Collaborating with Kirsty for the cover of The Flash Mob was a nerve-wracking experience. Would we like it? We absolutely LOVED it, but what if we hadn’t? I’ve known Kirsty for twenty-five years and it would have been heart-breaking to say, ‘sorry mate, hating your work’. Obviously, I needn’t have worried as Kirsty’s designed stuff for me before – most notably the Juneathon and Janathon banners and logos, so I knew we were in safe hands. It made me wonder about other authors collaborating with illustrators/designers though and so when Nik Perring said he was available for guest blogging, I thought, aha! I know what he can talk about. And so here he is, talking about collaborating with illustrators on his books.
Hello. My name is Nik Perring and I write books. On April 7th my latest, Beautiful Words, was released. Beautiful Words is my fourth book and what’s a little unusual is that it, and each one preceding it, is illustrated. Yep, every one of my books, one for children and three for adults, have been illustrated but all in very different styles. And it wasn’t simply the styles that differed, the way I worked with the illustrators differed too, and the lovely and talented Cathy (we’ve been in a book together) has asked me to talk a bit about them.
My first was a small children’s novel where Jack, a young boy, time travelled to different eras in history (coincidentally, to places that feature on the national curriculum for history) and those illustrations are pretty straight forward cartoons. Thinking back to 2006, when it was published, my publishers asked for a general idea of what I wanted, which I gave, and then largely left it to Derry, the illustrator. My publishers would email what he’d done and asked for my thoughts on it, which were, mostly: that’s great! I don’t think I spoke with Derry once during the whole process.
My next, Not So Perfect, was a collection of short stories for adults. And again I trusted my publishers with the illustrations and cover. I was encouraged to make suggestions but my publisher, the wonderful Roastbooks, pride themselves on making the books they publish as beautiful as objects as they are good to read. So again I trusted them to get it right, which they definitely did. I LOVE the illustrations in that book an awful lot. I seem to remember only asking for one, perhaps two, to be slightly altered out of the twenty-two.
The third was a completely different experience. I co-wrote the book, another collection of short stories dealing with people with strange super powers, with a fellow author and the illustrations were provided by the very talented comic book illustrator (and author) Darren Craske, only this time the illustrations were done before the book was submitted to The Friday Project/HarperCollins. So that meant that we had a lot more input and basically told Darren (sorry mate!) what we wanted. There was plenty of discussion and direction and a fair few times when we had to start from scratch. There’s even a strip in there that I wrote the script for – that’s how much direction poor old Darren got. But the results, I think, are brilliant.
And now, here I am, on book four – a picture book for adults about beautiful words and the story of Lucy, Alexander, and Lily. It’s another Roastbook so the experience was pretty similar to that of Not So Perfect in that, basically, I provided the words and trusted them to find the right illustrator for it. And in Miranda Sofroniou they found a gem. Seeing how she’d interpreted my words was a wonderful thing – the illustrations are stunning (in my very biased opinion) and I think they’re that good because I didn’t have any input, because I didn’t tell anyone what I wanted, and because Miranda was trusted to interpret them however she thought best. And I think that’s a really important point: illustrators are people too (something that I think can easily get forgotten), and as such they have their own minds and their own ways of seeing the world and I think it’s no bad thing, in the right circumstances, to trust them to do their job. It is what they do, after all. And putting together a book is a collaboration.
The most important thing is getting the finished product to be as good as it possibly could be and I think it doesn’t matter, too much, how we arrive at that. Trusting good people to do good work is definitely a very good start.
Nik Perring is a short story writer and author from the UK. His stories have been published in many fine places both in the UK and abroad, in print and online. They’ve been used on High School distance learning courses in the US, printed on fliers, and recorded for radio. Nik is the author of the children’s book, I Met a Roman Last Night, What Did You Do? (EPS, 2006); the short story collection, Not So Perfect (Roastbooks 2010); and he’s the co-author of Freaks! (The Friday Project/HarperCollins, 2012). His online home is www.nikperring.com and he’s on Twitter as @nikperring