Grumpy bears and pesky rabbits
Published on: 09 April 2015 Author: Ciara Flood
In the second of a series of blogs from Templar Publishing, one of their talented authors, Ciara Flood, talks about the journey to her recent picture book: Those Pesky Rabbits.
After completing a Visual Communications degree in Dublin, I worked in graphic design as I didn't have the confidence in my drawing abilities to pursue a career in illustration.
My desire to draw and write stories never left me but it was about three years before I dusted off my sketchbook and went to life drawing classes.
Over time I began to take on more illustration-based projects. This was good experience but I was often being asked to replicate another illustrator's style (usually because that illustrator was too expensive!)
My ambition was to write a picture book, so I did the obvious thing – I wrote one.
But it wasn't Those Pesky Rabbits. It was a complicated story about an old lady and her dog. Looking back I see that my approach was too rigid. I put so much work into doing the illustrations that I didn't want to change the story, even though that is what I should have done. I sent off a few dummy books but not surprisingly it didn't get picked up.
I realised that I needed to be more flexible – my text and illustrations had to work together.
For my next story, I wanted a strong main character – along came a grumpy bear and I wanted a story about friendship – along came the rabbits. That makes it sound simple but it wasn't.
I drew numerous rabbits and bears. I experimented with different mediums (gauche, watercolour, Photoshop and inks). I took on board feedback from people at my writing class, friends, family, children. Unfortunately everyone had a different opinion of where the story could be stronger or should go, the hard part was working out which feedback was worth listening to. The details changed but the arc of the story remained constant. I began to think that this book just might go somewhere.
Creating the dummy book for Those Pesky Rabbits took me over two years. During that time I worked as a full time graphic designer, renovated a house and had a baby. It's no surprise that Those Pesky Rabbits was so often on the back burner.
I eventually posted four dummy books. Kathryn Ross (of Fraser Ross Associates) contacted me a few weeks later to say she loved the book. I can't tell you how thrilled I was to read that email and how fortunate I am to now have her as my agent. A couple of weeks after that, Libby Hamilton (Editorial Manager at Templar) got in touch to ask if I would be able to come in for a meeting.
From that point onwards things moved pretty quickly. I was really lucky to work with Libby and Art Director Mike Jolley. They provided a fresh pair of eyes and advice based on years of experience in picture books. I had five months to create the finished artwork which meant lots of late nights, tea and audiobooks. It was exciting, daunting, exhausting and incredibly rewarding.
It was a further seven months before I received an advance copy of Those Pesky Rabbits and with much apprehension I showed it to my toddler. What if she hated it? Luckily she loved it and has repeatedly asked for it at bedtime. I couldn't feel prouder or happier to know she's my biggest fan.