The Royal Family has been making international headlines with the announcement of William & Kate's engagement and the release of Prince Charles' latest book, Harmony. I recently spoke with Lisa Sharkey, senior publishing executive at HarperCollins who acquired the book so I could learn more about how this project came into reality.
Arielle: How did the book project come about?
Lisa: Part of my job as the Director of Creative Development at HarperCollins is to acquire topical, high-profile books from well-known individuals. I represent all of the different imprints at the company both here in the U.S. and occasionally in the UK. I am always looking for potential authors who have something interesting and important to contribute; world leaders, famous musicians, actors, doctors, or bloggers with a great idea.
To that end, I have long been a fan of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and thought a book from him exploring his philosophy of the universe would be important, and groundbreaking. All of his insights seemed to be exactly where we are right now in terms of the development of our global consciousness. Prince Charles has been ahead of the curve on so many issues from saving the rainforests to complementary medicine, to organic farming and the preservation of traditional architecture.
With an idea that he might want to put all of these concepts together in one comprehensive book, I met with Robert Higdon, who is the head of The Prince of Wales Foundation in Washington, DC along with my DC-based colleague Diana Aldridge. At our lunch meeting, more than three years ago, I learned a documentary was already being produced with similar inspiration by Balcony Films and their award-winning team of Julie Bergman Sender and Stuart Sender. The enthusiasm for the project to encompass both books and film was instant.
We, at HarperCollins and HRH The Prince of Wales and his team at Clarence House decided to move forward with the books and we announced it to the media at the start of the London Book Fair in April 2009. Knowing how important the concept of Harmony would be to children, I wanted to make sure there was a book for younger people as well as adults. My thought was both generations could be inspired by these ideas simultaneously, and the children could even teach them to their parents.
HarperCollins Children's books was keen to spread the Prince's positive message to grade school children, who if we all work together to save our planet, will be tasked with paying the message forward to their children. I am grateful to work for a particularly green company, as HarperCollins is part of NewsCorporation which has made a very public commitment to the environment, carbon neutrality and energy efficiency. Our green message very much dovetails with that of The Prince of Wales and Harmony.
Arielle: Tell us about your involvement in the creation of the books.
Lisa: Once we decided to move forward with the book project, I flew to London with the British Publisher of our Harper imprint, Jonathan Burnham and we met with Prince Charles at Clarence House to discuss the ideas for the book and the production schedule. His Royal Highness was as enthusiastic about this project then as he is today.
After our London meeting, Jonathan and I also visited Duchy Home Farm, the Prince's organic farm which was very helpful as we began to work on the book because Home Farm uses the natural processes that govern agriculture and all other life cycles described in Harmony. Myles Archibald, an associate publisher in the natural history area and a senior editor at HarperCollins in London (and an expert in editing environmental books), suggested we talk with one of his authors, Tony Juniper about helping His Royal Highness put the book together. Tony had been the head of Friends of the Earth, a large green organization and was a well-known environmentalist quite familiar with many of the concepts that Prince Charles had been considering for the book. Tony had also been working on The Prince of Wales' Rainforest Project which is a key campaign by Prince Charles to save our precious rainforests.
In addition, Ian Skelly was also brought onto the book project. Ian has been working with The Prince of Wales for many years to help articulate his vision and was also working on the Harmony film. Since they were closer to the ground, the UK team, led by Myles Archibald, helped develop the book and coordinated everything with all three authors who were heavily involved from start to finish. Back here in New York, Senior Editor Matt Harper worked alongside me and the team in London to make the vision for this book a reality. That also involved an environmentally friendly production process for the book which was printed in England.
Publisher Katherine Tegen, whose imprint at HarperCollins Children's Books published the picture book edition of Harmony, worked under a tight deadline to help translate the adult concepts into a 36-page picture book. Since both versions of the book are highly illustrated, you can imagine there was a lot of science library research to make sure that perfectly suited images accompanied the texts. Everything was approved by The Prince of Wales.
With art directors on both sides of the pond, the publishers worked on the covers, both front and back to create beautiful looking books which enhance the message of Harmony. In the UK, we have a different cover, than the one in the U.S. which features a photo of Prince Charles. The UK edition is a stunning black and white illustration by Andrew Davidson trimmed in gold portraying the countryside as well as urban environments. Both the publisher here in New York and the publisher of the Blue Door imprint in the UK, Patrick Janson-Smith, who had previously published Prince Charles' book A Vision of Britain: A Personal View of Architecture in 1989 were engaged in the process every step of the way. Additionally, publishers in Germany, France and Brazil decided to translate and publish Harmony. So the book is going to be available in four languages, with a good chance of even more countries climbing on board for this global message.
Arielle: As a "green living expert" what did you learn from Prince Charles about the environment that was new to you?
Lisa: There are so many things in this book that I learned that it would take more than a whole day to enumerate. The overarching themes that hit home for me are that we, as humans, are not the rulers of this planet. We are among the many inhabitants, and in order to change the way in which we interact with nature, we need to learn to co-exist as one part of the world, and not as the boss of the globe.
The other concept that I find fascinating is the concept of the grammar of Harmony, which explains in great detail the interconnectedness of the universe. You'll have to read the book to learn more about this stunning explanation of how the design of everything from a strand of DNA to the way in which the planet Venus orbits the sun, to the spirals in a daisy, all follow patterns that appear throughout the natural world. The simple beauty of these patterns, that were as apparent to ancient astronomers as they are to modern scientists have been found in every major civilization in the world.
The book urges a newfound respect for traditional methods of living, whether it is creating architecture and urban planning or farming by utilizing crop rotations to optimize the life in the soil and the plants as opposed to using pesticides. The book reveals that nature is not simply a collection of patterns but instead a spiritual and quantifiable relationship. As the prince says "To live in agreement with Nature is to live virtuously, and to live virtuously is to live happily"
Arielle: Wow. That definitely sounds like a fascinating read. I can't wait to dig in.
When we continue with Part 2 of this interview, Lisa will be sharing:
• How we can support Prince Charles'efforts
• The timing of the book release with Will and Kate's engagement announcement
• How to get free sample chapters of the book.
Lisa Sharkey is the Senior Vice President and Director of Creative Development for HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide. She joined the company in March 2007 after more than two decades in television. You can read her blogs here or visit her website,www.DreamingGreenBook.com
Arielle Ford has launched the careers of many NY Times bestselling authors including Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Neale Donald Walsch & Debbie Ford. She is a former book publicist, literary agent and the author of seven books. To learn how to get started writing a book please visit: www.HowToWriteMyBook.com