Although some people lose their creativity as they age, Liana-Melissa Allen’s child-like imagination continues to drive her today.
The young Del Mar author recently released the third book in her children’s series that began as a fifth-grade class assignment.
“It’s something I’ve always been doing,” said the 20-year-old author and illustrator.
Recently released, “Max's Day at School: A Horse Valley Adventure,” is the third book of “A Horse Valley Adventure” series. The story follows a horse named Max, as well as his brothers and friend Donkey, who learns that with the right teacher, school can be fun.
“I just feel like learning is really important, but having a good teacher is what really matters,” Allen said.
The book was inspired by Allen’s childhood, particularly her favorite teachers and memories of Del Mar Heights Elementary School.
“A good teacher can really open the door and help you realize what you like,” she said.
A creative child, Allen grew up drawing and writing. Her imagination stemmed from her love of reading, which was instilled in her as a young girl by her father. Every day they took turns reading stories in their “Big Chair.”
“We had so much fun,” recalled her father, Paul Allen. “I’m a natural ham and I would make voices. It captured her imagination.”
By second grade, Allen created a cast of characters that later took shape in her first book. Using the characters, in fifth grade, she wrote and illustrated “The Three Little Horses and the Big Bully Donkey,” a spin-off of “The Three Little Pigs,” for a class project.
Her father, who read weekly to children at Del Mar Heights Elementary School, shared the story with students.
“It was amazing how the kids just really enjoyed it,” said Paul Allen, a longtime Del Mar resident who volunteered weekly at the school for 13 years.
As a high school junior, Allen self-published the book. Since then, she has published seven additional books, including a Spanish version of “The Three Little Horses and the Big Bully Donkey” and the second installment of the series, “Donkey’s Kite: A Horse Valley Adventure.”
Prior to releasing the third and latest installment of the series, Allen also published four other books, including picture books “The Tale of Jane Sadear” and “The Ice Queen,” as well as “The Horse and His Girl: A Short Story of Loyalty and Love” and “The Werewolf Apocalypse: A Short Story Fantasy Adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood,” both intended for readers in fourth grade and up.
“This whole process has mainly been me figuring myself out, figuring what direction I want to go in,” said Allen, who graduated from Torrey Pines High School in 2014.
Since high school, Allen has continued to work on her craft. She now envisions “A Horse Valley Adventure” as a cartoon and has already released cartoons on her Facebook page and website. She hopes to eventually release a book of Horse Valley Toons.
“I’m realizing that Horse Valley is more of a visual world for me,” she said. “It always has been.”
Allen has plans to also publish young adult and graphic novels. She also wants to continue studying music and performing.
A classical and jazz pianist, music is often a catalyst for Allen’s imagination. She created a Horse Valley theme song for the book trailer for her second book in the series. She has also performed at a neighborhood block party and at the open mic nights at Zel’s Del Mar.