This week I am glad to promote an interview with Brian from Rubber Chicken Media. He is the mind behind the beautiful The Woeful Tale of Anna Minster, waiting Apple’s approval, another app made with Kwik (in fact, as you will read, they are 2 apps! Brian brings us a very nice idea to promote your stories/apps even more).
Kwiksher) Tell a little bit about you and your company:
Rubber Chicken Media is a small interactive developer specializing in “bringing stories to life…one page at a time.” Combining traditional illustration techniques with the wonders of modern technology, our goal is to engage and entertain not only the young but also the young at heart!
I have been an artist since I was able to pick up a pencil. I was strongly influenced as a child by the wonders of picture books. Some of my fondest memories are those of my time spent during my youth at the local library- pouring through books, being drawn into the stories by the artwork, and looking for that assuring sign of the “Caldecott Medal!” While other kids idolized sports or movie stars, I remember Maurice Sendak, Shel Silverstein, and David Macaulay as some of my heroes growing up.
As I grew older and had a family of my own, I was able to revisit some of my favorite books as child with my own kids. I was amazed by the way these stories stood the test of time and brought the same joy to a younger generation the same way they brought joy to me all of those years ago. I knew from that moment on that I wanted my lasting “legacy” to be illustrated stories of my own that my children could pass down to their children. It only made sense to make these available for a wider audience!
About five years ago, I took the self publishing route for my first book, “When Life Hands You Lemons…” It was a collection of poems I had written and illustrated in the vein of one of my heroes, Shel Silverstein. A quirky little look at growing up, family, and being a kid. I mainly sold this book to friends and family as well on a local level to some level of success. I eventually reformatted it into an ebook and began selling on Barnes and Noble as well as Amazon…seeing a few thousand copies being sold. (Note of interest- this was also my first iPad app…programmed the “long way”…which I will soon re-do using Kwik and relaunch!)
How did you enter in the “app publishing business”?
Fast forward to the introduction of the iPad. I was amazed by the capabilities and what could be accomplished with this new way to consume books. The turning point for me was downloading the Sesame Street classic “There’s a Monster at the End of This Book!” I remembered reading this to my children when they were younger and was blown away by the way this new technology engaged the reader in ways that only the imagination could do before. At the end of reading that book, I remember turning to my wife and telling her, “That’s it. I am going to make books for the iPad.”
The problem I see with the majority of the books currently available for the iPad is that the technological bells and whistles come first…the story being almost being an after thought. How many versions of “The Three Little Pigs,” “Goldie Locks and the Three Bears,” or “Little Red Riding Hood” does the app store really need? What is lacking in the selection of books for the iPad is not only original stories but also that traditional style of artwork style found in print books. I see too many books currently available that look like cookie cutter clones being churned out by a computer…lacking any real soul or character. That’s where I see myself and Rubber Chicken Media coming in!
My mission with Rubber Chicken Media is to not let the art of storytelling and illustration get lost in the advancements of technology. I strongly feel the reader’s interaction should supplement the story…not be a replacement for it!
What is “The Woeful Tale of Anna Minster” about?
“The Woeful Tale of Anna Minster” is our first book app built using Kwik. “The Woeful Tale” is a traditional style fairy tale set during the Victorian era that follows the charmed life of a self-centered bride-to-be named Anna Minster. Anna is a character born into a wealthy family whose time spent as a spoiled child ultimately shapes her into the self-centered adult she becomes later in life. Anna cares more for herself than others and finds herself at the receiving end of a curse from a beggar lady that she crosses on her wedding day. Where “The Woeful Tale” differs from traditional fairy tales is in the reader’s perception as to which character plays the role of the villain in the story. Where classic fairy tales place that role on the character who curses the leading lady, this story begs the reader to question and re-think the traditional good/evil roles characters play in storybooks. Is the beggar the villain or is Anna…a character so self-centered, she puts herself before her family and refuses to head the warnings that lead to her losing everything?
The visual look of the book started with traditional artistic techniques. Each character was hand drawn, inked, and had shadows applied with a grey water color wash. To add an old, Victorian-style look, I then took each piece of art work and applied a tea-stain finish. (This technique involves taking a hot cup of tea and selectively squeezing the tea bag over areas of the artwork.) The final product looks like an aged piece of paper which resembles a century-old heirloom. From there, each drawing was scanned into Photoshop and then cut out with a small border left surrounding the art to give a look reminiscent to that of a paper doll. Each page starts with a photo-realistic background (comprised of five to twenty layers) which the text along with the character cut outs slide into place after a set delay. Each of the characters can be interacted with…triggering not only sound effects but also animations!
