"A boy. A bunny. Dandelion puffs. And a beast that just needs someone to hear him."
Bellow of the Beast is a children's book illustrated by Kristann Kammerman and written by Kristann and Megann Kammerman. It's about a young boy who journeys deep into a cave, where he meets a beast with a fierce hello.
For our first ever blog post, we're going to do a little question and answer with the authors of the book, to learn a bit about their story, process, and future goals.
Where did you come up with the idea for the book?
K: The original idea came from a dream that I had about a pink beast that lived in a cave that everyone was afraid of but no one could remember why. Every time someone got curious and went in the cave, they heard the beast’s tremendous roar and it scared them so badly that they lost their memory. (I remember it made my heart pound so hard in the dream and was genuinely scary). Then one day, a little boy wanders into the cave and meets this giant pink beast and they become best friends. That was the dream I told my sister (Megann) about and then she ended up writing it down in a flash fiction story - giving it more of a narrative and adding in the part about the roar being a “hello”, which I absolutely adored.
M: Kristann told me about this super realistic-feeling dream she had while we were sitting at the cafe after class one day. I happened to be in a flash fiction writing class, and the next day I wrote the story for my portfolio. I really just did it because I knew it would make Kristann laugh, and didn't expect it to go anywhere. The next year we were taking a class together, and one of the options for the final project was to draw a children's book. Kristann had the idea to revise the original (and very bad) scene I had written and turn it into a story that she could illustrate, which then became Bellow of the Beast.
What do you hope people will take away from the story?
K: That sometimes things aren’t as scary as they seem, and that a terrifying situation could be hiding a wonderful new experience.
M: People (and Beasts) aren't always what they seem. If you look past the surface, you might find something magical.
Where did you get inspiration for the design of the beast?
K: The original beast from my dream was simply big, furry and very, very pink. When I went to design him for the book I took inspiration for his animal anatomy from a range of sources. I think of his design as being a mix of buffalo and bear (body), gorilla (arms), lion (tail), goat (horns) and Stitch (from Lilo and Stitch) (mouth/teeth).
Who's your favorite character?
K: Definitely the Beast! He is so round and fluffy - very fun to draw, and I love how expressive his face is.
M: I think I would have to say the Beast as well. Duck is an adorably fearless character, but the Beast is completely unique and I really love his personality.
How long did it take you to complete it, from start to finish?
K: Getting the first initial draft of the book drawn and written actually only took… a week? Maybe two? Around that length of time - because we wrote it for a class project. I completed the drawings in that time and they haven’t changed much since, only a few edits. But the text went through a lot of changes after that first draft. We worked on it on and off for, I think it was several months, almost a year later, when it was complete? (I believe?) So, getting it initially created didn’t take long, but there was a good amount of time spent editing it after words.
M: Honestly what has taken so long is the publishing process. We went through a start-and-stop thing where we almost had it published last summer, but then had to wait because we made some changes. We're super happy to be finally getting it done!
What was the best part about writing this project?
K: Having someone to share the load with, and not having to be 100% responsible for the outcome.
M: I've worked on a lot of projects - flash fiction stories, personal essays, short stories, and a novel or two. But I've never finished anything or gotten anything to the point where I can actually publish it. Bellow of the Beast is the first thing I've done that I can hold up and say it is, in fact, done. It's a nice feeling. So I would say finishing was the best part.
What was the worst?
K: Having to share the load with someone - not being 100% in charge of the outcome
(I’m a walking contradiction… sorry Megann ‘XD)
M: (It's okay. I'm used to your contradictions. I think they're endearing =P). I think mine would be the frustration of having the book done, but being forced to wait so long after our first failed attempt to publish.
What was the publishing process like?
M: It's been...an experience. We very nearly got it published with another publishing company last summer (which is why there are other versions of the book for sale, but out of stock), but after some deliberation, we decided self-publishing would be a better fit. My parents have experience with the process, and both are very computer savvy (graphic designers, website designers, layout skills, etc) so we figured if anyone could manage it, then we could. There are a lot of hoops to jump through, so it took some time. In between getting things figured out, my mom had an idea: rather than to just publish this book and then let that be that, we could start a publishing company to help others through the publishing process. And that's how Starwhale Books was born.
Would you ever write another children's book?
K: If we ever have another idea fall into our minds as perfectly Bellow of the Beast did - then maybe?
M: ^ Same.
What other projects do you have planned for the future?
M: The next big project I'm working on is Soot of the Stars, a space fantasy novel about a star-traveler stranded on a planet with limited technology (I'm in the middle of my second draft). I also have a few other book and short story ideas that are in various stages of development. I'm always working on something or another.
Kristann, you also do webcomics, would you say illustrating a children's book is easier or harder than telling a story in a comic?
K: Definitely, infinitely easier! A webcomic, for one, is much longer than a book. Even a book like BoB, which is pretty long for a children’s book, only has thirty or so drawings. Thirty drawings in a webcomic is a single chapter - a single scene. Another thing is that webcomics, at least my webcomics, have a much smaller words-to-drawing-ratio - meaning I like to convey as much of the plot as I can through the images alone. But while working on BoB, I was able to let the words, and Megann, handle an equal part of the storytelling in the text, which made it a lot easier :)
Megann, you have a novel in the works, would you say you prefer to write for adults or for children?
M: Children's books are simpler in a way (certainly less world building and plot work!) But I don't think Bellow of the Beast is a good book to judge since it just seemed to fall together so perfectly that the actual creation of it wasn't difficult at all. I would say I don't have a preference - I just work on projects or ideas as I have them, whatever seems the most interesting at the time.
I assume you're both readers - what are some of your favorite books?
K: Yes, definitely a reader! My favorite children’s books are Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, The Velveteen Rabbit by Mergery Williams and Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne. And a small few of my other favorite books (in no particular order) are Fire by Kristin Cashore, the Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs, Air Awakens by Elise Kova, and Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.
M: Way too many to list here! Some of my favorites would have to be: Curse of Chalion by Louis McMaster Bujold, A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, Fire by Kristin Cashore, everything Brandon Sanderson writes, Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins, Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen, Dresden Files by Jim Butcher...and seriously I could keep going forever but I think that's a good overview of my random tastes.
It there's anything else you want to know, fell free to ask any question in the comments and the authors will answer them!
Bellow of the Beast is set to be released this spring. We'll announce on this blog, as well as on our Instagram (@starwhalepublishing) when the final date is set, so be sure to follow us!
In the meantime, be sure to check out the official website, bellowofthebeast.com, or follow @bellowofthebeast on Instagram to see sneak peaks, character sheets, and concept art of the book.