Have you ever written a story that you just couldn't seem to sell to anyone but loved anyway? I can't even tell you how many years ago I started work on a story about a boy named Abelard, his Gran-Daddy Gill, and a cake that tasted like summer. At one point, Knopf had the manuscript for six months and seemed very interested; the art directors, my editor told me, were "salivating over it." Very exciting--but in the end, Knopf said "no." Then Random House (London) had it for months on end and even commissioned several artists to do sample illustrations. But again, in the end, RHUK said "no" as well. By that time, so much time had passed, and the picture book market seemed in such disarray, that I stopped shopping it.
Then I learned how to publish my out-of-print romance novels as ebooks and started to think, "Why not Abelard?"
I've been a member of various writers' and illustrators' critique groups for years, and in this way I've met many wonderfully talented artists. (A great reason for joining a critique group, by the way!) One of those artists sprang immediately to mind--my good friend Siri Weber Feeney. I'd shared many iterations of Abelard over a number of years in a couple of different groups, and Siri had always been enthusiastic about the project. And not only is she a gifted illustrator, she has a strong background in graphic design, and I trust her book design instincts. Moreover, she's conversant with design software. I was thrilled when she agreed to take on Abelard in her spare time.
I've been fascinated watching her process over the last year or so. Early on, she made tiny little clay macquettes of all the characters so she could use them as references for her illustrations. Then she played around with a number of different artistic styles to find one she felt was right for the story. She also played around with fonts, page turns and page design, including word and image placement.
I was so excited to receive this first completed illustration--perhaps the cover, maybe the title page--for Abelard and the Bad-Weather, Why-Bother Blues. I've also seen other completed sketches and a dummy of the entire book, and I couldn't be more pleased! Abelard may have been abandoned by a couple of suitors early on, but I'm glad I've not abandoned him. Thanks to Siri, he's just too darned cute to turn away!