Local author brings vampires to Christmas

Nothing frightening about holiday book for kids

Jeff Berg meditated on this question after his 5-year-old daughter, Eda, posed it one Christmas morning: If vampires are up all night, how do they receive presents on Christmas?

“I thought it was the most brilliant question ever asked,” Berg, the creative director at Olson, the local advertising firm, said.

He immediately set out to work on the book that would become “Mrs. Claus & the Batty Christmas.” Each three of the four little vampires in the book share strong resemblances to Berg’s three children, which makes sense, since they helped on the design.

“It’s really funny, the characters they wanted actually fit their personalities to a T,” he said and laughed.

Alice chose an orange-haired vampire. Son Owen’s has black hair, and Eda’s favorite vampire has brown hair. When Santa’s elves stay too long on a tropical vacation, the vampires fly up to the North Pole in bat form to help Santa deliver his presents.

The book only took Berg eight months to finish. He designed the characters and settings using the Adobe Illustrator computer artwork program, being careful to maintain some hand-drawn characteristics.

“I knew if it was completely hand drawn it wouldn’t get finished, but the background textures are done by hand, and I tried to make the Illustrator parts have a hand drawn quality,” he said.

Berg started working on the project two years ago and only now is it starting to see sunlight. Originally, Berg was trying to go the traditional publishing route, but he said publishers were not interested in a standalone book. He was told they were looking for books that could make a series.

After hearing this, he decided to put the book away for a while. This was his first book, and he didn’t want to make a series out of it. He searched for independent publishers but was having no luck. The book was gathering dust.

Then, one day, while driving to work and listening to Minnesota Public Radio, he heard a story about an independent publisher in Minneapolis. He quickly took action.

“I had to pull over right away and scramble for a piece of paper,” he recalled. “All I could remember was that it had the word peppermint in it.”

When he got home that night, he desperately searched Google for the publisher and found Peppermint Books. He decided to get in touch with Terri Foley, the creator of Peppermint Books, and pursue publishing once again.

“Terri enjoyed the book,” Berg said. “We worked together and she helped me bring the word count down. I think the book turned out better because of it.”

They decided to print 1,000 books: 100 for promotional use and another 900 to sell. So far, you can find the book in Minneapolis at Belle Weather, Moss Envy, Paper Hat, I Like You and Birchbark Books, which hosted a reading by Berg on Nov. 19.

Besides those Minneapolis locations, the book can be found in Stillwater at Valley Books, Lost Treasures and Mara Mi.

“I have a new respect for salespeople,” Berg said. “You would think that with my experience at Olson this would come easy, but it’s strange when you’re on the other end.”

He mentioned that whenever he approached a store to sell to, the owner would “recoil from the pitch.” The tension lifted once they found out it was a children’s book.

When asked about publishing another book, he replied: “Never say never.”

At the moment, though, he doesn’t have one in mind.

Said Berg: “Alice told me that my next book should be about pandas and New Year’s, but I’m not sure if that will work out.”