Thursday, March 20, 2014

Royalties and Vegetables

Two years ago I took a course on digital books. It turned out to be quite a disappointment and I left half way through, but nevertheless, that was where my book was born. 
For one of our first meetings we were asked to pick a story and create a storyboard for it, which was to be the first step in creating a book out of that story. I was very excited about the possibility that I could create an interactive book for tablets with no experience in apps or coding, so I treated the mission of picking a story very seriously. I found this online list of characters, stories and authors for which copyrights have expired. The item "Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Anderson" was just what I was looking for. Fairy Tales were my favourite kind of story as a kid. I could not be happier than when my mind was wrapped up in a world where everything was possible and no harm could come to me. To this day I'm constantly amazed at what magical inventions the human mind is capable of given the possibility of what if...

Hans Christian Anderson is best remembered for his fairy tales, but he was also a writer of plays, travelogues, novels and poems. His story "The princess and the pea" was published for the first time in 1835. It was part of a volume of fairy tales which also included "Thumbalina" "The little mermaid" and "The emperor's new clothes". I've always loved the image of the princess on top of that crazy pile of mattresses and thought the pea was a super clever idea. There's something about a very small thing influencing a very large thing that always captures the imagination. In fact, put any two opposites together and you've got a story: Rich man - Poor Man, City mouse - Country mouse and so on. Royalty and small vegetables are opposites in so many ways it brings a comic element to it all. It's also very interesting that the test of a true princess is her sensitivity, not her amazing riches or long blond hair or even her talent to rule. I like that.
photo by Dismas found on Wikipedia
According to Wikipedia, Andersen had heard the story as a child, and it likely has its source in folk material, but apparently he changed it quite a bit. For example, the heroin of the only known Scandinavian folk tale involving people and peas was an orphan. Of course, a princess is a much better imagination-hooking-match for a pea, just as an orphan and a crown would be.
"The princess and the pea" is a short tale, but it has a series of basic elements which became the cornerstones of my story. I re-named my version "One Tiny Pea" to make it clear that it is a new creation, not entirely faithful to the original in some details and with my own ideas and understandings of the original text.
One issue I tried to deal with in my text was the issue of "the true princess". I tried to imagine what the un-true princesses should be like and this is what I came up with:
"One princess he found was tormenting a rat,
Another believed the world is flat,
A third one was only concerned for her looks,
A fourth had a passionate hatred of books,
And on and on, the entire world round,
The right princess could not be found."

And what is the right princess like? I'm trying to bring a lot of character into the drawings, so that question will only be properly answered when they are finished. Of course, she is the opposite of all that :)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Story Telling

There is nothing I love better than stories. I love them in books, movies and TV series, but most of all I love being read to. I'm quite willing to read to someone else if they will read to me in return, but I'd much rather be the listening party. I once fell in love with a guy mostly because he had the most pleasant voice and he read "Watership Down" to me on our first date. I will never be too old to enjoy stories read out loud, but today I'm just as happy if my boyfriend reads me the newspaper.

My absolute favourite person to listen to is my dad. I especially remember myself as a child rejoicing time and time again as we read "There are rocks in my socks! said the ox to the fox" and "Stand back! said the elephant, I'm going to sneeze!". The way the rhyming sounded like music rolling off his tongue and how we would laugh together at the funny parts and I could see he enjoyed the books just as much as me. Years later, when the Harry Potter books started coming out, there were a few times when my dad read the books to us in the living room. My mom, my younger brother and I spread ourselves out on the sofas and listened. Best kind of family fun I know.
When I decided to create my book app, I asked my dad to be my narrator and he gladly excepted the job. My brother is a musician so he had recording gear. We recorded three takes for each "scene" and as I listened to them all carefully and picked the best ones I tried to imagine the children who were about to enjoy my father's wonderful gift of story telling.

I'm so glad that recording him was one of the first things I did for my book. As soon as I had the entire narration there was no way I wouldn't complete everything else to get my book out there. It was given a soul, and now it's up to me to finish the body and give it life. I'm doing my best to do justice to the wonderful books I was raised on and create something that parents may enjoy together with their children.