Local author has a hit with his first children’s book
Chad Stewart has formed his own publishing company to promote his and others’ works
About a decade ago, investment banker Chad Stewart was sitting through what he described as a boring business seminar in Providence, Rhode Island.
“I started to drift and I started to doodle, and I doodled a circle with three lines, a basket, a boy and a girl, and I wrote ‘the boy in the balloon,’” he said.
Stewart, who now lives in Rancho Santa Fe, had penned a nonfiction book on business strategy and planned four more works in that vein.
The sketch he had drawn in the seminar took him in a different direction.
“I was looking at this doodle and I just got this really wonderful idea,” said the 52-year-old native of Newport Beach. “Everything became clear to me. I was dying to get back into things that were creative. I wanted to do something fun and expressive.”
He toiled for several years to write a narrative based on the sketch and in 2019 celebrated the launch of his first novel, “Britfield & the Lost Crown,” under the pen name C.R. Stewart.
Geared toward children in their middle-school and older elementary-school years, the 383-page book features the adventures of 12-year-olds Tom and Sarah.
They escape from an oppressive orphanage in Yorkshire, England, with the help of a hot-air balloon.
On what amounts to a tour of renowned historical sites, they are pursued by a prominent investigator as well as agents of the orphanage owners, who fear their exploitation of children will be discovered.
Stewart, who has an extensive background in investment banking and business consulting, created Devonfield Publishing to produce and market what he plans as a series of seven “Britfield” books as well as the works of other up-and-coming children’s authors.
The company has already published the second in his series — “Britfield & the Rise of the Lion.”
In addition to the books, Devonfield is working on developing movies and other media, based on the “Britfield” concept. An audio book is available for “Lost Crown.”
Devonfield has a team of advisors, consultants and editing professionals to guide the publishing and marketing strategies.
In a recent interview at a Fairbanks Ranch resort, Stewart said the first novel has already sold 100,000 copies, while receiving enthusiastic reviews and numerous awards. They include gold medals from the Parents’ Choice Foundation, Children’s Literary Classics International Book Awards and Mom’s Choice Awards.
“It’s 10 years of hard work, planning and strategy,” he said. “We weren’t just going for a best-seller. We were going for a shift I think in literature and education — a paradigm shift you could say.”
While Stewart’s approach might sound reminiscent of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, he emphasizes that his subject matter differs in that it does not delve into sorcery.
Rather, Stewart draws upon history and literary models such as Charles Dickens and the Bronte sisters as the inspirations for his fiction. That focus stems in large part from his studies in European history and British literature at Brown University and his journeys in England.
In his fiction, he employs a brisk narrative designed to keep readers flipping pages.
“No. 1, it’s a fast-paced adventure series that children love,” he said. “We’ve had 12-year-olds who have read it in five hours. Our youngest reader is seven. Our oldest reader has been a 93-year-old woman. ...
“No. 2, it’s based on family values, friendship, loyalty and courage. ... The main theme is family.
“And No. 3, which is one of the bigger selling points, is that it’s educational. It’s something we like to call self-education. So as children are reading it, they are learning about history, geography, art, architecture and culture.”
The success to date has been driven largely through Stewart’s commitment to education.
Before the coronavirus pandemic forced a nationwide lockdown, Stewart drove nearly thousands of miles around the West to introduce his first book to schools and talk to administrators and teachers on how it could be used as an educational tool.
He also makes himself available at schools, either in person or via Zoom, to talk to students about writing, while encouraging them to craft their own stories. The book, he said, is being taught at numerous schools throughout the U.S.
Teacher Holly Morey at Torrey Hills Elementary School in the Del Mar Union School District said that over the last three years, Stewart has been a valuable resource in communicating to the school’s sixth graders about the creative process and the book.
“He’s definitely super personable, really friendly, very knowledgable,” she said. “He’s got an incredible imagination and I think the students loved the book.”
Morey said the book contains elements that students are able to relate to their own lives. For example, she said, the novel’s ferocious dog, “Wind” who patrolled the orphanage’s surroundings, led students to reflect on their own experiences with neighborhood dogs whom they perceived as dangerous.
“The kids were super-engaged,” she said. “They loved the story. There’s pieces in the story where we make connections to the characters. He really does a good job in his books, where we feel a connection to a character and it makes us want to read more. ...
“It lets (students) have discussions about those kinds of things that are a little bit scary or worrisome. Also, the friendship that’s developed in the book: I think that is so important for kids to see what a friendship is like outside of their world.”
Information about Chad Stewart, his books and related projects can be viewed at britfield.com and devonfield.com.
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