Fly Bernard, fly!

Jonathan Howard, Author

If like me you’ve been through the process of trying to get your app reviewed on one of the million or so websites out there you will, at some point, have come across an uncomfortable question:

What makes your app different?

These are the moments in self-publishing when you long for an agent, pine for a publicist, or anyone for that matter who will sing your praises without so much as a smirk. You’ll be pleased to note that since releasing Fly Bernard, fly! I’ve been brutalized by the experience of marketing it myself and just about lost every last trace of British reserve that I once held dear. So then what does make Fly Bernard, fly! different?

Fly Bernard, fly! is the story of a boy called Elliott and a bee named Bernard. It takes place on the fictional island of Kinver which is a playground of sorts; a psychological backdrop against which he can project and ultimately conquer the problems he’s facing in life. It covers issues to do with friendship and loss culminating in a realisation which helps Elliott to move forward. It can be enjoyed on a number of levels although primarily it’s a tool for discussion. Parents will have to be on their toes when answering some of the questions it raises.

The book is split into five acts each of which have a separate piece of music to accompany them. It uses the ever popular device known as ‘leitmotif,’ where people or places have individual themes to represent them. Over the course of the story instruments are swapped or melodies built upon to denote that something significant has changed. So for example “Bernard’s theme” which crops up in the third act, as Elliott is remembering the bee, gets reinstated in a very poignant way over the closing credits. Scoring the book with composer Robert Huw Jones was easily the most enjoyable part of the whole project. At times I was giving him absurd directions like:

“In this act it needs to sound as if  it’s raining, but also it has to convey a mental pulling of focus as if Elliot is coming to terms with a painful and yet vital conclusion.”

It’s only mildly frustrating to me that Mr. Jones managed to pull all of this off with very little effort indeed.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the artwork which at times was an out and out slog. I started in the late summer of 2008 and only finished in March of this year! The images were all achieved within the wonders of Photoshop and rendered in painstaking detail. This was necessary because readers can zoom in and frame the resulting close up however they desire before moving onto the next picture.

In my mind the final product resides somewhere between a book and an animated short, and as such it’s very much an experiment. Of course it’s the parents who buy picture books, and not their children. Recently I’ve been finding out that they can get extremely animated when you deviate from the norm. I think this is a real shame as apple’s  platforms are ripe for experimentation. Perhaps it’s foolish of developers like me to play with the simple functionality of a book but somehow I feel that it’s a far worse crime to underestimate the potential of a child.

Oh and Fly Bernard, fly! features the best artwork ever seen on the iphone. There I said it!

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