Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Part 6. The Origins of Dinotopia: Illustrated Book

It had already occurred to me that the paintings I had done so far could form the backbone of an illustrated book, but meeting Ian Ballantine (1916-1995) put me squarely on that path.

He was the founder of Ballantine Books, and he published the first authorized paperback editions of Lord of the Rings, as well as the lavishly illustrated fantasy book Faeries. He believed that fantasy belonged to everyone, not just to children. And he championed affordable, full-color visual books.

“There is no problem in the world that a book can’t solve,” he once told me. Although he was officially retired, he wanted to help me develop the book. He and his wife Betty lived just across the Hudson River from me in New York State.

I suggested the idea of presenting Dinotopia as a fully-illustrated picture book for all ages, and they supported me in my desire to be the one to write it.

Betty served as the editor, and Ian made the connections with the book trade.
To immortalize his contribution to the book, I asked him to pose as the model for Nallab, the third assistant librarian of Waterfall City. The head librarian is the Deinonychus “Enit,” whose name, together with “Nallab,” spells “Ballantine” in reverse.

There are other cameo appearances in the book. The character of Alec Orchardwine, who lives at the hatchery, is a portrait of the British paleontologist Sir Richard Owen, the scientist who coined the word “dinosaur” in 1841. The name “Orchardwine” is an anagram for “Richard Owen.”

I first conceived of the book as a grand tour presented as a travel guide. It quickly evolved into a point-of-view narrative by an explorer who arrives by shipwreck. I scrapped my initial idea of setting the story in the modern world, placing it in the nineteenth century instead. Back then much of the world was still unexplored, so a lost continent narrative would seem more plausible.

I invented the character of Arthur Denison, a renaissance man who documented his observations in words and sketches in a journal.

Although several publishers were interested in the early presentation materials, we selected Turner Publishing, a tiny boutique publisher that Ted Turner established as part of his broadcasting empire (Turner Publishing was later dissolved with the Time/Warner merger). He gave Dinotopia a lot of support and backing -- and worldwide advertising -- which really helped launch a new author like me.  
Dinotopia from Amazon
Dinotopia 20th Anniversary Edition -- signed
Ian Ballantine on Wikipedia
"Origins of Dinotopia" series on GurneyJourney:
Part 1: Childhood Dreams
Part 2: College Obsessions 
Part 3: Lost Empires
Part 4:  Dinosaurs
Part 5: Treetown
Part 6: The Illustrated Book
Part 7: Utopias 
Part 8: Building a World 
Part 9: Words and Pictures 
Part 10: Canyon Worlds 
Part 11: Putting it Together
Part 12: Book Launch


Kessie said...

As soon as I saw your first sketch of Ian, I went, "Hey, that's the guy from Waterfall City with the funny hair!" That's awesome that you immortalized him in Dinotopia. What a guy.

Scorchfield said...

now, just read!

Mary Byrom said...

I love it ! Jim you really get around.

Laura Dubuk said...

I've been loving your posts on Dinotopia, thanks for posting your thought processes and inspirations! its so cool to see what's behind all of it - makes it seem more do-able, which is super inspiring. thanks!!

Tom Hart said...

Not to be overly repetitive of the other comments, but this thread is fascinating. I wasn't surprised to read of the connection between Ballentine and Tolkien. Having first read your later post (which included the dino-alphabet, etc.) the comparison to the depth of research and background that Tolkien went into crossed my mind.

Thanks for being so generous with this, as with all your knowledge.