sinisters is a young adult coming of age novel written by Mark Wayne Adams. After unsuccessfully listing their inherited property for sale for ten years now, the Qweepie family has reluctantly moved back to Marq Qweepie’s family farm in Dawson Springs, Kentucky. It’s a big change from the suburban sprawl of sunny Florida for Driew and his ‘bothers and sinisters.’ Driew is the baby in the family, and he’s smaller than the average 11-year-old and darker than the rest of his siblings. He’s been the brunt of their practical jokes and pranks for years now, so being hung up as the farm’s scarecrow, and left there hanging as his siblings go back home, is nothing new for him. Something special happens, however, during this unpleasant and humiliating experience. He’s rescued by a gangling and oddly spoken girl named Gulia. Her relatives are Australian, and she tells him how she and her mom go back there to visit her grandparents several times a year. Together, Gulia and Driew explore their own personal outback there in the Kentucky wilderness; a place where Driew is safe from the teasing and pranks of his siblings, and where he can feel a little bit of magic in the air.

Mark Wayne Adams’ young adult coming of age novel, Outback: Bothers and Sinisters, is a book to be read slowly and savored. I was captivated by the mood and magic that pervades this most unusual coming of age story and filled with no little regret when I finally came to the last page. Driew is one of the most unforgettable characters I’ve come across in some years and being present as he comes of age and finds out where he belongs was a rare privilege indeed. I loved experiencing Kentucky’s seasonal changes through his eyes, and especially enjoyed the detailed descriptions of how he makes the deer stand into his own place. While this book is geared towards the young adult audience, preteens and young-at-heart adults will most likely find themselves as enchanted by Driew, his parents and Gulia as I was. Outback: Bothers and Sinisters is most highly recommended.

OUTBACK is set in the small town of Dawson Springs, Kentucky. Why did you choose to set the novel here?

OUTBACK is set in the small town of Dawson Springs, Kentucky. Why did you choose to set the novel here?

16-OUTBACK-Conversation_With_The_Author

I’ve lived nearly my entire life in a small town. I’m fascinated by the customs of small towns. Relationships there are a social dance that you don’t get in major cities. I think I’ll always write about this lifestyle.

Dawson Springs is my hometown in Western Kentucky. The Qweepie farm combines my parent’s family farms and a 1939 home where I lived briefly in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. I think using the town is a homage to the people who said, “Remember me when you’re famous!”

Read the full OUTBACK: Bothers & Sinisters, Conversation with the Author

OUTBACK: Bothers & Sinisters, Conversation with the Author

OUTBACK: Bothers & Sinisters, CONVERSATION WITH THE AUTHOR

16-OUTBACK-Conversation_With_The_Author1. What is your inspiration for writing about the Bothers & Sinisters sibling dynamic?

I believe we all come from multifaceted dysfunctional family. The drama within the smallest of families offers rich writing inspiration. “Sissy,” my cousin Gayla, reminded me of bothersome and sinister things we did as children that our parents never knew. Funny thing was my parents, aunts, and uncles had the same experiences.

What inspired me to use a family tree as my inspiration was the falling out of family members and the severed relationships due to traumatic words that wounded the entire tree. Words in a family can change the entire dynamic for future generations.

When I was hurting as a kid, I found comfort out back in trees. I carved my childhood feelings on tree branches that healed over time hiding my words and feelings. I believe family trees heal much like trees in nature—over time.

2. Why is the Australian theme important in the Family Tree Novels?

I’ve always felt life would be different on the other side of the world. Australia’s size and location in the hemisphere was nearly opposite of the United States in position. They spoke a derivative of English as does the United States. One was founded on religious persecution the other by persecution of outlaws. These two worlds are rich in native culture and national treasures. I could explore both my entire life and be surprised daily.

3. What research did you do and how did you go about discovering your inspiration?

Reading and sharing my interest in places and ideas inspires me. When I decided to use the outback as my theme, I received various comments and feedback—positive and negative. Naturally I chose the theme since every parent and child has played in the magical outback at some point in their lives.

I chose to read children’s books to adult fiction about Australia. This taught me what Gulia’s character might learn at her age and what her mother might experience as an adult. Discussions about Australia revealed information about living there that I had not experienced. Smells, sounds, events, and moments only residents can relay.

