Sybrina Durant created THE BLUE UNICORN’S JOURNEY TO OSM, targeted at teens, but to be enjoyed by all ages. She thought of the concept almost 40 years ago, and completed her vision recently with an illustrated book that includes unicorns with “personality and depth” and a story that is an “action-packed adventure,” according to reviewers. Durant’s unicorns also display humor, an attribute that Durant believes is critical in our human lives.
She is currently working on a full novel of THE BLUE UNICORN’S JOURNEY TO OSM and also plans to publish a glossary about the characters, places, and things she created in the world of her book. She lives in Texas, and when she’s not writing books, she likes to write songs.
Don’t miss an excerpt from the book following the interview.
Q: What inspired you to write about a blue unicorn? Why choose a unicorn?
Sybrina Durant: Nearly 40 years ago, when I first conceived of the idea for THE BLUE UNICORN’S JOURNEY TO OSM I had read a lot of fantasy books which completely mesmerized me. The ones which really stood out to me were books like “Watership Down” by Richard Adams (which was about a rabbit warren with members who thought and acted like humans), “Dragonriders of Pern” by Anne McCaffrey (with dragons which could speak to humans telepathically), “The Oz” books by L. Frank Baum (with the talking lion, talking monkeys, talking chickens and more), “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll (with the talking white rabbit and the Cheshire cat) and oh so many others.
I was fascinated by the idea, throughout all of the different stories, that animals could be reasoning creatures – that they could love and war and exist as communities within themselves or with humans. But I was especially influenced by the unicorns from Phaze in Piers Anthony’s “Apprentice Adept Series”. Those unicorns ranged in a multitude of colors and were as intelligent as humans. They were musical and magical, too. I was also enamored with the word play in Piers Anthony’s writing style. He would take ordinary words and give them completely different but clever meanings. I wanted to try my hand at that style of writing so I set about developing the metal-horned unicorn tribe from Unimaise.
Each would have a different metal horn with coat, mane and tail colors derived somehow from the properties of the metal. For instance, since burning copper has green flames, the copper-horned unicorn is green. The unicorns would each have a different magic power somehow associated with the properties of their metal. Since copper was once used exclusively for water pipes because it was thought to keep water flowing through it clean, the copper-horned unicorn’s magic power is to purify water. That’s the theme I tried to stick with in developing all of the characters but I had to use a lot of poetic license at times. Only one unicorn would be different. He would have no metal and no magic. The story is about the blue unicorn’s quest to save his tribe despite his overwhelming “disabilities”.
After intense research in dictionaries, encyclopedias and real library books, I ended up with index cards for each unicorn and all of the other characters that I wanted to feature in the story. I wrote a very long outline and summary and even drew a detailed map of the land of MarBryn. After typing up about 50 pages of the story, I just came to a screeching halt and didn’t start up again until a couple of years ago. Life just got in the way.
Q: Who are your target readers for THE BLUE UNICORN’S JOURNEY TO OSM?Is this a book for children, young adults, adults? Reviewers say that, “This book transcends age groups.” Do you agree?
Sybrina Durant: Originally, this book was going to be an adult fantasy but after becoming acquainted with the amazingly talented Sudipta Dasgupta, I decided I wanted this to be an illustrated book that could appeal to a younger audience. I had nearly finished the novel by the time he approached me about doing the illustrations. In order to best present his artwork, I realized that I was going to have to minimize the amount of pages and enlarge the page sizes. I went through the very tedious process of reducing the story text so that each chapter would fit into just two pages which would precede a picture spreading across two pages. The best reading experience is definitely the print version but it is available in all ebook formats also. In addition to reducing the word count, I also simplified a lot of the text but I left in many concepts that (in some people’s opinions) placed the book beyond the middle grade age group.
Since many parents wish to protect their children from subjects like war and death as long as possible I decided to rate this book for teens and up. I have tried to write an appealing story for all ages to enjoy but I think it is up to each reader, no matter what their age might be, to decide for themselves about whether it reaches out to them or not.
Q: Did you write THE BLUE UNICORN’S JOURNEY TO OSM strictly to entertain? Or did you intend, as one reviewer says, to write a book “with deeper meanings and themes?”
Sybrina Durant: I have always been interested in the “science of things”. I wanted to bring as much of that into the story as I could to make it a learning experience which was both magical and entertaining at the same time. The further I got into writing the story, it began revealing things to me that I had not anticipated. That long outline I mentioned earlier was thrown out the window. I never really referred back to the summary, either. I redrew a lot of the map and instead of having only one journey line, there are now two. Some characters who were barely even there before became major players. They wanted their stories to become prominent and so they are now. I am very glad that readers have found deeper meanings in the book than they thought they might find when they began reading the story. I guess if the book has a main theme, it is “You can’t judge a book by its cover. You must open it to find what’s within.” That is true for every person, place or thing we come across in our lives. If you give a little of your time and consideration, you will almost always find some reward.
Visit Strand’s Simply Tips to read the rest of the interview and an excerpt from the book.