The Dalles Chronicle, 3/17/04

Can a self-published 38-year-old author from Walla Walla be the next J. K. Rowling? Scholastic Books thinks his character, 12-year-old Alexa Daley, and her magical world of Elyon could intrigue young readers as much as Harry Potter and Hogwarts School.

On Friday Scholastic won the competition among publishers to buy the young-adult fantasy trilogy from author Patrick Carman. Carman impressed bookstore owners, agents and publishers by self-publishing and then selling 5,000 copies since November of “The Dark Hills Divide,” the first book in the series. He did so just by visiting schools and talking to kids about writing, publishing, and the characters in his book.

Carman, who confesses he is “in many ways, a big kid myself,” hooks children with his storytelling prowess. In addition to Alexa, an intelligent and resourceful lead character, Carman adds plot elements including secret passages, talking animals, hidden messages, a traitor who must be uncovered, gems with hidden meanings, and a short, but very real chess problem, suitable for surprising a more experienced player, such as a parent or older sibling. Part of the book’s appeal is its limited use of magic. Characters have to do the hard stuff themselves and can’t depend on magic to do it for them, a setup that appeals to children’s experiences in real life.

The tactic has been phenomenally successful as hordes of schoolchildren dragged parents to book signings in Spokane, Tri-Cities, and Walla Walla. Carman drew the largest crowd ever to visit Klindt’s Booksellers in The Dalles at a February book signing. “It was the best autograph party we have ever had here,” said Phillip Klindt, who ran out of books for the signing and had to order more; the store sold 150 copies that night.

Carman said he got the news of the book deal Friday in Spokane. “I rarely take the family on book-selling trips,” he said. “But both my wife and the kids were with me in Spokane on Friday. I was in front of 500 kids, speaking, when the cell phone went off. My 9 year-old grabbed the phone and wanted me to take the call.” Carman did take the call at a break and shared the good news with the Spokane schoolchildren.

Scholastic bought the North American publishing rights as well as Latin American Spanish rights and North American French rights, according to Carman. Carman’s New York agent, Peter Rubic, a former BBC newsman, and author in his own right, said, “In the world of publishing, this is a very comfortable deal. It’s not huge, like a million or more, but Scholastic also talked about putting respectable amounts of money aside, separate from the advance, to help Patrick market the book.” Rubic said he doesn’t like to be over optimistic, but “I have to say the likelihood that when you put Patrick, the response to his book and the fact that Scholastic has come through so thoroughly and enthusiastically, it will make the lists.” Rubie said “four or five” publisher had expressed serious interest in the books. “Very interestingly, I sent a copy to one editor I know at Scholastic, who got back to me and said it wasn’t for them,” Rubie said. “Then a different editor called me couple of days later and asked if it was still available.” Rubie pointed out the average novel doesn’t sell much more than 10,000 copies, and Carman’s ability to sell 5,000 on his own in a few months, plus enthusiastic reports from bookstores at which he had appeared, helped spark publisher’s interest. “What the story goes to show, ” said Rubie, “the key here is distribution and sales. In Patrick’s case, he’s managed to find and connect with his audience.” Rubie said Scholastic plans to bring out a slightly edited version of his first book in hardcover in time for Christmas, with others to follow next year and in 2006.

The Dalles fans will have a chance to see Patrick Carman before the end of the school year. He’s set to visit Chenowith Elementary School and Klindt’sBooksellers sometime in May. Look for the author with the big smile.

Scholastic signs Elyon series!

In a heated auction Patrick Carman accepted a three book deal with Scholastic for an undisclosed amount.Scholastic purchased the North American, Spanish, French, and audio rights. There is growing enthusiasm in Japan, Europe and England for the sale of additional international rights.

The book is expected to remain in trade paperback through November, then launch in hardback for Christmas of 2004. In summer of 2005 book II in the series is expected to launch in hardback. Details of release dates are unconfirmed, but the book is expected to remain available ongoing.

“This is all just a dream as far as I can tell,” said author Patrick Carman upon hearing the news.

