Archive for October, 2011

The pictures in my head vs the pictures on the page

I’ve seen covers or illustrations for three of next year’s books in the last week or two, and it’s always scary.

When I get emails from editors with attachments lurking at the top, I always pause and take a deep breath before opening them.  I am excited, but also a bit nervous.

I see stories in my head when I’m writing them.  I see the tortoise crossing the savannah with determination on his face.  I see the surprise on a teenager’s face when her best friend turns up in a severe headscarf.  I see the confusion on a toddler’s face when she’s given a bowl of icecream topped with… well, I’ll not give that away.

I see their faces, I hear their voices, and I know their thoughts.  So it’s really strange to see someone else’s pictures of them. Because the characters are never exactly the way I imagined them. The pictures are usually fabulous, and bring the story to life, and that’s wonderful.  But how could they possibly be exactly how I imagine them?

So when I get these pictures and the editor asks for my comments I have to try very hard not to go: ‘AAAARGH but that’s not right because Ellie has freckles and her teeth are slightly squint and she wears hoop earrings and…’ Because none of that is important in the story.  It’s just how I saw her when I met her in my head.

I have to try look at the pictures not as the unique illustration of the perfect story that I saw in my head, but as one of many possible illustrations of the actual story that I managed to put on the page.  I need to check whether the pictures help tell the story, and not expect them to be a telepathic rendering of my own thoughts.

But I’ve noticed something strange about the books that have already been published.  Even though the characters on the page aren’t the characters I saw when I wrote the book, after a while, the characters in my head slide away, and are replaced by the ones that the artist has imagined and drawn.  Which is a little odd, and slightly sad, now I think about it.

Maybe that’s one reason I love the silhouette covers of my Floris novels.  They don’t give away too much.  There is plenty of space there for my idea of the character, the artist’s idea of the character and the reader’s idea of the character, all in the nice dark space inside the outline.

I should stress that all the artwork I’ve seen the last couple of weeks has been splendid, a great help in telling the stories.  Never exactly what I imagined, but if I wanted to put the pictures I imagined on the page, then I should have gone to art college.

And in the meantime, here is the actual real cover for my next book, Drawing a Veil.  The cover I saw a couple of weeks ago should apparently not have been online. I like this better anyway.  What do you think?  I think the cover girl looks like she’d make a great best friend!

(And if you want to see the excellent line drawings telling the story inside Drawing a Veil, then you’ll have to wait til next Feb!)

Drawing a Veil

Archive for October, 2011

The wolf in the corner (or, characters who won’t do what they are told)

This wolf has just turned up.  She’s not meant to be in the fourth First Aid novel, but she’s just sitting there.  Looking at me.  She won’t even turn into human form so I can argue with her.  AAAARGH.  I don’t have a quest for her.  She doesn’t have a role in this book.  But she’s here.  And I can tell she’s not going to go away.

She was exactly like this in the last book she was in.  Sylvie was meant to be fluffy and sweet and prove how wrong it was to assume all wolves are sleekit, sneaky, untrustworthy and dangerous.  Aye right.  If you read Wolf Notes, you can see how she turned out.

Now she’s here again. And I didn’t invite her.  And she’s LOOKING AT ME…

I thought it was going to be the centaur I had trouble with this time.

Archive for October, 2011

Music to push the plot forward

I put together playlists for each novel I write, not for listening to when I’m sitting and writing (I need a bit of peace and quiet then, or at least noise I can tune out) but for listening to when I’m running and thinking.  It’s usually fun finding the right songs, songs which mean the right things to me and push me in the right direction for the story.

Storm Singing’s playlist included Hurricane Drunk by Florence and the Machine, Take Me to the River by Talking Heads, This is the Sea by the Waterboys, and Closer by the Kings of Leon.  Lots of water and weather, but lots of other stuff too.

I have to like the songs on the playlist, but that’s not the most important thing – the lyrics, the words of the song, have to connect to the plot or the characters or how I feel about the book as I’m researching and writing it.

Right now I’m struggling with a playlist for First Aid Four though – mainly because it would contain almost every song on the Foo Fighters’ Wasted Light (the lyrics of a couple of songs sound exactly like Yann giving me a hard time), and almost no other songs.  So at the moment I’m just listening to the album…

But there must be appropriate songs out there – about monsters and baddies and taking over the world, injuries and healing, cliffs and waterfalls, traps and sacrifices, rescues and riddles… I’d better not say any more or I’ll give away the plot!

