By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: March 19, 2012
David Scott Lillis is the author of a new series for kids ages seven through twelve (or ninety nine). He collaborates with talented artists to create stories that are rich with folklore, myths and legends from around the world.
Would you mind telling us a little about yourself and how you became a writer?
As a child I was a voracious reader and relentless storyteller. I’m not sure which came first, but each passion certainly fed the other. At some point I stopped sharing my stories, but not spinning them. I’ve kept low tech and high tech records of ideas and scraps of fiction, verse, outlines, drafts and manuscripts and am grateful for the opportunity to share again.
From concept to completion, can you tell us about the process of creating your book The Devil and the Darning Needle?
I’m not entirely sure how it happened. My “creative process” is loosely organized chaos. I do know that having the various artists involved has been immensely rewarding and motivating. I am glad I chose this as the first publishing project I pursued.
What age group did you write it for?
I was inspired to write these stories for my wife who is fond of saying they are for children from six to ninety-nine. The reading age is actually 7-12, but in truth I didn’t consider age when I wrote them. Children respond to and are engrossed by the same themes and story elements that intrigue adults. That became very clear in speaking with children at readings and promotional events. They want the story to capture and surprise them. They want to be able to identify with and root for the hero or heroine. They want the story to reflect some aspect of their life and bear some meaning that they can relate to. They expect all this even if the story takes place in a purely fantastical setting and the main character is a dragonfly.
Is there a message in your story that you hope readers will grasp?
One of the key characteristics of fables is that they illustrate moral lessons. I approached each of the stories with a message in mind, but I didn’t write them for the for the purpose of delivering the message. I didn’t want to be heavy handed. I focused on the characters and their plights and was happy to let the message take care of itself.
Could you tell us about the illustrations and illustrator? How was Doug Campbell selected to create the artwork?
I have long admired Doug’s artwork and when I decided to publish this series of fables he was the first artist I approached. I am very grateful that he wanted to collaborate. I let him choose the story he preferred to illustrate and he selected The Devil and the Darning Needle. Though it is the first released, it is actually the second story written in the series. I wanted him to have creative control over the illustrations. He selected the scenes he would depict for the internal illustrations and the book’s cover was his concept as well. Doug’s talents extend to his voice and he has also agreed to perform the audio versions of the books which will be released later this year.
As the first book published in a series of five, what should readers expect from the forthcoming titles?
Each story in the series is independent of the others and each has a different illustrator. There is, however, a commonality. The main character of each story is a creature not typically adored. I selected those that inspire fear or disgust in many and drew upon the various myths and folklore surrounding them. The second story is titled Naja and is about a cobra princess. It will be followed this year by tales of an octopus, a pangolin, and a vulture. I have been fortunate in being able to collaborate with some extraordinary and award winning artists. I have some galleries and links to the artists’ web pages on my site for those who would like to see more of their work.
If we were to see you reading, would you be reading a print book or an e-book?
I have always loved books and am surrounded by them in my office. For me, nothing will ever replace the joy of holding, reading and sharing a printed copy. That being said, if you spied me reading out and about it would undoubtedly be an e-book. I have a Kindle and the Kindle app on my smartphone. I can take a library of books with me everywhere I go and conveniently read wherever I am.
What do you enjoy the most about writing for children?
Children are able to fully immerse themselves in a story. If it captures their attention they are lost in it. Whether reading or being read to, the story, for a short while, becomes their whole world. No matter how much we love a story as adults, we can’t quite let go of of all the responsibilities and worries that compete for our attention. It is daunting and delightful to write for an audience so willing to be so captivated by a simple story.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I truly hope you enjoy reading and sharing these stories as much as I enjoyed writing them.
To learn more about David Scott Lillis and his work, visit: http://www.davidscottlillis.com
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