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When authors meet illustrators, by Anne Cottringer

April 10, 2011

My most recent picture book, ‘When Titus Took the Train’ came out in paperback last week.  To go with the publication day, Sarah McIntyre, the illustrator, and I made a very short animation together. We like to think of it as ‘Titus, the Movie’.  It was a very unusual experience to create something together with the illustrator of one of my books.  Usually, I never meet, talk to , or have any correspondence with the illustrator.  So, aside from this little speil being a plug for the Titus, it is also a musing on the relationship between the writer and the illustrator – or should I say, lack of relationship.

With the exception of my first picture book, where I was invited for lunch twice with the editor, designer and illustrator to discuss the text and pictures ( those were the days!),  I never know the illustrator.  Occasionally, I meet them afterwards at a party, a launch, or if I’m really lucky at an award ceremony.  It feels like a taboo to have any contact with the illustrator, especially during the production period of a picture book.  I’ve never dared get in touch with any of my illustrators separately, even after the book is finished.  So I was surprised when our book was finally done to get an email from Sarah introducing herself.  I was so delighted that she had made contact and we could chat about the book and the work – I found out details of the new technique she tried out and the bits that found challenging.  But it almost felt like we were carrying on a surreptitious relationship, as we hadn’t been introduced by the publishers.  We had broken the taboo.

In many ways, I can understand why publishers don’t bring authors and illustrators together and I think illustrators should be able to have the freedom to act on their instincts and follow their own creative inclinations when taking on a text, but sometimes I would really like to talk to the illustrator before it all starts.  I don’t think my first picture book suffered due to those first encounters between author and illustrator (although the illustrator might have a different perspective!).

As it is, I was so glad Sarah sent me that first email and that we subsequently met up. Over a drink and a meal in a pub, we talked about what a gas it would be to do a little animation as a bit of a teaser for the book – despite the fact that neither of us knew how to do animation.  I make films, but they are mainly documentary.  However, Sarah came up with a fab little story board, and created all the drawn elements for the piece; I dragged my my camera and equipment to her studio, and we had a great silly day muddling through the shooting, editing and creating hand made sound fx for ‘Titus, the Movie’.  It was a happy collaboration, and for me, very unusual…I would love to hear from other authors and illustrators about their experiences and views of working together — or not.

You can see ‘Titus, the Movie’ and a ‘Making of” photos essay on both Anne Cottringer and Sarah McIntyre’s sites:

Anne Cottringer, Sarah McIntyre

Me preparing camera for Titus, the Movie

Sarah McIntyre making final adjustments

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