Guess who’s gliding your way this October?
Illustrated by the amazing Troy Cummings (of NOTEBOOK OF DOOM fame), this story is a mish-mash of fairytales set in a winter wonderland. (No, not Boston.) It’s all quite fantastically fractured, without cumbersome crutches.
Troy’s got a groovy retro style that pops with personality. I asked him a few questions about bringing Red and her pals to life.
Troy, how were you introduced to LITTLE RED and why did you choose to work on it?
My editor at Random House said she had me in mind to illustrate a fractured fairytale called LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD. The title alone made me smile. Then I read the manuscript and I shouted “YES! SIGN ME UP!” after the first few page turns.
The story was super-funny, and clever, and full of action. Drawing fairytale characters would be fun, but coming up with ice-skating wintery versions of those guys in frozen-fairytale-land? COME ON!
I really couldn’t wait to start—I filled my sketchbook with character ideas on the bus ride home.
These are the first designs I cooked up. Red looks very similar to how she is in the book—although her eyes were much huger in the first draft…but she’s got her little pointy ears on her hood, and oversized head.
The Big Bad Wolf is probably “badder” in the book. Although it looks like I had already planned on giving him that big awesome puffy shirt that accentuates his chest hair.
And I was also playing with giving each of the three pigs their own skates to match their jobs—with blades that resembled a trowel, a saw, or a scythe. But I couldn’t get it to work, so now they just have plain old skates.
And here are all my thumbnails for my book cover ideas. I try to do a million of ’em to see what kind of ideas I can shake out. They actually picked my secret favorite one for the real cover, which was great.
How did you decide upon the overall look for the book?
Well, it’s a winter story that takes place mostly outside—which would lend itself to white/gray/off-brown/… but it’s also a kooky fairy tale, so I wanted to sneak in as much color as I could. So I got to play and make crazy purple and yellow trees, and give the characters colorful scarves and mittens, etc.
I also tried to differentiate Little Red and the Big Bad Wolf in their designs… she’s short and blocky, he’s tall and lanky. She’s neat, he’s shaggy. She’s got big eyes, he’s got “bad guy” eyes, she’s fully dressed, he’s uh, not…etc. etc.
And the other thing I tried to do was avoid warm colors, except for Little Red’s actual riding hood…in most scenes, it’s the only red thing we see—it should be brighter and bolder than anything else, hopefully drawing attention to her even when she’s a tiny skater on the horizon.
(With one exception—she takes a break at Grandma’s house in the middle of the book, so I flooded that page with warm/bold colors: the fireplace, the floorboards, and even the walls have lots of warmer colors. Then she’s back outside at the pinky-purple little piggy’s house, out in the snow…)
How does working on an author’s story differ from working on your own?
When I write my own stories, I always start by waaaaay overcooking things. My manuscripts are too long and my words are redundant with my pictures, big-time. The writer-half of me panics that the illustrator-half is going to leave something out, so my copy ends up sounding way too descriptive, like this:
The fuzzy blue frog put on her yellow striped size 3 pajamas before hopping on her new two-wheeled bicycle, which had been colored 30% MAGENTA in Adobe Photoshop CS5.
And then when it’s time to illustrate, I realize that I could have just written:
The frog rode away.
and let the illustration do the rest of the work. I feel like I’m slooowly getting better at this, but I still haven’t totally figured it out.
I also think that when I’m illustrating my own story, I finish by drawing a picture that more or less lines up with what I was thinking when I wrote the story. THE END.
When I illustrate someone else’s story, it becomes really fun to work with what they’ve written, and try to come up with images that “complete” the scenes/emotions/ideas they’re setting up. They author will have described characters, events, ideas and emotions, which I should support and illustrate. But the author will also _not_ describe certain events, actions, characters, etc. (on purpose!), letting me complete the scene.
For instance, here’s a line Tara Lazar (you!) had written for LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD:
She swizzled down the river and saw a flurry of friends gathering beneath a banner.
This is all the copy needs to say—the author hasn’t spelled out exactly who has gathered beneath the banner. I get to do that! Then it’s fun to try to come up with something neat/funny that supports the text, but also has little surprises if you spend some time on it. (Who’s hanging out under the banner? Maybe Miss Muffet, bored [setting us up for the spider on page x/] Or Humpty Dumpty, walking with confidence (or nervously holding the handrail?)… Or bo-peep, distracted by something while her sheep are eyeing the exit. (etc., etc.)
I get to play around in this world the author has created, and maybe set up a few characters/events that will payoff later in the story, and (ideally) throw in little details to surprise the reader on subsequent readings.
I also think there’s this really cool thing that happens when an author and illustrator work together:
- The author comes up with a story, characters, and a world that I couldn’t have come up with on my own. She puts images in my head.
- I, in turn, draw these images and interpret her world/characters/architecture/bowls of porridge/etc., which are likely to be entirely different than what she might have envisioned. (At least, the details might be different—I should be hitting all the right notes to support the voice/tone of her manuscript.)
- And then: MAGIC! The difference between what the author had in mind vs. my interpretation ends up being this thing that’s, ideally, better than what either of us could have cooked up on our own… (I say “magic”, but that’s also a result of smart editing/art direction.)
This project was super, sooooper fun. I’m really happy with how it turned out, and it makes me want to work on more kooky fairytales. (Or more Tara Lazar stories!)
Thanks so much, Troy! You’ve done an incredible job, far better than anything I could have ever imagined! I’m one ecstatic author.
And now, the giveaway…
LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD will be released on October 27 and you can pre-order now, but…you can get a full sneak peek by winning an F&G of the book (folded and gathered galley version)!
Just leave a comment below (one per person) and you will be entered into a random drawing. You have until Feb 28th to comment; I’ll pick a winner on March 1st!
And stay warm out there! Especially you Boston folk!