Sunday, August 7, 2011

Illustrating Lexicon: Joan Charles and The Ice Castle

Last night I met Joan Charles, the wonderful illustrator of my Lexicon books, for the second time. Meeting with her is one of the main delights of coming to the annual Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators in Los Angeles, because Joan lives nearby. Last year we met for a brief drink. Joan was in the throes of finishing the artwork for Lost in Lexicon, and she confessed she had hardly poked her nose outside in weeks. She was pale.

This year, we're ahead of schedule. The Ice Castle will come out about a year from now, and Joan negotiated for a much more reasonable number of illustrations this time. She has completed sketches based on the book's second draft, and I've just sent both her and my Scarletta editor, Ian, the third draft, which has no plot changes substantial enough to require changing the artwork. That left us free to bond and converse.

We talked about the book, what happens emotionally with each of the kids, and what their individual growth arcs are. We discussed atmosphere (menacing? magical?)and clothing. Often I defer to Joan's visual sense. If she thinks a uniform would bring out the character more, we add a uniform. If she thinks a certain seating arrangement of characters around the dinner table would create more tension, I make sure not to contradict that in the text. On the other hand, I will sometimes tell her that I see a certain character as more imposing, funny-looking, or noble.

What made me really happy is that Joan feels this new draft is deeper and sharper than the first one, which she already loved. She sees the characters growing, and she's truly excited about creating their world. She confessed to me that she was doodling at a conference when she suddenly realized she had created one of the characters, Fort. The world of the book has invaded her subconscious, so she's in that wonderful creative state where she's working on it even when she doesn't mean to.

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