MOHAWK – Once upon a time, a benevolent princess helped earthly wishes come true as she ruled over her lunar kingdom. Until one day, a miserable man from the dark side of the moon started making trouble and threatened everything.
The enchanting tale, titled “Keeper of the Stars,” was written by Mohawk-resident Amy Shepherd, and is now available at Barnes & Noble and on Amazon
“I’m so excited it doesn’t even seem real yet,” said the first-time author. “It was such a long process, I can barely believe it has finally happened.”
The storyline came to Shepherd one day seven years ago. She started telling the tale to her two young daughters during bedtime story time. As the story grew and the trio added details, Shepherd began writing it all down.
“We added little bits along the way,” she said. “And I would write them down in a notebook. At first, we would start at the beginning of the story every night, but as it got longer and longer, we started picking up where we’d left off the night before.”
Shepherd wrote the entire book – all 235 pages – by hand, in pencil, over the course of five years.
“I worked full-time and I’m a mom, which is a whole other job,” she explained. “The girls have always been active and into something, like soccer. There would be days when I could only jot down a sentence or two. Then there’d be a busy week when I didn’t get to write at all.”
Shepherd works as a pre-kindergarten teacher’s aide at Fisher School in Mohawk.
Shepherd also noted that she took her time in writing to include every idea and detail to get the book right, so that it matched the story she saw playing out like a movie in her mind.
Once written, Shepherd spent the next two years editing and researching how to get the book published
“It was my first time and I didn’t know who to trust,” she said. “I did a lot of research. At one point I finally had to let go and take a leap of faith.”
As a children’s book geared for the 6 to 12 age range, Shepherd wanted to include illustrations – a task that included its own set of obstacles. Shepherd first reached out to local colleges in search of artists, but those efforts didn’t work out. She joined a writers’ Facebook page, and through that, joined an illustrators’ page.
“I kept an eye out for things I liked and made a note of whose work appealed to me,” Shepherd said.
She kept coming back to the work of Darlee Orcullo Urbiztondo. Shepherd reached out and after a series of Zoom meetings and correspondence, Urbiztondo, of Abu Dhabi, UAE, produced the cover art and 23 illustrations.
“She went above and beyond,” Shepherd said. “She was able to capture the characters exactly how I described them. They’re perfect.”
After transcribing all her handwritten words onto the computer, and with illustrations in hand, Shepherd self-published the book through Ingram Spark.
“It’s so special to hold it in my hands,” she said. “It’s still so new and I get so excited talking about it,” she added with a laugh.
Shepherd’s daughters Dakota and Myka, now 15 and 9 respectively, are also excited at their mother’s success. As are her nieces and nephews, all of whom are represented in the book by name and character traits, Shepherd said.
As a school employee, Shepherd has had the opportunity to visit a number of classrooms to read an excerpt from the book, including Myka’s fourth-grade class, where Shepherd reveled a bit in her daughter’s pride for her mother.
“The entire school has been so supportive,” Shepherd noted.
The Norway-native and 1995 West Canada graduate said she never anticipated being an author.
“I’ve always absolutely loved to read, but I didn’t expect to write my own book,” she said.
But now that she’s had a taste, Shepherd said she definitely sees herself writing another.
“This story lends itself to having more follow,” she said. “Perhaps a mini series. We’ll see.”