Tag Archives: St Viper’s School for Super Villains

St Viper’s New Illustrator Slave

BUZZZZZZ! St Viper’s School for Super Villains has a new illustrator slave – Izzy Bean. Izzy is putting her BA honours degree in animation and illustration to good use as she starts work on book 2.  We’re all fizzing with excitement. Take a sneaky look at Izzy’s illustration for chapter one:

Many thanks to Petherick Button for all his hard work on book 1. The St Viper’s pupils haven’t vaporised him – he is working on his own story. You’ll be missed, Petherick!

Kim Donovan

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Fantastic Fiction for 7 – 9 Year Old Boys

I’ve been on a mission to find fantastic books for 7 – 9 year old boys that they’ll love. When my son was between seven and eight he was an advanced reader. He started to find books like Horrid Henry, Astrosaurs and Jeremy Strong’s stories too easy, but he was put off by the length of books for older children. For many of his friends Michael Morpurgo’s books bridged the gap, but Chris found them a bit sad, and I must admit I avoided another firm favourite with his peer group: BeastQuest.

Why are there so many formulaic, team written books for new readers? I can only guess it’s that children find comfort in continuing with a series they know they can read. I have mixed feelings about some of them (not all!). If children find a love of reading through these books – and many have – I’m all for that, but during my research I’ve had parents, booksellers and teachers flinch at the name of particular titles and yet those books command so much shelf space. Can’t we do better for children? Parents must vote with their wallets.

With a bit of searching we did find some stories for my son and I also wrote St Viper’s School for Super Villains for more able readers like him (see reviews of my book.) Since writing an article in a local magazine about how St Viper’s came about, I’ve had parents email and tell me face-to-face that there are not enough good books for 7 – 8 year old boys in particular, whatever their reading level. Now my son is a year older there does seem to be a lot more choice. Having raised this issue on a books forum and spoken to children’s writers, teachers, parents and booksellers, I feel there are good books for this readership, but they are not always easy to spot in the sea of big brands. And for more able readers it often means finding age-appropriate books aimed at older children.

So, I thought it would be helpful to come up with a list of great books for 7- 9 year old boys. I’ve asked for recommendations, scoured forums and read every book suggested to me. Writing for this readership is difficult to do well. The author needs to be able to see the world through the eyes of a boy this age, write according to the child’s reading ability with easy-to-read text and short chapters and make the book exciting.

Here are my top choices, which tick all the boxes. I’ve roughly ordered them in terms of reading ability starting with books to build confidence:

Flat Stanley. Series Written by Jeff Brown.

Poor Stanley Lampchop is squashed flat when a board falls on top of him, but being the happiest of children he takes it all in his stride and makes the most of his new shape: being posted in an envelope, flown as a kite and used as a painting in a museum. Timeless classic. Great for children building confidence with reading.

 You’re a Bad Man, Mr Gum! Series Written by Andy Stanton.

Mr Gum is a nasty old man who hates children, animals, fun and corn on the cob. His house is a pigsty, filled with junk and pizza boxes, but he has an amazing garden. This is not due to Mr Gum being a Chelsea-award-winning garden designer but is because an angry fairy whacks him with a frying pan if he fails to keep his garden super tidy. But a dog called Jake starts to dig up the garden on a regular basis and Mr Gum is punished by the fairy. He decides to get rid of the dog once and for all. Mad as a box of frogs. Laugh out loud funny.

Hooey Higgins and the Shark. Series written by Steve Voake.

Hooey and Twig are desperate to raise sixty five pounds to buy a gigantic chocolate egg. A shark has been seen in the waters of Shrimpton-on-Sea and they are convinced that people would pay a lot of money to see it. With the help of their friend, Will, they come up with a cunning plan, which involves a bottle of tomato ketchup, a cricket bat and a duvet, to capture the shark and charge fifty pence for a look at it in their bath. The boys’ plan doesn’t come off, but they do find the world’s biggest sea urchin, which turns out to be a Second World War mine. Great fun. Illustrations on most pages.

