Indie Authors of Children's Books discussion

Sascha Martin's Rocketship Book Discussion

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message 1: by E.C. (new)

E.C. Kraeft (goodreadscomeckraeft) | 92 comments Mod
Hello all! We just finished with John Nichol's book, Sascha Martin's Rocketship. Please join us here for the book discussion.

I found this book entertaining and delightful. John, where did you come up with the idea? How did you come up with your character's name? Your illustrator does beautiful work. How did you two end up working together?

message 2: by John (new)

John Nichol | 9 comments Hi Erin. Thank you for creating and captaining this group, and for arranging and leading these discussions.

The poem about Sascha and his rocket-ship worked itself out in my head more than twenty years ago. I was still teaching then, and kids were having News each day (or Show and Tell), and the idea of an outrageous News event took hold, and bits of verse started forming in my mind. I have this involuntary tendency, as I'm thinking, to arrange words into patterns of rhyme and rhythm, and that's how Sascha Martin made his appearance.

Sascha Martin, the name, pretty much decided itself as well. It needed to fit the rhythm of the poem, and my verse-making process came up with two words that worked, a first and last name. The names themselves could have come from anywhere.

It's the same process that created the character name for Mary-Alice Cooper - there was a space in the rhyme that needed a name with a certain number of syllables, with the natural spoken emphasis in particular places, so a suitable combination of words (names) just slotted itself into place. Mary-Alice Cooper, I must add, initially didn't have a role in Rocket-Ship. She first opened her mouth in the second episode, but we reverse-engineered her into Rocket-Ship because, well, it's what the illustrator wanted :)

Enter Manuela Pentangelo. This is how we met …

In 2015 I'd launched a contest at 99Designs, for someone to create a cover design for the second book in the series (Sascha Martin's Time Machine). The books were still only poems at that stage, but I'd published three as eBooks on the Kindle store, and I'd worked out by then that if I wanted anyone to read them I'd need a cover that would capture people's attention. I can't draw to save my life, so someone else had to do it.

Manuela entered my contest with a cover design that I just adored. It took my breath away, and it took out the prize. I asked her if she'd be interested in illustrating the whole series of books and she said yes … It's like a fairy-tale :)

But Manuela doesn't just illustrate … she collaborates. And sometimes (like, always!) she drives the process forward. She wanted names for the characters she'd created in her cover design, and she wanted those characters to be important in the books, and she wanted to know everything about them, and where they lived, and what they thought about, and how they liked to spend their time.

Manuela's like this demanding muse, polite but insistent :) And an absolute joy to work with.

message 3: by E.C. (new)

E.C. Kraeft (goodreadscomeckraeft) | 92 comments Mod
Wow! I like the history of your book.

What was the easiest part to write? What was the most difficult? Do you have a favorite verse?

message 4: by John (new)

John Nichol | 9 comments I'm going back a long way in my memory here, but I'm pretty sure the easiest verse to write was the first, because it wrote itself. It was the verse that first appeared in my head, and the rest followed on. Probably the first few verses had arranged themselves in my thoughts before I sat down to work out the whole story, and then the hard work began :)

There are lots of verses that cost a lot of sweat and toil, and some of them were changing right up until we published the book. One of the easiest to write, and one of the hardest, are on the same page, where the children on the ground see the rocket returning. The first verse there was the easy one:

The speck grew ever larger as
the children watched in awe;
The rocket coming down again
looked bigger than before

But the verse that follows bothered me for a long time, and it's one that was still changing till it was almost too late to make any changes. Just one line in that verse wouldn't get to a point where it sounded natural and unforced. It reads like this now:

till one among them gave a hoot

and I'm kind of okay with it ...

The thing is, and I'm sure you've found this as well in your writing, you can tinker forever with a verse, or a sentence or a paragraph, and never really be happy with it. And at some point you just have to say, it's done.

message 5: by E.C. (new)

E.C. Kraeft (goodreadscomeckraeft) | 92 comments Mod
I agree with you wholeheartedly about tinkering and tinkering with sentences. I think writing is exactly that wonderful mess where there isn't one option, but several. And we all try to find the most perfect one.

So tell us more...How long was the entire process from conception to publication? When is your next book out? Will it have Sascha Martin as the character? What other projects have you worked on?

and lastly, because it is roaming around in my head, what was the reason you went with verse instead of prose in your book?

message 6: by John (last edited Oct 20, 2016 11:03AM) (new)

John Nichol | 9 comments Hi Erin :)

To answer your last question first, I went with verse because that was how the story popped into my head. It began forming in rhyme, with a particular rhythm, and so it just developed. I've continued with rhyme for the series because, well, I enjoy it, and I think the rhyming gives lots of scope for humour and word play ... and every so often I can throw in an extended alliteration which I think children will enjoy wrapping their tongues and lips around :) It's just fun, really.

Well the poem for Sascha Martin's Rocket-Ship began forming in my mind more than two decades ago, so maybe we'll discount that part of the process. From when Manuela first looked at the text, to when we had a finished product - an eBook and a printed book - that was about eleven months, nearly twelve. But then, we're still working on it - We've added a foreword by an Australian rocketeer, with photos and links, and we've discovered IngramSpark for print books - so we're doing a new edition for print.

The learning process just continues ... I don't see an end to it :)

You're so right about tinkering - there's never just one option in writing, for how to express something - and the moment you think you've nailed it (or at least laid it to rest) another option surfaces ...

The next book is in development now (Manuela's storyboarding it). Yes, it's in the same series, and it's called Sascha Martin's Time Machine. If the time frame is similar it should be ready early next year. But we have plans for the Kindle version, a level of interactivity that involves a whole new learning curve for me, and I don't know if that will hold us up.

I've written a tiny novel called Through the Wormhole, which is science fiction. Manuela designed the cover, and when we both have time I want her to add some black and white illustrations to the text. Because of that I've held off on doing a print version, but it's on the Kindle store. I'm working on a sequel, but that's been sidelined by the Sascha Martin projects :)

message 7: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Korenfeld | 2 comments This resonates with me very much. I like writing in verse for children, too. I think it honors their intelligence.
The way a story writes itself - it's a miracle.

message 8: by John (new)

John Nichol | 9 comments Hi Michelle. I agree. Kids are very sophisticated in their reactions to words - and pictures. They love word play and jokes in any form, but there's something special about the way text with rhythm and rhyme reaches into the soul. Somehow it has a very special place. There's a poetry-shaped hole in everybody, as one poet put it.

And when a story writes itself - or gets a fair way in at least, without any help - yes, it's really wonderful. And there is something other-worldly about it.

It's good to meet another verse-maker :D

message 9: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Korenfeld | 2 comments Hi John, I've enjoyed your book very much, and posted a review on Amazon and Goodreads. Hope you like it. Good luck.

message 10: by John (new)

John Nichol | 9 comments Michelle wrote: "Hi John, I've enjoyed your book very much, and posted a review on Amazon and Goodreads. Hope you like it. Good luck."

Oh wow! That's incredibly generous of you Michelle. Thank you so much :)

message 11: by John (new)

John Nichol | 9 comments Michelle, that's a wonderful and generous review. Thank you for taking the time to write and post :)

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