Today, I’m interviewing a friend of mine—maybe approaching 20 years?—Jan C. J. Jones, producer, writer, video editor, of Forest Rose, Productions. I’ve always been amazed and in awe of Jan’s incredible, indomitable will, perseverance, and imaginative superpowers. I throw the term “superpowers” around a fair amount, but in Jan’s case, I’m not kidding (pardon the pun). I met her many years ago at a Pikes Peak Writers Conference, with a big smile and a “Hi, I’m Jan—what do you do?”, and that pretty much defines how she operates. Always friendly, always outgoing as hell, and always interested in others. Always doing things for others, sometimes at great personal expense. And then there was the recent loss of her father. Well, I’m so glad to report, she’s finally realizing a dream of hers she’s put on a backburner—and still I can’t say it’s just for her—it’s for children. And it’s borne out of those imaginative superpowers I’d mentioned. Jan…is a powerful storyteller and I sincerely hope she gets the support of the public she’s so ardently supported over the many years I’ve known her. I can’t emphasize this enough, please…take the time to check out her information, below, pass this along to all you know, tweet and Facebook and blog and whatever the hell out of this. Get this out there. I love it, it fits a niche (I’m no YA-ish expert, but it sure seems like it does…), and it’s just plain cool.
Fpdorchak: What is “Save the Dragon”? What’s it all about, Jan?
Jan C. J. Jones: Thank you for asking, Frank…
JCJJ: “Save the Dragon” has become the mantra for a project titled, The Adventures of the Last Jellybean Dragon, an interactive children’s iBook project that is a hybrid “product,” melding creative writing, illustration, music & sound, and voice performance, then delivered via iPad’s interactive technology, as a means to spark young readers’ imagination with the goal of inspiring them to become tomorrow’s innovators (how about that as a run-on sentence)? This effort is planned as the first in a series of original interactive chapter books for “curious, courageous young readers” who are ready to venture beyond Mother Goose and basic books (before heading into the realms of Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket).
FPD: On your website (http://www.jbdragon.com/), you have a team of six listed as the “Creatives.” Could you briefly speak to the responsibilities of each? For example, who’s writing, who’s illustrating, who’s working the dragon magic? :-]
JCJJ: There are six listed as of this date, but we’re expecting a couple more incredible talents to join the team shortly—and I’m dying to “spill the beans,” but I must refrain until it is completely “written in stone.”
I’m the author/writer of “everything text” beginning with the story, which I completed in 1995. The story was a finalist in a competition called America’s Best Illustrated Children’s Books. That placement told me then that it had potential, but a standard printed, children’s book would never really deliver the story as I envisioned it. The story went into a drawer and emerged with iBook innovation.
Michael Koch is an amazing illustrator. His characters are so whimsical, yet exude incredible personalities. As the illustrator for an iBook, he not only interprets the text and transforms it to illustration, he must consider elements of his work that can (or will) be interactive—animation on demand, so to speak.
Paul Rohrer has an incredible acting and voice performance history, on stage, television and radio. He will be performing the narration of the iBook as well as casting and directing the other character voices. If you listen to his weekly radio show on Wednesday mornings, produced from Castle Rock Radio (Castle Rock, CO), the energy he exudes is infectious.
Original music composition and sound (effects) design are being handled by veteran composer, John Schuermann. I’ve worked with John on a few other video projects where I learned how incredible his skills are at defining and analyzing a scene then composing music that brings the correct musical tone to it. Structuring music for iBooks is different in that much of it will “loop” until the reader turns a page, or begins a new chapter, for example. It’s a challenge to create a song that is long enough, yet when it loops repeatedly (in some cases), it doesn’t become an annoying distraction.
The iBook will serve multiple purposes, so on board is Education Specialist, Barb Leitchie (pronounced LAY – HEE), who has been an educator for 35 years. During the course of her career, she’s taught every grade level, so she knows what is expected from educational programs, products and materials. Barb will be analyzing the iBook for educational elements and developing a comprehensive Teacher’s Guide (curriculum) that will accompany the iBook when purchased by educators and schools.
Lastly, is Steve Harlow, the iBook developer. He has the incredibly weighty responsibility of pulling all the separate elements and disciplines together to produce the iBook product, itself. He must integrate and animate the various interactive elements. In addition, the JBDragon iBook has game-play components where a reader will get to certain points in the story that will take him/her into a game. Once completed, the reader is returned to continue the story. One routine event that is planned is that the villain (Enchantra, a fashioned-failed sorceress with eight uncooperative arms with a maniacal back-story) will appear at the end of each chapter and “cast a spell” on the book, causing it to “lock up.” The reader must figure out how to break the spell in order to continue reading. In spell selection discussions we’ve talked about a “Yucky Muck Mud” spell…a “Stocking Stalking” spell (involving stinky socks that just won’t go away) along with my personal favorite…the frightfully terrifying “Icky Sticky Trouble Bubble” spell. We’ll see where this tomfoolery leads.
FPD: Will “Dragon” be available on other platforms?
JCJJ: To begin, the iBook will head to iPad. Frankly, the idea of moving it to smaller electronic devices is problematic for me simply because I want kids to experience “pages” as close to a reality-book pages. The pages will truly be works of art…with text…and fun things that go “pop.” I don’t see how that might happen on smaller devices without there being a loss of the artful detail. If there’s a huge outcry to migrate the project onto one or other of the other platforms…we’ll, of course, address it.
FPD: This seems like a large-scale effort. How big are you envisioning—anything more you can tell us?
