The writing process I have grown accustomed to entails many levels of involvement. As other new authors soon discover, writing the book is just step one. As soon as you are done with the story and have typed “The End” it is a great irony to find you are actually at the beginning. The steps following your book creation involve an array of publication and promotional avenues I barely grasp myself.
Don’t believe me? Well, have you seen me in the bestseller lists out there? No? Well, there you go.
Regardless, one of the things I enjoy about my process is the chapter illustrations. When I am writing a book for the first time and the story forms within my mind, I stop to think about what stands out in each chapter. What images do I see lingering in my mind’s eye after each scene? Which ones do I see clearly? Like a movie playing in my head, I rewind, fast-forward and pause the story as I examine each jewel. Once I have a number of selections to choose from for each chapter, I ask myself the most important question:
Which ones can I actually create?
Just like Blogging or Vlogging, illustrating is not something I am well versed in. I have always had an artistic side to me, but until recently have never attempted to put my skills to the test. Will I make a name for myself as the next Michelangelo? Unlikely. However, I am working on my craft every day. Just like writing, the skills of an artist take time and patience. I’ve got plenty of patience, despite the lack of time. So every chance I have to do something for my writing, I take.
I’ll describe a bit of the first and last image I tackled while working on the second edition of Linked. Recently, I went back to illustrate Linked. It is the first book of The Cat Rule Chronicles. As such, I was still becoming comfortable with writing books so I didn’t feel confident enough to attempt adding images to each chapter. There were images galore going through my mind after completing the fourth book in the series, so returning to book one was an amazing experience.
The first image I tackled was the cover. It needed something to differentiate itself from the first edition so I altered it, enhanced it, and made the eyes far more unique. It took me longer than most other images because I needed to keep the cover as close to the first one as possible while making sure it could never be confused with that of the first edition. I made it darker, added colors and thanks to the many tools in Photoshop, didn’t struggle with the fine details or changes as I would have in the past.
The final image I put together was a cliff. I went online and saw many mountainsides and many cliffs until I found one that came close. It didn’t have the curve I needed, but that wasn’t an issue. I used photoshop to crop the edge and turn it from a photograph into a line drawing I could stretch and shape. From there, I treated it like a canvas. The tools in Photoshop are like having every artists tool at your disposal along with every photo-manipulative tool at the ready. I re-shaped the cliff, added grass, darkened the rock and enhanced all colors. Next, I pulled up an image of a truck. Namely, the end of one. It was not as old as I would have liked, but as an illustration it would do just fine. I positioned it outside of the frame and then dragged pebbles and particles behind it with the brush tool, making it look as if it had gone over the cliff. Once the color was adjusted, I took a look a the sky and decided it needed something other than dull blue. I finally settled on a cloud covered sky with the sun hidden behind, illuminating the clouds and the sky dramatically.
I took that particular picture several years ago and was amazed at how well it converted from a photograph into an image more resembling an illustrated sky. Did I mention I like taking pictures of the sky, sunsets and scenery? It’s another thing I enjoy.
By the end, the illustration was perfect. I added it beneath the chapter listing. In this case, the Epilogue, and adjusted the color so it was as unified as could be. Why didn’t I just keep the images looking like photographs? I suppose with great effort, I could have done that. The problem I see is that I don’t want to make it seem as if my stories are too real. Depicting a kitten jumping out of a tree (Chapter 6) or a gun pointed at a boy (Chapter 14) would prove far more disturbing than entertaining if I chose to make them photo-realistic. Besides, not all images turn out as good as I’d like. Some are difficult despite their simplicity and others are just too busy to look good as simple illustrations. The final image of the truck over the cliff was a success which, despite the imagery, made for a good ending to book one of the series.
I enjoy the writing process and all it entails. Entering the world of storytelling has been one of hard lessons and difficulties. I am now writing, illustrating and editing my works where other writers might have multiple people handling every aspect separately. I am also vlogging, tweeting, Instagraming and, yes, blogging. I hope everyone who finds my works can enjoy something of my creations. Such passions are worth sharing.