The Dark Hills Divide sold nearly 5000 copies in the Northwest in three months, with some book signing events drawing as many as 400 fans. The Dark Hills Divide Book signing events have routinely enjoyed hundreds of fans from schools where the author speaks before attending the signing events.

Patrick says, “The fans and the booksellers had a lot to do with our eventual deal with Scholastic. I’m very thankful for everything they did to help make The Dark Hills Divide a phenomenon so quickly.”

The Dalles Chronicle, 2/9/04

     What if you had a chance to meet J.K. Rowling just before the first Harry Potter book took off? Wouldn’t that make for an extraordinary memory?
     Local residents may have just such a chance this Tuesday when author Patrick Carman comes to The Dalles for a booksigning from 5 to 7 p.m. at Klindt’s Booksellers.
     Carman is the author of “The Land of Elyon Book I: The Dark Hills Divide.” The 200-page book (see review) is the first in a young people’s fantasy trilogy set in a land reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia.
     At a recent booksigning at Seattle’s Third Place Books, 400 kids and their parents showed up – and the only advance publicity was the author’s visit to several area schools the previous day.
     Impressed with the turnout, the store’s owner called several agencies; major publishers including Simon & Schuster, Harper-Collins and Random House, are now talking with the author.
     The Seattle experience wasn’t a fluke. Carman drew similar crowds in the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla.
     “In many ways, I’m a big kid myself,” he said, saying that kids can sense his interest and enthusiasm for them.
     Carman was born in Walla Walla, Wash., and lives there now, although his family moved to Salem when he was five. He grew up in Salem, graduating from Willamette University in 1988.
     Carman, 37, is an Entrepreneur with a capital “E.” At the age of 22, he persuaded his college roommate’s parents to lend him $20,000 to start an ad agency, which he sold after nine years.
     His next venture was a board game company that eventually placed its products in 5,000 stores, followed by a company that provided on-line services for 300 newspapers. His current venture produces and syndicates programs for Christian music radio stations, and a weekly television program seen on three cable networks; part of the proceeds help 17 developing communities in South America.
     So why, with all this business background, did Carmen decide to become an author? “If you run an ad agency, you’re surrounded by a lot of creative people,” he said. “So this journey is all about trying to find a creative outlet. I tried playing guitar, painting. I can’t draw and I’m only a so-so designer, but when I started writing, I felt ‘This is it. I can do this.'”
     Carman said the actual genesis of “The Dark Hills Divide” came when he and his wife Karen decided she’d get out of the house one night a week and he would stay with their two daughters. “I came up with this idea of a girl who’s in this town surrounded by walls and she has to figure out a way to sort of crawl under it and she’d go out and have these little adventures. I started keeping a journal as I was weaving the story for the girls each week. I spent about six months with this journal working out the rest of the characters and the plot. And it just developed from there.”
     Carman said he wrote the books thinking of a junior high market, but was surprised to find a core audience that included second through fifth-graders as well.
     “Books are the quiet medium,” he noted. “They’re up against radio, the Internet, movies, TV … to get a kid to read is harder.”
     His solution was to create a book that had short chapters with lots of action. “You really want them so engrossed in the story that they have to find out what happens next.”

     Patrick Carman is onto something here. In “The Dark Hills Divide,” the first of a projected fantasy trilogy, he’s found an uncommonly developed voice for a first-time author. Carmen writes in a clean, transparently engaging style that will appeal to youngsters and parents alike.
     Among the delights to be found in “Hills” are: a protagonist who is a 12-year-old girl, secret passages, talking animals, hidden messages, a traitor who must be uncovered, gems with hidden meanings, some scary bits, and a short, but very real chess problem, suitable for surprising a more experienced player, such as a parent or older sibling. Magic, while definitely part of the tale, is kept to a realistic minimum (in this case, allowing humans to communicate with animals). There are no magic solutions used to pull the author out of a tight corner. Characters have to do the hard stuff themselves.
     “Hills” is family-friendly without being corny, and the story has a developed texture and richness that implies a considerable backstory.
     Highly recommended

Everett News Tribune

Look out, Harry. Youngsters who delighted in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles or the Harry Potter books will like “The Land of Elyon: Book 1, The Dark Hills Divide” by Patrick Carman.
Everett News Tribune

Tri-City Herald, 1/23/04

Elizabeth Barrington believes Alexa is smarter than Harry Potter. That’s high praise about the main character in Patrick Carman’s first book from the third-grader at Sacajawea Elementary School in Richland. The Harry Potter series about a boy wizard has sold millions of copies worldwide.

