1. I DID LOTS OF RESEARCH.
I am not a history buff like my husband. I had to dig around and learn about historic heroes and monuments, and educate myself on historic documents and speeches.
2. BRAVEN'S OUTFIT.
We had about 30+ revisions of our main character, Braven Young's "look." Everything from his hair, to his tie, to his untied shoe, to his tight skinny jeans, to the design of his long-sleeve shirt. We must have gone through forty different revisions until we found the perfect embodiment of our protagonist!
3. THE CHARACTER OF "DAD."
... is truly based on Ryan’s job! While he is not a congressman, he has worked for the United States his entire career. We had fun and embellished the nature of his job, along with the performative speech he gives at the end. Ryan often writes on behalf of the United States, so it was fun to include him in the writing process.
4. THE SETTING IS BASED IN DC!
The only thing I knew about Washington, DC before we moved here in 2014 was that it is our nation's capital and home to the White House and some very notable monuments. Upon moving here at the age of 25 and to follow Ryan and his work, we learned so much more. Not only did we both fell in love with DC, it became home. We have been inspired ever since, and it only felt natural to write about the city.
5. THE STATUES COME ALIVE.
The biggest plot twist was added at the last minute when a few historic heroes make their debut to help Braven understand what freedom means. And *gasp* the monuments come alive! Many of my favorite parts of the book were added at the last second, including the next point...
6. MY FAVORITE ILLUSTRATION.
The image on this page was slightly different, but the moment in the book is pretty pivotal; when Braven walks up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to find the Gettysburg Address written on the wall. I wanted the reader to feel the impact this had on the character, and also the weight of the words that might have been felt when Lincoln was actually giving this speech. For that reason, I love this image most!
7. NO ADULTS AND TOTAL FREEDOM?
There is a part in the book when Braven wakes up in his dream smack dab in Washington, DC. The catch? There are no adults to be found! This theme was inspired by the “Home Alone” plot line, my boys’ favorite movie.
8. COMIC BOOK-ESQUE.
My boys love Dog Man and action heroes, so we incorporated a bit of comic book theme stylistically throughout.
9. BRAVEN'S HAIR.
...was inspired by professional soccer player, Cristiano Ronaldo’s haircut. Fun fact: did you know that Ryan played professional soccer too? Before he went to law school, he played for Kansas City and internationally too.
10. BRAVEN’S NAME.
Braven Young, our protagonist's name, is a combo of all my boys' names (minus Quade because he wasn’t born yet!). Beauden, Rhett, Vance = Braven. The publisher disliked it at first, but I convinced him otherwise.
We tacked on "Young" as the last name because the name said together sounds like "brave" and "young", which was fitting for obvious reasons!