Monday, March 12, 2018

You Heard it Here First: OOTHAR THE BLUE by Brandon Reese and a Giveaway!

Congratulations to Linda Phillips who won the ebook copy of Rebecca Petruck's new book, BOY BITES BUG.

You know how I love sharing fellow writers good news--particularly for those who are debut authors. When I read on the SCBWI-Carolinas Pals group that Brandon Reese's first picture book was coming out in May (Lion Forge) I knew this was a story I wanted to share here. Since Brandon is the author/illustrator--you get to hear about his publishing journey AND see some of his great illustrations!

CAROL: What was the inspiration for OOTHAR THE BLUE? I love his name! How did you come up with it?

BRANDON: As with most of my stories, Oothar started out with a sketch. I keep a sketchbook and try to draw in it everyday. If I’m lucky, those drawings become the seeds of a story. 

To be honest, I’m not really sure how the name Oothar came about! I wanted something fantastical and Scandinavian sounding and Oothar just popped into my head.

CAROL: This is your debut picture book, but you have illustrated others. Can you share about how you went from illustrator to illustrator/writer? 

BRANDON: Being an illustrator/writer has always been the goal. I knew I needed to strengthen my writing. So I worked on it by regularly attending SCBWI conferences and just making myself work through a story. 

CAROL: Tell us more about your path to publication. 

BRANDON: I drew constantly as a kid. My mom read somewhere that if you wanted to foster creativity in your child you shouldn’t give them coloring books. Instead you should give them blank pieces of paper to draw and color on. So, blank sheets of paper were never in short supply!

I went to the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale where I took some art classes but not a lot. The focus was on graphic design. After graduating I eventually got a job art directing and designing a small children’s magazine. I would assign myself illustration jobs for the magazine. It’s there where I honed my illustration skills... or at least started to. 

OOTHAR with Fettle the Wizard
CAROL: What role did SCBWI have in your life?

BRANDON: SCBWI is a great organization. I wish I had joined years ago! It wasn’t until after attending my first conference that I started to get some traction in the publishing world. 

CAROL: What role has your critique group played in your development as an author/illustrator?

BRANDON: The most beneficial thing I’ve done to help my writing is join a critique group. You know right away if something is working by the reactions. Nothing is better than hearing a critique partner giggle their way through your manuscript. Well, a humorous book, that is! I suppose it would be a bit of a nightmare if a reader is laughing their way through a serious project. Illustrating and writing are mostly solitary endeavors. It gets lonely. It’s great to have a group of artists who understand your struggles and cheer your successes. 

Brandon created his artwork using digital painting in Adobe Photoshop
CAROL: What was the process of getting your publisher?

BRANDON: Connecting with Lion Forge and ultimately selling Oothar to them was a bit of a surprise. I had some down time and I was looking for comic book illustration work. I worked up a mock Oothar cover and sent it to a list of publishers I found online. Andrea Colvin, the executive editor at Lion Forge, wrote back right away and said that unfortunately she didn’t have any illustration work at the moment but wanted to know if I had any manuscripts she could read. 

I’m still thinking she wants comic book or graphic novel stuff, so I sent her three stories I thought would translate well to that format (Oothar being one). It wasn’t until she wrote back to say she loved Oothar and wanted to take it to an acquisitions meeting that I found out she was looking for picture books. So I quickly sketched up some extra sample art for her to take to the meeting.
The poster Brandon sent to publishers.

CAROL: When did you get your agent? Did you query several before signing?

BRANDON: I signed with Jennifer Mattson from Andrea Brown Literary in February. I still have that new client smell! I queried maybe 15 other agents. I had other offers but I ultimately felt Jennifer was the best fit for me.

CAROL: What are you hoping your young readers will take away from OOTHAR?

BRANDON: Feeling blue or depressed is a normal emotion. It is an indicator of something askew in our lives. If something isn’t bringing you happiness anymore, you can make a change!

Remember what I said last week? One way we support authors is by preordering their books. Click on over to Amazon and preorder OOTHAR now!

To enter the giveaway for your copy of OOTHAR, please leave a comment along with your email address if you are new to my blog. Share this on social media (please tell me what you do) or become a new follower of my blog and I'll enter your name twice. Winner will be chosen on March 16.


Donna Earnhardt said...

I have to read this!! I am so excited about this book!!

Donna Earnhardt said...

I LOVE the idea behind this book! I'd started writing one on a "blue" ogre... but this is sooo much better than what I had in mind. I LOVE the illustrations. This is going to be one of my fave books. And if I don't win it... I'm going to buy it!

Carol Baldwin said...

Yes, the illustration and concept is wonderful. Thanks, Donna!

Connie Porter Saunders said...

I love the illustrations and the concept. "Feeling blue" can happen to all of us and this is great for young people! I am sharing on FB & Twitter.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Connie, you're in twice!

Linda Phillips said...

Congratulations, Brandon! I am proud to have shared a table with you at SCBWI book signing, and I will take this opportunity to belatedly tell you my grandkids love the Okeedokee Appalachian music album you illustrated. Thanks for featuring this talented guy, Carol!

Carol Baldwin said...

I thought Brandon's name sounded familiar, LInda!

The Winding Ascent said...

I am so excited for you, Brandon!!! And we miss you at critique group! Also, I didn't realize you'd signed with Jennifer. Congrats!!! This is all so exciting. We are on fire, and Carol, when I say "we" I'm talking about our Southpark B&N group that YOU started! Yea!

My email is

Carol Baldwin said...

I thought Brandon was talking about that group...that is very cool! Thanks for leaving a comment and your email is in the hat-but who am I talking to?

Viviane Elbee said...

Great interview! Congratulations Brandon!

noah's dad said...

Thanks for all your kind words and support everyone!

Linda- Hi table mate! I'm happy your grandkids are enjoying The Okee Dokee Brothers!


Grace Marie said...

How cool! I hope to dabble in children's books one day, so it's interesting to see how the process works.

I hope his book does well!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Viviane and Gray Marie. Your names in the hat!

Young Authors Program said...

I love the title! Thanks for sharing Brandon’s publishing story.

Linda A. said...

What an interesting picture book! Kids will love it. I will share this on Facebook. I'll send you my new address in a private email.

Linda Gutheil

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Linda and Dorothy. Both your names are in--Linda's twice!

Clara Gillow Clark said...

Congratulations to Brandon! I loved the richness of color and detail in the illustrations you posted from the book, Carol. Wishing Brandon great success with this debut book. Cheers! (I’ll tweet this!)

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Clara. And I'll enter your name twice!

Rosi said...

This looks like a super book. Glad to know about it. Thanks for the post. I will pass on the giveaway since I recently won here.

Tara Luebbe said...

I have had the pleasure of seeing this book at critique group and it is so fun. Congrats.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Tara. That must have been fun to watch the book grow!

Debbie Allmand said...

Great interview with Brandon. It's looks like a great read.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Deb. You're in!

Cindy C said...

Congratulations Brandon! I remember the first time we read Oothar's story in the critique group at Barnes & Noble. Fingers crossed I win!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Cindy. Brandon-- you have quite a fan base!

noah's dad said...

Thanks for all the well-wishes everyone. It means the world to me! I can't wait for you all to read it :)

John Strong said...

Great interview and so happy for Brandon! Can't wait to read it. - John

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for leaving a comment, John. I need your email address to enter your name!

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