Today we have a guest blogger with us, Indie author and Illustrator Mikey Brooks. I hope you enjoy getting to know more about the latest installment in the The Dream Keeper Chronicles: Book 2 The Dreamstone. This is a great MG series. Enjoy!
What is the best reading experience you have ever had? I have to say it was when I was reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with my four-year-old daughter, Bean. The Oz books have always been my favorite. She looked up after reading a chapter and said, “I love this book! Thank you for reading it to me, Daddy!” It’s moments like these that remind me that magic can be found in the pages of books.
What do you like most about writing for an MG audience? Magic still exists in the minds of children. They open to whatever possibilities you place before them. They also can handle things more often than we give them credit. Middle-grade books are the in between books. They bridge the gap between being a child and being an adult. In writing MG books I get to bring up concepts that are adult but I get to remind them about how important it is to just be a kid and have fun. I think if kids can gain a love of reading early on in life it will benefit them far better in the future than those that pick it up later on.
It is said that in order to become a great writer one needs to be a prolific reader. What have you learned from being a reader? I’ve learned how to be a better writer for sure. I always tell people if you want to write a good MG book, you have to read a bunch of good MG books. They teach us about story structure, dialogue, and how to capture a child’s imagination. It is soooo important to read!
How has social media helped you to reach/retain your readers and fan base? Any words of advice? I had the opportunity a few weeks back to Skype with a class of students in North Carolina. It was fantastic to be in the room with them even though I was thousands of miles away. Social media is a terrific way to connect with young readers. I was able to have a chat via instant messenger with one of my fans. It makes you feel like you’re connecting with these kids as they talk about your book and what it taught them. Words of advice is to make sure your readers have a way of contacting you and that you reply when they do. Make kids feel special and you have a fan for life.
Besides being an author you are also an illustrator. You’ve illustrated your own children’s books and have done your own cover designs. Tell us about the process you go through to design a book cover. I work full-time as a cover designer and illustrator so it’s something I do every day. I use the same process for myself as I do with the clients I work for. I try and find a scene in the story that has action or meaning and try and come up with an image to illustrate that scene. I draw everything out in pencil on regular old paper. Then I trace that sketch onto Bristol paper with micron pens. I finish it up in Photoshop. I used to work with paint but now it’s all digital. With digital I can undo mistakes. Sometimes I come up with several ideas and try to pick the best one. That’s what I did with The Dream Keeper book. I came up with three covers and had my fans pick the best one.
Please give us a peek into your writing life. How much time each week do you spend writing? Is your desk messy or clean? Do you have a schedule or are you sporadic? What helps you stay motivated? I have no idea how much time I spend writing because it has to come in second with my illustrating. Sometimes I have so many clients that week I don’t get much writing time in unless I sacrifice time with the family which I try to avoid. My desk starts out clean and turns to messy really fast. I have to have the space around me spotless or I’m distracted. I write against a black wall which helps me just focus on the words and thoughts. My wife keeps me on track, as well as my writing team. Have supporters like a critique group and you’ll find yourself writing more often.
Did you always want to self-publish? What has been the most challenging? What has been the most rewarding aspect? I never wanted it at first because I didn’t want to devote so much time to the marketing and preparing of the book. I had a publishing contract in hand with The Dream Keeper but gave it up to have control over my rights—mostly audio rights. I’m happy I did because I have The Dream Keeper available now in audiobook (something that wouldn’t have happened with that publisher). I like that I am the boss. I get to make the book however I want. Self-publishing can be very rewarding but I don’t think it is for everyone. It is a lot of hard work. Plan to work you butt off. I’m actually trying to get an agent now. I still have dreams of being a hybrid author (both self-published and traditional).
Who was your favorite character to write about in Dreamstone? Tell us about them. Gladamyr, the dream keeper. He was once a very bad nightmare and actually tortured children. He is full of a lot of regrets of his past and I think it helps readers, at least the adult ones, connect to him. Who hasn’t made a mistake that they wished never happened. We grow and become better people but sometimes that past haunts us. Gladamyr teaches me that good is always obtainable, and no matter what you’ve done in the past you can make it right with a little hard work and determination. In The Dreamstone, Gladamyr really has to face that troubled past and overcome it.
If there is one theme or message to take from Dreamstone, what is it? To never be afraid to stand up for who you are. Kaelyn and Parker are both 14-year-old kids that struggle with accepting themselves. Kaelyn has a hard time finding her voice in a crowd and Parker fears being tagged a loser in school. They learn from each other the value of owning yourself. Friends, true friends, accept everything about you—the good and the bad. They are the people that matter. Not the popular kids, but the ones that know you and love you.
Where did the idea for the series come from? Ironically it came from a thought as I was trying to fall asleep. I needed to get to sleep and I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a person who could take you to and from dreams. Suddenly there was Gladamyr and the story just presented itself.
What is next on your project list? Oh, where to start… Of course the final book, The Dream Makers will be released in the summer, but before then I have some other exciting books coming out. The first is The Stone of Valhalla, a book that is very close to my heart because it was the first book I ever wrote. It has undergone a major rewrite but the essence is still the same. It is a Narnia like story about a boy who journeys to another world destined to save it, but it might come at the cost of losing his own. Next I plan on releasing a book I actually collaborated on with five other authors. The series is called The Gates of Atlantis and I am writing the sixth book in the series. It doesn’t have a firm title yet but I’m excited about this one. Each book is written by a different author, kind of like the 39 Clues. It’s about a society of magical creatures trying desperately to save their world. It is sure to thrill MG and YA readers. I also have another picture book coming out which I co-wrote with my wife. It is the second installment in the ABC Adventures series. This time Cooking with Kids. So I have a lot on my plate at the beginning of next year. It should be super fun and very busy.
Thank you so much for having me on your blog! I have enjoyed the questions.
The Dreamstone (The Dream Keeper Chronicles 2) is available on Amazon in eBook format, paperback, and hardback.
Genre: MG Fantasy
Description: Dreams: Dorothy called it Oz, Alice called it Wonderland, but Nightmares call it HOME.
When Parker’s mom is dreamnapped by the wicked Mab, it is up to him and Kaelyn to save her. When they return to Dreams, they discover Mab isn’t their only problem. Gladamyr has lost his powers and the only way to get them back is to become what he fears the most—a nightmare.
About the Author/Illustrator: Mikey Brooks is a small child masquerading as an adult. On occasion you’ll find him dancing the funky chicken, singing like a banshee, and pretending to have never grown up. He is the author/illustrator of several books including the bestselling ABC ADVENTURES: MAGICAL CREATRES and BEAN’S DRAGONS, as well as the middle-grade fantasy-adventure series, THE DREAM KEEPER CHRONICLES. He spends most of his time playing with his three daughters and working as a freelance illustrator and cover designer. Mikey has a BS degree in Creative Writing from Utah State University. He is member of the Emblazoners and also one of the hosts of the Authors’ Think Tank Podcast.
10 winners will receive a gift bag with numerous signed books marks, collector cards, wrists bands, and a handmade dream key necklace.
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