It's Adam Sidwell's name on the cover and the title page. It's his imagination and writing talent that sculpted each sentence, each word choice, of his debut youth novel, "Evertaster." But his brother Jarom's name is there, too, on the acknowledgments page literally, but also frequently between the lines.
The Sidwells both born at Doctors Medical Center, both graduates of Beyer High School, both energetic, enthusiastic guys have flourishing careers in movie visual effects. Combined, their résumés posted at IMDB.com include several blockbusters from the better part of the past decade: "Thor," "Tron: Legacy," "The Avengers," "Avatar" and several more.
Adam, 34, is a "character technical director" and "creature technical director. In simpler terms, he does computer-generated (CG) artwork or "brushing monkey fur," as he humorously refers to his work on Peter Jackson's "King Kong." Jarom, 31, has positions such as "visual effects production manager" and "animation coordinator." As he puts it, he's the guy whose job it is to manage artists like Adam, make sure they make movie production deadlines.
Adam's simpatico relationship with his get-it-done brother provided no small amount of reassurance when he stepped away from his Hollywood career indefinitely to pursue his dream of writing "Evertaster." It also helps that both guys are natural storytellers and self-described "big kids." In the acknowledgments page of the book, Adam thanks his younger brother: "Jarom Sidwell, who first helped me this this story out loud on a long car ride one night, and lives out his own wondrous imagination every day."
Before the ride, though, was a Brigham Young University writing class Adam took from Orson Scott Card, author of the best-selling, award-winning 1985 science-fiction novel "Ender's Game." In that 2007 class, "we all got sent off to the bookstore to brainstorm ideas," Adam says, "and I went into an area of the bookstore I didn't normally go in, which was the cooking section. And I stared at all the cookbooks and I saw one in particular, this French cookbook called 'Larousse Gastronomique,' and I just looked at it and thought, 'What is everyone looking for all these cooks, all these Food Network shows, all these blogs that are about recipes and about finding the next, most delicious thing. And I thought, what if there was an ultimate taste, the most delicious thing? This book ('Evertaster') is an answer to that what if there was? and these kids go out to find it. And they run into a lot of trouble and danger on the way."
Adam says the idea for "Evertaster" was "baking" in his mind for about six months. He was working on the 2008 movie "Speed Racer" when his contract ended and he decided to step away from his visual-effects career to write the book. "It's hard to do, but I quit my job and spent three months writing eight hours a day until I had come up with a first draft," he says. "And I worked on that first draft for almost a year until I sent it out to publishers."
Somewhere early in the process came the long car ride.
"I'd worked out the basics of the story," says Adam, who lives in Los Angeles but often visits Modesto to see family. "Jarom and his wife, Katie, were dating at the time and we were on a long car trip and I started telling Katie the story, as if it was already written, and she said, 'This is cool. What book is this?' "
"Uh, we're writing it right now," Jarom, a Modesto resident, recalls telling her.
"So we were making a lot of this stuff up on the fly," Adam continues, "and Jarom got the initial idea for the egg beater (pictured on the book's cover and featured prominently in the story) to be a Da Vinci Code kind of thing. He had some of some of those ideas of 'Hey, let's make this a puzzle to solve.' And he put in all those elements of intrigue, gave me those ideas I then wrote into the manuscript.
"So it was that night that really helped tell the story and really helped me believe that the story was something I could write, because we'd sounded it out and bounced ideas off each other and it worked on Katie, at least."
"She was in," Jarom says. "She would have bought the book that night."
The "Evertaster" manuscript was met with rejection after rejection until an agent with Trident Media Group in New York was interested. Adam and the agent spent about two years on revisions. "I was getting up at 5 a.m. to work on revisions while I was working 10-hour days to finish the film 'Tron: Legacy.' It was a very, very busy time. I was newly married and my wife was very patient," says Adam, who with wife Michelle now has their first child, 9-month-old Felicity.
Trident launched an e-book operation last fall and has published "Evertaster" in the format, but when the agent shopped the book around to traditional print publishers, it again got many rejections. Adam heard things like "Our list is filled" and "We're not really sure it's so different."
It certainly is. In brief, the story is about an 11-year-old boy, an extremely picky eater, who encounters a dying pastry maker and is entrusted with a secret: an ancient recipe that makes the most delicious taste the world will ever know. The recipe is sought by connoisseurs everywhere because the food is rumored to be so delicious that whoever tastes it will never want to eat anything else again. But knowing the secret is dangerous, and young Guster and his family flee for their lives, pursued by the ruthless Gastronimatii, a cult of armed and sinister chefs.
"They said, 'We honestly don't know how to sell this,' " Adam says, "And that's when I thought, 'Well, I do.' It's an adventure story, and it's a story that hits home because it's about a mom and her relationship to her kids through that ultimate connection, which is her feeding them," Adam says. "She's providing life for them. So it's an adventure story, but at its heart it's about what's going on in this family.
Marketing the book selling it is another area where Jarom's talents come into play. The first book signing was held June 22 at the Ice Cream Company restaurant in Modesto's Century Center shopping plaza. The evening was Jarom's doing: Friends and family got the word out, including posting fliers and distributing them through neighborhoods and parks. Folks who bought books got a discount coupon to use at the restaurant. A friend in a gorilla suit greeted kids, some of whom also went up against Adam in a sundae-eating contest.
At the signing, the brothers' inner children really came out to play. Inscribing a book, "To Hannah," Adam looked up in mock distress and exclaimed, "Oh, no, I spelled it backward!"
