Childhood Wisdom & Wizartry: Russell Bernstein on Doodles Lanhorn (Q&A)

Today, I’m joined by Russell Bernstein.

Russell is the author, most recently, of the children’s book, Doodles Lanhorn and the Search for the Missing Artifact (Hannacroix Creek Books, Incorporated); previous titles in the series include Doodles: When Art and Magic Collide (2014) and Doodles Lanhorn and the Quest to Save Inner Earth (2016). He has a Masters in Organizational Leadership and extensive experience in the healthcare field. Russell has used that knowledge as background for his writing and his talks at schools. Born and raised in Miami, Florida, he now makes his home in Orange, Connecticut.

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Author Russell Bernstein.

Praise for Doodles Lanhorn and the Search for the Missing Artifact:

“A perfect read for any young adult who has questioned whether they fit in and who they can trust in their own life.” —Kate Singley, 6th grade teacher

“DOODLES LANHORN AND THE SEARCH FOR THE MISSING ARTIFACT is a truly enjoyable story. I liked how Doodles grew and developed, while simultaneously trying to prove himself as a Wizart AND trying to recover the artifact, all while struggling through eighth grade. I will definitely recommend this book to my peers.” —CJ, 8th grader

“Readers will become transfixed by this fast-paced and magical tale.” —Shawn Post, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Literary Education at the University of Miami and Licensed School Psychologist

“While in search of a missing artifact that is essential to Inner Earth, Doodles also seeks out what challenges most teens today, friendship.” —Paula Fradiani, Ed.D., Child Advocate

From the publisher:

Art comes to life as Doodles uses his exceptional Wizartry skill to hunt for the prized artifact that holds the key to Inner Earth. But there is a detective who is convinced that Doodles is the actual thief. Doodles enlists the help of his old and new friends, including his unique sidekick Boogly. Will Doodles recover the stolen artifact or will the malicious Mr. Derringer outwit him? Although this new novel is a standalone book, Bernstein is also the author of two previous popular novels about Doodles: When Art and Magic Collide (2014) and Doodles Lanhorn and the Quest to Save Inner Earth (2016).

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Now, Russell Bernstein reveals the meaning behind his Doodles …

John Valeri: Tell us what first inspired you to write the Doodles Lanhorn books. In what ways do you hope that readers will relate to Doodles and Co.?

Russell Bernstein: Doodles Lanhorn was born from my love of fantasy, art, and imagination. I thought it would not only be great to combine all of my passions, but to also add important underlying themes such as the power of friendship and overcoming bullying. I hope readers will be inspired and emboldened by Doodles and his friends’ adventures. I truly think there is a little bit of Doodles in all of us, an innate creative side just waiting to come out with the right push or pull.

JV: How do you see these books as working both a stand-alone titles and as part of a series with an overall story arc? Do you recommend that they’re read in order?

RB: I do think reading in order has its benefits because you can see more of the development and growth of both Doodles’ character and the world of Wizartry, but each one is a standalone adventure with a new plot and new sets of characters, and so can be enjoyed by itself or in any order. In this respect it is similar to the Hardy Boys series in which each book has a beginning, a middle and an end with its own sets of challenges for the protagonists.

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JV: You have a Masters degree in Organizational Leadership and extensive background in the healthcare field. How has this influenced your work – and in what ways do you endeavor to simplify your message for children without talking down to them?

RB: My experience in the Healthcare field has greatly impacted my writing and my understanding of the psyche of children. It has helped me to understand the motivations behind actions and the multiple layers of emotions people carry around with them at all times. My messages are strong and important and I never feel the need to talk down to children or simplify it for them. Children grasp more than we sometimes give them credit for, and so I write with my themes in mind and know that children will enjoy the story for both its entertainment and unique value, but also for understanding the values and lessons we learn through the eyes of Doodles.

JV: People often underestimate the challenge of writing for a young audience. What are the unique considerations when writing for kids – and how has your own style evolved over time?

RB: Admittedly it was something I struggled with at first, but as the writing progressed, I thought less about the words I used, and more about the story itself. During the editing process was where I went back and made the writing more kid-friendly. There is a distinct difference between book one of the series and book three in that I am assuming my readers are growing up with my protagonist and therefore able to handle a slightly darker subject matter. I also find that each book gets progressively more detailed and imaginative, my skill improving all the time. I have a unique writing process and style in that I never outline my books … ever … at all. I write what comes to my mind and place my protagonist in a situation or hand them a problem and then knowing their psyche and motivations, try to figure out what I would do in that situation.

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JV: In Doodles Lanhorn and the Search for the Missing Artifact, Doodles must use his Wizartry skill to recover the lost relic. What is the role of magic and otherworldly abilities in this story – and how do you endeavor to balance these with more common, everyday ones (such as teamwork)?

RB: Wizartry is by far the neatest concept I have come up with, and certainly the most fun! Drawings come to life, leaving room for imagination to take flight. Because the story is set in the real world, Doodles is beset with real world problems such as bullies, a snooping detective, and the looming threat of Wizartry leaking to the public. Doodles’ abilities with Wizartry pale in comparison to having hi friends to help him work as a team and I make this abundantly clear in the story.

JV: Leave us with a teaser: what comes next?

RB: Book four in the Doodles series will see Doodles entering the International Wizartry Competition and facing Wizarts from all over the world. We will see all sorts of new Wizartry tricks, meet new friends and enemies from other countries, and the world is about to get a lot bigger for Doodles and his friends.

***

With thanks to Russell Bernstein for his generosity of time and thought and to Jan Yager, founder of Hannacroix Creek Books, Inc., for facilitating this interview.

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