|'A Very Top Secret Mission'|
If creatives charged for the long hours of research and development that goes on behind the scenes we would be unaffordable! I have written a few words describing just one of my many experiences of R & D (Research and Development).
Idea number 1.I work as a full-time freelance illustrator and hadn't really considered writing a picture book until a book publisher's art editor saw one of my character sketches and said chirpily "That would make a good story!"
|Cat Burglar first sketch|
So I took myself back to my studio. I looked at the sketch, I thought to myself: Okay, he's a cat burglar. What's he going to steal?
It was quite a dull grey, rainy day and my pet cat was sitting looking out of the window, very very bored. I wondered, what was he thinking? Start thinking like a cat, I told myself. How would a cat think in simple terms? Well, he wants to go outside. He wants it to stop raining. Then the idea came to me, what if the cat burglar was like my cat? Bored, wanting the weather to change. He might think that if he stole coloured objects to make a rainbow the sun would come out.
So over the next few weeks I put together a few illustrations showing all the various items the cat burglar would steal in order of the colours of a rainbow.
|Cat Burglar development illustrations|
Then ...guess what? I didn't like this idea! (this happens quite a lot in the creative process).
Idea number 2.Still thinking like a cat I asked myself what cats do not like? The answer, dogs! That's it, let's develop an idea along the lines of a cat burglar stealing from some dogs
|Four dog characters|
The last dog's owner is a policeman. And the twist in the tail, a party has been laid on for the policeman's dog and in fact, the cat burglar has been employed by the policeman to lure the dogs to a surprise birthday party. Last illustration: a wild party celebration... both in the book and in reality as I think I've got it this time! I send it to the publisher, the front cover, a couple of spreads, and a synopsis.
|Initial front cover design|
"Come to a meeting!" cried, the publisher." Okay!" I responded joyously thinking I've cracked it.
Meeting, London, 10:30 AM, March 2014.
Art director "We love the idea, we love the cat, BUT we want to do a book that involves the reader."
"Ye..es, what do you mean?" I asked cautiously.
Art director: "We want the cat burglar to be a detective and investigate the case of the mysterious stolen cat food and the book to be interactive in some way!"
So my fabulous cat burglar had crossed over from the dark side, seen the error of his ways and become a detective. How did that happen?
At that moment, I could have quite easily had an artistic hissy fit and stormed out. However, I pulled together some shreds of professional integrity and agreed to develop a new character and a new story.
Back to the drawing board.
|Detective Inspector Clawso - sketch|
Idea number 3.It was a few weeks later, after much thought, scribbling, and mountains of crumpled wastepaper, just when I was eating my lunch, a fish finger sandwich, that a brilliant idea came to me. I could create a series of clues that the cat detective could find. A clue trail to solve the case of the stolen cat food. It would start with two clues, two scraps of card cut from a packet of fish fingers!
Once I had this idea the rest of the story seemed to flow naturally. I suggested to the publisher: "Let's include some puzzles that the child reader can solve along the way for the interactive elements." They agreed enthusiastically.
"Great," I said, "I'll get on with it."
Then the real work began!
|Detective Inspector Clawso- Finished image|
Sue Eastland's debut picture book A Very Top Secret Mission was released on 1st September 2015 by Templar Publishing.
Sue can be contacted here.