Welcome to Silver Street Farm. Series written by Nicola Davies.

Meera, Gemma and Karl have wanted to set up a city farm since the first day of infant school when they played with a headless sheep, some painted pink chickens and two cows with missing legs. The chance to make their dream a reality comes when an old railway station is closed down, which the children think is a perfect venue for their farm. But the council have other plans for the station and want to turn it into a car park. In the meantime, the children start being donated animals and have nowhere to keep them, but they are not going to give up on their dream easily. With determination, help from a friendly policeman and some singing supporters they win the day.  A feel-good story.

The Roman Mystery Scrolls. Series written by Caroline Lawrence.

This is a new series set in ancient Rome. It is written by the well-respected author of The Roman Mysteries. In the Poisoned Honey Cake, Threptus, a soothsayer’s apprentice hasn’t eaten for two days as his mentor, Floridius, has gambled all his money away on chariot race. To make matters worse, Floridius is afraid he’s lost his talent for seeing the future, which means they’ll have no money to buy food. Threptus offers to try and find out some information that his mentor can use to convince people he still has the gift. But while he’s sneaking around, weak with hunger, he spots a honey cake left on an altar for a god. He seizes the cake and eats it, but soon finds out it is poisoned.  Rich in historical detail.

Roald Dahl books.

There are some scrumptious Roald Dahl stories, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The BFG, but for boys beginning to read chapter books it is probably best to start with The Twits, George’s Marvellous Medicine and The Fantastic Mr Fox as they are shorter stories. The Fantastic Mr Fox is one of my favourite children’s books. Boggis, Bunce and Bean are wealthy and mean farmers who don’t take kindly to Mr Fox helping himself to a plump chicken, a goose or a nice turkey for supper. The farmers take action: guns fire, Mr Fox loses his tail and his young family are trapped in their hole. But Mr Fox is not called “fantastic” for nothing and he has a cunning plan. Fabulous fun.

Far-Flung Adventures. Fergus Crane.  Series written by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell. Winner of the Smarties gold award in 2004.

An inventive story with lots of imaginative mechanical gadgets and off-the-wall characters: a long lost uncle who grows macadacchio nuts with the help of a team of penguins and blood thirsty pirates who pretend to be school teachers in order to get the pupils to do their dangerous work for them. The pirates are seeking fire diamonds, which are only to be found deep inside a live volcano on Fire Isle and accessible only to the most agile explorer.  The children are disposable as far as the pirates are concerned and once they’ve got their bucket of diamonds they’re sailing off into the sunset without them. Fergus, the young hero of this story, not only has to find his missing father but rescue the children as well on a mechanical winged horse. Fuel for the imagination. Gadgets galore. Quirky illustrations.

King of the Cloud Forests.  Written by Michael Morpurgo.

Parents and booksellers recommended Michael Morpurgo’s books in general. King of the Cloud Forests is about a boy called Ashley who has to travel across the Himalayas with his Uncle Sung when Japan invades China. The journey is perilous. Uncle Sung disguises Ashley as a Tibetan and tells him not to speak to anyone, as he is at risk of being murdered for being a white foreigner and the son of a missionary. Ashley almost dies of infection, starvation and the cold and is hunted by wolves. Then, if his situation couldn’t get any worse, he is split up from his uncle. However help arrives from a community of yetis, who treat him as the King of the Cloud Forests. Michael Morpurgo is described as ‘The master storyteller’ and this book will not disappoint readers. It is suitable for able readers, who are ready for more challenging stories. The book is not illustrated. Thought provoking adventure.

How to Train Your Dragon. Written by Cressida Cowell.

