Booked With Bridget
Bridget Ball presents her moment with interviewing
Jan Ezelle, a children's author of "Legend of the Dewberry Harvester"
Bridget: Jan, what made you choose to write a story with bugs as characters?
Jan: Weird subject for a new author, isn’t it? Especially, when it’s no longer new to the public; and I certainly am not a fan of bugs—Yuk!
But, it came at a challenging time. A deadline had to be met with getting my certification/credential of ‘Writing for Children and Teenagers’’ through a course taken at the Institute of Children’s Literature; and I had no idea of what to write about at the time. Thus, I didn’t realize my sudden interest would fall upon an unexpected ‘nature’.
Anxiety had surfaced; with no clue as to what subject to pen about, I decided to grab a cold glass of tea, and stepped outside to sit beneath the warm, welcoming sunshine—and there, I spotted ‘him’; an ant, all alone, wandering aimlessly across my patio.
While there are other stories about the six-legged critters, this ant’s nature sent my curiosity into overdrive. Why was he alone—where were the others, like I had seen before? Where was he going? And why was he moving so fast?...
After doing some research and finding the answers to those burning questions, I discovered that a harvester ant, as tiny as it is, and as insignificant as most of us consider it, has a very complex life that mirrors our own—Yes, it’s like us in many ways! Thus, with this newfound knowledge, my imagination began to move me, and the legend was born.
Bridget: I really enjoyed the lessons in the story. Were they inspired by anything in your real life?
Jan: Definitely! While it would be too long to describe how each character’s lessons have inspired me in unique ways here, each can be viewed through my newsletter: janslegend.com
Anyone can simply scroll to the bottom of the site, or click here, and submit their email to the form to get information on how the characters, their lessons, and the novel itself, have impacted my life.
(Also, anyone who subscribes will get information on how to get a FREE copy of "Legend of the Dewberry Harvester", AND a special, selected free gift!)
Bridget: My favorite character is Ms. Beatle. Do you have a favorite character?
Jan: Other than Brewnie, Ms. Beatle has become my favorite as well. Whose characteristic reminds me of my own grandmother—and her farm—in many ways.
Bridget: I loved the butterfly's outfit! What made you decide on the wardrobe for that character?
Jan: You mean, the ‘Bullyfly’? I couldn’t think of any other way to describe a snobbish creature but by making him taller than Brewnie… arrogant… a know-it-all. And as a lover of basketball, the outfit actually came from a line once created for the butterfly, whose dialog revealed his clothing had been made from the cocoon he’d emerged from.
That detail had gotten overlooked during the rewrites from my first, one that had to be put aside due to the caring for my mother, who’d developed cancer.
Perhaps, I’ll remit that detail in a sequel—IF I decide to do one.
Bridget: How did you choose the villains for your story?
Jan: The villains easily came to my mind’s eye during the research through an amazing reference that I embrace with sheer gratitude: “The Ant Realm” by Ross E. Hutchins.
The harvester ants—among other kinds—have many enemies, I’ve found. Such as those called ‘ant-lions’ who sits patiently underneath sand with their mouths wide open; to ant thieves who go around stealing food from other ants. And, not to mention pirate queens who, not only kill the original queen and takes her colony, but steals the laves (young) for herself; and sometimes, she’ll take the workers who are already there; but often times, she may decide to get rid of them just to rear her own. Even ants try to capture spiders, who at times can spin themselves out of pursuit (which later became a tangled web for me to solve at one point!); and among these, there are numerous plant-eaters near…
Shall I go on? There could’ve been many more villains that could’ve been created, their weird behaviors taken from this amazing resource. But the villains I chose for the “Legend of the Dewberry Harvester”, I felt would fit perfectly.
Bridget: Over the course of the story, how much time has past for Brewnie from beginning to end?
Jan: I’d say about a month or so. Between the time the little lad was locked out, and resided awhile at another village belonging to a pirate queen (who’d wanted him killed, but eventually granted him merciful reward). Then once the lost harvester was finally located by a friend, he was informed that his original queen/mother had been taken by the predator he’d feared so. Dreadfully, he began his ‘action-packed’ mission to try saving his family.
Bridget: The names of Brewnie's family members are hilarious, how did you come up with them?
Jan: I have thought so too (laugh).
Some of the names were of my mother’s 13 siblings, and of other relatives. I can recall one of the birth names that I used came from my uncle, who was not happy with his name. He changed it to ‘Jonathan’—in whom I dedicated my novel, as, ‘Unca Jon’, who wanted to see that I brought the “Legend of the Dewberry Harvester” to life. Sadly, my ‘Unca Jon’ passed away before the book completed.
Bridget: I could see this book becoming a series. Are there any more books about Brewnie in the works?
Jan: Not sure yet. I am thinking about it.
Bridget: What part of the world do you think Brewnie and the characters live in?
Jan: It’s funny you’d asked that (smile). Because the question now carries me back to when I was trying to figure out a name for the little red harvester. That, before I could create his—their world.
I can recall sitting at my kitchen table at the time, pecking around on my laptop; searching, for, not only the perfect name, but for the perfect place for him and his family. Something that would be significant for the harvester and the town in which he belonged.
Glancing around my kitchen, our pot of fresh brewed tea caught my eye. It was red, and brewed… “Brewnie!” I shouted. “That’ll be the kid’s name!”
The next thing, I had to decide on was where to put Brewnie, and his family. Through the knowledge obtained from “The Ant Realm,” I’d discovered the harvesters dwell in/among rocky mounds, instead of those built with sand, like most. Which, I then discovered according to research, harvesters in the United States are present in the states of Texas, Mississippi, Florida, and North Carolina.
‘… their strapped white boots close-drilled a nice beat across the North Carolina dust.’
Thus, you can see (even though I’m actually a ‘Mississippi Author'), this is where—and why—I chose for these critters to dwell instead; the choosing of plants and flowers (those I needed were native to North Carolina, rather than Mississippi) to nicely hover over their rocky villages. I simply love the sound of Dewberry, which I also found native to North Carolina. Among these, I too, especially had to discover that dangerous plant, the one that electrifies the whole story.
However! I had no idea about Dewberry—which, I later found its bramble plant has an amazing significance to our little harvester’s name. I didn’t realize it until I began working on a chapter section, it revealing Brewnie’s memorable thought while missing his home…
Its aroma came close to the fruity smell of his own town that sat among the brambles of dewberries.
A smile came over Brewnie at what his mother once said, ‘Child, the leaves of the rich ground berries here among our villages are used to make herbal teas, where you got your name, by the way. You simply shine like a brew of red tea!’
Now wasn’t that an accidental miracle? With how all this came together for Brewnie’s world?
Bridget: What is your favorite book?
Jan: I love “Charlotte’s Web”. In fact, it was through E.B. White’s ‘Writing with Style’ techniques that I was able to create “Legend of the Dewberry Harvester”...
It's a one-of-a-kind children's fun-tale, for parents-to-read-aloud, or ten-year-olds and up (adults love it, too!). Opening with a few chapter narrations taken from various resources, the fascinating educational slant is intertwined into the narrative, while the characters, although common insects, are each presented with a fresh and unique twist. Each one is full of life with signature traits that not only aid in the flow of the story, but even charm adult readers as well.
While some parents/teachers may be concerned about the genre's upper-level vocabulary, and hard-to-pronounce words, I was able to supplement the tale of characters helping Brewnie learn to say these words correctly and understand what each means, including a discussion of life's nature around him—a technique I felt would teach a reader (of any age) while also engaging in an exhilarating adventure along the way.
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