Any ideas, let me know.  And when I’ve written the book, I’ll let you know what songs I actually listened to and you can see if you can find any echoes of them in the book!

Archive for October, 2011

The weirdest way to see the cover of your new book for the first time

I was in Castlebrae High School library this afternoon, chatting to S3s for the Craigmillar Book Festival, and I mentioned that I had a new book for teenagers coming out in February. So the lovely librarian, proving that librarians are a whizz at technology, went to her computer, googled it, and said, “Look, here it is.” She’d found the cover image, on Amazon. A cover that I had not seen, at all. I didn’t even know the publisher had designed it yet.

So in full view of a room full of teenagers, I walked over to have a look. Risky thing to do. Some of my book covers have made me cry, or at least use a few rude words.

But I quite like this one. She doesn’t look like the heroine did in my head, but neither does she look so unlike her that I don’t recognise her.

So I was able to keep chatting to the pupils, while keeping glancing over at the cover, and smiling a little. It was a weird way to meet a new book, but I’m happy.

So – cover of next book. What do you think?

(I’m not as much of an IT whizz as the librarian, so if I haven’t managed to put the picture up, here’s a link to the page!)

Postscript (2 weeks later) It turns out the cover above is NOT the real cover.  I think it was created for a catalogue, and it shouldn’t really be up on Amazon.  So I wonder how it will change for publication…

Archive for October, 2011

I love Fife!

Fife has grown on me. For years, Fife has been where trains from Inverness go really slowly and stop in lots of places when I just want to get home to Edinburgh. But today I got off at a station in Fife and visited a local school (they invited me, I didn’t just turn up!) and I had a wonderful time!
I met 50 pupils at Parkhill Primary, in Leven, who had all read First Aid for Fairies. They had put dragon masks up on the wall, and written news stories about fabled beasts (the centaur giving a builder a fright in a distillery caught my eye) and they had lots and lots of fabulous questions about the book.
I do enjoy answering the “what’s your favourite book?” and “why did you become an author?” questions that I get from kids who are getting a chance to meet an author, any author, but I really love the specific questions I get from kids who know my books well.
Today, we discussed whether Yann was right to use dark magic on a weasel (I thought he was right, 50 P4/5/6s disagreed with me. Fair enough) and who were our favourite characters in First Aid. Yann and Catesby came out top, with Rona and Sapphire close behind. Sadly NO-ONE voted for Helen. It’s just not cool being human…
The best fun we had was making up a story, all of us at the same time, just chucking ideas in the air. We ended up with a brilliant story about a robber trying to steal the manuscript of the fourth First Aid (which I’d taken to show them) and all the kind people of Fife helping to rescue it.
The biggest surprise of the day was finding out the Gaelic for peat-cutting tool from their teacher. (It’s tairsgeir, which happens to be essential for something else I’m writing…) So thanks Mr Morrison. Teachers do know everything.
And I ate a macaroni pie on the way home.
So, lots of reasons to love Fife.

Archive for October, 2011

You and whose army?

I’ve been worrying about minions recently. I know the baddy for the next book, I’ve been working out his evil plan for a while, but I’ve been struggling with his minions. He’s a loner, you see, the only one of his kind, so he doesn’t have a ready-made band of followers or family like the Faery Queen had her footsoldiers in Wolf Notes or the Sea-through had his bloom of jellyfish in Storm Singing.

I kept thinking that I was getting stuck at an early piece of action in First Aid Four because I couldn’t see the next location (one of the dangers of a location competition – you have to wait until you’ve got the winner to write the next bit.) Now I’ve realised the problem was that I couldn’t see who or what was with the baddie, I couldn’t see who was attacking Helen and Yann. So all I have to do is find out who his army are, then the action can rattle on again.

I need some minions.

I asked the kids I met at the Wigtown Book Festival today if they could suggest any good minions, and got some truly splendid answers including fireproof snails, secret agent rabbits and haggises with fangs, which may not be perfect for a Fabled Beast adventure, but certainly got me thinking.

Mostly thinking about what makes a good minion. Sneaky? Smaller than the boss? Violent but not deadly? Daft? (Or cleverer than the boss? I think either works…) Lots of them, so you can lose a few?

And specifically, what do I want for this book? Probably creatures from Scottish myth and folklore, and preferably ones who haven’t had starring roles in too many other books.

So, if you have a perfect minion’s job description, or if you have any excellent minions you could suggest to carry out my evil plan, do let me know. Otherwise, I’ll just ask a few more kids, or else get in about my collection of Scottish folklore as soon as I get home …