To become a member of the Hairy Hooligan Tribe, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third and the other young Vikings must pass a gruelling initiation test.  There is a lot of pressure on Hiccup as not only is he the hope and heir of the tribe, but he’s also a bit weedy and not very brave. Even his dragon is the smallest and scrawniest of the bunch. But Hiccup has a special skill — he can speak Dragonese — and when the Viking community are threatened with being gobbled by the Sea Dragonus Maximus he becomes an unlikely hero. The How to Train Your Dragon series is great for boys moving towards longer books for older children. Seriously good fun.

Gangsta Granny. Written by David Walliams.

Every Friday night, Ben goes to stay at his boring Granny’s house where he plays Scrabble and eats cabbage soup. He hates being there and his granny knows he feels this way, so she pretends to be an international jewel thief to stop him seeing her as a dull old woman.  They begin to have fun together again like they used to when he was younger. Gran cherishes the extra time she gets to spend with her grandson and Ben realises that she’s really rather lovely after all. But they get carried away and end up in the Tower of London trying to steal the Crown Jewels.

Like the How to Train Your Dragon series, this is a good book for boys moving to the next reading level. Funny and touching.

St Viper’s School for Super Villains.

If you are not familiar with my series, you can read about it on this website or by clicking on the link  to visit Amazon. Here you will find more reader reviews. Thank you!http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=St%20Viper’s%20School%20for%20Super%20Villains

See also this blog: Super Books for Boys.http://kimdonovanauthor.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/super-books-for-boys/

I’ve also set up a pinterest collection of brilliant books for boys. I’ll keep updating it. Here’s the link.

Thanks for reading my blog!

Kim

Kim Donovan
electrikincTM

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World Domination Starts At Waterstone’s

St Viper’s School for Super Villains may not have taken over the world just yet, but it’s starting to gain followers. For the last couple of weeks, since its wild and noisy book launch, I’ve been visiting schools to tell young super villains about the book (see photos). I have an eight-year-old evil genius myself and our house is always full of kids, so I thought the school visits would be easy. That was until I found out that most of the year groups have about sixty pupils! But I had no need to sweat. The children got into the spirit of St Viper’s, demonstrating their evil laughs and telling me what super powers they would wish for themselves. In some of the schools I ran workshops on developing super villain and super hero characters. Interestingly, very few children chose to create super heroes.

They must have had fun because thankfully a good number turned up at my Waterstone’s event on Saturday 7th July. I was relieved to see them. I had been dreading being one of those unknown authors I’d seen in the store sitting uncomfortably behind a table, twiddling their thumbs, hoping someone will come up and ask for directions to the toilet.

To try to avoid this horrible situation, I planned craft activities: super villain eye-masks to colour and ‘Who’s Super?’ trading cards to make. Mini Boy, Rock Man, Smash Mash, Fang Face and Death Doom were some of the super-powered characters the children created. They gave their characters scores for power, speed, attack, defence and intelligence and were soon setting up their own games against each other on the carpet. One young boy arrived dressed up as The Hulk. The children also made their own entertainment: masked super heroes and super villains fought each other with fireballs and lightning from behind the bookshelves. The lovely Waterstone’s staff (Kat and John) took it all in their stride and everyone had a fun time. My other big worry – having to sell my book to people and failing – didn’t materialise. I was so busy attaching elastic string to eye-masks, discussing the scores of children’s trading cards and signing copies that the book ended up selling itself. I’m sure some parents probably thought I was a children’s entertainer brought into the shop to do crafts with the boys and girls on a wet and windy day, but Waterstone’s still said St Viper’s sold really well and commented on how the event had created a warm atmosphere throughout the whole shop.

The following day I visited the bookshop to pick up my art box. As I walked past a parked car I saw a girl on the back seat playing with the St Viper’s trading cards. My heart leapt with joy. World Domination starts at Waterstones!

