Book becomes collaboration between author/illustrator

When first-time author Luman Slade purchased a cottage on Lake Louise from Tom and Anita Harmon of Alpena eight years ago, little did he know the collaboration that real estate transaction would bring.

Slade spent five years working on his just published juvenile teen novel, “Determined: The True Story of Big Blue Walkinghood.” Upon reaching the point that he was ready to add artwork to his story, he advertised for an illustrator both in Alpena and in South Carolina, where he and his wife spend winters.

Despite the ads, no viable takers came forward. It wasn’t until after he lamented the fact he couldn’t find an illustrator to David Werner, his nextdoor neighbor on Lake Louise, that one materialized in the person of Anita Harmon.

“I interviewed about eight people for the job, but none really were interested in the project or they were artists of a different type,” Slade said. “Fortunately our neighbor suggested talking with Anita.”

At the time Slade approached her, Harmon, an artist and a retired art instructor for Alpena Public Schools, had no idea what she was getting into. The more she considered the project, however, the more intrigued she became.

“The story was just crazy enough that I thought it was really fun,” Harmon said. “It was so much fun that my brain went all over the place with ideas.”

The result of the collaboration between author and illustrator is 184-page tale that gives a whole new take on some classic fairy tales. Big Blue Walkinghood and her rival cousin, Little Red Ridinghood, embark on a heroic journey through magical Storyland where they encounter fairytale adventures by the dozen each retold in a highly devilish format.

The book also features 23 richly detailed pen and ink illustrations by Harmon. She estimates she spent about 10 hours on each drawing and now is looking forward to collaborating again on Slade’s sequel, which he currently is at work on.

“I can’t wait for the sequel,” Harmon said. “This first story was so enjoyable, and it was so much fun creating the pictures to go with it.”

Slade, retired from a 33-year career in the auto industry, has always liked writing but his interest in the craft peaked when he became a grandfather and began penning life-lesson stories for his grandson. Retirement then gave him the time needed to move to the juvenile fiction genre.

Slade dedicated the book to his wife, Jeanette, and to his 12-year-old grandson, Avery, who he credits with being his best critic.

“He was an immense help to me,” Slade said of his grandson. “He would tell which things worked in the book and what words to use or not use. From the time he was about 6 years old, he has been my critic.”

Besides the sequel to “Determined: The True Story of Big Blue Walkinghood,” Slade also is working on “There’s a Bear in the Raspberry Patch,” a story about the adventures of an 8-year-old boy staying at a cabin in the woods.

Both Slade and Harmon will be at Blue Phoenix Books in downtown Alpena on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to autograph copies of the new book.

It sells for $14.95 and is available at Blue Phoenix as well as North Shores Shop in Rogers City and