How to build a hero

Day 2 of my writing camp at CBIS international school in Korea focused on hero-building. After taking my “hero” quiz for inspiration, the students invented heroic characters to go in search of the enchanted boxes they built yesterday.

We started by examining the common traits of some of their favorite characters including Harry Potter, Bilbo Baggins, Violet Baudelaire (from The Series of Unfortunate Events), and Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III (from How to Train Your Dragon.)

Afterwards, I showed them some of the background work that went into building my own character, Kendra Kandlestar, including the pages below from my old sketchbook:

kendra_sketchbook_designs kendra_sketchbook_names

We also discussed name etymologies. I showed them a chart of candidate names I worked on for Kendra Kandlestar, back when I was first working on her. My kids quite loved this little chart, and used it for inspiration to try and make their own unique character names.

Names for Whispers

Here’s some photos of some of their character brainstorming. I was really happy to see them not focus so much on illustrations, but “designs” of characters, complete with labels and other tidbits of information relation to their heroes and sidekicks.

cbis-hero06 I







Thinking inside the box

Today was the first day of the writing camp I’m leading at CBIS, an international school in Seoul, Korea.

We kicked off the week by coming up with a strong inciting incident for a story—a magical box that is stolen (or discovered) by the main character. We looked at plenty of enchanted vessels from mythology, fairytales, and fantasy books, including Pandora’s box, Aladdin’s lamp, and the black cauldron. Of course, I also told them how I camp up with the idea of the enchanted chest for my own book, Kendra Kandlestar and the Box of Whispers.

After fueling up with these ideas, the students did some brainstorming on their own, coming up with designs that they then translated onto actual miniature boxes. The final step was to write the actual story. I love this process, because it allows the students’ imaginations to percolate while they paint. Once they do begin writing, they have less trouble describing their boxes because, of course, they are sitting right there in front of them!










The army of Unger (and other beasties too)

Here’s a sketch I’m working on for Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen, depicting the attack of the monster horde towards the end of the book. These are some of my favourite illustrations to do, with various creatures poking out here and there, dripping with drool and glaring with fierce eyes.


Slowly, but surely, I’m finishing up all the illustrations for the book. Since this is the final edition in the Kendra Kandlestar series, this is the longest book—which means I’ve had more illustrations to do too!

The Little Bang

Readers of Kendra Kandlestar will be familiar with the magical cloud ship known as the Big Bang. That ship has served Kendra and her companions well so far in the series, but they will have to make do with a different vessel for the last part of the forthcoming Kendra Kandlestar book, The Search for Arazeen.

The Little Bang doesn’t quite have the capabilities of its predecessor, but it might be more cute!

Below is the sketch and a final illustration.

littlebang_sketch littlebang

A triumphant moment for Agent Lurk

I thought I would post this illustration I recently completed for Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen. It shows Agent Lurk in possession of the Shard from Greeve—that talisman of dark magic, which he has spent the better part of three books hunting. At last he has it, only to be cornered on the battlements of the City on the Storm.


Lurk has become one of my favourite characters in the course of writing this series. He wasn’t who I thought he was going to be, and that’s the kind of surprise that I love to find during the writing process.