All posts by Editor-in-Chief

The Making of Ling Li’s Lantern

As an intern at MidnightSun Publishing, every day brings something different. No two books are the same and so neither is the publishing process. I have the wonderful opportunity to get a glimpse behind the curtain, so to speak, to be a small part of every process involved in taking a project from its genesis as a humble manuscript, to its completion as a published and tangible book that people will hold in their hands and lose themselves in.

Ling Li's Lantern cover
Ling Li’s Lantern cover

For children’s book author Steve Heron and illustrator Benjamin Johnston, that process is finally complete, with their masterpiece, Ling Li’s Lantern published on 1st September 2020. I had a chat with Steve and Ben about the making of their book and what the different stages of the journey looked like for them.

As with many fantastic books, the beginning of Ling Li’s journey was almost also the end. Ling Li’s Lantern was sent to many different publishing houses before MidnightSun fell in love with her story. Finally, after months of hearing ‘nothing but crickets and rejections’, as Steve puts it, from publishers other than MidnightSun, his manuscript was finally ready to take the next step in the journey. It wasn’t long before it was full steam ahead for Ling Li and her lantern.

One of the first steps was choosing an illustrator whose art would do justice to the atmosphere that Steve had created in his manuscript. In 2014, at a conference for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Steve was particularly taken by an image of a moon shining over a village by Ben Johnston and knew that he would be the perfect illustrator for Ling Li’s Lantern. Years later, Steve gave Ben’s name to MidnightSun. Ben accepted the job because he was inspired by the story, not realising the connection to the conference in 2014; a beautiful sign that the pairing was meant to be.

Steve and Ben had some initial consultation, but ultimately, Steve was happy to let Ben’s creativity run and confident that the outcome would do justice to Ling Li’s world while also showcasing Ben’s unique style and voice.

Bridge image
Bridge image

For inspiration, Ben drew from the Qing period in China, which gave him an idea of the kinds of clothes, architecture, and decorations that would make up Ling Li’s village. He also used photos from his travels to Japan to help conceptualise the scenery.

Holiday shot influences
Holiday phot influences

Considering how exquisite the illustrations are, it didn’t come as too much of a shock to me to hear just how much time and meticulous effort goes into the illustration process of a picture book. For example, a double spread in Ling Li’s Lantern typically took about a week from start-to finish. In order to perfect the character of Ling Li, Ben spent countless hours drawing and re-drawing her facial features until he was satisfied that he had captured her personality. After storyboarding and playing around with various mediums, Ben settled on a digital method that would create a similar look to what can be achieved with traditional brush and ink.

Screen shot
Screen shot

Steve is no way a stranger to the publishing process, having had a variety of picture books, educational readers, and middle grade books published in the past through different avenues, including self-publishing. However, Ling Li’s Lantern is his first trade-published picture book.

‘I think I appreciate more now than ever how much a picture book is a team effort and each member of the team can be proud of the result,’ Steve says. ‘What was new for me was not having to make a lot of decisions about the process. Once the publishing contract was signed I could focus on my part of the contract and trust and know that the other parts were being done by very capable people.’

Echoing that sentiment, Ben says ‘Working with MidnightSun it was terrific to get Anna’s feedback and to work with the book designer Katherine Timotheou… I don’t understand at all when illustrators and authors don’t talk about the book along the way…that feels weird to me.  So, I really appreciated Steve’s input and I think he appreciated being allowed to give it.’

Ling Li's journey
Ling Li’s journey

The publishing journey is a long and involved one. Many different decisions are made day-to-day by a whole host of professionals dedicated to embodying the magic of each author’s story. Working with the team at MidnightSun, I have had the absolute pleasure to be a part of these journeys. Holding Ling Li’s Lantern in my hands after knowing all of the effort, dedication, and care that has gone into its production is truly surreal. Yet, in a way, the story has only just begun as the book can now finally reach its readers.

Gillian

Here is some of the positive feedback that Ling Li’s Lantern has garnered so far:

https://nadialking.wordpress.com/2020/09/08/book-review-ling-lis-lantern-by-steve-heron-2020/

https://www.readplus.com.au/blog_detail.php?id=11135

Mountain Arrow

Mountain Arrow cover
Mountain Arrow cover
by Rachel Hennessy

PB 368 | 198 x 128 | ISBN: 9781925227741
$19.99 | Young Adult | Also available as ebook
MidnightSun Publishing | November 2020
Distributed by NewSouth Books

The second book in The Burning Days series

The River People and the Mountain People have survived for another season. But at what cost? Pandora has returned to her village. She is haunted both by her failure to bring her friend home and the vision she has seen of the last days, The Burning, when creatures swarmed the city. How did these monsters come into being in the first place? And are the last remnants of humanity really safe from them?

