I wrote Captain No Beard on a Sunday night. Monday my son took me shopping. Not for shoes or clothes, he took me shopping for an illustrator.
“Pick anyone,” I told him as I ran off to my next meeting. He shook his head, opening up the link to Createspace’s illustrators and said, “I’ll wait for you.” I stared at the vast assortment of talented artists with something akin to horror. “I can’t decide.” Each illustrator had five or more examples of what they could do. They were all beautiful and overwhelmed with a vast array of styles that suggested many things.
Some were clearly aimed at children, others were dark and disturbing. There were even recognizable cartoon characters familiar from ads in magazines! I looked at big bubbly heads with googly eyes or fantastic beasts that didn’t look like anything that could have come from my imagination. I grabbed my manuscript to my chest protectively and shook my head. Mine! I panicked. My characters are from my psyche, lovingly developed, carefully nurtured. Tears filled my eyes. They are my BABIES! I wrote a book and made everyone proud. My lifelong dream had come true. Now, not only did I have to let someone help shape my characters, I’d have to let them claim it as their own as well. Would I have to let them put their own stamp on it as well? Who could give substance to my precious personalities? Who could I trust with this task?
I felt like someone was coming into my private space, the inner sanctum of my mind. Yet, unless I was prepared to send out my creation with stick figures, I had to choose an artist to share my spotlight. What if I picked the wrong one? What if they ruined the words that made magic in my head? I felt wary of handing over my work to a perfect stranger to interpret and possibly reshape my intent. This wasn’t as easy as I thought. How was I going to convey how important the characters were to me? After all, the captain and the crew were based on my entire family. What if they came out…wrong?
After much debate, I picked the whimsical Bonnie Lemaire for my pirate series. She had the imaginative and dreamy elements that suited my needs for the captain and his crew. For my yoga book, I picked Tallifer Long. The spare style the artist used highlighted the need for restraint for this book. When I began the cultural series which ended up the most awarded and successful of all my books, I found Kelsea Wierenga. She agreed we needed to be as accurate and respectful as we could and not fall into the traps of cartoonish stereotypes.
Mateya Arkova and I have worked together on over ten books. She too understands despite language barriers exactly what I need and provided a wonderful element to my growing series. We worked through emails, never meeting. When I receive an alert, I open the message with a mixture of anticipation and wonder Think of a child opening a brightly wrapped present, the gasp of intense pleasure upon seeing the gift. Yes, indeed these drawings are a gift. That which I dreaded most, collaboration with a perfect stranger, has turned into one of the most exciting and fulfilling experiences of my life.
Carole is the award-winning author of the Captain No Beard series, and the award-winning non-fiction culture series, If You Were Me and Lived in… that explores customs and cultures around the world, and a self help book, Navigating Indieworld.