First off, let me tell you this is not my chosen genre. However, I have a number of grandchildren who love this genre and, frankly, this book is amazing. I give it a five-star rating, both from the writing and from the narrating.
How on earth does anyone have an imagination that can conjure up this kind of story, with its complex characters and relationships? Not me. Never. But, wow, how captivating and compelling. I got a lot of great background messages from this script. In some ways those messages reminded me of Star Wars. They teach without preaching. They “show” with the action of words.
I’m a visual person so I think I would enjoy the printed book even more. But don’t misunderstand me. The narration was done extremely well.
The only warning to the reader I would mention is to note this book does not end. It is book two of a series and not one that has a conclusion of its own.
I interviewed the author, Mikey Brooks, and the narrator, Anthony Bianco. I think you will find their answers to my questions fascinating.
Mikey Brooks is a small child masquerading as an adult. On occasion you’ll catch him dancing the funky chicken, singing like a banshee, and pretending to have never grown up. He is the author/illustrator of the best-selling middle-grade series The Dream Keeper Chronicles, The Stone of Valhalla, and The Gates of Atlantis: Battle for Acropolis. His picture books include the best-selling ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures and Bean’s Dragons. His art can be seen in many forms from picture books to full-room murals. He loves to daydream with his three daughters and explore the worlds that only the imagination of children can create. Mikey has a BS degree in English from Utah State University and works fulltime as a freelance illustrator, cover designer, and author. As a member of the Emblazoners, he is one of many authors devoted to “writing stories on the hearts of children.” You can find more about Mikey and his books at www.insidemikeysworld.com.
Mikey, when you write, do you “see” your story, like a moving picture? Or is there something else that drives your imagination in your writing?
I always see the scenes play out in my mind like I am watching a film. Sometimes it’s more vivid than others. If I ever get stuck (in my mind the book gets put on pause), I then try different things to get the movie going again—draw out the scene I was working on, or reread what I was writing to see it more clearly.
Since you “see” your story, what is the predominate color in the scenes?
I have a very photorealistic mind. So when I am envisioning a scene in my mind it’s like I am watching a Hollywood movie. It’s all in Technicolor. If it’s a scene at night, there are more blues. If it’s a scene in the day, it’s more yellow. I think it helps that when I write, I actually don’t stare at the screen and read what I am typing. I stare at my desk, which has a black top. I can still make out the key board, but other than that I just see black. I think that helps me to focus more on the images playing out in my mind.
Was there an event(s) in your life that encouraged your desire to be a writer?
When I was a tween, I lived in rural Missouri on a farm surrounded by trees. Our nearest neighbor was a mile down the dirt road so you can imagine I didn’t have many friends. The woods became my Wonderland. During that time I started reading The Oz series and I would dream of going there. Oz seemed like a place where there was an abundance of friends just waiting for me. It was then that I first put words on paper. It was about the pond in the middle of the woods where I had my fort. The pond was a portal to another world like our own, just one without color. One day I might revisit that story and make it into something magical.
You are a visually creative person. Did you enjoy art as a child?
Yes, I did. I was always doodling on something—paper, my shoes, even my skin. I learned to draw from my grandmother who worked for a while for Walt Disney as an artist. I have never had any formal training besides my grandma. She taught me watercolors and oil paints and told me just to have fun with art. I’ve carried that motto into adulthood and try to find fun in my art, whether it be illustrating or writing.
Dragon drawn by Mikey at age 17
The Dreamstone is a series. Do the books also stand alone? Is there more to come after book 2?
The first book could stand on its own if you don’t read the last page. It ends on quite the cliff hanger and leads right into the next book. The second book picks up right where the other leaves off. The Dream Keeper Chronicles was imaged as a trilogy. The story starts with The Dream Keeper (book 1) and will end with The Dream Makers (book 3). However, book 2, The Dreamstone, brings out some fantastic information that readers have asked me to write about one of the characters. So there might be a possible prequel after the final installment.
What do you hope to accomplish with this series?
I think there is an underlining theme that goes with the series—be true to yourself no matter the cost. I hope that readers, especially kids, learn that we are not all created equally. We’re all different and supposed to be different. So often we are expected to fit in some kind of social norm. And sometimes to “fit in” we choose to hide who we truly are. I hope that kids can learn they can be themselves and still “fit in.”
Anthony Bianco is a professional actor living and working in Denver, Colorado. He is a native Oregonian and has been acting and storytelling for the past eighteen years. He received a BFA in Acting with a minor in Shakespeare Studies at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon. Anthony then went on to receive his MFA in Acting from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Anthony moved to Denver five years ago and has worked for three seasons with the Denver Center Theatre Company, one season at Colorado Shakespeare Festival, and most recently appeared as Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities.
Anthony, did you choose The Dreamstone to narrate, or did the author (Mikey Brooks) of The Dreamstone choose you?
In a way it was mutual. When I was looking through auditions on ACX.com I came across The Dream Keeper and read the bit Mikey had posted for the audition, which was a section of the first chapter. I recorded it and submitted it, and Mikey got back to me pretty quickly with a very positive response offering me the opportunity for my first gig as a narrator. I needed a first book, and after talking with Mikey and reading the rest of the book, I knew it would be a positive experience. So, long story short, I chose to audition and Mikey chose to offer me the job.
How do you manage to smoothly accentuate the “voice” of the different characters?
Breathe, breathe, breathe. You can’t transition from voice to voice without the proper breath support to fuel the instrument. If it sounds smooth, it is a combination of quality editing and quality vocal control by the narrator.
How did you become a book narrator? Did anything specific prompt you to undertake this career?
A friend encouraged me to pursue it. He made the transition from actor to narrator full time and thought I would also be good at it. So, he gave me the initial push. I haven’t been able to make that transition fully, though. I am still working and auditioning for gigs in both careers as well as working at a coffee shop and doing odd work as a ranch hand and landscaper to make ends meet. I am still at the beginning of my narrating career, but what has prompted me to continue to pursue it is the flexibility to create my own hours, work from home, and the complete artistic control of the storytelling.
Synopsis for book 2: The Dreamstone
When Parker’s mom is dreamnapped by the wicked Mab, it is up to him and Kaelyn to save her. When they return to Dreams, they discover Mab isn’t their only problem. Gladamyr has lost his powers and the only way to get them back is to become what he fears the most—a nightmare.
The Dreamstone (book 2 of The Dream Keeper Chronicles)
Synopsis for book 1: The Dream Keeper
When an evil shifter takes over the gateway to the realm of Dreams, it falls to 14-year-olds Parker and Kaelyn to stop him. Their only hope lies with Gladamyr, the Dream Keeper, but can they trust a Nightmare to save their world?
The Dream Keeper (book 1 of The Dream Keeper Chronicles)