22 Years in the making


A fantasy picture book for pre-schoolers

Every book launch is special. After all, an author spends months or even years working on each project. So that moment when it’s finally ready to fly off into the market on its own can be quite an emotional one. But Squeak! is not just another book launch for me.

My books normally have a long gestation period. Both Strange Places and Oath Keeper each required two years of development. But by comparison, that actually seems hasty. After all, Squeak! just celebrated its 22nd birthday.

The inspiration

Yup, twenty-two years. It’s been a long journey. In March of 1993, I was a new father, taking my brand-new daughter, Brinnameade, to visit family in an unfamiliar city. She was six weeks old at the time, and, as newborns often do, she had quickly become the center of everyone’s attention. But this was my first brush with having to give up some of my time with her. In those melancholy moments while Brinna burbled and slumbered in other peoples’ arms, I was completely blindsided by the sudden realization of just how deeply and hopelessly I’d fallen for her. But what was I supposed to do? Snatch her away from grandparents and cousins so I could get our snuggle-time back?


Pretending she has a friend

Instead, I decided to commemorate the experience in a way that I would be able to share with her later. In a sense, I let the family have the 6-week-old baby while I spent time in the future, playing with the more interactive 3-year-old version. So, imagining her cuddled into the chair next to me, I sat down at my grandfather’s tiny little computer and began to write. I wanted something exciting and fun—a story that would have her on the edge of her seat, jumping and shouting with excitement—but something that I could enjoy too. After all, I’d probably have to read it three or four times.

For a premise, I chose to invert the problem that the real Brinnameade was going through that week. Instead of too many people around her, we invented a little girl—Princess Brinnameade—who was lonely. Raised in a loving home, but with no siblings or friends in sight for her to play with. It was a problem that any child could relate to—especially only-children—but we made our heroine a strong and resourceful young girl, who rose above her troubles and always managed to come out on top.

It took us three days of experimenting and rewriting, trying to construct a story that would speak to both both baby and dad. When we emerged, to my delight, we had created a zany world together. One where families lived in castles, nestled side-by-side in subdivisions; where retired rock stars did all the messy housework, leaving King Daddy and Queen Mommy to rule their tiny kingdoms; and where knights in shining armor delivered the mail. It was silly. It was wild. But most importantly, it was me, and it completely captured the imaginative world of humor and delight that I wanted my daughter to grow up in.

The first reading

I’m sure I must have read it to her that week, during one of the quiet moments when the rest of the family was out shopping or in the kitchen, but I don’t remember. What I do remember is the first time I read it to her after that, when she was old enough to understand. She was two, and It was bed-time, on a night when my wife was out with friends, so it was just Brinna and I—the perfect time for a little bit of father-daughter bonding. I quickly hauled out the folded and creased sheet of tractor-fed printer paper, and sat down on her bed beside her. In those days, the story was called Princess Brinnameade and the Bright Blue Box and I particularly remember Brinna’s squeal of delight when I told her that this was a story with herself as the hero.

Then I began to read. I can remember her bouncing with curiosity when Princess Brinnameade received an unexpected gift-box in the mail. I remember her interrupting me to ask excited questions about what was going to happen next, and I could feel her shivers of anticipation each time the story took an unexpected turn. But most of all, I remember how perfect that moment was. It was everything I had imagined when I had written the story, only this time it was happening for real.

Subsequent years, subsequent daughters

Alone but no less fabulous

As Brinna got older, she moved on to other books and other adventures. But by then, there was another daughter to hear the tale. And then a third. They both got their turn—many turns, in fact—sitting spell-bound on my lap as I read them the story of Princess Brinnameade. Although in their eyes, it was now an adventure about the older sister they both adored, so it was exciting to them for different reasons. And this same experience was repeated several years later, when a fourth daughter arrived on the scene and was herself initiated into the family bed-time story tradition.

The days of reading to Daughter #4 are dwindling now, as she begins to seek out other books to read on her own, but this time, I won’t be folding Princess Brinnameade up and consigning her back to the filing cabinet.

An artist completes the puzzle

Like my other children, she too will be striking out on her own, bringing her zany story to other families all around the world. It is with almost giddy delight that I am able to announce that Princess Brinnameade’s story is ready for launch. Retitled Squeak!, this is a story that has stood the test of time in my family for over twenty years, and now it’s ready to entertain and delight your family too. With fabulous, whimsical illustrations by Cody Cheung—a young Chinese artist that I met online—Squeak! will pick you up and drop you into a world of charm and imagination that is as much fun for parents as it is for children.

The celebration begins at McNally Robinson, in Saskatoon, on Saturday, April 25, where I’ll be signing copies from 1-3 pm. If you can’t make it to the signing event, you’ll be able to order signed copies from McNally Robinson, or get unsigned print copies from CreateSpace or Amazon. And for those who prefer books in digital format, you’ll be able to get standard ebooks from all the usual vendors (Kindle, Kobo, B&N, and Apple) soon. If you want to hear when the ebooks are ready, check back here regularly, or you can register for an email notification.



A great launch day for Squeak!
A book trailer that isn't a trailer

About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is underqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.