Whilst Pan now knows how to shoot an arrow, she still does not know the shape of her own heart and the river stone remains in pieces …

River Stone is a cut above … I’m sure I won’t be alone in eagerly anticipating the next instalment in this stellar new series.’
–The Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Reading Time

‘… a gripping Young Adult dystopia with a unique flavour, filling the genre’s bones with its vibrant characters, relentless storytelling and a phenomenal world.’
–ReadingsKids

Postage is $5 for Australia and $10 for the rest of the world.

Open for Submissions!

The month of August has arrived and MidnightSun is now open for submissions. Thank you for your patience. It’s great to be back! We have managed to read through the slush pile (when I say ‘we’ I really mean our amazing editor Alicia) so now we are looking for new work.

We are especially interested in picture books that tell an intriguing story; it could be contemporary or historical. We love books that reflect the diverse society we live in, that considers the environment and give children hope for a better world. However, books that are didactic and only have a mission to teach, rather than to tell a story, bores us. We want stories about kids with two mums or two dads (or more), stories about kids who don’t conform to gender norms, kids who are adventurous, shy, scared, happy, travelling the world, looking after their parents. Stories that surprise and delight us. Most of all, we want stories where the language sings.

In terms of middle-grade books for 8-12 year olds we want books with strong protagonists who experience a lot in a short space of time and change through their adventures.

We are always on the lookout for edgy, contemporary YA stories. Maybe the characters are rebelling against gender constraints at school or explore their sexuality. Perhaps they are saving the world through activism, coping with the death of a loved one or are bullied.

Adult fiction is the backbone of MidnightSun and we love stories that are not easily defined or pigeon-holed. Stories that cross over several genres: literary fiction and thriller, crime and speculative fiction. We regularly publish short story collections, often by new writers, because we love them. As for all the books we publish, the language has to lead the way into the story.

In fact, the bottom line for every single book we publish is that we have to love it! So send us your most beloved writing and we look forward to reading it. Just remember to please read the updated submission guidelines carefully before submitting. Thank you!

Esmeralda’s Nest

Esmeralda
Esmeralda
written by Robert Moore, illustrated by Mandy Foot

HB 32 | 215 x 215
ISBN: 9781925227666 | $29.99
Picture book | October 2020
MidnightSun Publishing
Distributed by NewSouth Books

Each day Esmeralda collects a variety of objects and waddles down the hill.

Everyone wonders why the Saddleback sow is carrying a bottle, fencing wire and a pair of trousers in her mouth.

Only Esmeralda knows. Nothing will stop her. Continue reading Esmeralda’s Nest

Mandy Foot

Mandy Foot
Mandy Foot
Mandy Foot’s obsession with drawing animals began when she was two, with chalk, on her grandparents’ pavement. Now as a best-selling children’s book illustrator and author of over 20 books, her canvas has evolved and her studio is shared with her joined-at-the-hip Border Collies. An Ambassador for Raising Literacy Australia, Mandy shares her passion of literacy and drawing via workshops with thousands of school students every year.

Robert Moore

Robert Moore
Robert Moore
Robert Moore lives in Adelaide and is a published author of several children’s books and fiction as well as numerous poems, articles and short stories. He won the inaugural Feast Short Story Competition and was awarded a special commendation by AsthmaSA for his play Breathe Easy which was written and workshopped in conjunction with children and staff from Para Hills Primary School.

Ling Li’s Lantern

Ling Li's Lantern cover
Ling Li’s Lantern cover
Written by Steve Heron, illustrated by Benjamin Johnston

HB 32 | 210 x 297 | ISBN: 9781925227673 | $29.99
Picture book | September 2020
MidnightSun Publishing
Distributed by NewSouth Books

After she is set a challenge to test her wisdom, Ling Li returns from the village marketplace with only a lantern to light her way. How will she prove herself to her father?

Ling Li’s Lantern is a heart-warming story about compassion, kindness and the true nature of Continue reading Ling Li’s Lantern

Benjamin Johnston

Benjamin Johnston
Benjamin Johnston
Benjamin Johnston works as a mild-mannered architect by daytime but roams imaginary streets as a masked vigilante-illustrator by night. Add to this that he is also a husband and dad of two girls… and he is really looking forward to the day he might actually have enough time for everything he wants to get done. Drawing and illustrating for children have always been his passion. He is the illustrator and co-creator of the successful STEM-inspired Engibears series.

