Little Love was my first published children's book, and at the time I had no intention of turning it into a series. I simply had an idea, a desire, and a commitment to see it through. And just like most things in my life, that logic was good enough for me to start a ridiculous pursuit. In high school I had always wanted to write a children's book, but it wasn't until I had the idea of Little Love that I felt compelled to publish, simply for the reason that I love to share. I love sharing stories, hearing stories, telling stories, and I knew that Little Love was a story that needed to be told.
So just like most people, I had no idea how to publish a book. I honestly was just googling half the time, "How to get published," and pretty much guessing the entire way through. But I figured I could either try or live with regret, and I'll always opt for option 1. That's why I'm not great at giving aspiring authors advice, and I sometimes feel embarrassed or ashamed. There are some very dedicated authors out there, not published, who have spent years writing, pouring their hearts into a long endeavor. To them I have nothing but mad respect and admiration. I had to wait a measley short 4 months, but I also didn't have any expectations, except one. I knew I was going to get rejected, a lot. A LOT. So I got excited every time I got a rejection letter or didn't hear back. I just looked at it as one step closer to my goal. I kept telling myself, all I need is one person to love this story as much as I do. So on the night of Jan 15th 2018, I sat in my hotel room at the Encore in Las Vegas, and sent my manuscript to dozens of publishers.
This is where I was dreaming and scheming Jan 15th....on an expense paid work trip ;)
Wait so what? You pretty much just threw darts at a dartboard, and one stuck? Yes. That's exactly what happened. Okay, and you didn't hire an agent or a publicist? No. I thought about it, but it honestly felt intimidating and I thought if I can't sell my book or convince someone to publish it then there's no chance someone else could. So, I just knocked on every publishers door both large and small that published books similar to mine. There was no strategy I had other than, to simply cast a very large fishing net, and hoping for a catch.
The first month, didn't hear back. The second month......nothing. The third month.....self publishing companies tried to sign me but I said, "nay nay." Then finally the fourth month, I got a call at my desk at Amazon.
"Hi, this is Jim with WIPF and Stock Publishers. Is this Rose?" Okay first off, I couldn't even pronounce their name. I had no idea who they were, but I remember getting off the call and I kid you not, bawling at my work desk in the middle of the day. I felt a joy that resonated through every part of my body and I was so happy that the first person I thought to call was my mom. "Oh my gosh!!! Wait, who are they?" Well, here's the bit about my publishers.
They publish text books. Religious text books. Not children's books. Maybe I should've waited and seen what other offers I would've gotten, or maybe I should've held out for a huge publisher with brand recognition, but I only promised myself one thing, that I wanted to get published, and sign with someone who would support me and the book. And that they did. Jim said, "We've never published a children's book before, but we loved yours so much, that we're willing to take a chance if you are." And thankfully, I was.
Now would I say that the books have been "successful" by the world's standard so that I have millions of copies sold and a movie deal on the way? Of course not, but for me the magic was in having a dream come true. I didn't care how it was published, just as long as it was because that meant that things were in motion. And I can work with things that are in motion. So then there was the next seemingly impossible task of illustrating the book.
Illustrate it myself? No way. I'm a graphic designer, not an illustrator, and I wouldn't ever dare claim to be one. These guys are the pros. I have the easy part of just writing down my thoughts, but the illustrator has a lot of heavy lifting. The spreads have to make sense visually, be diverse enough, and really make the characters larger than life. I was lucky to have such a talented illustrator my first go round who made the process so much easier for me, but there was lots of collaboration and it took about a year to have it completed.
When I first met with Crystal, the illustrator, all I had was the written manuscript. We sat down at a little cafe in downtown Tacoma and began to discuss my vision for the characters and book.
The jewelbox in Ruston. They have the best hot chocolate.
It's always fun to look back and see how the process evolved. But I do remember bursting into tears when I saw the original sketch of Little Love. She was perfect. In your mind you're always trying to visualize it but it wasn't until I saw this first drawing that she felt real. Crystal was witty enough to add hearts wherever she could. In the pigtails, her knees, and she had the brilliant idea of drawing her heart on the outside of her body.
First sketch of Little Love
Once we agreed on the original storyboard, then we began exploring more concrete versions of the characters and scenes. Each character had their own main color scheme and personality. Fame was super charismatic and likeable, while Beauty was alluring and mysterious.
Beauty’s look was the biggest challenge of all. How do you define beauty? If we made her blonde, does that mean only blondes were considered beautiful? We didn't want to single anyone out or create a standard. That's where the idea of colored hair came from. We decided to make it more fantasmic by introducing purple hair for Beauty, and pink hair for Little Love. This is one of my favorite details of the book because I think it's so fun. I grew up watching Sailor Moon, and always loved their colored hair. We also looked at the environments a lot. What would the city look like or Beauty's dressing room? We did reference studies of beautiful french interiors to inspire us.
Sketch of Beauty in her dressing room.
Another challenge was how could we include Beauty and Fame in the spread without actually having them physically be there? We decided to create “tokens,” that each represented Beauty and Fame. Fame was his top hat, and Beauty was her boa and perfume bottle. The idea was that these tokens influence Little Love throughout the story, so you'll see them in different spreads. Sometimes she forsakes them, and other times she clings to them. We added sparkle to show how tempting these things are for her, but ultimately in the end of the book she realizes they're nothing of importance.
The hat represents Fame, and the boa and perfume bottle represent Beauty.
16 spreads and a year later, the book was finally finished. I still remember the feeling of holding it in my hands. It was birthed from a place of love and hope. And now I get to share it with all of you. But then not long after I started getting inspired about other characters and life lessons I had learned, and soon more stories flew out of me. But as the first book, Little Love will always have a special place in my heart.