The Book App Alliance is conducting video interviews of members to help us get to know each other a little bit. Here is Marsha Diane Arnold answering the following four questions:

  1. What inspired you to be a children’s book author?
  2. Why did you choose the app platform?
  3. What were the first steps in figuring out how to create a book app?
  4. What single point of advice would you offer an author considering a book app?

Hi, I’m Marsha Diane Arnold, author of eleven picture books, from Heart of a Tiger to Roar of a Snore, with four more on the way. I’m also the author of Prancing Dancing Lily, which is a picture book AND a digital app.

Q: What inspired you to be a children’s book author?

A: I was always a reader, but I never thought of myself as a writer...until my two young children and their friends pulled me, kicking and screaming, into the writing world. Watching their daily adventures, their curiosity, their joy...I just had to write about it. I began writing about their exploits in a weekly newspaper column entitled homegrown treasures. It was good writing practice to come up with a new idea, a new story, every week for 10 years, and it led me into kids’ magazine articles and eventually into where my heart is, children’s picture books and now children’s book apps.

Q: Why did you choose the app platform?

A: To be truthful, the App Platform kind of chose me. Actually, it was Nicole Lundeen, CEO of the fabulous Fat Red Couch, an interactive media company that develops and publishes family-friendly book apps and games.

One of the sad things about writing picture books is that, almost always, they eventually go out-of-print. Thus was the fate of my much-loved Prancing Dancing Lily.  Fat Red Couch wanted to bring Lily back to life, a digital life! And the story of a dancing bell cow who doesn’t fit in with the herd lends itself beautifully to interactivity. Of course, I said, “yes.”

Book apps are a different kind of storytelling and they’re relatively new. Many people are exploring the various ways we can use apps, the possibilities. I wanted to be part of that exciting voyage of discovery.

Q: What were the first steps in figuring out how to create a book app?

A: What I did was follow my faithful Fat Red Couch team. Yes, I know. I had it easy. For others considering a book app, I’d advise research, research, research.  Look at the various companies developing book apps, read lots of different kinds of story apps, study the interactivity - what adds to the story and what takes away from the story - and subscribe to the best blogs about all aspects of apps.

The Prancing Dancing Lily story is filled with wonderful characters. We wanted to emphasize them with voice-overs. So one of our first challenges was finding great voice over talent. The narrator has this warm, grandfatherly voice and a variety of other voices add to the humor.

Lily is a dancing cow so we wanted to bring in fun interactivity. The children touch the screen and Lily twirls, swirls, and kick up her heels. They might even get up and start moving with Lily, maybe in that conga line at the end of the app.

Games are also part of a successful app. Prancing Dancing Lily has several puzzles and more games are coming. The app stores see games as an important element of a book app and kids and parents really enjoy games that are associated with a much- loved story.

Q: What single point of advice would you offer an author considering a book app?

A: I really think that depends on who you are and what your needs and goals are. For me, quality is of utmost importance. Children are our treasure and they deserve the highest quality, in story and art and the tech elements. Be sure your app is worthy of our children and our children’s time.

So do your research, look at the financial bottom line, and find a quality media company or other experts to guide you along this fascinating digital journey.