Mike Demers' first children's book debuts today, April Fools' Day, and that's no joke.
"Fooling Ewe" features a playful sheep named Ewe. And having her deb-ewe today "just seemed like what would Ewe do," says Demers says. Service Bar Books is the publisher.
"Of course Ewe would come out on Fools' Day," Demers says.
Writer Demers of Westborough suggests he and illustrator Todd Finklestone of Framingham are creating a Ewe-nique "brand" -- books, TV, "we've got a musician writing a jingle for it" -- around Ewe, whom Demers describes as a ewe "bored grazing all alone."
"She wants to play, and play tricks on all the other characters on the farm," says Demers, a 1987 graduate of Westborough High School.
"She's playful. She's independent. She's different. And she's okay with that. And that's a big message that we're trying to get across here: be different, be you.
"You look around the world, and kinds of bad things are happening, I think that's a good thing for people to learn: have fun. If you're enjoying the day and enjoying the moment, that rolls into the next moment. All goes well and it makes you feel better about the day."
"She does learn a lesson about friendship in the end, and she learns it by being herself."
Ewe wouldn't believe the size of her fan club.
The book's Facebook page "just crossed 3,000 fans from 49 countries around the world," Demers says.
"We've got fans around the world, and there's not a book yet. That's bizarre," he says.
The Facebook page includes some images from the book, and others that integrate "Ewe with pop culture images," Demers says.
"You'll see Ewe with Elvis Presley," he says.
Demers says "playfulness" inspired him to create Ewe.
He had attended Emerson College for writing, and then did film production in New York.
"I came back because my original plan was to go there and write, and my full-time job was 18, 19 hours a day working on movie sets. Not only did I not write, but I didn't eat dinner. It was a slice of pizza as I drove to set. So, I came back to Emerson to pursue the writing," Demers says.
"I went there thinking I was the next John Steinbeck, and Steinbeck wasn't coming out. And Shel Silverstein kept rolling out. And when I came to terms with that's pretty darn cool too. Everything kind of fell into place, and I realized, 'It's children's books.'"
Demers took a writing break for five years after his daughter, now 8, was born. He started up again -- once writing five books over a month -- around her fifth birthday.
"I had a lot of fun, because the appeal was the ewe-you homophone," Demers said.
"To me, I looked at it and I said, 'If you read it and you see ewe, you see it's a character. You see it's a sheep. But if you hear it, if your mother or father reads it to you, you hear 'you.' You envision yourself in the book. So, I tried to write it on two different levels such that it reads and hears differently."
Ewe's look developed in a bar (or, is that "baa"?): Post 390 in Boston's Back Bay, where Demers is a bartender and Finklestone is a server.
"I didn't know as I'm making the drinks that he takes to his table that there's an artist in front of me that's going to give her a face. And once she had a face, she was born," Demers says.
"The book was born 30 seconds at a time while I made the drinks and he took to his table," Demers says.
The second book is about 18 months away, he says.
"The writing is half done in my head, and we know what it's going to be," Demers says.