Interview. Harvey Storm.
Children’s books are a unique product loved by small children all over the world! One would think that with the development of technology, these books would not interest children anymore, but authors continue to thrive and please small readers with interesting stories and colorful illustrations.
So how are children’s books created for modern kids? How are these stories born and how do they come to life with drawings? How can you know that the story you tell will satisfy young readers?
Harvey Storm, a children’s book author, shares with us some secrets about the creation of books.
Q: When and how did you determine that you wanted to create children’s books?
A: I used to order many children’s books on Amazon as gifts. At some point in time, I became interested in creating such content myself. So, I started to study children’s bestsellers and eventually realized that this is what I love to do. Since then, for several years now, I gave birth to many ideas and have been gradually implementing them into my stories.
Q: Were you afraid to start making children’s books? How did you know children would like your stories?
A: I don’t have kids yet, but all my friends have them. So, at first, I tested my stories on them. This may sound strange, but I actually feel
what children will like. I have never had fear about creating these stories. On the contrary, the entire process of creating books is very intriguing for me: as I study materials, I start to dive into the world of my heroes, live their life, feel what they feel… It’s quite exciting!
Q: Describe your first book: how did it all start? Was it a success or was it a failure?
A: It was three years ago. I was writing the book with another author. We had been working on it very thoroughly for several months. But eventually, the book did not see the light, ending its life on a shelf. I personally thought that it had no intrigue, no interest. However, I don’t think of this experience as negative, as it sometimes happens that I take heroes from my first book into further stories as they seem to be well-developed. I also consider mistakes I did in the past and try to avoid them in the future.
Q: For the most part, what age are your readers?
A: Most readers are aged from four to seven. But they do not buy the books – their parents buy the books. So, I guess, in some way, parents are also my readers. My book will attract someone’s parent, eventually, and then it will be delivered into the hands of a young reader. So this is the circle: from author to parents, from parents to kids.
Q: For the most part, children from what country read your books?
A: Basically, children from the USA and Canada read my books the most. But I’m open to adapting my books for any language and country if the book is in high demand. For instance, I am currently working to adapt my books to Japanese, French, and Spanish.
Q: Share with us your secret: how do you start writing a book?
A: There is no secret at all! If you have ideas and thoughts, write those down and write about what you like. Then, you will never have to answer such a question. Just sharpen up your pencil or open your laptop, and transfer your ideas from your head to a paper.
I write my ideas using a typewriter. I have an antique typewriter in perfect condition! I think there is a specific charm to typing on a typewriter. When the text is typed like that, it is alive – it’s breathing! Every typed character is unique – and its form will depend on the power applied when pushing the key. There is absolutely no comparison to a laptop!
Q: Would you please describe the process of creating a book? What does it look like?
A: It starts with an idea. An idea may come completely out of nowhere – even when you aren’t thinking about a new story at all. This may happen anywhere: when you talk with people, when you watch animals on the street, when you hear an occasional joke… Every good idea, first and foremost, is something funny. Of course, it is best to write it down at once – not to wander around and later ponder what it was that slipped out of your head.
I pay special attention to the heroes of my books. They are mainly animals. I try to describe every hero as precisely as possible. I believe that when I am engaged in the creation of a hero, I can receive some new ideas about the development of a book itself. A hero organically joins the storyline, its ambiance, and helps develop it even further – thus, I utilize the following process.
With time, the book’s idea starts to grow with new details and the full-fledged book’s story is received. I create children’s books where a story is told in illustrations, with only a little text typed. All the text must be turned into scenarios for the future illustrations.
I start to paint illustrations frame by frame. When that’s finished, it is possible to see what the finished book will look like – although, these are just sketches. It is best to print out and glue together each frame at first to make the layout easy to understand and see whether you’ve made any mistakes – as you will be able to look through the entire book at that moment. And you will be able to see the goal, which you have put in front of yourself.
I always try to attract different artists to create a joint work. A fresh look helps to find problems and it is easier and more productive to work with teammates. We draw together, complementing each other.
