Union Bulletin 3/18/2004 - Elyon

From story-telling father to bona fide author.

Walla Walla resident Patrick Carman has received a six-figure offer from New York-based publishing firm Scholastic Inc. for the fantasy trilogy he created through his children’s bedtime stories.

The company plans to publish a hardback version of Carman’s 2003 self-published “The Dark Hills Divide.” The book is currently available in paperback form. Scholastic will also release the second and third books in “The Land of Elyon” series.

The official announcement is expected to be made tonight at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Spring Tradeshow at the Hilton Seattle Airport & Conference Center.

“I had no expectation of this ever happening,” Carman, 37, said Wednesday. “I can’t describe it. It does really feel like a dream.”

Carman’s New York-based literary agent Peter Rubie said the offer is “a very strong sign of Scholastic’s enthusiasm” for the project.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Rubie would not venture to predict the success of the series, but said he believes the “odds are very high” it will fair well among young readers. He said Scholastic’s interest is an indicator of the series’ potential.

“It’s really a very strong demonstration of enthusiasm in Patrick’s ability to not only write but connect with his audience,” Rubie said.

“The Dark Hills Divide,” the 200-page kickoff to the series, is the story of a 12-year-old girl named Alexa Daley. As she explores another summer in Bridewell with her father, she eagerly unravels the mystery of what lies beyond the walls, protecting her town and others.

Legend says the walls protect from evil lurking in the forests and The Dark Hills. But as Alexa begins to dig in she discovers an ancient enchantment – perhaps the work of Elyon, the fabled creator of the land. Through her adventures, she exposes a danger that could destroy all she holds dear. That is, unless she can find a way to thwart a traitor’s plans.

Carman came up with the story in ongoing tales he told to his daughters, Sierra, 9, and Reece, 7, before bed. As the story grew, he began keeping a journal of everything he created – maps, towns, character names, key moments in the story. The book was published last year by Walla Walla’s Amped Media. Afterward, Carman began marketing it by visiting schools, classrooms and book stores throughout the Northwest.

In his 40-minute presentations to children, he explained the writing process and led students through their own creative journeys by helping them dream up maps and ideas for journals. In a three-month period, he sold 5,000 copies of “The Dark Hills Divide,” drawing hundreds of children and parents to book stores.

“He’s just so charismatic,” said Michelle Price, community relations manager for Barnes & Noble in the Tri-Cities. “I think one of the things I noticed, he knows what appeals to children – not only in his writing, but how to speak with them. They feel, I think, respected when he’s talking to them. Not every author can do that.”

Price said Carman’s visit at the end of January drew between 150 and 200 children and their parents.

The story was the same in Seattle’s Third Place Books, where Carman later sold more than 175 copies of “The Dark Hills Divide.”

At Book and Game Co. in Walla Walla, about 330 copies have been sold. Comparatively, 460 copies of the fifth installment of the Harry Potter series – also published by Scholastic – have sold at Book and Game Co.

“I can see why it appeals to children,” Price said. “The main character in the book is a girl – a very strong girl. This character is a little bit different than most fantasy-type books.”

Web log writers have also heralded Alexa as a strong female role model for children who draws an equal number of male fans.

Carman said he also believes children simply enjoy fantasy and adventure.

“Kids love a good story,” he said. “They love fantasy books because they want there to be more in life than this.”

Carman said the first story in the series will be slightly tweaked for polish when Scholastic releases it in hardback this December. The second – now titled “Beyond the Valley of Thorns” – is tentatively set for release summer 2005. The third, “The Tenth City,” is expected to be out spring 2006.

Scholastic purchased the North American, Spanish, French, and audio rights.

Carman will travel to New York a week from Tuesday to work out some of the details with Scholastic. The arrangement with the company will have him on tour for the next three years. He figures he will spend 100 days a year for the next three years on the road, working in schools and with children.

Though it will be difficult to be away from his home, his wife Karen and their daughters, the tour will be a journey of his own, he said.

“We recognize this as a moment in time,” Carman said. “It’s a huge blessing for me and my family.”


Local author Patrick Carman will be at Book and Game Co. from 4-5 p.m. Saturday, signing copies of his book “The Dark Hills Divide.”

Patrick Carman