Self-publishing today is no longer the exotic and expensive undertaking of decades past, unless you’re doing it the way first-time author Jay Dilger and her family are doing it.
“We’ve been very slow getting the copies out because we’ve been hand-binding them,” explained Mark Dilger, Jay’s father.
He’s been helping his daughter print and produce an extremely limited edition of the book, “Rebel: A War of Justice,” which Jay has been giving to some of the people who helped her on her path to becoming an author. Recently, her donations included gifts to her alma mater, Opstad Elementary School, and her third grade teacher, Marianne Bradburn.
What’s still more remarkable about the book — part one of the ongoing “Rebel” series — is that Jay, the author and illustrator, is 12 years old, and attending sixth grade at Twin Falls Middle School.
“I think I started the draft in ‘16,” Jay told an excited Bradburn, and Opstad library Nancy Huestis a few weeks ago, when she stopped by to donate several copies of it.
The two educators had lots of questions for Jay, who went by Josie in elementary school, and a lot of praise.
“I always knew, I just knew,” said Bradburn. “I’ve always said to Jay, ‘when you publish a book, I want to be there at the signing.’”
Paging through the 126 page tale of small African cats rebelling against the rule of the jungle, she added, “In third grade, you were writing sentences like this.”
Revising them, too. “I remember you revising your stories when others would write something and hand it in,” Bradburn added. “That’s a hard thing for authors to learn at an early age, revision.”
Huestis, looking at the library’s copy, said “I love that you have the who’s who of characters,” at the beginning of the novel. It’s especially useful, she noted, since the chapters are named for the characters whose point of view is being told, in rotation.
“Every fourth chapter is about the same characters,” Jay pointed out.
Asked about her inspiration for the book, Jay listed several other books and authors, including “Warrior Cats” and Gordon Korman. Her father added the “Animal Planet” television network programming and movies such as “Lion King” and “The Jungle Book.”
The book is about wild cats, but not like the ones in “Warrior Cats,” she said. Those were warriors, with a code, “but here, they have no code and they’re trying to get one,” she said. “In nature, the law is the biggest and the strongest rule. The cheetah is fast, but not fast enough to keep the lion from taking his food… it’s basically an elephant in the room thing. Everyone is aware of the problem, but no one does anything about it.”
That sense of injustice was is one of the things Jay had in mind when she started the book, but so was the craft of story-telling, which she has honed in the year-plus since she began work on the book.
After she got a start, she said she put the book aside to learn more about digital illustration and to think about plot and character development.
“You may have the perfect characters, the perfect plot and setting, and if you feel like you’re missing something, 99 percent of the time it’s details,” Jay declared.
Her illustrations are similarly detailed. Using such tools as IbisPaint and Autodesk SketchBook, Jay will focus on a section less than a square inch in size, says her mother, Amy. What she’s drawing is a mystery, until she zooms out, shrinking the work back to normal size.
“The thing that amazes me is I don’t know how she can just draw a detail like that,” Amy said.
Could be it’s just practice.
“I’ve been drawing since I was aware of the fact that I could pull the cap off a marker or a pen and make shapes on paper,” Jay said.
Neither parent knows exactly from where Jay’s creative inclinations arose, but both are doing their best to encourage her in all of them.
Jay is taking that encouragement and running with it. She’s already started work on the second book in the Rebel series, as well as the illustrations.
“I’m interested in everything,” she said.