Steve Heron

Steve Heron
Steve Heron
Steve Heron’s passion is to write quality kids books that will touch and tickle kids’ hearts and foster hope. Steve’s first series of picture books that focus on social issues were released in 2007. His first middle-grade novel Maximus was published by Serenity Press in 2018. Steve completed a Diploma of Children’s Writing and Publishing in 2015 and in 2016 received an Order of Australia Medal for contribution to the social and emotional wellbeing of children. Ling Li’s Lantern is Steve’s first stand-alone picture book.

Massive 30% Discount Sale!

COVID-19 SALE

During this time of isolation, until the end of June 2020, MidnightSun has decided to offer an unprecedented 30% discount on our entire range of published books (currently in stock) if you order over $50 worth of books. Plus FREE shipping anywhere in Australia. All you have to do is apply the code COVID19special at the checkout and it will happen automatically.

No Neat Endings cover
No Neat Endings cover
Hide cover
Hide cover

There are so many great books in our back catalogue, for readers of all ages. Why not delve into some clever short stories about frail Australian masculinity in Dominic Carew’s No Neat Endings or come along on an intense crime thriller ride in S.J. Morgan’s Hide?


Anisa's Alphabet cover
Anisa’s Alphabet cover
Born to Fly cover
Born to Fly cover

Read about a refugee girl’s search for a new life in the stunning picture book Anisa’s Alphabet by Mike Dumbleton and Hannah Sommerville or fly high in the sky with a pioneer aviator in Beverley McWilliams’ CBCA Notable book Born to Fly.


Cryptosight
River Stone cover
River Stone cover

For 8-14 year-olds we have the thrilling adventure story Cryptosight by Nean McKenzie. Young adult readers can find escape in the dystopian love story River Stone by Rachel Hennessy.


Or why not try some more short stories?  We have collections by single authors, such as the masterful Wild Gestures by Lucy Durneen, as well as amazing collections by many writers such as Breaking Beauty and Crush.

Wild Gestures cover
Wild Gestures

Now is the time to stay at home and read good books for yourself or for your children. The sale will be on until the end of June 2020 so you have plenty of time to order, but don’t wait if you know what you want. Some books are going to sell out.

Keep well and keep reading!

The Friendly Games

The Friendly Games cover
The Friendly Games cover
Written by Kaye Baillie, illustrated by Fiona Burrows

HB 32 | 256 x 216 | ISBN: 9781925227642
$29.99 | Picture book
MidnightSun Publishing | June 2020
Distributed by NewSouth Books

In 1956 Melbourne hosted the Summer Olympic Games. Student John Wing was so proud of his country, one of the friendliest places on earth. But when world tensions dominated the news, John wrote an urgent letter suggesting how to change the Closing Ceremony to bring all nations together Continue reading The Friendly Games

Two New Short Story Collections

Life Bound cover
Life Bound cover
MidnightSun Publishing is excited to announce the joint release of two short story collections: Life, Bound by Marian Matta and Rural Dreams by Margaret Hickey. These debut collections showcase two vibrant and original voices in Australian short fiction. The stories in these collections are sharp, funny, insightful and they linger with you long after you have put the books down. We are so proud to be bringing you two new voices in Australian fiction.

Rural Dreams cover
Rural Dreams cover
MidnightSun’s Anna Solding says she is excited to be releasing two new collections at the same time. ‘It’s always wonderful to find a short story collection that really grabs you, where every story is as compelling as the last,’ she says. ‘We are lucky enough to be able to offer two collections that are both distinctive and unique by immensely talented debut authors.’

Both Hickey and Matta are equally thrilled that MidnightSun is championing the art of the short story. ‘What I felt when Anna called me was, “at last”,’ says Hickey, ‘because she is the one to have picked my work and recognised the potential. MidnightSun is to be credited, not only for publishing excellent and award-winning works, Continue reading Two New Short Story Collections

Margaret Hickey

Margaret Hickey
Margaret Hickey
Margaret Hickey is an award-winning author and playwright from North East Victoria.

Hickey’s work has been shortlisted and won prizes in many awards, including the AAWP/ASSF Short Story Award and the Grace Marion Award. Margaret holds a PhD in Creative writing and teaches English at La Trobe University.

Margaret’s short story collection, Rural Dreams, will be published by MidnightSun in October 2020.