Today I’m pleased to welcome a special post about Kat Hawthorne’s book The Boatman. Here she explains what it was like working with an illustrator when putting the story together.
The Weirdness of Working With an Illustrator
By: Kat Hawthorne
As you may or may not know, my book, The Boatman, was illustrated by the wonderful and talented artist, Dora Mitchell (www.doramitchell.com). This was a first for me, working with an illustrator, so today I’d like to explore how weird it was for me, the author, to see my characters come to life in a visual way.
I’m not sure if this is a well known fact, but I am also an editor. I went to school for copy, stylistic, and substantive editing, and then attained a specialization in editing books intended for young readers. Part of my education involved taking the text of picture books, breaking it down, and choosing the artists I felt would do the best job of helping the writers tell their stories. This was a lot of fun, but an utterly foreign concept to me. After all, I am a writer. I had never considered the power of a bunch of pictures.
After all, writers are solitary weirdos, eccentric to the extreme (or at least that’s what I was going for), and not dependent on anyone else to tell their tale, thank you very much. But when I was in school and I saw the way those picture books came to life once they were illustrated, the way they changed after the process (just take Jon Klassen’s This is Not My Hat, for example, in which the text tells us one thing, but the images tell us something else), I understood how wrong I’d been.
I knew right then that I needed my next book to be illustrated.
It has been brought to my attention (*cough* on more than one occasion *cough*) that I am a little bit tricky to work with. Being an editor means that I am also something of a perfectionist, and yes, I challenge many things. Originally, I thought I’d do the illustrations myself, and actually did come up with a few images that might work. But…they weren’t enough. I needed a professional.
This was a big deal for me and a very weird bit of letting-go-of-the-reins. For the first time ever, I found myself counting on someone else to interpret my words—to change my book, to help me tell the story. I was excited, but also rather freaked. Regardless, after she (foolishly) agreed to work with me, I gave Dora the manuscript, and then didn’t hear from her for a few months.
And then I received the image of Aunt Slaughter.
Not only did Dora manage to capture the character’s features in the way I imagined them, but she got something else, too. Aunt Slaughter’s posture, the furniture upon which she sat, the sidelong glance she is giving the viewer. This image told as much about Aunt Slaughter’s character as I had in the text. I. Was. Blown. Over.
I hope, when you read my book (you ARE going to read it, right?) when you see each of the characters’ images, you learn something new about them. Why do they dress in the way they do? Why do they hold themselves as they do? What circumstances led them to those physical traits that can only be learned through their pictures?
Though it was utterly weird for me to have allowed it, I know that Dora’s work made my book even more wonderful than it was without her. It was weird to trust someone else with my vision, but I am endlessly glad that I did.
Kat Hawthorne tends to lurk (somewhat menacingly) in the darker corners of the literary world. In addition to a smattering of published poetry, Kat’s short fiction has appeared in such literary magazines as Underneath the Juniper Tree, Thrills Kills and Chaos, Infernal Ink, Dark Edifice, Shadows Express, Fiction and Verse, and The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society. Her literary novelette, The Oddity, was published by MuseIt Up Publishing on July 11th, 2014. In partnership with Enter Skies Entertainment, Kat wrote the narrative portion of Fearless Fantasy, an online role-playing game published by tinyBuild Games and hosted by Steam. As well as being a nerd of the highest order, under her “day name” Kat is a graduate of Ryerson University’s copy, substantive, and stylistic editing programs, and has since earned a specialization in editing books intended for young readers. She is an acquisitions, stylistic and copy editor at BookFish Books LLC and runs her own business where she offers her editing services on a freelance basis.
Please visit www.katmhawthorne.com for more information about Kat’s writing, or www.movetothewrite.com to learn about her editing work.
Find her online:
About The Book:
Isabel Wixon is weird. Not only does she see dead things, but her only friends consist of a talkative ventriloquist’s dummy and the gentlemanly spider that lives in her hair. Real friends? Too hard. Inventing friends is much easier.
Inventing the Boatman—a terrible monster that lures kids into a strange sleeping sickness and never lets them go—probably wasn’t one of her better ideas though.