Thank you for this interview, Kelley. Can you tell us what Princess April Morning-Glory is all about?
Kelley: Princess April Morning-Glory is a children’s fairytale about a fairy princess – Princess April, the title character – who leaves the Enchanted Forest to see what is out in the Great World. Once having left her home, she’s instructed by the Wise Wizard that in order to return home, she must first do three good deeds.
What can we find inside the book?
Kelley: The storyline is the selection of good deeds Princess April chooses to complete and her efforts to evade Fairy Misery – the villain of our tale – who chases after Princess April, seeking to thwart her return to the Enchanted Forest and instead have her do Fairy Misery’s evil bidding. How Princess April overcomes obstacles and performs her good deeds is the crux of the story.
Why after 70 years is it now being published?
It’s taken that long for technology to be capable of easily and accurately capturing the intricate use of delicate watercolors, along with gold and silver gilt, used in creating the original 49-pages of illustrations.
What is the publishing date of release?
January 2013, the 72nd anniversary of its original copyright registration.
What is your relationship to the late author Letitia Fairbanks and why do you and Amanda Fairbanks feel this is a book that will resonate with book buyers today?
Kelley: Princess April Morning-Glory is timeless in its appeal; how can ‘doing the right thing’ ever be out of date?
I am Letitia Fairbanks Smoot’s step-daughter, my father Harold (Hal) N. Smoot, married Letitia when I was six years old. As the child who was closest to Dad and Letitia, Letitia selected me to see Princess April Morning-Glory through to publication. Amanda Millner-Fairbanks, Letitia’s granddaughter, was just twelve years old when Letitia died, and has grown up into the journalist and writer that her grandmother would be so proud of.
Your press release for the book says “Letitia derived inspiration for the illustrations from then-current Hollywood blockbuster films, as well as deriving her portraiture from a composite of that era’s celluloid legends, along with immediate family members including her mother, father and sister, Lucile.” Are any of these “celluloid legends” still alive and are they in some way participating in the release of the book?
Kelley: We are in the final round of negotiations with those celluloid legends and/or their estates and will have announcements regarding that soon.
Tell us about the author and her background. How did she fit into the Fairbanks family?
Kelley: Letitia was the niece of Douglas Fairbanks Sr. And Mary Pickford, founders of United Artists along with Charlie Chaplin and DW Griffith, at the very beginning of Hollywood in 1919. Her cousin was Douglas Fairbanks Jr., family thespian scion, ambassador and naval officer, serving with distinction during WWII. Douglas was made an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 1949. Douglas Jr.’s grandson, Dominick Fairbanks, continues producting movies in the family tradition, through Fairbanks Productions.
Any reason you think why she created a book like she did?
Kelley: Letitia envisioned a complete work of art – she painted every two pages, back-to-front on specialty, hand-crafted, 13.5” wide by 16” tall, French watercolor paper, so that the finished artwork is a unique book, at the intersection of art and literature. We have faithfully maintained Letitia’s thoughtful presentation in this initial printing, preserving old-style publishing guidelines, such as never putting text on the reverse of a full page (plate) illustration, and always presenting full plate illustrations on the right side of the open book.
Did she often spend time at the famous Beverly Hills mansion called where her uncle Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and his wife Mary Pickford lived?
Kelley: Absolutely! Letitia and her sister Lucile (the inspiration for the title character, Princess April Morning-Glory) were frequent visitors to their aunt and uncle’s mansion, as it was the center of gravity for the entire, extended Fairbanks family. It was at that Letitia got to meet and know her cousins – not just Doug Jr. but also and Mary Margaret, daughters of the third Fairbanks brother, Jack.
What do you want readers of Princess April Morning-Glory to come away with after experiencing this unique and lost book?
Kelley: That everyone – not just fairy princesses – creates their destinies by the good deeds they do. Amanda -Fairbanks, a former middle school teacher, and I, in association with special educator Martha Ash, are developing a children’s curriculum around doing three good deeds as part of a daily course of life. Letitia would be extremely pleased if she were remembered by the (re-) introduction into society of treating one another with great dignity and love, through the performance of good deeds on a daily basis.
