Wednesday, 25 September 2013

NEW (illustrations) .FOR OLD (book) - by Susan Price

     My book, The Wolf's Footprint, has had quite a history.
The Wolf's Footprint, original cover: Parkin

It was first written, long ago, as a 300 word picture book text, for a conventional publisher. To be honest, I forget which one, I've worked with so many.
     The editor who asked for it was enthusiastic - but picture books are always a hard sell. They're expensive to produce as paper books, and have to be pre-sold to a large market to make them viable. This means producing a book where both story and illustrations appeal to either Europe or the US as well as the UK. In the end, The Wolf's Footprint didn't make it as a picture-book.
     Some time later, Hodder asked for a short story that would appeal to young children. So I expanded The Wolf's Footprint, and turned it into a longer story for rather older children. Hodder accepted it, found an artist, and produced a rather attractive book, (see above) with excellent illustrations by David Parkins.
      I frequently go into schools, and I regard a few of my books as stand-bys, because I know they will go down very well when read to a class. Odin's Monster is one. The Wolf's Footprint is another.
     It begins rather like Hansel and Gretel, with a child overhearing her parents planning to abandon her and her brother - and quickly moves on to the children alone in a darkening forest. This is a primal fear for children, and it's always a pleasure to feel the silence grow as I read, and watch the eyes widen. The stories that engage us most are often those that go straight to the heart of what we most fear. Why else do so many women write so well about serial killers?
     Once the children are alone and lost in the dark, the story moves away from Hansel and Gretel. Instead, that's when the wolves come...
     (On one lovely occasion I remember watching a little girl at the back of the class acting out the movements of the wolves. I don't think she knew she was doing it. Her eyes were wide, seeing the story behind them rather than anything in front of them. I struggled not to laugh and to keep my voice steady as I read on. Quite apart from ruining the reading, I wouldn't have willingly laughed at her for a chest of treasure.)
     Early this year, the very few copies of The Wolf's Footprint I had for sale on my website shop suddenly sold out over a few days.
     After that, the emails started to arrive. They were all from teachers, and they asked: Did I have any more copies of The Wolf's Footprint to sell? Did I know where they could find any more copies? One asked, did I have 16 copies? - I wish!
     I contacted my agent, and found that The Wolf's Footprint had gone out of print. Nobody had bothered to tell me, of course. I'm only the author. Furthermore, the rights had reverted to me.
     So I contacted some of the teachers who'd asked me for copies. Would they be interested in an ebook edition of Footprint? - They would. A single ebook copy could be put up on the whiteboard for the whole class to see. If it had 'big colourful pictures', all the better. A paper edition might also sell.
     The Wolf's Footprint is a short book, so formatting it was little problem. And the illustrations? I handed my last copy of the book to my brother, Andrew, and asked, 'Fancy doing some new illustrations for that?' He agreed, so long as he wasn't expected to copy the published illustrations, and had a free hand to do his own.

    Being able to work closely with the illustrator is a great pleasure. Andrew works on a Bamboo tablet connected to his laptop. Before he got this bit of kit, he used to scan drawings into his computer and use the sketch as the bottom layer of his art-work. But now he finds it quicker to draw directly into the computer.
     There are several graphics programmes, and they all work in a similar way, by layering different components of the art-work on top of each other. The layers can be given differing levels of opacity or transparency, depending on the effect wanted. The background will be on one layer, the figures on another. Colour might be added on another layer. Elements can be tried out on a separate layer - and if they don't work, can be removed without altering the work already done.
     Text, whether speech-bubbles, captions or titles, is added on another layer, on a 'word-processor layer' which enables the size, font and colour to be experimented with. However, once the art-work is 'rasterized' (a word I never came across before), it can no longer be altered. \But, Andrew says, he always keeps his work stored in the graphics programme, so if I decide I want the lettering altered, he can go back to the original and change it.
      
Artwork, copyright Andrew Price 2013


     Above is the cover as I first saw it. Then Andrew said, "Or you can have it like this - "  He clicked a few keys, and this appeared.

Artwork, copyright Andrew Price 2013

      I decided I liked the second one better, so this is going to be the cover of the ebook - and the paper book, if I can ever master CreateSpace.
     Andrew has said that I can blog one of his unfinished sketches, so you can see part of the process - 

     This is going to be the King's hunting lodge. You can see the basic sketch. The colour has been added on another 'layer.'
      Below is a more finished version.



     And, finally, here's an unfinished sketch for 'The Hunt.'


Artwork, copyright Andrew Price 2013

      I love the movement.
     When The Wolf's Footprint is up on kindle, I shall contact the teachers who were interested in it again, and tweet about it - and I think I'm looking forward to seeing it up and on sale even more than with my other books!


Susan Price is the Carnegie Medal winning writer of 'The Ghost
Drum.'


Her 'Sterkarm Handshake' won the Guardian prize.



Artwork, copyright Andrew Price 2013

6 comments:

Nick Green said...

My eldest son recently asked for a Kindle, and now I know what the first book on it can be. Thanks.

(And I well understand that urge to laugh on seeing the little girl acting out the story. It's not a laugh of amusement. It's a laugh of recognition.)

Jenny Alexander said...

It's inspiring seeing what you and your brother have achieved, Sue - how lovely to be able to make a loved book available for readers again. I hope to do the same with one of my first books, with updated text and illustrations, and it feels exciting to be revisiting that particular story

Bill Kirton said...

Great story, Susan. I hope you're going to do a 'How-To' piece on formatting text + illustrations for Kindle in a way that solves what seems like a page-break issue. I've seen illustrations working well on Kindle Fire but on the bog standard version some were disastrous.

Lydia Bennet said...

ah yes I think Bill's point about formatting pics could be putting a lot of people off publishing their children's books or 'how to' books. Lovely illustrations Susan, nice to keep it in the family, and intriguing to learn about layered digital illustration. You are right about the fear, and how children respond, this relaunch will be a huge success I'm sure!

Susan Price said...

We've yet to tackle the format & illustrations problem, Bill - we will be taking notes!
And Jenny - get back in touch when your book's ready!

madwippitt said...

Yeah, ditto about your bruv's pics - and if he ever gets fed up being your brother I'll be happy to adopt him as mine ... LOL
Hope no harm comes to the wolf ... have just finished reading Head & Tails and I'm not sure if I can forgive you for the fox ...