JCJJ: Throughout my creative career I’ve created or produced multi-media presentations that incorporated video, symphonies, and live performance—at the same time. Certainly a nightmare for most people (me too, actually). But I love how such presentations stimulate, entertain and reach each individual in the audience for different reasons. An iBook is like that, but the reader/user/player is holding the “whole enchilada” in their hand AND have the added advantages of controlling what happens and experiencing it over and over again. What an empowering little tool—at the low cost of a download!
FPD: What starts when?
JCJJ: We creatives make light and magic, but we struggle to make…dough. For us the “F” word is always “funding” projects as we all still have families to feed and bills to pay. As an author yourself, you know how much work and time goes into the creative process. Even with six or more professionals working on this iBook project, it will take an entire year to complete, so raising funds is definitely necessary. We’re initiating a Kickstarter fundraising campaign that “goes live” this September 1st.
FPD: What is “Kickstarter.com” and why did you decide to use it?
JCJJ: Through Kickstarter.com, scores of independent artists are provided an opportunity to compete with the established “big boys” to garner crowd-funding from individuals who choose to “back” projects that strike their fancy. The statistics are amazing. Since Kickstarter’s launch in April 2009, more than 24,000 projects have been funded, totaling $250 million in pledged funds. Many projects fail, while others garner far more than their funding objectives. And it may not be obvious on the surface, but a heck of a lot of work goes into preparing to launch a Kickstarter campaign. Candidate projects’ creators (in this case, me) must be qualified by having had certain business elements in place for some time. The campaign must follow stringent guidelines that result in the creation of a final product by a stated deadline. Kickstarter backers are given rewards based on their level of contribution. It’s an “all or nothing” funding opportunity, meaning, if a project fails to reach its stated funding goal, it gets nothing. It’s scary, exciting and a lot of work, but it’s a shot at being able to see a dream become reality that wasn’t an option before Kickstarter.
FPD: And the actual distribution of “Save The Dragon”?
JCJJ: Actual distribution of the iBook will be through one of two methods. Either it will be sold via the Apple App Store, or from our own JBDragon website. The team will make that determination once we know if (or at what level) we’ve been successful in our Kickstarter campaign.
FPD: What was your inspiration for “Save The Dragon”?
JCJJ: Gosh. Something a long time ago must have inspired the idea of a jellybean dragon and this story. A number of my stories have been inspired by what one of my kids said or did, so I’d have to err to that. The themes of the story are timely and timeless…they include loyalty, helping your friends, and, of course, good prevailing over evil. I’m sure there will be people that will glean other themes and lessons from it that aren’t obvious to me right now.
FPD: Does this project have any special significance for you—and if so, how so?
JCJJ: This project has a great deal of significance for me in that all my life, and throughout my career, I worked (as a support unit) to help make dreams come true for others, from my employers and business colleagues, to my family, kids, and friends. Sad to say, I don’t remember any of them asking me, “Jan, what do YOU want to do? What dreams can I help you achieve?” I take ownership to wrongfully expect that to happen. It’s taken me a long time—probably 50 years—to finally “get it.” No one will make my dreams come true but me. The Adventures of the Last Jellybean Dragon iBook project represents the beginning of my making my own dreams come true. Hopefully, it’s not too late. If nothing else, the message I’d shout out to everyone, especially to creatives…don’t wait on someone else to make you happy, or to help you realize your goals! The flip side of this situation is that, in selecting the team members for this project, I truly hope the project will help to fulfill some of their dreams…or at least provide a stepping stone to the next stepping stone toward their ultimate ambitions. I’d be good with that (but I’d certainly want to keep the team intact if we are afforded the opportunity to produce follow up projects—now, that’s a good dream!).
FPD: You’re a heavy Facebook user. How do you plan on using FB—or any other social media—to promote and market “Dragon”?
JCJJ: Although I don’t over-use Facebook like some do, I see the potential of Facebook to reach people on a global level. Currently there are 21 countries who’ve visited the JBDragon website and there’s an impressive range of international diversity “liking” the JBDragon Facebook page. We need an audience and we need funding. The project—the JBDragon—must develop a multi-demographic fan base. The project needs to stimulate interest from potential Kickstarter backers who want to directly influence what artful products are produced and brought to market. How can they do that if they aren’t aware of the opportunity?
JCJJ: The JBDragon has a webpage, www.JBDragon.com as well as a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/JellybeanDragon) that link to the JBDragon Kickstarter page. We have sneak-peak JBDragon videos on YouTube.com that also link back to these other websites. We need to get word out about the project to our demographic—6-to-8-year-old readers and their parents—as well as to potential Kickstarter backers, many of whom may be grandparents. I believe much of the popularity with Kickstarter projects is that the public is tired of seeing the same stories re-hashed; backers are stating they want more “original programming.” I mean, how many times can Snow White be given a different spin and retold? I’d hate to see a future where everyone went to see a movie every week that was always the same storyline, repurposed for different actors and time periods. Kickstarter backers are “voting” with their dollars to encourage originality, and perhaps demonstrate some rebellion toward big studios and publishers, who force cookie-cutter products into the market. Obviously, demand for creative originality is not being met.
FPD: What question have I not asked, but you wished I had?
JCJJ: Actually, I think I provided information and answers to anything that you didn’t ask—as if you had asked them. And thank you for providing this marvelous opportunity to do so, Frank.
FPD: Last words?
JCJJ: Please help to bring the Jellybean Dragon into children’s make-believe. Don’t let Enchantra achieve her goal of destroying all dragons! With pledges starting as low as $5, independent-minded art enthusiasts can support our Kickstarter project, The Adventures of the Last Jellybean Dragon, a curious interactive iBook for courageous young readers at www.kickstarter.com/projects/2059302411/1946378799?token=57152e14.
…and just one more thing, please…SAVE THE DRAGON !!!
FPD: Thank you for your time, Jan, and wish you all the best on this project!