Long, long ago, I met Dian Curtis Regan when I was invited to join a group of women for a marathon critique fest prior to a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators summer conference. We named ourselves The Write Sisters and met annually for years, until life got in the way; but no geographical distance can keep our hearts apart. So it is with supreme pleasure that I celebrate Dian and the newest book in the Space Boy trilogy, Space Boy and the Snow Monster, illustrated by Robert Neubecker, (Boyds Mill Press), just out this month.
As the publication date for the third title in the Space Boy trilogy approaches, I’ve been asked where the idea came from.
I was writing a chapter book about a girl who makes her own spaceship, blasts off with her cat, and has adventures on other planets.
Along the way, I started wondering how the idea would work in picture book format. The girl became a boy: Niko. The cat became a dog: Tag. And Niko’s copilot became a robot, Radar, who morphs into a real member of the crew as the stories progress.
Sometimes ideas write themselves, which was my experience with the first title: Space Boy and his Dog. Breaking with picture book format, I turned the short text into five chapters.
The publisher brought in illustrator, Robert Neubecker, who draws for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. His comic-book style has made reviewers compare the books to “graphic novels for the younger set.”
When the publisher asked me to write two more Space Boy titles, the hard work really began.
I’d already established a fast-paced format with lots of “Oh no!” moments, punch lines shown in the art instead of the text, and the “private joke” that Niko’s sister, Posh, was NOT allowed in any of his made-up missions to outer space. (At least not as herself.)
Now I had to do it all over again—quite a challenge! The first draft ended up on the cutting room floor.
The next draft was too wordy. Jumping into a story with immediate action, and getting to the “everything goes wrong” moment in chapter one–when you’ve only got a limited number of words to get there–requires a lot of thinking and deleting.
Space Boy and the Space Pirate was the end result. I’m happy to report that it was a 2017 finalist for the Colorado Book Award, winner of a 2017 Crystal Kite Award from SCBWI, and the one title chosen by Colorado Humanities and the Colorado State Library to go to the National Book Festival in Washington D.C.
On to book three: In order to make the story different, I changed seasons. At the beginning of Space Boy and the Snow Monster, Niko finds his spaceship buried in snow.
Throw in a suddenly-missing copilot (Radar), and the sight of someone lurking behind snow-covered trees (Posh), well, obviously she’s a Snow Monster who has captured Radar and taken him home to Planet Ice.
For Niko, it’s a new space mission! He and Tag blast off to rescue Radar. But here are two things Niko isn’t counting on: an army of angry snowmen and a Killer Bunny . . . .
Thanks to Robert’s talent and sense of humor, those scary snowmen are sporting awesome spiky hairdos.
The plan was for all three books to come out in the spring, three years in a row. But the snow theme bumped the final book to fall. Hey, I live in Colorado where it snows more often in spring than winter.
For me, it’s been pure joy to launch Space Boy and his crew into the world. The positive feedback has been extremely satisfying. Will I circle back to the girl and her cat to see what sort of space adventures await them? How can I not?
Dian Curtis Regan is the author of 60 books for young readers, ranging from picture books to YA novels. Popular titles include Princess Nevermore, Barnyard Slam, Monster of the Month Club, and the Space Boy trilogy.