Creativity, Collaboration, and Cat Capers
In a three-book deal that went to auction with several U.S. publishers, Deanna Kent and Neil Hooson will be working with Imprint, a division of Macmillan USA, on their middle-grade book series SNAZZY CAT CAPERS. The funny, action-packed series is heavily illustrated, and focuses on Ophelia von Hairball, the world’s top cat burglar. In it, the Furry Feline Burglary Institute (FFBI) offers Ophelia the ultimate caper: Steal the giant Himalayan diamond from a Paris mew-seum and win their top award. But the FFBI sends an enthusiastic, fishy inventor to help her, and since this stealthy, snazzy cat usually works alone, it’s a challenge for her to embrace a fintastic sidekick. Kent and Hooson say they’ve thrown several references to Kelowna into the book series.
The couple has retained the rights for TV, games, and film, and hope to build their IP after the launch of the books. “It’s been surreal,” Hooson says. “Our agent set up early morning phone calls from New York with these amazing publishing teams that wanted to work with us. We felt like we were in a dream. It still feels like that.” Kent said they chose Macmillan’s Imprint because the publisher, Erin Stein, had a lot of opinions about where to take the series, and some interesting suggestions.
“We actually chose the person who had the most and toughest feedback for us. She’s a superstar—so smart. Stein has worked with and grown world-class franchises. We’ve learned so much about the value of healthy collaboration from our Kelowna community, so it was a natural choice to pick Stein at Macmillan—we knew we’d learn the most from her and her team. And we have. They’re incredible, and we’re lucky.”
Celebrating creativity and Kelowna’s growing art and tech sector is something Deanna Kent and Neil Hooson have done for years. The two worked together for almost a decade at Disney. Hooson now works at the thriving Yeti Farm Creative studio, and Kent works out of the Innovation Centre at AO with Montreal based Carebook Technologies.
Although they have careers and a busy family (four active boys between the two of them), the couple says they get “extra” creative projects done because they hate wasting time. “Early mornings, even later nights, and yes, even on the bleachers of Kelowna gyms when kids are practicing sports—we concoct, scheme, and execute fun side projects.” Kent laughs, “You’ll seriously see me with a notebook or on a laptop during all my son’s volleyball and basketball practices. That’s how I wrote most of the first Snazzy Cat book. We have a ton of ideas, but our restricted time works to our advantage, so we spend the very little time we have on crazy, grand things.”
Kent and Hooson aren’t giving up their day jobs. “We love what we do, and we’re fully committed to our jobs. But other creative work fuels us too, and I’d say flexing different creative muscles in our spare time makes us better in every aspect of our careers.” Deanna says honing her creative writing skills “one hundred percent” enhances the work she does in brand and marketing. “The root of everything I do is emotional storytelling and experience design. Storytellers strategically take people on emotional, meaningful journeys—no matter what form that takes.”
“We want to continue to work with great people and teams on great projects—that’s the best.”
The dream team has worked with a variety of people and teams to develop different, interactive projects in the community—like helping to create community displays with the Kelowna Art Gallery, and also working with a small crew on art and story materials for three MRI rooms at the new Vancouver Children’s Teck Acute Care Centre. “For us, the enjoyment in doing all this stuff comes from power of solid collaboration. Disney, Yeti Farm Creative, Sad Panda Studios, Hyper Hippo, The Brand Department, ProSmart Sports, Vortovia, RFG Software, Red Bird Brewing—this community is brimming with innovative sparks—and we’re lucky enough to know and work with so many creative catalysts,” Kent says. Hooson adds, “We want to continue to work with great people and teams on great projects—that’s the best.”
Kent says she and Hooson have a brand new idea that they plan to start working on soon. “We’re going to explore the Accelerate Okanagan program as an option to help us bring this next thing to life. It’s a big concept we’ve distilled into something interesting—it’s been percolating for a few months, but we’ve been busy with the book series. Innovative things are happening every day in every corner of this city. There’s enough creativity, optimism, and grit here in Kelowna to compete in the biggest markets.”
Book one of SNAZZY CAT CAPERS launches September 18, 2018, with two more books in the series released on a nine-month schedule. Their agent, Gemma Cooper of The Bent Agency, has just made deals with two of her other middle-grade book projects to 20th Century Fox and Nickelodeon Studios. Kent and Hooson say it would be amazing to see their own characters starring in an animated series one day—for now, the couple is focused on the Snazzy Cat Capers books and dreaming about the next thing to make.
You can preorder the first book in the Snazzy Cat Capers series at Amazon.ca