Where can the book be purchased and how much is it and how many pages is it?
Kelley: The book can be purchased at Amazon, priced at $23.95. The can be purchased for $7.99 - $9.99. Distribution to brick and mortar stores is in the works.
Do you have a dedicated website for the book?
Kelley: Please go to www.PrincessApril.com for more details.
Is this a book for kids and adults alike? Why?
Kelley: Princess April Morning-Glory is a rare book that works on multiple levels, engaging children in the delightful exploration of the written word through illustrative examples, while interesting adults with larger themes of original Hollywood and detailed watercolor painting technique. For both children and adults, the idea of creating one’s destiny through the good deeds performed can be adopted into our lives, to great effect!
Letitia Fairbanks, the niece of Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Mary Pickford, lived a life guided by artistic passions. In 1939, wanting to commemorate her late uncle, Letitia began work on Princess April Morning-Glory, allowing a creative outlet for combining her lifelong loves: painting, writing, and illustration.
Holding firm to her artistic identify, Letitia gravitated toward portraiture, landscapes, and still-. She was also a biographer, co-authoring Douglas Fairbanks: The Fourth Musketeer, with Ralph Hancock. Her marriage to Hal Smoot in 1966 marked the beginning of a particularly joyful and creative period. Needle points and annual Christmas cards, which featured a painting from the previous year, not to mention her role as a wife, mother, step-mother and grandmother brought her much fulfillment. After a life rich in artistic accomplishment, Letitia passed away in September of 1992.
Kelley Smoot Garrett was born in Dallas, raised in Manhattan and has lived the life of a West Texas wildcatter as well that of an IT professional. At one time or another in her life she’s called places as diverse , Scotland; Austin, Abilene and Midland, Texas; Singapore; Paris; and Auckland, New Zealand — home. She is proud to be the daughter of Sue Ashby and Harold Smoot and the step-daughter of Letitia Fairbanks Smoot. She currently lives with her husband Danny Garrett, three cats, and one happy only-dog, Moxie in the Texas Hill Country.
At long last, Princess April Morning-Glory emerges as a lost treasure from the golden age of Hollywood.
Written and illustrated in 1941 by Letitia Fairbanks, the niece of silent film stars Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Mary Pickford, the seemingly traditional children’s book is transformed into a modern-day fairy tale that will captivate child and adult readers alike.
Letitia was inspired to create portraiture for the characters of Princess April Morning-Glory from film stars of the day. John Barrymore, and Letitia's cousin Douglas Fairbanks Jr., provided glamorous inspiration through their then-current films. The Wicked King's (Barrymore) costume was sparked by his role as Louis XV in Irving 1938 Marie Antoinette, while the hairstyle resembles his eponymous role in Archie Mayo's 1931 Svengali. Prince Chivalry was inspired by her cousin's (Fairbanks) sword-fighting role in David O. Selznick's 1937 The Prisoner of .
Viewed as unconventional when it first debuted – up until then, no one had thought to meld a Disney-like moral tale with a swashbuckling adventure – the story centers on the prescient acknowledgment that we create our destinies by the choices that we make.
The main narrative is focused around the brave and courageous Princess April who must first transcend darkness and evil before she can realize her true potential. Intrigued by the Great World and its sense of adventure, a young Princess April decides to abandon the familiarity of her home in Fairyland and undertake a voyage into the unknown. Once outside the Enchanted Forest, she finds comfort and friendship in the company of various creatures who ensure her safe passage.
But returning home proves more difficult than at first she realized. In order to go back to Fairyland, a friendly wizard informs Princess April that she must first accomplish three good deeds. Can Princess April resist the temptation of darker forces and summon enough courage to continue doing good deeds? And if she dares to hold true to herself, will it someday lead her back home again?
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