Tuesday, August 20, 2013

SECRET ORIGINS: THE GUMAZING GUM GIRL!

Hi everyone!

I'm currently in Japan working on the animation for THE HALLOWEEN KID Animated Special, but today my latest children's book, THE GUMAZING GUM GIRL hits the shelves! I thought I'd take some time to share how this book was born and celebrate its arrival!

Gumazing Gum Girl Book #1: Chews Your Destiny

The spark:
Around 2007, after my first children's book CLOUD BOY had been released by Simon & Schuster, my editor contacted me and asked if we could do a companion book (not a sequel) for CLOUD BOY. Since CLOUD BOY took place in the clouds, it was light blue in color so my editor posed the idea of simply having a pink book.
My first children's book

 For me, the quickest thing that came to mind for the color pink was gum, so that's when I came up with Gum Girl- and with the name to match the title of Cloud Boy (Cloud Boy, Halloween Kid, Gum Girl- lots of original titles here folks!) I pitched the concept to my editor (there was no story, just an idea) and it didn't quite stick! 


The very first sketch!


 I later sketched Gum Girl in my sketchbook and kept thinking of adventures. She pretty much looked close to what we see today, except with no eyeballs!?!?! Years later, after my editor was let go from Simon and Schuster I had no other option than to start over and go back knocking on the doors of the publishing world again.  I had just finished on the last of 8 books in the MELVIN BEEDERMAN SUPERHERO books around this time and I was hopeful for work, but nothing happened...for awhile. I didn't give up and kept trying. I didn't realize 'till after my editor was let go that I was so lucky to have someone who believed in my (sometimes quirky) stories, because not everyone took warmly to them.

I searched and hustled for around two years and was pretty close to jobless, taking on a few small gigs here and there to survive, but no new children's book work was close to happening. I was hurting for work, but most of all I just wanted to do more books. Finally, I came across a publisher that was interested in a few ideas, including Gum Girl. I drew out the first adventure, (pretty much what is in the current chapter book) but as a sequential story (comic book style!) and sent it off to them. 

Here's the first way (Sequential/Comic Book format) that Gum Girl story was drawn

The first conception of the cover for the sequential format story


The old gum ads that were inside gum ball machines were a source of inspiration

I didn't hear back from that publisher and didn't even get a letter to say they received it. When you've been jobless, a month seems like forever. Around this time my old editor resurfaces and I get a call that I'll never forget. 

"Let's make some books!" he said after explaining his leave of children's books and his triumphant return two years later, this time at Disney Hyperion. I pitched them all my book ideas and they responded quickly (Side note: Pitching meant showing loose-sketched mock-ups of the stories that could be flipped through along with a separate manuscript). He told me that he had some good news and bad news. I asked him what the good news was and he explained that they wanted Gum Girl! He said that they were thinking it would work better as a chapter book. I was beyond excited! He then explained what he called bad news- I was expecting the worst and he explained further, "They want three of them…" 

WHAT?! Three books?! I went crazy and asked how this was bad news? He explained that they wanted them fast! I could hear his excitement on the other end of the phone and it was nice celebrating this news. I had been pretty much jobless for two years and now I was getting offered a 3 book deal. I couldn't believe it! Even though I did not feel confident with writing something longer like a chapter book (I had only written picture books up until then) I appreciated them taking a chance.  I explained that I HAVE to make it work!
An inked and colored drawing showing Gum Girl's stretchy powers that was used for the pitch (I tried to make the logo look like stuck gum)

Another image that was used for pitching the idea. This showed how Gabby transforms into Gum Girl

Fast forward and with LOTS of help from my editor...LOTS! We have the new GUMAZING GUM GIRL out today! It was a lot of work, but I'm SO proud of this book. For one, the fact the book features a Latina as the main character is huge! I always wanted to share stories and characters that mirrored my culture, but nobody would take chances with those stories. I was once encouraged by another publishing editor to change the nationality of a Latino family in one of my other stories to a caucasian family and I turned it down, even though I needed work. I was upset at the suggestion, but kept my cool and tried to explain that I felt that the demographics of today did not match the output of children's books that were being put out. So this is why this is a big deal to me- someone finally took a chance! Gabby Gomez is Gum Girl! 

On top of this, I had sprinkled some Spanish words in the original manuscript and to my surprise I was asked to put more Spanish (which I did not hesitate to do!) but this showed me early on the belief and support that I had with this book! I couldn't believe it! Readers can hopefully see that having the main character and/or the inclusion of some Spanish words does not alienate anyone, but hopefully, rather widens the vision to the beautiful spectrum of other ethnicities that are out here and I hope that in some small way to convey that anybody can be a hero!

Thank you for reading and thanks always for your support!

~Rhode Montijo

Below are some more images that were made in the process of making the book.


An early treatment sketch where I envisioned the word bubbles being actual gum bubbles

This was another original sketch that was used in presenting the idea to Hyperion

Cover and interior poster ideas: Along the way, I thought it'd be fun to have the character be sticky on the cover. I pitched the idea of having a POST-IT NOTE-like sticky substance printed/placed on the character, but they were worried that booksellers and librarians might not like that as the books might get stuck together :) I liked the idea of the cover collecting lint, hair and residue, but they came to me with something better- A gum-scented cover! So if you pick up a book don't forget to SMELL it! I am also told that there is a poster on the other side of the cover! (Because I'm in Japan, I haven't seen the actual book!)
Early suggestion for the poster found inside the cover showing Gum Girl busting out of a comic page

Another suggestion for the interior poster with a stretched kick



Process: Here's a quick peek at the process.
It all starts with a thumbnail sketch


Here's the final after it is inked and scanned. The pink color is placed digitally in Photoshop. The designer adds the text and the page is ready to go!

MAKE SURE TO PICK UP THE GUMAZING GUM GIRL TODAY!


or check it out at your local library!

3 comments:

  1. I just read this book tonight to our children. I love, love, love your writing. The kids were all super engaged and the older ones said how they loved that they wanted to know more what happens. Thanks for the great work you do! We hope you will make this into a series.

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  2. I am a little late jumping on the Rhode bandwagon, but you have become a huge inspiration to me. As someone who is also a minority, good for you, for sticking to your guns. I'm working on a project of my own, with an Asian lead.

    Also, just wanted to let you know that a trailer is out for Halloween Kid:

    http://www.catsuka.com/news/2013-09-06/the-halloween-kid-par-le-studio-japonais-sanzigen-pour-les-usa

    Much continued success.

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  3. really cool art.I give it 5 out of 5 stars FANTASTIC WORK

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