Kim Donovan

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MAGIC MOMENTS

ELECTRIK INC’S FIRST BOOK LAUNCH

Super Villains pretending to be Ultra Ordinaries

Magical moments come in all shapes and sizes and can brighten our lives at any time. Some are a pleasant surprise, like rainbows on a cloudy day. Others are the realisation of a dream. The kind of dream that encompasses hard work, perseverance, talent, patience, and the ability to run around doing twenty-five things at once while still maintaining the outward appearance of sanity. The kind of dream that starts with a blank sheet of paper and ends in a local bookshop filled to the rafters with screaming, whooping, whistling, clapping children. All practising their evil laugh, just like Dr Super Evil in St Viper’s School for Super Villains.

Kim Donovan launching St Viper’s School for Super Villains at Topping & Company Booksellers of Bath

This was Kim Donovan’s magic moment: Friday 15th June, at Topping & Company, an independent book store in Bath, when the launch of St Vipers proved that all her tenacity (writing, rewriting, proofreading, editing, organising illustrations, correcting illustrations, formatting pages, swearing at the computer, re-formatting pages, banging head against the wall and re-re-formatting pages, marketing, organising, writing to schools etc etc…) – all that hard work was worth it.

Writer slave!

Green balloons bobbed everywhere, the kids wore super-villain masks and yelled their evil laughs and bought the book until the tills were smoking. St Viper’s School for Super Villains was a sell out and Toppings had to break into the box of books which had been set aside for school visits and brought along ‘just in case they need them’. Boy, did they need them. Kim signed books while the queue grew ever longer.

The Team. From the left: Jenny, Kay and Janine

It was a magic moment for Electrik Inc, too, and the culmination of all our blood, sweat and proofreading,  seeing our first ‘baby’ safely delivered – and so well received. Toppings declared it a ‘great success’, parents beamed, and the kids lapped it up. They loved the story, they loved Petherick’s illustrations, they loved the characters. Just seeing them jumping around pretending to be Demon, or Stretch, or Wolfie, made me realise how fantastic it is to write books that children love. There they were, up late, in a wonderful book shop, wearing fun masks and being read to by a lovely woman who told a story about a school where it was not only okay to be very naughty but was actively encouraged and on the curriculum. Unblinkinbelievable! What bliss. So this was their magic moment too. And that’s what it’s all about.

The Author, Kim Donovan

Here’s to more magic.

Kay Leitch

The Illustrator, Petherick

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May The Force Be With You

‘May the force be with you,’ Lu Hursley wrote in an email to me after reading my last blog. At times, the process of independently publishing St Viper’s School for Super Villains has felt like going up against The Galactic Empire.

But no longer a Padawan am I. A publishing Jedi like Yoda, I think. Proficient in formatting, contract negotiation, producing illustrator briefs, finding suppliers, selling to bookshops, distributing books, balance sheets, blogging/tweeting/facebooking, facilitating creative writing workshops in schools, I have proved myself. Yet, very little time for writing this has left me.

For the last six months I have made very slow progress with the second book in the St Viper’s series. I pick it up in fits and starts and it takes me ages to get back into the story. I’m not in a playful, creative mood either. The business hat I’m wearing won’t come off! Alarm bells are ringing.

In the Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, Mark Croker says, ‘Most of the bestselling authors at Smashwords publish more than one book’. Journal articles talk about how successful writers write every day and set target word counts and top earners spend more time writing than marketing their books. Writers find that blogging ‘can eat up far too much creative energy ’(see below for ref).  And that’s just blogging on its own. However, ‘Blogging is one of the most important and cost effective ways that companies have to promote their brand and spread their message,’ according to http://www.netlz.com/seo-blog/2010/01/02/the-importance-of-blogging-  It’s a dilemma ─ no doubt shared by every professional writer.