Q: Is it true that publishing a book is harder than writing it?
A: This is not quite true. Today, several options exist on how to publish a book. The easiest one is the electronic version. E-books become more and more popular with each year. Children read books from their tablets, and that makes this option of publishing more expedient and less costly.
The second option is to give Amazon the right to manage the book and create hard copies of it. You have to send Amazon the E-version of your book and Amazon prints the hard copy on demand when at least on book is purchased.
The third option is the most popular one but quite expensive – make a hard copy right from the start. You have to print a large quantity at once. The undeniable advantage of this approach is the possibility to create your ideal book at once: select the right paper, finishing, non-standard size…
Whatever you choose, any of these options will be available for millions of your readers. I think that a book is one of a few ways to leave your trace on the history of humankind.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration?
A: Writing books is my hobby. I don’t limit myself in time of creation. The process may last different lengths for different books – three month… a year… Nobody is a the hurry. It is better to refine your idea to perfection in order to be proud of it afterward.
I have a specific time of the day to create stories. I go to bed at nine PM and wake up at five AM. I have four hours before nine AM to engage myself in the composition of a book.
Before that, I used to work at nights. My brain starts to work especially good starting from two AM. Nobody distracts you. It’s quiet outside. But it is impossible to sustain such schedule for a long time. So, I've changed my schedule and write books in the early morning when it is still quiet outside and I have a lot of time to immerse myself into my thoughts when another day is dawning.
Q: What is so special about your books?
A: When buying my books, parents have to understand that there is a moral in every single story. I don’t write it directly, “You can’t do this or that.” This is what is uncovered with the actions of my heroes. Sometimes, ideas for grown-ups are touched on (which are of no interest to children yet), as the narration must also involve the grown-ups and be to their interest. I try to make conclusions in verse and usually put them on a separate page in a book.
Q: What difficulties do you encounter when writing books?
A: The most difficulties are connecting with creative people, as strange as it may sound. I try to engage various artists to draw various content with me. In this way. I use different styles of narration, develop existing ideas, and bring them to a new level.
Someday, I hope to come up with my own style and stick to that from that day forward. But creative people are never serious about their work. They try to avoid getting involved in the work, shirk it. So I have to find new helpers, which is very unproductive for the creation of illustrations, as I have to redraw them.
I pay specific attention to small details in illustrations. An attentive reader sees mistakes and discrepancies. I try to look through everything on my own when I read the story, answering all arising questions in my head. To do that, I have to read the finished book, when all illustrations are ready. Of course, when the mistakes are done intentionally, I know every one of them – and my advice to all is not to search for immaculate logic in a children’s book, of course.
Q: They say that creative people are extremely touchy when it comes to criticism of their work. What do you think of criticism?
A: I often send the drafts of my works to all my friends with children. I pay attention to the constructive criticism – as every mother or a father knows better what they want to read to their kid than I do. The final text of the book to be published goes into the hands of professionals, who proofread it, correcting all possible errors, and adapt it to this or that market.
Q: How many books have you already published?
A: Right now, I am preparing five books to be published at one time. Some of them come in a series. When this interview sees the light, I hope I will have two books published already.
They were published in small batches before, in Europe. Now I redo a lot, adapting them for the American market.
Q: What project are you currently developing?
A: I have completely immersed myself into the continuation of Arnold and Louis
. However, there are other books I am currently working on that do not relate to this series.
I am preparing further stories about Arnold and Louis – about space, immersing them into their home swamp, about them socializing amongst animals in their woods… Eventually, they will meet winter and conquer snowy peaks. I have many ideas.
Q: What’s good about being a writer?
A: I think that the best thing about being a writer is the possibility to write anywhere. It doesn’t matter where you are – you can just write.
Q: What is one piece of advice to starting writers?
A: The only thing I want to tell starting writers is to finish every work you start. Believe in yourself! Come to the very end and you will succeed!