Peter Lewis published his debut children’s book, “The Longest, Darkest Night,” only a few months ago, but work on the project began nearly a decade ago following a rare astronomical event.
Illustrated by acclaimed local artist Leslie LePere, “The Longest, Darkest Night” follows a group of forest animals as they experience winter solstice in the wild.
Lewis was inspired to write the story in 2010 when the winter solstice aligned with a lunar eclipse. And while there might not be a lunar eclipse on the horizon this year, the winter solstice on Monday will feature what astronomers call a “great conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn, also known as a “Christmas star.”
Lewis originally wrote the story as a stage routine. But when a teacher told him that it was just the right material for a children’s book, he fell in love with the idea and immediately set to work finding an illustrator.
Luckily, LePere, Lewis’ longtime friend and colleague, was available. LePere’s work can be found at the Racine Art Museum, L.A. County Museum, Tacoma Art Museum and the Boston Art Museum, among others.
“So, I called my guy, and I said, ‘Professor Pencil, would you like to do a book?’ ” Lewis said. A few hours and glasses of wine later, and the project was well underway.
Reminiscent of their time working together in Seattle, this latest collaboration was a joy, Lewis said.
Growing up on Mercer Island, Lewis was fascinated by radio dramas. As an 8-year-old, he’d already found his calling.
“Lying in bed listening to ‘The Lone Ranger,’ I said ‘Gosh, I want to do the sound effects for that,’ ” he said, explaining how that early dream would lead him into a career as a disc jockey and later a sound designer working for companies like Nike, Nintendo, Boeing and Microsoft. “I loved working in the production studio creating images with sound.”
While working as an audio producer, Lewis came to writing through editing.
“I found that to be a good editor, you also have to be a good writer,” he said.
Until now, the majority of Lewis’ work has involved producing sound for video or art exhibitions that integrate sound into the visual experience, creating “sounds you can see” at “Audisee,” a sound design firm he founded more than 20 years ago.
While “The Longest, Darkest Night” was his first foray into writing for print, storytelling, audio and/or visual, has always been his passion.
“It was a natural extension,” Lewis said. “I’ve had children and grandchildren, and stories are a particularly great way to teach and to spend valuable time with them.”
To aspiring authors, Lewis offered the following advice.
Read and write every day and stay true to your vision.
“When writing for children, it’s important to lay things out clearly and in language that they can understand,” Lewis said. “For adults, I think it’s better to leave us trying to keep up, but with a smile. I mean, gee whillikers, keep it light.”
“The Longest, Darkest Night” is available online in paperback, ebook and audiobook format at peterbstories.com.
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