I must confess it’s been exhilarating to take control of the publishing process and bring a book to market myself with the help of my wonderful friends, the other Electrik Inc co-founders. The mystique has gone out of book production. I know exactly how long tasks take to complete, how much they will cost and most of the pitfalls (I’m sure a few more problems will jump out on us as time goes on!) The more I do myself, the more I feel I can do. Set up our own on-line bookshop ─ makes perfect sense. Consider publishing other people’s books ─ we have the skills. Distribute books nationally ourselves ─ it just needs some research into warehousing and transportation. However, there is a price to pay.  Everything takes time away from my writing.

Book one needs less attention now it’s published but I have only just started to write again. So I have to think carefully about how much I take on in the future. I am perfectly capable of doing it all but is it the best use of my time? Children want to know when they can have the next book. Write must Jedi writer.

Kim Donovan

Electrik Inc

*Reference not available on-line:  Kona Macphee. Blogaholic. Mslexia. April/May 2012

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A Picture Speaks A Thousand Words

My moment of extraordinary happiness.

Kim

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Help Will Always Be Given

Ever since I started writing ten years ago I’ve imagined my stories in bookshops: entire shelves dedicated to my books, with exciting displays in the windows of Waterstones or little notes attached to them saying ‘Highly Recommended’.  But it is incredibly difficult for independent writers/publishers to have their books stocked in shops. Even if you produce a high quality product, which book buyers think will sell, as Electrik Inc has with St Viper’s School for Super Villains, there is still the issue of distribution.  All the chain retailers and many of the independent bookshops like to buy from wholesalers and want books ‘sale or return’. Wholesalers ask for a whopping 55-60% reduction on the list price, which enables them to pass a fair discount onto the retailers. I understand everyone has to make money and I’m sure they do a brilliant job, but for an individual or a small publisher with a high print cost (a short print run is far more expensive), the financial figures don’t add up. Plus the real sting in the tail is that if the book fails to sell or gets a bit dog-eared and is returned, the printer and the wholesaler still have to be paid. In this case, by me.

I have been putting on a brave face. ‘The ebook for St Viper’s is going to look brilliant,’ I say. ‘Buying books on-line is so easy.’ But secretly I have been feeling glum about not having my book in bookshops. So, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and did something about it. I visited Kathleen, the children’s book buyer at Topping & Co Booksellers of Bath, who was really supportive. She gave St Viper’s to her eight-year-old son who “absolutely devoured it” and, as a result, has offered to launch and stock the book.  Next I visited Harry Wainwright, the owner of Oldfield Park Bookshop. He offered to stock the book too. Harry was unbelievably generous with his time and gave me lots of valuable advice on marketing. He reminded me of the line from Harry Potter: “Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.” He said I shouldn’t be afraid to ask the book industry for help. I took his advice and went straight to Waterstones to see my friend John Lloyd. And he also came up with a possible local solution.

It looks like my fantasy will become reality. St Viper’s will be sold in local bookshops. But as Harry Wainwright said, ‘This is a pilot study to see if there is a market for your book. At some point soon you will have to take it to a national level. That requires a leap of faith.’ I walked home thinking about the challenges that lie ahead: funding large print runs (to bring the unit cost down), warehousing and distributing books, PR and sales on a countrywide scale and how to manage financial risk. For a moment I felt worried, but then I remembered that it’s okay to ask for help.

Kim Donovan

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Independent Publishing – My Story So Far

St Viper’s School for Super Villains is about to be independently published and I’ve been reflecting on the last few months – the things I enjoyed, what drove me bananas, the challenges that lie ahead. And knowing what I know now whether I should be clever/stupid/crazy enough to do it again.

WHAT I ENJOYED

Taking control. I have nearly been published through the traditional route a couple of times. For a little while I had a lovely literary agent (the agency closed their children’s list). Movie companies even read one of my manuscripts with a view to buying the film option. But somehow my timing has never been quite right and luck hasn’t been on my side (Note – we inklings all have very different stories!). I needed to try something new to get my books in the hands of children or give up and earn a proper living. Then we had that Electrik moment in the Jazz Cafe which Jenny blogged about. Professional Independent Publishing was born.

