Jefferson Knapp and his animatronic snake in the Blackmore gym

Jefferson Knapp, author of children’s book series “The Kingdom at the End of the Driveway,” visited Blackmore students on Jan. 20. He visited Grandview students in December.

As they entered the gym, students were greeted by Farangis, an animatronic version of the 25-foot python which is one of the characters in Knapp’s first book The Brave Journey. Knapp spoke to students about growing up just south of El Dorado in the 1980s. He expressed his enthusiasm for cryptozoology and Greek mythology, sharing funny photos and quick stories about big foot, the Trojan Horse, and Medusa.  

“I think it’s so much fun to think we haven’t discovered everything that’s out there,” Knapp said.  

Using imagination was the key to not being bored in an era before technology existed or had the capabilities it does now. Knapp shared photos of the driveway at his parents’ house, the various pets he had over the years, and other points of inspiration for his writing.  

One of Knapp’s favorite pets was a Pug named Pugsly. He shared the real-life story of his four-legged best friend’s death, then shared the story his imagination conjured up that involved the family’s other Pug, Princess, and her murderous plot to become the family’s favorite pet.  

Knapp tried out around 50 jobs before he stumbled into the world of authoring children’s books. He told students about the day he became an author. It was when he was working as a groundskeeper, mowing a baseball diamond and daydreaming about Pugsly and his assassination. As he drove back and forth, he began dreaming up characters.  

King Pugsly was assassinated by a giant snake named Farangis. As he was wondering what else might happen, his eye was drawn toward a beetle. He imagined the beetle was scurrying to warn a everyone that the king had been assassinated and they were all in danger. Then, he ran the beetle over with his lawnmower.  

It was at that point, that Knapp stopped the mower, took out a notebook, and began jotting down all of the ideas that had been formulating in his mind. When he got home, he used a poster board to map out all of the main scenes he envisioned his characters participating in and the length of time the story would take place in. He shared a photo of his storyboard with students so they could see how he organized it.  

It took four months for the first draft to be completed. Knapp told students that he had to re-read the story 25 times before it was ready for publication. He equated the editing process to building a person’s body. The first draft is really just a skeleton. Each time you go through it and fix pieces, you add another layer until you have a fully fleshed-out body covered in clothes.  

He told students that all of his stories were a mix of imagination and real life and that there was no secret easy button to get what you want in life. It takes a lot of hard work and perseverance. He was told “no” 90 times before he was finally able to publish his first book.  

“If you believe in yourself, don’t let anyone stop you,” Knapp said. “Don’t ever give up on yourself.”

For Knapp, the writing journey began in 2008 with The Brave Journey. There are now five published books in The Kingdom at the End of the Driveway series with the sixth and final book scheduled to be released this summer. To find out what happened after King Pugsly’s assassination, visit the author’s website