Longtime artist Dianne Gardner has a new creative outlet as she writes young adult books.
“I always wanted to paint a dragon,” the Olalla woman said. “When I came up with an idea for a book, it gave me the excuse I needed to paint one. Painting allowed me to visualize the story. I could see the character who could slay the dragon.”
The dragon oil portrait now graces the cover of the second book in her trilogy series titled “The Dragon Shield.”
New to the writing genre, Gardner honed her craft when she joined a critique group and the Washington Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
After she completed her first draft, Gardner caught the eye of seasoned author Peggy King, who mentored Gardner and helped her through the re-writing process. Eventually, Gardner submitting a polished manuscript.
In three years, Gardner has published her Ian’s Realm Saga trilogy, a book of short stories and another book soon to be released by PDMI Publishing.
Inspired by one of her 16 grandchildren, Gardner said she wanted to write something she and her grandson would want to read.
The books create an adventure fantasy world with dragons, wizards and magic.
“There are themes of good and evil, values and relationships,” Gardner said. “There’s some violence, but not much. The books fill a void for children age 12-17. There isn’t anything between chapter books and young adult that can have a more mature theme. These books fill that space.”
Gardner said she’s enjoyed completing research for her trilogy. Taking one of her granddaughters on the tall ship Hawaiian Chieftain was a highlight as she was wrote “Rubies and Robbers,” the last book in the series.
“That gave me lots of good information about sailing ships,” Gardner said.
Gardner uses her eclectic life experiences to help her write.
“I used to live on 80 acres next to a Navajo reservation,” she said. “We herded sheep, built hogans out of adobe and cedar, and lived the land. I roughed it using survival skills for many years. I’ve done it firsthand, so it’s easy to write about.”
The next book to be published, “Cassandra’s Castle,” continues the trilogy 16 years later.
“I find creating a story fun and fulfilling,” Gardner said. “As I write and introduce a character, I want to make them three dimensional by defining the world they live in. The short stories answer the questions that come up about their new world, making it a relatable reality for the reader.”
Gardner’s latest creative endeavor is videography and filmmaking. To market her books, she collaborated with friends to make a book trailer on social media sites for promotion purposes.
It turned out so well that she submitted it to the International Moondance film festival, and it won a semi-finalist award.
“We finished and posted a second promotional video for ‘Cassandra’s Castle,’ ” Gardner said. “Now I am working with Crystal Lin Smithwick on a screenplay. We hope to make it into a full-length film.”
Gardner said she’s appreciated the many friends and volunteers who have worked on the videos and movies.
“As a thank you,” she said, “I want to paint a portrait for each person helping me with the filming.”
For more than 40 years, Gardner’s original artistic craft has been oil painting.
“I learned from my mother and have taken lessons from some prominent portrait artists, including Michelle Rushworth, who did Gov. Locke’s portrait,” Gardner said. “I’ve done commissioned portraits for Royd Tolkien, JRR Tolkien’s great grandson, and Bruce Hopkins, who played Gamling in Lord of the Rings.”
Gardner painted all the illustrations for her books and completed oil paintings for each cover.
The triptych for the Dragon Shield is hung at the Kimball Espresso Cafe, 6950 Kimball Drive in Gig Harbor, along with some of the framed illustrations. Gardner will host a book signing there from 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 8.
People can stop by to meet her, buy an autographed copy of a book and view some of her artwork.
“I love writing and painting, but I feel so satisfied doing them together,” Gardner said.
In the community, Gardner isn’t just writer and artist. An ordained minister, she and her husband, Stephen, feed the homeless every Sunday morning at the Westgate Fire Hall in Bremerton. They have been at it for more than 17 years.
Gardner will keep busy this fall. She plans to speak at a writer’s conference on Whidbey Island, on the panel for the Northwest Book Festival in Kirkland, and she’ll have illustrations on display for the SCBWI at the Washington State Convention Center.
A woman of many talents, Gardner said she enjoys the challenge of new artistic avenues and is finding a way to succeed with each one.
For more information about Gardner and her books and artwork, visit www.gardnersart.com.Lifestyles Coordinator Kim Eibel can be reached at 253-358-4152 or by email at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter, @gateway_kim.