It has felt incredibly liberating challenging the norm, creating a way to independently publish high-quality children’s books, in a way that meets our needs, building on both the strengths of traditional and self-publishing. I’m proud that we have been brave enough to have a go and of the product we’ve created.

Working with other children’s writers.  I loved being a creative writing student and really missed bouncing ideas around with other writers after the MA finished. It can be lonely working on a book on your own. Being part of Electrik Inc has allowed me to write and publish in a supportive environment. We have had a laugh too.

Seeing my book looking gorgeous St Viper’s has been professionally and lovingly line edited over and over again and it shows. The reviews of the book are brilliant. I also have the cover and illustrations I wanted. I’m a happy writer.

WHAT DROVE ME BANANAS

Where to start? Having to buy a new laptop because the old one wasn’t up to the job and Adobe Acrobat Pro to meet the printer’s requirements.  Researching POD companies and finding out after hours and hours of reading that our preferred supplier would only sell my book on Amazon.com not Amazon.co.uk and in American dollars (which they failed to mention). Generally trying to fit square pegs into round holes. We are a hybrid of traditional and self-publishing and nothing quite fits us. I must say that the ebook has been a walk in the park compared to producing a print on demand book. Mostly, what has driven me bananas is the time form filling and buying services has taken away from my writing. But on balance I think all the work has been worth it to get the book I want.

THE CHALLENGES THAT LIE AHEAD

I’m happy blogging, tweeting and squawking but I could do with a whole army of clones to visit bookshops and schools to talk about St Viper’s. ‘Who is your rep?’ ‘Who are you using for PR?’ I am frequently asked in stores. ‘Err…that’s me.’ I feel incredibly small, like Julia Donaldson’s snail in the Snail and the Whale in a big world. It should become easier when we start marketing our books together, but for the time being it’s just St Viper’s. We will have to be inventive in the way we market my book. We must write fantastic stories that children talk about. It’s all possible. Like Donaldson’s snails on the rock it would be easier to be quiet, sit still and stay put, but I’d rather carry on with the adventure.

Kim Donovan

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Inspiration For The Imagination

 One of the frequent questions children ask writers is where they get their ideas from. Ideas can come from childhood experiences. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was inspired by Roald Dahl going to school close to Cadbury’s and regularly being given new chocolate bars to test. At this time, chocolate makers often tried to steal trade secrets by sending spies into rival factories pretending to be employees, giving Dahl fuel for his story.  Doctor Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) said his desire to create rhymes came from his mother, who would send him to sleep by chanting them to him and Horrid Henry was inspired by its author, Francesca Simon, growing up the eldest of four, desperately wanting to be an only child.

Places often spark creativity too. As a child, Cressida Cowell, author of the How to Train a Dragon series, used to go on holiday with her family to an uninhabited island. At night, her father told tales of Vikings and legends of dragons who were supposed to live in the island’s caves. She says, ‘It seemed perfectly possible that dragons might live in this wild, stormy place.’

Ideas for books are often found close to home. In Allan and Janet Ahlberg’s picture book Peepo their daughter Jessica became the inspiration behind Janet’s illustration of the baby and the story reflected Allan’s childhood. Eoin Colfer said Artemis Fowl was inspired by a picture of his brother dressed up in his Sunday best, and took on more and more of the characteristics of his own son. J.M Barrie got the idea for Peter Pan’s lost boys from Sylvia Llewellyn Davies’ children. They had recently lost their father and J.M Barrie would make up fantasies about a place called Neverland for them. As a young girl, Beatrix Potter had numerous small animals as pets and would draw them endlessly. She would go on to write and illustrate Peter Rabbit and many other well-loved stories. The Mr Men books came to life because Roger Hargreaves’ son asked him what a tickle looked like.