After the sundae-eating contest, Jarom began to congratulate a winner by holding up his hand and saying, "High five," then, pretending not to have previously noticed the champ's sticky hands, quickly adding, "Oh, wait, no!"
"Jarom's expertise is in making things happen," Adam says. "He makes a fun environment, whether for adults or kids. ... He does events, he does presentations I think that's part of why we're a team. There's the business end and the creative end it's a good fit. Which is essentially what we're doing with the book now."
Many of the people who packed the Ice Cream Company know the Sidwells there were former teachers, classmates, their one-time Scoutmaster and wanted to help celebrate the latest of their accomplishments.
Among the supporters were Robert Casteneda and his wife, Amanda. The two were classmates of Jarom's at Beyer High School. "I remember when we graduated and everybody was talking about what they wanted to do," Amanda says, "and we were like, 'What is Jarom going to do?' We were trying to think of a job that would suit him, and this (working with film and with his brother) is, of course, perfect for him."
"They were always really fun people who did a lot of crazy fun things," Robert Castaneda says. "When we found out that they did things like work on 'Transformers' and did all those crazy graphics, it's like they were still playing, but, like, killing it. If anybody was going to be successful, it was the Sidwells, and we're just very happy for them.
"It's awesome that it's them, but it's not a surprise, because growing up with them, you knew they were going to do something big."
"Evertaster" was released in paperback on Amazon.com on June 14 and topped its Children's mystery sales list. It is is available as an e-book through Trident Media Group, whose client list includes Stephen Colbert, Louis Sachar, Mel Brooks and many others. For more on the book, including a promotional trailer (the Sidwells work in the movie industry, after all), visit www.evertaster.com.
WHY A BOOK?
With both Adam and Jarom Sidwell working in the movie industry, why didn't the idea for "Evertaster" end up being a screenplay?
Well, because Adam has been writing stories short stories, even novels alone and with friends and classmates since fourth grade. And making the transition from telling stories visually in movies to writing for the mind's eye wasn't a big deal.
"It seemed very natural because I got into the film business not necessarily to make movies but to tell stories and to do creative things," he says. "And when you have an urge to do creative things, it's not always defined by whether it's a film or a book, but to create something that you feel is yours and is a gift you can give other people and that other people will enjoy. ... I think that's probably the thing for Jarom, too."
"Exactly," Jarom adds. "I think we got a lot of it from Dad (Modesto attorney Steve Sidwell.) He told some pretty good tales when we were growing up. ... I've never actually gone to the effort of putting stuff down (in print), but I really enjoy the oral aspect of storytelling."
"He's very good at making things up on the fly," Adam throws in.
As for that screenplay? "It's a great story and we both believe in it," Jarom says. "Ideally, we'd love for it to be a best-seller and sold around the world, and we'd love it if people would almost demand that a movie be made of it."
THE CARD CONNECTION
Adam Sidwell has kept in touch with "Ender's Game" author Orson Scott Card since taking a writing class from him at Brigham Young University. Card had critiqued other of Adam's works, so when he learned Adam was working on "Evertaster," "he offered to give me critiques as I was working on it." One of Card's notes on the manuscript, "Wonderfully talented writing; funny," now appears on the paperback's back cover. When Adam asked if he could use the endorsement, his former teacher "said something really cool: 'Once written, the quote never expires.' "
The movie version of "Ender's Game" is scheduled to come out in November 2013. Its cast includes Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, Abigail Breslin, Hailee Steinfeld ("True Grit") and, as the young hero Ender, Asa Butterfield of "Hugo."Adam Sidwell says he did some early visual-effects work on the film, including creating the CG character of Ender.
KIDS EAT IT UP
You can't beat an endorsement like the one from Orson Scott Card, New York Times best-selling author of the Hugo and Nebula Awardwinning novel "Ender's Game": "Wonderfully talented writing; funny."But he's a grown-up. What does the target audience kids think of "Evertaster"? We asked a few of them who bought the book at the June 22 book signing at the Ice Cream Company to dive into the book and tell us what they think. Here's what youth of various ages said:
Brittany Seymour, 16, who'll be a junior at Enochs High School, is several chapters into the book. "I like it I think it's funny," she said. "I like the writing style, and I want to be a chef when I'm older, so it's kind of inspirational to me, the idea that that there's a taste out there that's above all others." While the book is aimed at a younger set, she doesn't think the writing is dumbed-down in any way and should be very enjoyable to people her age and older.
Brie Burnett, 13, who's going into eighth grade at Savage Middle School, devoured the 296-page "Evertaster" in two days. She called it a "really good book." "I like how it was really exciting and drew you in from very beginning and was hard to put down. ... There was always something happening. It was really adventurous. It's kind of a mystery, too. It reminds me of 'Fablehaven' because they're on this wild chase looking for all these clues." Brie said "Everlaster" was very satisfying on its own, but she'd love to read a sequel.
Kayla and Camylle Simpson have been reading the book with their dad, Corey, and were up to the fifth chapter as of Thursday. Nine-year-old Kayla, who will be in fourth grade at Freedom Elementary, said, "It's pretty exciting. ... It's a little kind of scary, but it's turning out to be a great book." She said it would "be cool" to see a movie version. Camylle, 5, who will start first grade at Freedom, has missed some of the book, apparently because Dad starts reading too late in the day. "It's mostly funny," she said, "and mostly I fell asleep."
Gannon Camp, 8, who will be in third grade at Hickman Charter School, is reading "Evertaster" with his family and was on Chapter 7 as of Thursday. He called the book "pretty good. It's a little creepy and stuff. ... It's kind of one of my favorite books."