Thursday, June 7, 2018

"The Santa Thief" Wins The 2017 SCBWI Spark Award! An exclusive interview with the book's author, Alane Adams, and illustrator, Lauren Gallegos

The picture book that won the 2017 SCBWI Spark Award, The Santa Thief

Award-winning author Alane Adams

Award-winning illustrator Lauren Gallegos

Here's the interview...

Lee: Please tell us about The Santa Thief!

Alane: The Santa Thief is the third book in my “Thief” series inspired by stories my 96-year-old father told me about growing up in rural Pennsylvania. After hearing some of his tales, I decided to write this series so that kids today could catch a glimpse of what life was like in the 1920s. In The Santa Thief, young Georgie is hoping to receive a new pair of ice skates for Christmas, but times are tough, even for Santa, Papa explains. Georgie is so disappointed, he doesn’t see the point of celebrating Christmas any longer, until Mama gently reminds him it’s about family and being together. Georgie decides to take matters in his own hands and “steals” Santa’s identity to give his parents a Christmas to remember. The Santa Thief helps kids understand that Christmas is about more than just the gifts they receive, and hopefully helps them appreciate the spirit of the season in a more meaningful way, especially how hard their parents work!

Lee: In traditional publishing, illustrators sometimes don't even speak to the author. Were you able to collaborate?

Alane: Working with Lauren has been a dream. I originally found her through the SCBWI illustrator gallery and immediately connected to her work. Plus, she was (at the time) living local to me and I liked being able to meet face-to-face to discuss ideas and concepts. Once we got through the first book, the next books flowed quite easily. Lauren is so skilled at interpreting the words and transforming my simple little stories into beautiful moving picture books. I always describe the relationship between author and illustrator as a kind of dance. I write the manuscript, then she brings it to life in pictures, then I mend the words to better match the pictures, going back and forth until the final product is perfect.

Lee: How is this book non-traditionally published, and can you share the decision process behind taking this path?

Alane: When I drafted the first book in the series, The Coal Thief, I didn’t know as much about the industry as I do today, and I wanted to expedite the process so that my father who was almost 94 at the time, would be alive to see the finished book. If I had known he would keep on ticking, I might have pushed harder for a traditional route! I chose to work with SparkPress because they have full Ingram distribution and are very skilled at getting books through the publishing stages.

Interior art from "The Santa Thief"

Lee: What was (or is) the biggest challenge of publishing in this non-traditional way?

Alane: Independent publishing can be challenging for children’s authors because so much of what young kids read is on printed books, not electronic, so reaching schools, libraries, and bookstores is always more of a challenge. It is still very hard for independently published authors to be on the shelf at Barnes and Noble or other big retail stores, so they have to be creative at marketing their books. I was fortunate to have The Coal Thief showcased on and read by actor Christian Slater which has garnered over 1 million views, generally by teachers in classrooms. Its very rewarding to think that millions of kids have been exposed to my father’s childhood stories!

Lauren: The greatest challenge of publishing non-traditionally as an Illustrator would being your own art director. Alane has always given me a lot of freedom to take the illustrations where I want, as long as it fits her story and the time period. But with that freedom comes a lot of self-critique and questioning if something is good or not. It can be hard to be in your own head that much. And there are times when it's easy to just let something slide instead of pushing yourself to go back and make it better - something an Art Director would surely do. Thankfully I also have art buddies that I can bounce ideas off of or just get a second pair of eyes when I am unsure of myself.

More interior art from "The Santa Thief"

Lee: What was (or is) the greatest benefit?

Alane: The greatest benefit is having control over the process and being able to publish on your own schedule.

Lauren: For our situation, I feel like being able to collaborate on this series has been a big benefit for both of us. In reality, without a traditional publisher to mediate, it is necessary for us to communicate. Going the non-traditional route has also allowed me to explore my own ideas and techniques with the artwork, which I have been able to do for each of the books in the series. That has allowed me a great opportunity to grow as an artist.

Lee: Anything else you'd like to share about the adventure so far?

Alane: I really look forward to bringing out the next book in the series, The Circus Thief coming this Fall. The Circus Thief tells the story of Georgie’s adventures at the circus where he ends up rescuing a circus horse named Roxie. I think the book showcases some of Lauren’s best work with colors and details. For the future, I’d love to come up with a new series about life during the Great Depression, and maybe try traditional publishing this time around!

Congratulations to both Alane and Lauren!

You can learn more about The Santa Thief and author Alane Adams here, and illustrator Lauren Gallegos here.

And if you'd like to find out more about SCBWI's Spark Award that recognizes excellence in a children’s book published through a non-traditional publishing route, here's the link to all the information.

Illustrate and Write On,

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