Objects can give authors ideas for stories too. The Sleeping Army by Francesca Simon was inspired by the Lewis Chess pieces in the British Museum. The church where Lewis Carroll’s father was a rector for twenty-five years has a stone carving of a cat’s face, which when viewed from below has a huge grin. People guess that this was his inspiration for the Cheshire Cat in Alice and Wonderland.

Writers say their work is influenced by other people. For Jeremy Strong it is Spike Milligan. Some books are based on Greek mythology, such as the Percy Jackson series or are influenced by the myths of the Northern Europeans, including The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. A seed for a book can grow from a conversation. Michael Morpurgo wrote War Horse after an elderly war veteran told him of the horse with whom he served during the Great War. Clearly, inspiration can be found in all sorts of places.

The idea for my book, St Viper’s School for Super Villains, came from my son. My husband and I worked out that whenever he came home from school with a new devious trick, he’d been playing with the older kids. ‘They’re teaching us to be villains,’ he said with a wicked grin. I’ve always loved baddies in stories: Cruella De Vil, Captain Hook, Dick Dastardly in Wacky Races. Villains are never dull and always have the best lines. I picked up a pen and started writing the story.

Kim Donovan

Electrik Inc

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References

http://www.penguin.co.uk/nf/Author/AuthorPage/0,,1000008184,00.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_and_the_chocolate_factory

http://www.catinthehat.org/history.htm

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/books-life/7544620/Francesca-Simon-interview-what-makes-Henry-so-horrid.html

http://www.cressidacowell.co.uk/about-cressida-cowell.asp

http://www.stellabooks.com/articles/ahlberg.php

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/jul/26/eoin-colfer-finish-artemis-fowl

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/google/7702511/JM-Barries-150th-birthday-celebrated-by-Google-doodle.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/word-up-festival/8796972/Francesca-Simon-on-Norse-myth.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-1196356/From-Harry-Potter-Alice-Wonderland-North-East-provides-plenty-literary-inspiration.html

http://www.puffin.co.uk/nf/Author/AuthorPage/0,,1000031591,00.html#BIO

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jan/12/war-horse-author-michael-morpurgo

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Mr Benn’s Lesson For Life

I have fond childhood memories of Mr Benn, the character created by David McKee.  Mr Benn, a man in a black suit and bowler hat, would visit a magical costume shop, be invited to get changed into fancy dress by a fez-wearing assistant and then find himself in a world relevant to his outfit.  As a child, I watched all the TV episodes and read the books. My eight-year-old son has an old 1972 Mr Benn annual, which I cherish more than him. You would have thought that being such a fan of Mr Benn I would have noticed before that he doesn’t mix and match his outfits. Watching him joust at the bottom of the ocean with a soggy baguette would make good viewing as he tries to be a knight, baker and deep sea diver simultaneously. However, it would result in Mr Benn being so traumatised he wouldn’t enter the costume shop again.

Unlike Mr Benn I have been trying to wear many different hats at the same time: I’m the writer of St Viper’s School for Super Villains, the book designer, the person who works with the illustrator, the contracts manager, the publicist, the project manager, the person who formats the book and e-book, the IT specialist, the salesman . . . the list goes on. I feel exhausted. I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night thinking about all the things I need to do. I’m so lucky not to be the book’s editor as well. My Electrik Inc buddies have kindly edited the story over and over again. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to publish alone.

Being so tired I have to remind myself why I’ve chosen this path to publication: I want control over the process from beginning to end, the book cover and illustrations of my choice and to work with likeminded creative people, who are driven to make each book great. But do I need to do everything myself to be a proper publisher? No. Mainstream publishers outsource many functions. To ensure St Viper’s is of the highest standard, we have used a professional illustrator and graphic designer.

Over time, I hope to take off some of the hats. Mr Benn became 40 in 2011 and is having a revival. Tate Publishing has republished the original books, he has a Facebook page and a Mr Benn website is coming soon. Perhaps one of his stories would help me to relax . . .

Kim Donovan

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