Imelda & the Horned Owl

This week marks the official launch of Imelda & the Horned Owl, a fantasy adventure novel for 7-12 year olds I wrote with my eight-year-old daughter, Lana. You can get it here:
Books need reviews to reach more readers, so if you could leave a line or two on Amazon it would help enormously. xx

Here’s what the book is about:

The people of Nightshine have been turned into monsters – leaving one brave girl to save the day!
Join young Imelda on an amazing quest to save her world, through the strange perils of Deep City to the flying castle of the evil wizard Var.
Imelda needs all the help she can get, because her only friend is a mysterious four-armed giant called the Horned Owl!
But the Horned Owl has enemies of his own, and the most terrifying of them is closing in. Imelda and the Horned Owl must use all their wit and courage to overcome this cunning villain – because the price of failure is a fate worse than death!

The book began in 2018, when Lana was seven years old. It was inspired by her drawings, like the one below, and some ideas she had for a story.

Like all the best things, Imelda & the Horned Owl grew out of play, fun and invention. At that point we had no idea there was a book at all, and certainly not of publishing it. It was just a fun, creative thing for Lana and me to do together.
I started to hand-write the story in a notebook as Lana talked about it. I made suggestions about what might happen and listened to Lana’s replies. She was adamant that the story would be about a Magic Pathway, and that Imelda and the Horned Owl would have adventures as they travelled along it.
Imelda’s red and silver hair and the strange appearance of the Horned Owl are all Lana’s inventions, while the demonic Shorlock came out of a quite separate game in which I had to guess what something was, and it turned out to be him.
Again and again we came back to the notebook, until we established a writing rhythm. It is extraordinary that a seven-year-old had the focus to sit – or often stand, as was her preference – for an hour and sometimes an hour-and-a-half as together we explored the magical world of Nightshine.
It was a very special creative process. I would work out the mechanics of a plot, or magic system, or piece of geography, then ask Lana what might happen next. She’d come up with something my adult mind would never have thought of. The best example of this process was when Imelda and the Horned Owl met one of the architects of the Magic Pathway, and we didn’t have a name for him.
‘Larry the Crab’, Lana said.
‘You can’t call him that!’ I cried, aghast. ‘It’s not a remotely mythical name!’
Lana looked at me.
‘Larry the Crab’, she said again.
I thought about it.
‘Actually,’ I said, ‘that’s perfect’.
And sure enough, whenever I talk about the story and the characters, it’s Larry the Crab who gets people saying, ‘I’d read that’.
The book took a year to write, usually at weekends or during the holidays. I’d changed from scribbling in a notebook to typing the story straight onto the laptop. I would speak the story for Lana as I typed it, fleshing out incidents and thinking back to what we had already written so it would all tie together. I’d ask Lana what happened next, and she would tell me.
Eventually, we ended up with 30,000 words of epic fantasy. It worked, but needed some editing. I set about refining what we had written, all the while considering the point of view of the young reader and staying true to the feel of Lana’s world. I wanted it ready so she could have a printed copy for Christmas 2019, by which time she was eight and a half.
This is the original cover, which I made using Amazon’s KDP Cover Creator:

Over the next year, I wrote and published other books, and thought about re-designing the cover for Imelda & the Horned Owl. Then I thought about editing the text to make sure there weren’t any spelling mistakes, and finally ended up editing it fully.
A year can make a real difference to perspective on a book. I realised that some episodes were over too fast, and Imelda, who is our point-of-view character, experiences them without letting on how she feels. So, over a month of intense editing, I spun more heart and tension out of our most involving episodes.
There were also bits I thought were too adult in their phrasing, with long words or complex terminology which needed to be simplified. And there were too many semi-colons. No child should have to deal with a semi-colon.
I continued to redesign the cover, using a platform called BookBrush, which lets you use free imagery and embed your own text. My first attempt had a nice 1970s feel:

However, it lacked that luminosity that I got with my other covers, so I tried again and found a better design, with a much more powerful font:

I reset the inside pagination and title fonts, and ensured the text was the right size for a child. Lana considered illustrating it, but in the end preferred writing, and the book stands on its own without. Going forward, if I can find the right artist and the resource to pay them, it might be something we could do. The book is very visual, and almost cinematic in its scope and imagery.
For now though, Lana and I are very pleased with the end result, and you can see me do a reading of the first chapter on the Andrew Wallace Books Facebook page:

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