By Naomi Hatch
Writer and illustrator James Owen wants most to be remembered as “an awesome dad. That’s the goal and the focus; the rest of it’s just having a good time and trying to keep the bills paid.”
Owen is executive director of Coppervale International art studio in Taylor.
His most recent project is the release of All the Colors of Magic, a coloring book that features his illustrations of magical creatures.
“My first manager actually told me to give up the black and white pen and ink line work,” said Owen. “He said nobody cares about that, and now the fastest, hottest selling thing I have is the coloring book of my line drawings.”
Owen is also a speaker, making presentations to schoolchildren. He very rarely speaks about his books; he chooses instead to talk to kids about stories from his own life, and tells them about making choices. Drawing out the Dragons, a meditation on art, destiny, and the power of choice, is the talk that he gives to schoolchildren, and it is applicable to all ages.
“In this book, James inspires and motivates both the young and young-at-heart with personal stories that share an important belief: that you can choose to lead an extraordinary life if you will just persevere, stay focused on your goals, and believe in yourself,” writes LeVar Burton, educator, actor and entrepreneur, on the cover of the book.
Owen began writing and illustrating comic books as a child, selling them around the neighborhood from his wagon.
At the age of 16 he was the youngest professional publisher to exhibit his work at San Diego Comic Con. He was one of the first author guests at Phoenix Comicon, having emeritus status, and each year has invited guest status.
Owen has written and illustrated two dozen StarChild comics, as well as Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica, a series of novels. He has become very well known for the seven-book series. The first was Here There Be Dragons, which is in its 11th hardcover edition. It has been on sale for nine years.
He explained that they will put out a book in hardback for the first year or year and a half, and then go to paperback. “All mine are still hardback,” he said, noting they are also published in paperback.
“Simon & Schuster has a new imprint, Saga Press, which is doing new editions of the books, compiling the seven Imaginarium Geographica books into three new omnibus trade paperback editions. They are going after a more adult readership, by repackaging them with new covers and no illustrations, like Scholastic did with Harry Potter.”
Owen has been through ups and downs, as when the Borders Bookstore chain went out of business. “Everybody took a nosedive,” he said. “At that point I had five books out, that’s thousands of books, and there’s no place to sell them. When you are in a business long enough, though, you see things go up and down.
“Right now Poland and Japan have the biggest sales for the books. Foreign editions have kept us floating some years.”
His books have been translated into 20 languages.
Owen recently completed illustrating Diana Glyers’ forthcoming book Bandersnatch. This project is an example of his integrity and professionalism. His reference for the Samwise picture was landscape, and so that’s how he began drawing it; however he discovered that this drawing would be used for the epilogue and in order to match the chapter drawings it needed to be portrait, so he had to do it over. Owen noted that it made it so he could add the feet, which he felt was a good addition to the drawing.
Illustrations for this project included drawings of Charles Williams, Warnie Lewis, Owen Barfield, C.S. Lewis, Hugo Dyson, Robert Harvard, J.R.R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien.
“I am working on a new series of novels, a fantasy series called Fool’s Hollow,” said Owen. “Hopefully, I’ll have an announcement soon.”
He spent several years creating the StarChild comic series, which was his first journey into Fool’s Hollow.
This book will be a re-telling and completion of the StarChild saga.
“Fool’s Hollow is the work closest to my heart,” Owen noted on his website. “Through writing the Imaginarium Geographic series, I gained experience as a storyteller, and I feel that now is the best time for me to return to a story I love and tell it in a new way as a series of illustrated novels.”
His Facebook page includes the first full illustration for Fool’s Hollow, and he has shown the process of his illustrations.
Owen’s books are available on his website at www.jamesaowen.com.