Elizabeth, 8, declared Carman’s book, The Dark Hills Divide, to be more exciting than the Potter adventures.

“It’s not as long and better than Harry Potter. Your eyes are glued to the page more,” she said.

Carman, a Walla Walla author, spoke to Sacajawea students Thursday about his first book. Today, he’s signing books at 6 p.m. at Barnes & Noble Booksellers. He also visited Richland’s Jason Lee Elementary School on Thursday and planned to visit Jefferson Elementary School in Richland today.

Carman’s 200-page fantasy is the first in a trilogy about Alexa, a 12-year-old girl who grew up inside a walled city. The 40-foot-tall, 3-foot-wide stone walls protect the townspeople from “enchanted dangers” outside.

But the story’s heroine isn’t satisfied with her safe haven. She wants to see what’s on outside the walls.

And so begins her adventure in the magical Land of Elyon where animals can talk and stones tell the future.

“She’s an interesting character,” said Alicia Faggioli, 9, of Alexa. “She’s pretty curious about everything.”

Ezra Dulaney, 9, said he was on page 153 of the book as he stood in line to get Carman’s autograph. “It’s a different world, and that’s fun,” he said.

The girls, Sierra and Reece, now in third and first grades at Prospect Point Elementary in Walla Walla, loved their dad’s first book and are clamoring to read the second, Behind the Valley of Thorns, due out at Christmas. But their father won’t let them.

“They’ve got such big mouths. They’d tell the other kids what happened,” said Carman, who is currently working on the third book in the series, The Tenth City.

Carman has visited Walla Walla’s six elementary schools to talk about the book and writing with students as part of his marketing campaign. The result has been successful sales at the Book and Game Co. in downtown Walla Walla.

“Over Christmas we couldn’t keep them in stock, and when they first came out we couldn’t keep them in stock,” said store manager Joyce Bruns.

Since September, the store has sold 288 copies of Carman’s book, which is published by Walla Walla-based Amped Media. The store has four copies left on the shelves and more on order. Six were sold Wednesday. By comparison, the fifth Harry Potter book, Return of the Phoenix, went on sale in May last year and 458 copies have been sold.

“With Pat Carman’s book, the sales have been consistent. Harry Potter, it was first two months and then sales dipped drastically. Pat Carman keeps the interest going and does things with the schools so the sales have been very consistent,” Bruns said.

Many of the Sacajawea students bought the book and were reading it in their classes to prepare for Carman’s visit.

On Thursday, Carman tossed three mini basketballs to the kids and encouraged them to toss them back into a small hoop he carried. He said the fundamentals of basketball — dribbling, passing, shooting — are important to play a good game of basketball. Mastering the basics of writing is important for the same reason, he told the Sacajawea kids.

“If you can’t do those things well, you can’t write very well,” he said.

It’s been five years since an author has visited the Richland school. “We haven’t had an author in a long time,” said third-grade teacher Glenda Webber. It’s rare for kids get to meet them, and students were excited about his visit because they were enjoying the book, she said.

Jason Trader, 9, a third-grader was one of them. “He uses a lot of elaborate detail and you can picture the story in your mind,” he said.

Steven Rusk, 10, a fourth-grader said he’d never met an author before.

“If I had a mood ring it would be purple,” he said. “Purple means excited.”


New Comments

  • Jesse Dean
    Dear Mr. Carman, I am a huge fan of your works, you introduced me into reading actually, which, if I recall correctly, i ...

  • Ayv
    Patrick, I have read th land of elyon series twice already and I intend to read it again and again until I remember it w ...

  • Jody Siahaan
    This is a note from one of my sixth grade students. I you would like to write him back you can through my email. Dear Mr ...