As a teacher at Peifer Elementary School in Schererville, Ind., Sharron Thornton read a chapter a day to her students for 35 and a half years, enjoying the way the stories opened doors to other worlds.
“It was right after lunch recess, and it really helped settle the children down,” she said. “It became a very special time.”
Shortly after retiring, Thornton’s husband died and she wasn’t sure what to do with her time. But she had always loved reading and had instilled that love in her son, Raymond Thornton as well. And though he is an artist, graduating from the American Academy of Art and Columbia College in Chicago and working for 15 years at an advertising studio before venturing out on his own, the two decided to collaborate on writing a children’s book. Sharron would do the words and Raymond the illustrations.
It was a perfect fit. Raymond had received commissions for his work from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Cubs as well as K-Mart where for two years he designed the Halloween displays for their nationwide campaign, “Totally Ghoul.”
With such a resume in drawing scary characters, the two decided to write "Upir and the Monster Gang." The illustrated novel, written for 8-13 year-olds, tells the story of Upir, a young vampire, who in order to live up to his family's reputation, attends a training camp at the Neewollah Graveyard. His camp mates include a list of rather creepy creatures such as a pumpkin headed scarecrow named Payne, Gusty, the smart aleck ghost, purple-eyed witch Isabelle Hawthorne who is covered with green hair. But it isn’t only the camp goers who are strange. Before long, the friends have to quickly learn to evade flying skulls, the tongue-like tentacles of overgrown plants, a mad scientist who uses the campers for his lab experiments and, even worse, their leader a young gorgon girl whose head is covered with slithering snakes making everyday a bad hair day. And though these are monsters, Upir and his gang go through the everyday conflicts common to human children as well-- happiness, fear, anger and uncertainty.
Mother and son, who both live in Schererville, work collaboratively.
“It’s a process where we both write down our ideas and then talk about them,” said Raymond.
Sharron will write a chapter, and then send it to Raymond for illustrating.
“Sometimes when I see what he’s illustrated, I think oh I have to go back and redo that part because his illustrations are so wonderful,” she said like the proud mother she is.
The book is complete but to garner publication money for "Upir and the Monster Gang", a 10" x 10.5" hard cover, illustrated novel with 60 plus full page, full colored illustrations, the Thorntons have turned to Kickstarter to, well, kick it up to the next level.
“We already have marketing and distribution lined up,” said Sharron, “but we need to get it printed which will cost about $14,000.”
Launched in 2009 as a way to fund creative endeavors, Kickstarter is a way to pledge money for new ventures such as restaurants, films, etc. Its numbers are impressive. 5 million people have pledged $840 million, funding 50,000 creative projects through Kickstarter over the last four years. The pledge minimum for the Thornton’s book is $1 and their campaign which began on Oct. 1 goes until Nov. 16.
“Once on the site, you can watch our video, read the first three chapters and see some of the 'Upir and the Monster Gang' products we have listed,” said Raymond who compares Kickstarter to a grassroots campaign building momentum. “We also pre-sell our book there.”
In the meantime, the two keep on working together on their book projects.
When asked if she ever pulls rank when it comes to making a decision—after all she is the mom, Sharron Thornton said no.
“We’re not only mother and son,” she said. “We’re also friends.”
To learn more about the book, visit raymondthornton.com.