By Adam Stuhlman
June 29. 2015 10:36AM
MUSE STRIKES WALPOLE AUTHOR BY WAY OF ROMAN CATS
Rush used his creativity to write and illustrate Harpo the Cat: Lost in Rome-the first of three children’s books about a cat that goes on adventures from Rome to New York City to Vermont. It was a project that he had in mind for years. It all began coming to fruition last fall when he put his ideas on scrap paper.
Saying it has been a tough process, Rush spoke about the difficulties breaking into the industry. He’s not going to slow down anytime soon though, and hopes to have the second book, Harpo and Nino visit the Big Apple, completed by early next year. His creative writing is a passion that he never wants to let go.
“It’s a labor of love right now,” he said. “It’s a saturated market that is hard to break into. The reaction has been great and exciting and with the series going I hope to keep doing these books each year. Right now it’s just about putting out high quality books and children’s stories.”
Although he doesn’t think of himself as an artist, a love of art runs in his family and he did all the paintings for his book.
Married and with two daughters, Rush has used his experience reading to kids to influence how he wrote Harpo the Cat: Lost in Rome. However, the idea came before he ever had kids. While on vacation in Trastevere, Rome in 2005 he saw potential in a scene that got his creative juices going.
In what he described as “endearing,” Rush witnessed homeless cats being fed by old ladies every night –the concept sparked a book that is available at harpothecat.com, barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com for $14.99. They were the inspiring moments that planted the seed which would take several years to grow.
Through that scene he sought to explain Rome to children. From there, Harpo the Cat was born.
Upon getting lost in Rome, Harpo’s journey back home introduces children to several historic figures in Roman history through cats representing figures like Michelangelo, Emperor Claudius and film director Federico Fellini.
Children are also introduced to the Spanish Steps, the Vatican Dome, the Pantheon and other landmarks.
The seed didn’t sprout until after he started reading to his kids every night. Starting to the process of telling the tale to other kids was daunting. One of the toughest challenges was putting his paintings into digital images.
The book was eventually published through ingramspark.com.
“I started with the paintings,” said Rush. “I knew the story I wanted for the book –it’s about a cat who goes out to visit these homeless cats, he navigates the city of Rome and all the historical sites within Rome. There is a historically relevant cat at each stop along the way that references an actual person from the city.”
With the lack of experience, it took Rush a while to complete writing and publishing. He looked at publishing on a budget, which ruled out most major publishers charging from $4,000-$12,000. This didn’t stop him as he decided to focus on layout and production, putting publishing on the backburner. He ended up hiring Mallory Ketterer for the layout. He hired a copywriter from the marketing firm he worked at and had to write four copies before getting the one he wanted.
His wife Melissa has also helped with the paintings, proofreading, web design and blogging. She also encouraged him to really promote the book and is looking to set up a book signing with the library.
Rush advised prospective authors to not give up during the long process saying that creativity is the birth of all good ideas and to not worry about perfection. He also said that people should seek help, ask advice and shop around for prices of production costs and to not be afraid of putting some of their own money into it.
“I think what I would do is not worry about perfection, definitely talk about the fact. There’s this Neil Young quote I like where he says when he wants to write a song that hasn’t been done yet and he feels compelled to do it. It takes a while to finally get through that process for some people, it did with me but I started thinking about this in 2005 and 10 years later I said I’m just going to do this book,” he said.