Imagine a children’s fantasy book that entertains, inspires and illustrates the magic of facing ourselves. Imagine that book enjoys enough success to merit a sequel. That book is Kendra Kandlestar and the Box of Whispers.
- Show ID and Intro
- Interview with Lee Edward Fodi
Transcript of Portrait – Lee Edward Fodi
Lee Edward Fodi: I am Lee Edward Fodi and you’re listening to Electric Sky.
[Portrait theme music] Podcasting visual insound, this is another edition of Portrait on Electric Sky.
Mark Blevis: Every picture tells a story. Some tell a book, and then another. I am your host Mark Blevis. On this edition of Portrait, author and illustrator Lee Edward Fodi.
Lee Edward Fodi: I think in a visual way and I get so many of my ideas either by looking at other peoples’ art or to my own art. With this book, I had actually just finished writing my first book, which had been published by a different publisher, a small press out of New York. It was quite exhausting.
So I was just in my studio painting one day just trying to let my imagination unravel and relax and I was painting this picture of these small characters sneaking past a giant eye. You couldn’t necessarily tell what the eye belonged to but I worked on this painting and I ended up with these small characters sneaking past the giant red dragon and I realized when I was done painting it that I actually had a story in this painting because I had some tiny characters. One of them was carrying a box that was glowing and another had a key and what-not and I realized when I sat back and looked at this, I went, “Wait a minute. There’s probably some kind of story going on with this painting.”
So I began asking myself a few questions like ‘why are these characters in this situation?’ and ‘what is in this box?’ and just from that whole painting I ended up with the book Kendra Kandlestar and the Box of Whispers. So I like to say that in my case the picture is worth 43,000 words, more than a thousand words.
Mark Blevis: In the story — I do not want to give away the Box of Whispers, the ending anyway, because it’s quite unexpected. Where did you come up with the concept of having a message built into the book that wasn’t preachy and really delivered a good foundation?
Lee Edward Fodi: Well, first I’m glad that you don’t think it’s preachy because that certainly wasn’t my intent and I can say that I… You know, I don’t put a lot of conscious thought – I do not think I do anyway – into messages during the writing process. I think with this book I really did start out with writing a story about some characters who had to go find their precious box that had been stolen by this thief.
As the story developed, I began to realize – as the characters began to grow as they inevitably do during the writing process – certain dots became connected. Of course what we know that what is inside the box are all the secrets of these characters and originally they went and they found the box and the ending is pretty much as we know it.
It didn’t pack much punch in the very first draft. What I realized as I was writing the story along the way, I had that adventure where Kendra saves the life of the monster, the Unger called Trooogul and she decides to keep that a secret. Of course, as soon as that happened in the story, it really took the book to a new level and it really made Kendra have a personal journey in this book whereas before it was very much a generic one. I’m just delighted that it actually turned out that way.
It hit home for me and I am glad to hear that it hit home with a few of my readers. A lot of the readers really loved the ending where she confronts that box because it is such a personal situation now whereas in the very first draft it was just, oh I don’t know, a little bit more action packed, but not so much emotionally intense.
Mark Blevis: Did you consider that this would lead to a series of books or at least a sequel?
Lee Edward Fodi: I did with this book because for one thing I knew that there were a couple of plot elements if you will that I just didn’t have room to tie up with sufficient — I could not tie them up sufficiently. There is the whole subplot in this book of Kendra’s quest to find out what became of her family because as we know she lives with her Uncle Griffinskitch. He’s her guardian. She drew out the book as wondering what became of her mother, her father and her brother. I couldn’t give that sufficient detail on the book. I didn’t want to throw it in at the end, “Oh, by the way, here’s what happened to her family.” At the same time, I thought well if it is not ever revealed in this book that’s okay and if I never write another book it ends happily enough.
The book has been fairly successful. I get so many e-mails from kids wanting more. It really seems to connect with Kendra Kandlestar and some of the other characters and it is the number one question I get. Is she going to go on another journey? Is she going to solve the mystery of what became of her family? I never really thought about what the answer to that question is while I was writing this first book. Now, I have started asking those questions and I have started coming up with few of the answers.
For me, to write a book, it takes a lot of energy and it has to be a pretty enjoyable journey. I’ve got what I think is a pretty good idea for the sequel. I’m pretty excited about it. I’m hard at work at on it. I am probably about threequarters the way through the first draft and I think it’s going to be pretty surprising to my readers. There’s no shortage of surprises in the second book. All the old gang is going to be there, but there is a nice little twist which I hope pleases my readers. That is for sure.
Mark Blevis: Do you find that there is more pressure on you for the sequel?
Lee Edward Fodi: Yes, I do actually now that you mentioned that. Only in the sense that when I’m writing a book, obviously introducing characters that noone’s ever heard of, there’s obviously no expectations from my readers. For people who are to know the first book and want to read more, they have a certain expectation, you know?
You do become a little bit of a hostage to some of these things because I know I need to make sure — for example I need to make sure Captain Jinx is in the book because she is a character — the grasshopper in the first book is the tough one with all the weapons and the rather bad attitude I suppose, but she’s a fan favorite, so I know I have to make sure Jinx plays some sort of role in this book.
Mark Blevis: Your website suggests that you do a lot of public speaking, that you’re out and active in schools and communities, and there’s always pictures of you drawing the characters and you are wearing a fun hat. You really look like you are actively engaged with the audience. When you deliver your sessions, what is it like for you?
Lee Edward Fodi: Oh, it’s completely invigorating. I mean love doing it. Personally, I love the smaller ones, the smaller groups, a little bit better because it affords me an opportunity to connect with individuals better than when it’s a large group. I can’t see the kid in the back row, but I get in a real high and I have a real… You know it’s an energy — the energy goes both ways. I put all my energy into those sessions but I get a lot of energy back and it’s just a really invigorating experience for me personally.
Before I became an author, I never really thought about the public presentation aspect of this type of career and a lot of authors I think are somewhat notorious for not wanting to be in public or not liking to speak in public and I’m just darn lucky that I like it because I never — that was something I did not really know about myself until I was afforded this opportunity to start going into schools. Now, I actually teach creative writing to kids as well. That’s slightly a different experience because we’re working on more of a — with ten to fifteen kids at a time. It’s a little bit more — even more educational, a little bit more institutional. It’s the same thing. It’s a great exchange of ideas. It’s a wonderful experience. I don’t know if it inspires me in the sense that it gives me specific ideas for books, but it inspires me in a general sense.
I just love working with the kids and hearing their ideas. They’re so fresh and enthusiastic and sometimes they come up with ideas that are a hundred times better than anything I would ever come up with because they’re just that much more original and fresh.
[Portrait theme music]
Mark Blevis: Links and more information can be found in the show notes on my website, electricsky.net. While you’re there, be sure to check out my podcast archives and my behind the scenes and outtakes feed, ES2. The theme song for Portrait is Bigfoot by Robert Farrell. Electric Sky is a proud member of the Rogic Podcast Conglomerate. Thanks for listening and please stay subscribed.
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