Fans of the Lord of the Rings or Chronicles of Narnia series have a new resource to share with the younger readers in their families. Ohio author Alan St. Jean recently released the first volume in his planned trilogy, Aidan of Oren: The Journey Begins (Moo Press, October 2004, hardcover, 207 pages). Aimed at readers ages nine through twelve, this first installation introduces young Aidan and his brave quest for peace. Themes of bravery, loyalty and friendship permeate the tale, which will captivate the attention of both young readers and families who enjoy story time aloud. Charming illustrations by Judith Friedman bring the characters to life and lend Celtic charm to the story line.

I spoke recently with author Alan St. Jean about his inaugural publishing venture and his plans for the series.

Q: Alan St. Jean, author of Aidan of Oren, thank you for your time and participation in this Book Spotlight interview. Would you please begin by telling us a bit about yourself?

A: I graduated from Ohio State University in 1985 with a bachelors in operations management and spent the next twenty years working for various manufacturers located in central Ohio. A story teller from my youth, I’ve always been surrounded by kids in one way or another. I had always wanted to write a book, and finally decided two years ago to sit down and try my hand at putting a story together in a formal way. I found the editing process to be a little intimidating as I wasn’t used to receiving criticism…but it all turned out very good as the story took on a professional tone.

Q: Aidan of Oren is your first book. What prompted you to write this book and how were you able to accomplish your goal of publishing the book?

A: I started a collectible doll company three years ago. The book was a way for me to bring the doll characters to life…and it fulfilled a secret desire I had had for years to actually write a story. I found Moo Press, a small quality publisher, on the internet. After a couple of months of talking, we went into contract and have worked as a team to put a good product and concept together.

Q: Please tell our readers about the plot of this book, which is the first in a planned trilogy. How did you select the fantasy genre to tell your story? Who would you say is your target audience?

A: The plot of the book is that Aidan, a timid boy of thirteen years, finds out that he is the one prophesied to bring peace to their land…which has been ravaged by war for many years. He learns that he must embark on a very important journey to find the Guardians, the law givers and enforcers that mysteriously disappeared many years ago. I selected fantasy because it’s a medium which allows the writer a lot of latitude and creativity. It’s also been proven to be extremely popular these days given the success of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. My target audience includes kids from 6 – 60. The goal is to write something entertaining enough to keep the attention of a child, yet deep enough to stir even the experienced readers.

Q: I loved the messages of bravery and loyalty that permeate Aidan’s story. Was it important to you to convey a moral element in the tale while crafting the story?

A: Absolutely. All good stories have a message…

Q: What was it like to see your characters come to life in the artwork of illustrator Judith Friedman?

A: It was like seeing a child born. Hard to explain the thrill of seeing my imagination come to life. She did a fantastic job and is a wonderful professional to work with.

Q: What would you hope that young readers take away from their experience of reading your book?

A: I hope that some of the intrinsic values stay with them forever, and that they can view life as an adventure…because it is.

Q: I’ve read that you are active in traveling to schools to promote literacy. What can parents and teachers do to encourage children to love reading?

A: They need to make it fun, and they need to find reading materials that will make a positive influence on the children in their care. Also, they need to be involved with the children, asking questions about the story which can help cement some of the lesson points and morals.

Q: What are your plans for publishing the remainder of the trilogy and do you have other stories planned?

A: The second book has just been finished and is in the editing stage. It’s called Aidan of Oren and The Elf Princess. The story gets deeper as we begin to further understand who Aidan is and what destiny has in store for him. It’s a mystery…maybe even a little scary…but definitely fun! The third and final book of the trilogy will be out next year. It’s called Aidan of Oren and the Valley of the Dragons. That’s where everything comes together and culminates…good vs. evil…with plenty of fun and plot twists. After the series is completed…I have two other books planned.

Q: Are there any closing thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?

Only to live life to the fullest, every day. I heard this phrase a few years ago: ‘Most people die with their music still inside of them.’ After hearing that, I was determined not to let that happen to me. I’ve started my own doll company, I’m writing books that I’m really proud of, and I’m also still writing music…something I’ve done since I was eleven years old. Success is not measured by how much money you make. Rather, it’s measured by how many lives you touch.