Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Magic of Mermaids

Do you think there might be some way we can work together? said the amazing Amy Sparkes, one day, to the amazed Susie Tyler. 

Said the Susie Tyler, "You name it."

And this little unknowing mermaid was the trigger that set in motion an exciting cascade of suggestions, realisations, conversations and illustrations. 

All I knew at first was that Amy was keen on something fantastical. I started filling a sketchbook with dragons and fairies, and this one little mermaid. I always wanted to be a mermaid. At the swimming pool, my friends and I would slip into mermaid identities as our skin hit the water. Invisible dolphin friends would surround us and we would twirl happily through the water imagining oceanic surroundings and adventures.
Whilst drinking gallons of Lady Grey tea and drawing away, I took a snap of this mermaid and emailed it over to Amy to see if I was on the right track. It was at this point that Amy decided the world was ready to greet her cast of mermaids who inhabit Sapphire Seas. It was time for a new story to be launched. 

Estella and the Falling Star was ready and waiting for its illustrations, and now that it's really here, printed, and in my hands and on my bookshelf, I look back on the last few months as a happy, dreamy blur. Full of many many shells and tails and a LOT of hair!

I have adored finding the visual identity of Merina, Estella, Pippa, Shelley and Nana. I had to start by exploring lots of hairstyles. Although colour is very important for the front covers, we couldn't rely on the mermaids' colour differences to set them instantly apart from one another inside the book.
Being black and white, they needed to be complete individuals, with very differing hairstyles and clothing. Amy and I had a lot of fun (and a lot of tea - it just so happens we share a love of Lady Grey teas as well as mermaids) deciding what hair worked best for each character. Pippa has cropped hair which we felt echoed her cheeky nature and sharp wit. And it was nice to break with the tradition of long hair for one of the mermaids. 

Once they were all designed, I was delighted to re-read the latest draft of the story and find that Amy had slipped in a few extra adjectives to mention their lovely locks. The fun of hearing an author describe a character that you have visualised is almost too much!

Gradually the finished illustrations built up and we were able to go full steam ahead with the publication. And here it is. It is a book. 

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