Okay, so Teresa Flavin author of 'The Blackhope Enigma' and 'The Crimson Shard' is here to share a guest post on 'Morphing from an Illustrator into an Author-Illustrator.'
'On Morphing from an Illustrator into an Author-Illustrator'
A few years ago, writing novels was the last thing I ever expected to do. I had nailed my colours to the mast: I am an Illustrator. But when several editors and art directors looked at my portfolio and asked whether I had ever thought about writing my own stories for picture books, I began to think it was worth trying. After all, it would be great to create the stories and illustrate them too.
So I wrote stories about mermaids, a horse and a few other subjects, but never sent them to any publishers. Years went by and I did nothing further until I was offered the chance to be mentored by my literary agent, who specialises in children’s books. She advised me on my new picture book manuscript and I produced colour illustration samples and a dummy book for it, which she duly sent out to London publishers.
I recently looked back at a journal I was keeping about this process and noticed a couple of entries where I wondered what it would be like to write a longer story. I wasn’t sure a picture book could contain all the ideas I had.
Then an odd thing happened. I was languishing at home with a cold when a story grabbed me by the throat and said, Write me down. So I did. A few days later I had 12,000 words and I knew this wasn’t going to be a picture book. There were many bumps in the road and quite a few detours before I finally finished writing The Blackhope Enigma. It wasn’t quite as I’d envisioned it at first; I had thought it might have more pictures but I kept it to just a few pen and ink illustrations, including some must-have maps. The words just took over and I went with the flow. I rewrote the manuscript several times and added in new twists to the plot, which came along as I did more research on the magical roots of the story.
Some folks say there are two kinds of writers: architects and gardeners. Architects build on an organised structure for their stories and gardeners nurture seeds that grow organically. I was a bumbling gardener when I wrote The Blackhope Enigma, and a slightly superstitious one at that. I had to write at home in my easy chair, with certain CDs playing in the background. I wrote longhand at first and transcribed everything on to a computer.
Then Templar Publishing bought the manuscript and I had my first writing deadline. I had to rewrite a section while I was on an airplane to the USA. No easy chair, no CDs. Just a plastic tray table, a pencil and a notebook. That was the busiest, least boring trip across the Atlantic I’ve ever had and it got me out of thinking I could only write in my comfort zone.
With The Crimson Shard, I seemed to turn into a writing architect almost overnight. I made a detailed synopsis and a chapter-by-chapter breakdown. I drew complicated mind maps and flow charts in different colours. I wrote at home, in my studio and on trains. The only constant was having low volume classical music on in the background, if possible.
At times, the gardener side of me emerged and confounded the architect side. I would learn something fascinating about the period in which The Crimson Shard is set and a new branch of the story would grow. I am grateful for those serendipitous moments where particularly satisfying plot twists entered the frame.
You might well ask whatever happened to the picture book manuscript and dummies that went out to London publishers. The answer is: nothing. That project was not destined to go further. I was a bit disappointed, but not too much, because by then the flow was going with The Blackhope Enigma and, subsequently, The Crimson Shard.
As I work on my next writing project, I can say I am definitely an architect with a hammer in one hand and a watering can in the other. And stuck behind one ear is my drawing pen because I hope never to stray too far from my artistic roots.
I really enjoyed this! Thanks for sharing it with us Teresa! :)
My review of 'The Crimson Shard' will be coming along shortly.