“The stories that touch us are magic,” says Walt Bayless, a self-published picture book artist and writer. Growing up, he felt a connection to that magic and explains, “I always felt there were natural, deep, happy possibilities. My stories are a way to share that feeling with others.”
With four completed books and more on the way, Walt is happy with the way his career is progressing. A talented artist, he paints watercolor pages to illustrate his stories rather than use a graphic computer program, but the first thing, he says, is the inspiration for a story.
Walt says it’s typical to get the idea for a character and then flesh out the story around that. He starts with the writing and then does the painted illustrations. His first published book is called Lindsay’s Lesson. He offered it first as an e-book, and when sales were successful, he found a printer in California and had physical copies printed that he offers for sale online.
Walt’s books are personal, and he feels as protective of them as he would one of his children. That is the main reason he decided to self-publish. He talked to publishers and realized they would take editorial control of his work. “Publication by committee.” He was not willing to do that, so he explored the possibilities of self-publishing. It has been a successful process for him.
One of the reasons he decided to retain control of his characters is that he is not impressed with the current state of children’s publishing. He says, “Most children’s books today treat kids like they can’t handle anything deep or meaningful; just silly, sugary stuff. They don’t give them enough credit. Kids are capable of deep, powerful emotions, and they need stories that are magic and full of happy possibilities.”
Because his stories are so personal, inspiration can show up unexpectedly. The idea for The Gypsy Spell came one day when he was driving. The rhyme came to him, “Gwendolyn Gates was moved by the fates.” He could see the character in his mind’s eye, and it was almost like a little friend had shown up urging him to write her story.
Another of his books, The Legend of Tiger Tim, tells the story of an angry boy who discovers joy, strength, and the power of play through friendship with a tiger cub. He allows the magic he felt growing up to penetrate the themes of his stories.
But writing is not just inspiration, it is hard work. Walt starts the day with an exercise regime, followed by study time to improve his craft. He works on painting skills through anatomy study, illustration, and color theory, and he works on developing his writing skills by experimenting with character development. He sets aside time for writing and painting and finishes his day teaching martial arts classes at night.
Sales are good, and the only marketing he does is by word of mouth. As his career grows, he says, “I live on faith and produce from the heart. As a child I wrote and illustrated little stories that I didn’t share with anyone. It’s taken me 50 years to get to this point where everything came together. It takes a life.”
Walt sums everything up when he says, “Happy magic is real. There is a little universe inside everyone that is as real as reality. There, anything can happen.”
Walt’s books are available through Amazon as e-books or in print.