Friday, 7 March 2008

Scary pictures

One of the questions I am often asked about Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror is 'Why didn't you illustrate them yourself?'

When I first wrote the book, I did give some thought to how I would illustrate it myself. I was not entirely happy with what I came up with though. I felt quite strongly that I would have to change the way I normally work for this book and I did not want to get bogged down in the visual side of things. I wanted to ensure the writing was as good as I could get it and I wanted to make sure it was published. Everything else was secondary.

All the time I was writing the Uncle Montague/Edgar sections, I had Edward Gorey at the back of my mind. I love Gorey. I love that dark humour that you get with him and Charles Addams. Gorey was very much the tone I wanted, in both the writing of the storytelling sections and in the look of the book.

Then my wife happened to buy a copy of Ten Sorry Tales by Mick Jackson. It was very nicely illustrated by someone who obviously knew and liked Gorey as much as I did, but who had still got his own distinctive style. That illustrator was David Roberts.

Then, when I first went to see Sarah Odedina at Bloomsbury one very hot day in the summer of 2006, she handed me a copy of Ten Sorry Tales and told me that David was the illustrator she had in mind. Sarah seemed to have really understood what I was trying to do and it seemed stupid not to relax and go with the flow. It did seem like the perfect match.

And it turned out to be a very good decision. It left me free to concentrate on the stories and David did a brilliant job. He has been so enthusiastic and it shows in the work. He seems to have really enjoyed himself. Nice man too.

I had a quick email conversation with David today. He told me a very funny story about going to a school. As I mentioned in the last post - you can never tell how things are going to go. David thought the children were going to be 13 and 14 year-olds, but they were instead 6 and 7. In a scene straight out of Gorey, he said there were some frightened faces when they youngsters were presented with drawings like this one. . .

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