The ideas for the books I make usually come in one of two ways; sometimes the whole book comes to mind at once and other times I have to begin the book and see where it takes me. Moonpowder is a result of the latter. I knew I wanted to create a book filled with gadgetry, flying machines and high adventure. And I knew my inspiration was a smorgasbord of Maxfield Parrish, Jules Verne and Winsor McCay. What I needed was a story.
Being married to a Belgian provides excellent fodder. My wife, Aileen, had given me a children’s book in Flemish and in it there was a Moon who distributed moon powder (maan poeder) to the animals below to help them sleep. She explained that in Belgium it is the equivalent of the Sandman in America. That was the spark for my story. (Who makes moon powder? Where is it made? What if they ran out?). I quickly wrote a story about a Moonpowder Factory run by the Moon and a bunch of mechanical men, and a boy that has to come fix it, lest he have nightmares forever. The story was just okay, but it didn’t have a heart. And my story desperately needed a heart.
After doing a few paintings and a bunch of drawings I brought them in to discuss with my Editor (Namrata Tripathi) and my Art Director (Christine Kettner). The response to the drawings was great, but they too, quickly saw the problem with the story. Christine astutely asked, “Why is Eli having nightmares in the first place?” That was the first “Aha” moment. She then quickly added “Maybe it is because his father was gone?” That was the second “Aha” moment. Everything fit. Eli’s father is away at War, and that is why he is having nightmares. Perhaps that is why he is trying to “fix” everything in the house. Then I realized that in the early 20th century there were two things that separated young boys from their fathers. One was the War; the other was the industrial revolution. When fathers began to go to work in factories, they no longer were able to bring their son’s to work with them. This is another reason that the Moonpowder Factory fit so well in my story, it is a fantastic metaphor for the industrial revolution. Now my story had a heart.
After revising the text several times and doing a number of book dummies, we realized that the story was too big for a standard 32-page book. So Nami and Christine proposed we expand the book to 48 pages. I also decided to add graphic novel style pages, which would add to the visual drama and allow me to edit out text that would no longer be needed. I also decided that I would not have to write about his father being away at war if I could say it with the art, so I left that part of the story in the images. Once the final book dummy was put together and we were all happy with the way it was looking I began the final art, which took over a year to complete.
I hope you enjoy reading Moonpowder as much as I enjoyed creating it.