Thanks, Sharon, for your enthusiastic invitation to post about my Twig Stories series. We have some things in common, I think. It seems we both love classic novels, intricate illustrations, and exhibit patience with demanding creatures. I’m glad you gave me some questions to answer because otherwise I tend to take off on a tangent. So I’ll try to keep on track, or ‘stick with it,’ so to speak (that’s a Twig joke).
How did Twigs originate, and why did you write them?
My daughter, Ali Jo, was freaking out because a lot of the wildlife in our Pacific Northwest region became endangered due to climate change events. You see, I think her generation is overly burdened by the expectations from our generation that they solve all the problems we created. That’s a lot to dump on a 4th grader.
So to help her and her friends feel more empowered, we made up stick creatures called Twigs that live in the huge, old western cedar trees in our backyard. Right off Twigs went after bark beetles. (They’re destroying entire forests in all the western states and Canada). We also had two 100 year floods within three years so naturally Twigs went after goliath beavers to build dams.
Pretty soon Twigs populated forests on the Olympic peninsula, and even moved into the rainforests and prairies of British Columbia, Canada. They got a little out of control, we admit. Now they’re on a shrinking glacier on Echo Peak. (That’s Mount Rainier, an active volcano just north of Mount St. Helens). After a while we learned Twigs only survive if they adapt. So we decided it would be a good idea to share the books’ royalties with nature conservancy nonprofits.
The illustrations are unusual for children’s books. How did that happen?
David Murray is a professional Disney and Universal Pictures artist, and brings a lifetime of skill and creativity to the characters. He uses a style called ‘pen & ink’ for the inside art, and photoshops the books covers. His artwork is unique and amazing. What is even more surprising is that the more you zoom in on one of his illustrations, the more clearly you can see the details. Try zooming in on one. It’s incredible. Sometimes I have to wait and see what he creates before I can finish a chapter. He really inspires my daughter to use photoshop and develop her own illustration skills, too.
Anyway, before I met David online, I had asked many illustrators for their concept of Leaf, my main Twig guy, and was really discouraged by what I received, plus the fees and contract limitations strangled any use of their art beyond the books. After I turned down a publisher’s offer (they wouldn’t guarantee who the illustrator would be) David and I linked up because of an email I sent out requesting opinions of publishers. He liked the idea of Twigs, and offered his concept. It matched perfectly with what I had in mind for Leaf.
Now I simply give David a description of the scene that I hope he can capture, and he squeezes the project’s art in between his professional work. We’re on our third book, and I think his depictions of Twigs just get better and better. I included some of my favorite sketches so far. David gave me the rights, too, so Ali Jo can have lots of fun creating puzzles and graphic designs with his artwork. Kids can print them out from our website, and work the puzzles there, too.
Who reads them?
The kids who really get a kick out of the books are usually 4th, 5th and 6th graders – that would be from 8 to 12 years old, I think. You see, the stories are fantastic adventures full of action and danger, so they appeal to that independent spirit children enjoy. Parents tell me they have lots of fun reading them to even younger children. That makes sense to me because Ali Jo and I read them aloud to each other a number of times while writing them. Adults read them, too, and I’m always thrilled when they say they love the stories, but really they’re for kids.
Where can you get them?
Nearly any online bookstore has them in paperback and Kindle. They are distributed worldwide. Here’s some links to Amazon.com. There are publisher-direct store links on my website that have good discounts, too. So be sure to visit www.twigstories.com.
Leaf & the Rushing Waters:
Leaf & the Sky of Fire:
My Twig Stories website is www.twigstories.com
My facebook author page is: http://facebook.com/twigstories
My book/fan page is: http://facebook.com/twigstoriesbooks (Please stop by & like it!)
Jo, I sincerely appreciate you taking time to share your Twig stories with Sharon Stanley Writes. It's always fun to "meet" other writers and pick their brains. I Understand you will have some new Twig stories coming out before long, and hope you will come back and introduce them for us here.