The Grim and the Fantastic
by Marissa Miller
Genre: Children’s / Middle Grade Fantasy
The Grim and The Fantastic tells the story of Merton Clarke, and his journey battling a major illness, when a magical realm–filled with splendor and danger lurking in the shadows– reveals itself to him. There, he must face some terrible beasts in a battle to rid himself of his sickness. Along the way, Merton makes two new friends who must fight their own monsters alongside him. If they can defeat their beasts from the realm in battle, just maybe, they will win the battle against their sickness in the real world too. Together, they test their limits, and their understanding of friendship, grief, bravery, and, above all, the power of hope.
A story of marvel, battles, and hardship, The Grim and the Fantastic takes a serious subject and seeks to breathe color back into the lives of those affected. The fantastical tale truly provides a whimsical place for children with troubles to escape to.

Guest Post by the Author

 

 

Who is your hero and why?

I know it might seem a little cliche to be a children’s book author, and then say how much I

admire Walt Disney, but it is very true. Since I was two-years-old, I have wanted to be a

storyteller in some way. Originally, I wanted to be a one-woman production team of my own

cartoon creator (writing, drawing, voicing, etc.), which was a career choice I had decided after

watching Disney movies. As I got older, that transitioned into writing and dreaming of being an

author. However, I still deeply admire the empire that Walt Disney built from the ground up, and

his trials and tribulations along the way are a reminder to me that even the greats had to start

somewhere, and not everything was smooth sailing along the way. I love watching all the

behind-the-scenes footage of the creative process behind the movies, like the inspiration/artwork,

storyboarding, machinery, and filming. Beyond that, the wonderful content that he and his

company created— to foster such imagination and magic in the lives of countless children and

adults— that is what I hope to be able to create and share with others someday.

 

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

It took me a long time to feel like I could call myself a writer, even though I had been writing

since early childhood. I fell subject to that idea a lot of us get when we get in our own heads, and

think, “Who am I to think I deserve to call myself that?” Then, I had someone tell me that a

writer is someone who writes, an author is what a writer calls themself after publishing. After

that, it became easier to call myself a writer because it took a little of the self-imposed pressure

off. Once I published my first book, it was very surreal to finally say I am an author. I still

struggle with validating myself, but I try to focus on the fact that I have two children’s books

published (both written and illustrated by me), and no matter what, that is something to be proud

of myself for. I am a writer and I am an author, and I am pleased to be able to put little chunks of

my imagination out there for others to happen upon.

 

What inspired you to write this book?

I was in town visiting family, fast asleep in the guest room at my mom’s. I was dreaming, and, in

the dream, I was standing in a hospital. But, the walls and floor were breaking apart to spill away

to this gorgeous and magical place full of color and magic. There were these kind of blurry slow

motion actions taking place around me, and I remember either hearing, or just “knowing,” that

there were Cancer Beasts, and children who were Cancer Warriors. I woke up, at like 3 am, with

the very groggy thought that this was a story I needed to write, so I made a note in my phone

(that I still have) saying “Story Idea: hospital imaginary setting fighting the cancer beast,” and

went back to sleep. I came back to it later to create The Grim and The Fantastic.

 

Are these characters based on real-life or imagination?

The characters in this story are special to me because most of them have some form of homage to

someone in my life. Merton, the main character, is named and physically based on my late

grandfather. Cathy is named after my aunt who passed away from cancer a few years ago. Dr.

Jankins is a nod to an inside joke with my mom, and Dr. Jackson is named after my uncle. Dr.

Tes is a nod to a friend who allowed me access to her personal experiences to help authenticate

the story. Rosie’s character is one that I felt I connected with, myself. Lastly, I put my dog,

Alice, in the story just as she is. I got her when I was twelve after being very, very sick and she

helped/still helps bring some light back into my life.

 

How did you come up with the name of this book?

I had a really, really hard time coming up with the name of this book. It was basically the last

thing I did before publishing. I had the book written, edited, illustrated, and I still couldn’t figure

out a name that felt right for the story. I made countless lists of different names. The Grim and

The Fantastic was on an early list, but didn’t work for me at first. Then, I was reviewing old

lists, read it, and something just clicked. I knew it was the perfect name for a story that focused

on some serious and sad subject matter, but took it to a hopeful and magical place to overcome

the bad— thusly grim and fantastic were perfect descriptors.

 

Is there anything you want readers to know?

I felt very nervous about really putting out there that this book deals with cancer. I think there is

a bit of a stigma around books that have cancer in them as being either really jarringly sad, or a

romance novel. Also, from what I have seen, cancer books are typically for an older audience, so

I worried that a child might see “cancer” and be put off, or a parent might think the subject too

heavy for a young reader. I didn’t want to pigeon-hole myself, but, at the same time, I didn’t

want to hide it either. I have been more open about it though as I continue to market it.

Ultimately, I believe it is a unique story that will help children with any illness or difficulties find

escapism and a bit of splendor. I hope that readers will give it the chance it deserves. It really is

an uplifting story of finding hope overall.