There are two available versions when reading the book…”Read On My Own” and “Read To Me.” The “Read To Me” version is narrated by professional voice-over artist Cynthia Habbeger (www.voicesbycynthia.com.) As a note of advice, I cannot stress how important it is to use a professional voice-over artist in your release if you plan to have your app narrated. Not only does this give a professional feel to your book, it also can draw the reader even further into your story.
In addition to “The Woeful Tale of Anna Minster,” I am also simultaneously releasing a second free app – “The Woeful Tale of Anna Minster- The Sketchbook.” As a artist, this is a dream come true that could only be possible on the iPad. Think of it as a director’s commentary on a DVD. In the sketchbook, I have included sketches and concept art I created on the way to coming up with a final look for “The Woeful Tale…” Each page contains a few samples of preliminary art which can be touched by the reader…bringing up an audio commentary which explains the thought process behind each piece, why it was/wasn’t used, and how it shaped the outcome of the final book! Tell me…where else could an artist be able to connect to their audience in such a personal way?!?!?!
How Kwik helped you to build it?
As I stated earlier, my first app, “When Life Hands You Lemons…” was created “the long way” (Objective-C) and made me realize how in over my head I was! I told my wife I was going to create iPad apps and had all of these grandiose plans of what I wanted to do…however I quickly realized how complicated doing so actually was going to be. What I initially created was a vey basic app which allowed the reader to swipe from page to page…no interactions, no animations…the only added feature over the app’s e-book counterpart was a button to toggle narration on and off (a long way from Grover interacting with the reader!) I quickly realized I was going to need to bring more to the table than what 50 hours of reading and programming produced if I was going to be able to compete in the crowded environment of the App Store!
Enter Kwik! I have spent about 15 years using Photoshop so it goes without saying that when I came across Corona SDK and the Kwik plug-in, I nearly passed out! The thought of using an environment I felt so comfortable with to create apps with was a dream. I downloaded the Kwik trial, watched the videos, and poured over the forums. I purchased Kwik back in June after realizing how much it simplified the app development process. Kwik has allowed me to bring all of the interactions and story telling devices I wanted to implement to a level I never thought I would be capable of accomplishing using Objective-C.
Kwik’s interface is easy to learn and extremely intuitive. It single handedly allowed me to bring my app to a whole new level that I never imagined possible! When I felt defeated by dealing with the traditional methods used to develop apps, Kwik was able to let me fall back on what I knew as an artist and graphic designer and was able to lift me back up to the level of creativity and inspiration that initially made me want to create apps to begin with!
What is your overall experience with us (product and services)?
Kwik has surpassed any expectations I have ever had in a product that I have ever purchased. While many companies sell a product and end any interest in the customer after the purchase is complete, Kwik continues to extend the value of their product far past the point after the initial sale is done. I have NEVER seen a software company release updates in such a rapid succession in the way that Alex and the Kwik team have done. The fact that they apply customer feedback and feature requests into their updates only makes me more confident that I made the right choice in their product. I actually went back and added new features to my app that weren’t possible with earlier versions of Kwik. The fact that updates could inspire new ideas to an artist speaks volumes to the amount of changes just one update Alex and team add to a single update! FANTASTIC!
What is next for you and your company?
What’s next? A lot of sleepless nights! No joking- I have plans to have three books out in time for Halloween. THREE! It sounds like a daunting task but the fast production time with Kwik makes it possible! After that, I am working on a story following the tale of two sisters during The Great Depression. These two girls find a world beyond their wildest dreams…existing right inside the very house their family is about to lose- a world that contains the key to saving the family estate. With Kwik, I am able to bring ideas to life in a way and at a pace I never thought was possible. I look forward to future updates and the creativity that this great piece of software can inspire!
I am really inspired by Brian story, his talent and great marketing idea to promote “The Woeful Tale of Anna Minster”. Also, I am humble for the kindest words. Thanks again for sharing. Now we are counting days to have the app in my iPad!