Lastly I wrote a list of commonalities of Australian and United States families. I chose native folklore, ancient trees, and immigrant family history.

4. As a Kentucky native and a Florida transplant, how autobiographical is this story in comparison to your own? 

I did pull from my own experiences of visiting my Kentucky family as an adult and how my Floridian children must feel when visiting Dawson Springs for weeks at a time. Growing up in Kentucky, my family was average middle class to most people living there and poor to outsiders when compared to big city living.

My childhood is a far cry from my adult life in a manicured Florida suburb. I wanted to share how caring for even the worst home can change everyone’s perspective. Like Gulia grew to love the Qweepie farm saying she “could live there forever.”

5. Which character do you have the closest connection to?

I feel a connection with each of the characters, they are like family. To pick one character I would say Killiope. As the oldest sibling in my family, I feel a responsibility for each of my siblings. Leaving home was my only escape from responsibilities, which soon caught up with me. As the series continues, I hope to become more relatable with each sibling hierarchy as the series continues.

6. Did you enjoy the writing process, since you’ve illustrated over fifty picture books?

I always enjoyed books as a child—from illustrations to reading. Making a career writing or illustrating books never came to mind. As a child my ambition was to become an animator after watching Walt Disney’s movie, Fantasia. Once I discovered there were more profitable art careers besides animation, I began illustrating books. Being around creative writers, inspired my love of writing. I’m a firm believer, you are who you associate with.

7. How do you approach the writing process?

My writing process is fairly structured. I outline the story using a historical timeline which guides the rhythm of each book. As ideas appear, I categorize them into their respective place within the story timeline. I also parallel historical facts and words I want included from the time periods. Some days I sit inside my screened pool and become a prisoner to the story. Every breath is a moment trapped within Driew Qweepie’s story.

8. What part of the writing process do you love most?

My favorite thing about being a writer is hearing from readers! Connecting with book lovers reminds me what writing fiction is all about—escape for us all. I enjoy reading Goodreads and Amazon reviews and seeing posts about the story—both positive and negative. I can’t improve without their honest feedback.

9. When do you decide to share the OUTBACK writing with others?

I waited until the OUTBACK book was half completed—about eight chapters. These chapters are rough and very general in creative language. My goal was to give a bland idea of the plot, character action, and historical content. If this was enough to inspire others to ask questions or want more, then the creative embellishments would be much easier.

For the first novel, I had my wife read it. She is very thorough and not a reader. Needless to say, she only read it once, and wasn’t excited. My next version was much more polished and the reader had decent feedback.

By the Beta Reader stage, all sixteen chapters had been edited using Fire Up Your Fiction: An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Stories, written by a colleague, Jodi Renner. Her book was a great resource for a newbie or established writer. I went chapter by chapter and was critical of what I’d written. Trimming excess really makes a difference when creating a fast reading fiction book.

10. Who were your favorite childhood writers and why?

At age 13, Stephen King’s werewolves of the Silver Bullet stalked my warm Kentucky summer nights. King’s photo spooked me, and his writings haunted me. Really cool feeling when an author chooses the proper sequence of words to spur an emotion. To this day I feel Misery hearing “I’m your biggest fan!”

11. What advice would you offer new writers?

Don’t wait to write a great novel. Age is not a limitation to becoming an author. Write everyday moments until the novel revels itself in your average day.

Write often in any format possible. Siri’s dictation on my Apple devices lets me write while walking, driving, or when I’m too lazy to use my thumbs. I carry my Best Sketchbook with me most everywhere to write and draw my thoughts. Use an app like A Novel Idea or software like Scrivener to keep track of your notes. Import your journal entries, dictations, and loose notes once a week into one main document that shows the word count. That will show you how quickly the story grows.

Join a professional writing group to enhance your writing. Join a publishing group to learn the marketing behind writing. Lastly, support local independent book stores. They will be the first to stock your book.

12. In the Author Biography, you indicate OUTBACK was inspired by a brown doll you had during your childhood. Where did the doll come from and what other life experience was used in the novel?

In the years since my childhood, I’ve learned to appreciate the value of dolls and toys as companions in my life. As a Caucasian boy, owning a brown baby doll named Driew was open season for teasing. I protected our colorful relationship which made me a better man in many ways.