 

How is your writing process?

When I write, I have an “organized chaos” approach. I will have an idea and make a rough

outline. Outlines generally consist of broad overviews of things to happen or a specific character

element I would like to show, with the occasional note that something specific must happen in

this chapter. Otherwise, I look at the overview for the chapter as a guideline/starting point, and

then I free-write from there. Sometimes I get too off track and end up having to cut out segments,

and sometimes it helps me break out of a sticky plot point by not staying within too strict of

parameters.

 

Do you prefer to write in silence, or with noise, why?

I much prefer to write with music playing. I find great enjoyment in planning playlists that

remind me of what the soundtrack for my book would be if it were a movie. It is fun to play into

those dreams. I have one for every major project I work on, though I have a general playlist I

listen to for writing. For The Grim and The Fantastic , a song that is sort of the anthem to me for

this book is “We’ll Be The Stars” by Sabrina Carpenter. You know how there is always a song

that plays for the credits of a movie that sort of encompasses the whole film? That song is this

book’s ideal credits-song. It actually makes me teary-eyed when I hear it. If I ever had a wish

granted and had a movie made for this book, I would have to have that song incorporated as a

theme.

 

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

A major trap for aspiring writers is largely getting in one’s head and telling yourself you aren’t

good enough. It is easy to belittle ourselves, and while we should be very clear cut with creating

a quality end product, you won’t get there if you beat yourself up along the way. On the other

hand, it is good to be receptive of constructive criticism, because no matter how amazing you

are, no one ever pumps out a perfect first draft, devoid of any errors whatsoever. Finding the

balance between your inner critic and resistance to changing your drafts is important.

 

Do you write one book at a time or several at a time?

I have several projects going at any given time. Writer’s block can be a very real thing, and

sometimes when I am blocked on one story, it helps to pop over to a completely different project

and completely switch gears to refresh. Some of my projects are illustrated too, so if writing just

isn’t working out, I can switch over to art and reset completely.

 

Did you know?

I created this book from scratch, from beginning to end. I wrote the book, edited, illustrated,

formatted/layout, and made the front and back cover. I used a hybrid publishing company,

Gatekeeper Press, for distribution and printing only. Everything else is all my own creation. I

made the whole thing and saved it as a print-ready PDF, and sent it off! It isn’t perfect, but I feel

good about knowing that I was able to do every step up to printing by myself.

 

Something you are proud of with this book?

I really tried to keep this story very authentic. I am proud of that. Even though it has a fantasy

element, I believe the characters are very real, and their thoughts and feelings are also very real. I

wove in a lot of details from my own life so I know they are true to me. I believe authenticity

woven together with fantastical escapism is very important in writing this type of story.

 

Pen, typewriter, or computer?

I outline and world-build in pen, and I write on my computer. So far, I illustrate on paper and

edit on my computer too.

 

Do you read for yourself, and if so, which genre?

I love to read for leisure. It took me a little longer for learning to read to click, but once it did, I

took off with it— no training wheels needed! I try not to be too limited by genre and really just

look for good stories. But I do primarily read fiction for pleasure.

If I had to narrow it down, I tend to lean towards fantasy, and children’s books. Personally, I find

it such a wonderful experience to read a book with some fantasy to escape into from the real

world. Take me to Hogwarts, Narnia, or a secret garden any day! I love that feeling of

suspension of disbelief, when you feel, for a moment, like magic, grandeur, and fantasy are

possible—and, ultimately, they are! They are always tangible in your imagination. Books are

merely the portals to connect the two.

 

How do you view reading?

As an author, I know the kind of effort and soul-pouring that goes into creating a finished book.

Though I know not every book will flow for me, or the writing style might not click or be my

favorite, I sincerely try not to be unnecessarily snobby about my reading preferences. Instead, I

look at reading like a treasure hunt of others’ imagination and creativity. I get to have the honor

of venturing into the creative mind of another person everytime I crack the spine of a new book.

Sometimes you get pretty seashells, and sometimes you get a diamond in the rough that will be a

treasure for life.

Author Bio

Marissa Miller is an up and coming author, who has spent the last few years working on novels and children’s books. She currently resides in northern California with her husband, two little dogs (Alice and Diggory), and two cats (Burt and Winry).
Miller has been an aspiring storyteller since she was a young girl and began more seriously pursuing the art of writing in her teens. After a happy accident with miscommunication in 2017, Miller began producing illustrations to accompany her work; she now attempts to incorporate in her illustrative style with all of her works.
Miller’s first published work is the wonderfully imaginative children’s book, Chasing Figments. Following her picture book, Miller published an illustrated young reader’s book, The Grim and The Fantastic. Both books embody Miller’s brand, which is finding the splendor in one’s life, no matter the circumstance, and using imagination to overcome obstacles.
Gift basket with: Signed copy of book, bookmarks, custom illustration for winner, and a $10 amazon gift-card.
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