About a decade ago, investment banker Chad Stewart attended what he described as a boring corporate seminar in Providence, Rhode Island.
“I started to drift and I started to doodle, and I scribbled a circle with three lines, a basket, a boy and a girl, and I wrote ‘the boy in the balloon'”, a he declared.
Stewart, who now lives in Rancho Santa Fe, had written a non-fiction book on business strategy and planned four more books in that vein.
The sketch he drew in the seminary took him in another direction.
“I was looking at this doodle and just got this really wonderful idea,” said the 52-year-old Newport Beach native. “Everything became clear to me. I was dying to get back to creative things. I wanted to do something fun and expressive.
He worked for several years to write a story based on the sketch and in 2019 celebrated the launch of his first novel, “Britfield & the Lost Crown”, under the pseudonym CR Stewart.
Aimed at middle and elementary school children, the 383-page book features the adventures of 12-year-old Tom and Sarah.
They escape from an oppressive orphanage in Yorkshire, England, using a hot air balloon.
In what amounts to a visit to renowned historical sites, they are pursued by a prominent investigator as well as agents of the orphanage owners, who fear their exploitation of the children will be uncovered.
Stewart, who has extensive experience in investment banking and corporate advisory, created Devonfield Publishing to produce and market what he envisions as a seven-book “Britfield” series as well as the works of other promising authors for children.
The company has already released the second in its series – “Britfield & the Rise of the Lion”.
In addition to books, Devonfield is working on the development of films and other media, based on the “Britfield” concept. An audiobook is available for “Lost Crown”.
Devonfield has a team of advisors, consultants and publishing professionals to guide publishing and marketing strategies.
In a recent interview at a Fairbanks Ranch resort, Stewart said the first novel has already sold 10,000 copies, while receiving rave 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 to look for a bestseller. We were going, I think, to a shift in literature and education – a paradigm shift you might say. “
While Stewart’s approach may appear to be reminiscent of JK Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, he points out that its subject matter differs in that he does not delve into witchcraft.
Rather, Stewart draws inspiration from history and literary models such as Charles Dickens and the Bronte sisters as the inspiration for his fiction. This focus stems in large part from his studies in European history and British literature at Brown University and his trips to England.
In his fiction, he employs a quick narrative designed to turn the pages of readers.
“No. 1, this is a fast paced adventure series that kids love,” he said. “We had 12 year olds who read it in five hours. Our youngest reader is seven years old. Our oldest reader is a 93 year old woman. …
“No. 2, it is based on family values, friendship, loyalty and courage. … The main theme is family.
“And number 3, which is one of the biggest selling points, is that it’s educational. It’s something we like to call self-education. Thus, by reading it, children learn about history, geography, art, architecture and culture.
The success to date is largely due to Stewart’s commitment to education.
Before the coronavirus pandemic forced a nationwide lockdown, Stewart traveled nearly thousands of miles west to present his first book to schools and chat with administrators and teachers about how he could be used as an educational tool.
He also makes himself available in schools, in person or through Zoom, to talk to students about writing, while encouraging them to create their own stories. The book, he said, is taught in many schools across the United States.
Teacher Holly Morey from Torrey Hills Elementary School in the Del Mar Union School District said that over the past three years, Stewart has been a valuable resource in communicating with the school’s sixth graders on the creative process and the book.
“He’s really super nice, really nice, very knowledgeable,” she said. “He has an amazing imagination and I think the students loved the book.”
Morey said there are things students can relate to in their own lives in the book. For example, she said, the fierce dog from the novel, “Wind,” who patrolled the area around the orphanage, got the students to reflect on their own experiences with the neighborhood dogs they considered to be. dangerous.
“The kids were super engaged,” she said. “They loved the story. There are pieces in the story where we make connections with the characters. He does a really good job in his books, where you feel a connection with a character and it makes you want to read more. …
“It allows (students) to have discussions about these kinds of things that are a little scary or worrying. Also, the friendship that developed in the book: I think it’s so important for kids to see what friendship is outside of their world.
Information on Chad Stewart, his books and related projects can be found at britfield.com and devonfield.com.