I have what I’ve come to call an “adopted family,”­ characters who  came into my life when my family is absent. In their own way, they provided me with an imaginative love that became the structure for my artistic talent. I thank Driew and many more like him.

In OUTBACK, I wanted to bring some of my out back magic to the book. I wanted the book to be about the bonds formed between people that become your adopted family. Hopefully readers are engaged by my writing.

13. OUTBACK is set in the small town of Dawson Springs, Kentucky. Why did you choose to set the novel here?

I’ve lived nearly my entire life in a small town. I’m fascinated by the customs of small towns. Relationships there are a social dance that you don’t get in major cities. I think I’ll always write about this lifestyle.

Dawson Springs is my hometown in Western Kentucky. The Qweepie farm combines my parent’s family farms and a 1939 home where I lived briefly in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. I think using the town is a homage to the people who said, “Remember me when you’re famous!”

14. In addition to being a novelist, you are also a children’s book illustrator. How has being an illustrator impacted your novel writing?

It keeps me focused on the importance of words. I overwrite most scenes and deeply edit my writing to be more precise with my words. This has taught me to appreciate the usage of illustrations with words. Rather than writing numerous pages to explain a message that can be brief and poignant.

15. When you began the Family Tree Novels, did you have the adventure completely outlined? How have you been surprised along the way? Were the introductions of additional characters  important in the influence of the story’s direction?

At the start of the series, I had a thin thread of intention of the entire series, five books. I’m a supporter of timelines and outlines. I used several drafts that were stimulated from the main outline. The titles and Australian theme came as I introduced Gulia’s character. The attraction to Australia and the region inspired the titles.

The character that surprised me the most was Ida Mae. She was a character who was a first draft villain. “The maid did it” theme was my original intent with Ida Mae. Through the revisions, I saw the potential of her adoption into the family. She forced me to choose a dark underlying problem in my childhood to face. I think she has become a fabulous addition to the story.

16. What was your most challenging limitation while writing OUTBACK and what has been the best pleasure?

The greatest challenge was eliminating my prior illustration projects and focusing in on my writing time. I had to eliminate my personal choices and focus on the characters’ lives. I also didn’t want readers to be mired in details of Driew’s torturous life. Readers should experience the positives in his journey: small town life and personal relationships.

The greatest pleasure has been, participating in Driew’s adventure whether living my family life, driving on book tours, walking, or trying to fall asleep. Writing has become a journey I commit to each day. Not the most talented side of my artistic profile, but a frustrating and exhilarating challenge at the same time.

17. What can you tell us about DOWN UNDER the next book in the series?

I don’t want to share too much about the upcoming book. But I will say that DOWN UNDER is a faster progression of understanding Driew’s family magic. A miraculous event happens between he and Pester, his big bother, that will reach far into the choices of Driew’s manhood.

Student Question: How did your friends see you?

How my friends saw me was much differently than how I saw myself. A great example was our Dawson Springs High School Senioritis book. I was considered “Most Talented.”

Mark Adams, the artist of the class, will always be remembered for his devotion to his artwork and his great personality. Mark is always willing to lend a helping hand and an understanding shoulder to lean on in times of need. Even if he doesn’t completely understand or agree, he will listen and offer words of advice. As you can see, Mark has many friends, but the majority of his time is spent with his girlfriend.

On Saturday nights, they are often found in Madisonville watching a movie or cruising the mall in Mark’s “Silver Bullet.” Mark not only excels at his artwork, but he also does well in school. He has been a member of the Beta Club throughout high school. He is currently ranked eighth in the senior class and is also on the honor roll.

During his spare time, besides painting and drawing, Mark enjoys lifting weights, horseback riding, swimming, and watching late night TV. Among Mark’s many achievements, his most challenging was the three weeks during the summer of 1988 when he attended the Governor’s School for the Arts. This year Mark put his skills to use by winning first place in a national postcard contest. His paintings are often displayed at the Dawson Springs Museum and Art Center.

Mark plans to attend Murray State University and major in Commercial Art. Maybe someday his dream will come true, and he will work at Walt Disney in Florida. The Class of ’89 has faith in his dreams to become a famous artist; therefore, we elected him as “Most Talented” in the Seniors’ Who’s Who. We hope that Mark will never forget us when he’s at the top, because we know that we’ll never forget him!”

—Anonymous Author, Written for Dawson Springs High School Senioritis 1989