1st YMBAH image

YOU MUST BRING A HAT – from start to finish!

I always enjoy looking at other authors’ and illustrators’ websites and blogs, particularly when they provide a ‘behind-the-scenes’ peek into the development of a book from start to finish – the superb Jim Field, for instance, does exactly this.

Part of the fun of writing picture books is seeing your ideas gradually brought to life thanks to the dedication, hard-work and creative genius of talented illustrators (and art directors). Usually I will have a vague idea in my mind of what a spread could look like when I write a story, but it feels as though it’s an image obscured by a very thick, impenetrable cloud. It’s a bit like trying to recall a dream, I suppose. To have an illustrator remove this mist so that you get to see a character or a scene in full view and glory is both brilliant and surreal.

I also write illustration notes to help clarify what is going on in the story when it’s not directly obvious or stated in the text. Looking back at my first draft for YMBAH, one of these was: ‘Perhaps one of the bouncers could consult a clipboard?’ – a little unusual for a children’s story but it’ll make sense if you read the book! Illustration notes are merely suggestions, and are rarely prescriptive. I trust that an illustrator will have far better ideas for what to do with a spread than I will, and I’m happy to leave them to it. They’re the experts, after all, and tell the story in their own right.

Receiving post from a publisher is always exciting, all the more so when it’s artwork for one of your books. It also makes the long wait between signing the contract for a book and its publication (YMBAH was just under two years, fairly standard for a picture book) that bit more bearable.

When I found out that the stupendously talented Kate Hindley was going to illustrate my text, I was delighted – her books already occupied several spaces on my ever-expanding picture book shelf.  Kate did a really amazing job, making YMBAH far funnier than it would have been without her comic touches and beautiful characters.

The text in the finished copy is very close to my original draft, and my illustration notes were minimal and vague. Kate added many wonderful characters (such as the bunnies, below) that quite honestly had nothing to do with me!  The book is all the better for it.

B&W roughs and the finished version of Kate's bunnies.

B&W roughs and the finished version of Kate’s bunnies.

Below is the very first sample image that I was sent.  At that stage I wasn’t expecting it to be so detailed or even coloured, but it was in the run-up to Bologna book fair which (probably) explains why!

1st YMBAH image

Aside from a few changes, Kate’s characters remained almost identical – perhaps because each is based on someone she knows.  (Don’t quote me on that.)

In the months after, I received a few more roughs of Kate’s artwork as it progressed.  Here are a few from one of the earlier versions:

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Then, in March, after seeing a couple of coloured versions, the BLADs (Book Layout and Design) arrived.  This was very exciting as it’s basically one stage before the finished book – the layouts and illustrations look just as they will in the published version – but BLADS are stapled rather than bound down the spine and have a card cover.  Here’s the lovely, hard-working, hat-wearing folk at S&S with the BLADS:

S&S Hats!

Then, two months before publication, some of the co-editions arrived – beautiful, finished, hardback foreign copies.  Here are the covers for the French, German, Turkish and Slovakian co-editions:

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And finally, here I am with the finished version!



If you get your hands on a copy, I do hope you enjoy it – and thank you for reading!  x