| Brittney Ryan: Holly's tale
Los Angeles, Dec. 16 (Reuters): It is not quite Santa's workshop ' just his daughter's and she has a Beverly Hills address.
With the help of Mary Poppins star Julie Andrews, an ambitious author/composer has launched a plan to turn her new novel for children about Santa's daughter into a bestseller, a household name and an international brand.
In a brightly lit suite of offices at the back of a Beverly Hills mansion, writer Brittney Ryan, 34, is fashioning with a group of investors what she hopes will become an entertainment empire that will inspire young girls everywhere.
Her hopes start with the first of a series of books she is writing for Julie Andrews' children's book imprint, recounting the adventures of Holly Claus, a character Ryan has spent more than 15 years developing, borrowing inspiration from many sources including The Wizard of Oz, the Bible, Harry Potter and mythologist Joseph Campbell.
Once the books are established, she plans to market Holly Claus products that turn Santa's daughter into an international brand and as traditional a symbol of Christmas as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and, of course, old St. Nicholas himself.
Like Santa, Ryan has helpers: a marketing team, a major publishing house, John Hertz, a prominent Beverly Hills chiropractor who is her business partner, and Andrews, who is involved with the books but not the marketing project.
Robert Hollander, president of Brandsense Marketing, whose clients have included the Atlanta Olympics and who is representing the merchandising of Holly Claus, sees a franchise 'that will throw off hundreds of millions of dollars annually. That equates to perennial income-producers like Winnie The Pooh, Spider Man, Star Wars, Barbie or that greatest of all uncornered markets, Santa.'
Phase one of the plan has been accomplished. Ryan just published the 552-page-long first book The Legend of Holly Claus at HarperCollins.
Aimed at children aged between nine and 12, the plot of the first book is intricate. Santa Claus is not just the jolly round-bellied old fellow who brings toys at Christmas but also the king of Forever, the Land of the Immortals, a place where the souls of all the great geniuses reside, from Bach to Giuseppe Verdi.
He and his wife have a child, but Holly Claus' birth brings a curse from an evil wizard who orders the gates of the Land of Forever locked and casts a spell that freezes Holly's heart. To break the spell, Holly, when she reaches adulthood, secretly escapes to the New York of 1896 to enlist the aid of the one person who can help.
Ryan says she has studied the literature on how brands are built. 'You know that Santa Claus in a red and white suit was not established until a Coca-Cola ad in 1931 and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer came out of a Montgomery Ward ad in the 1930s,' she said, adding her strategic business plan is right on target.
But she says she also has broader, more noble intentions than a successful business: 'I want to encourage children on the possibilities of what they can be.'