The first words and most part of the book were typed in the Philippines on Boracay island. I managed to find there a tranquil and cosy living on top of one hill with a beautiful view over the sea, away from the busy beach life and evening karaoke where I stayed about 4 months. Most of the writing took place in the darkness on a pillowed balcony, accompanied by all sorts of curious local wildlife that came for a visit, either from curiosity, hunger or just because, you know, bugs are attracted to light, including the big ones. One of the strangest nightly visitors was a rat sized dotted gecko, who tested my nerves by often just hanging from the ceiling above my head. But he made the sweetest sound, almost like a kid’s toy, so I never scared it away. I often wondered who would win, the power of gravity or its masterful ability to walk upside down. Luckily for me and my head, the victory was tasted only by the gecko. And the nightly flicking fireflies – you just can’t get enough of admiring them. The pristine nature of the island with its far-reaching beaches, the animals, the nightly mysterious voices and the amicable people – well, this is the answer to the main question I get: “Where on earth did you get all that inspiration to write such a story?”.
And here are a few pictures just to illustrate that all:
My balcony view and the “sofa” where the story was typed until the keyboard letters were so worn out it had to be replaced.
My peculiar friend who just loved to hang above me
And the blue chap who discovered the island with me
Does this house look a bit familiar? If not yet, take a look at Snupsis home. It was actually built by my grandpa, way back in the 70s before I was born. I spent my childhood summers playing in this garden house, on those field and in the wild pear tree forest next to it. And it just seemed so natural, that Snupsi would live in that kindof home too.
Here’s a tiny quiz for you. You can guess who that girl is, clinging to the ladder like a mischevious monkey. I can give a clue that I have inherited quite a number of those genes. And that rascal on the staircase is her cousin, Tiina.
After I finished the story, it took me about a year after that to fine tune and polish it. And I had written a lot. Even with all the efforts to shorten the text I did not manage to squeeze it under 200 pages. Who on earth would bother to read it? And then came the other big question – how do the other characters of the book, besides Snupsi, actually look like? I had only described everyone with a few words or sentences. The problem was, I am not very talented when it comes to producing something decent with a pen or brush. I can sketch to some extent, but honestly, my hands are only good at sculpting. So, what I had in mind was, that I would quickly sculpt from plasticine all the needed characters for the illustrations and then hopefully find a publisher and an illustrator who would then use my plasticine figures as a basis for drawings. A strange plan, I know! When my first figure was finally done after a week of messing around with finding just the “right face” for Helden, I was really proud of myself. He was finally exactly how I wanted him to be. One done, a lot more to go…. And a lot more time did it indeed take. It was about another year when I was finally done. I even had to buy a special fridge to keep them all cool and well preserved. Some of them had only heads sculpted out, but I managed to sketch the body and clothes.
Now, the only step was to find a publisher. At that time, a very good friend of mine pointed me to a tiny and quite freshy established Estonian publishing house “Hea Lugu” (“Good Story” in translation). I sent my 200 pages of text, some pictures of the figures and started waiting. To my surprise I did not have to wait long and the answer was quite positive. I say “quite” because… if you make a book with that bulk of text and top that up with coloured illustrations, that’s quite expensive to print and thus a gamble for the publisher. We were pondering whether it would be better to slice the book into half and publish it as separate volumes, but finally, in December 2015 the book that popped on the shelves was a chubby 200+ pages reading. It had amazing illustrations, made by a talented animator (and by now also a book illustrator) Mariann Joa. To my surprise, the book rocketed to top 5 of most sold books in December and was also nominated later as one of the most outstanding children’s books of 2015. Hurray! Of course, you can imagine my joy and excitement I had. I was happy, the publisher was happy, it was indeed the best Christmas present.
Hmm… but where to go from there?