Author Shane Hegarty tells FMI about his hugely exciting debut from HarperCollins, illustrated by our own James de la Rue.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a book. Darkmouth is the story of a boy who must follow 50 generations of Legend Hunters in a town plagued by monsters. HarperCollins offered to publish it. I picked myself up off the floor and accepted their generous offer.
"We'd like to illustrate it," they said.
"Well, ok," I replied. "I mean, I'm not very good at drawing, but I could give it a go..."
"Not you," they said. "A proper illustrator."
"Oh, thank goodness for that," I said, putting down the hurriedly purchased ink pot and quill.
Off the book went, and I thought little of it. There would, presumably, be a cover image. Maybe a detail or two to kick off some of the chapters. Sure, hadn't I described it all so perfectly that no pictures would be needed.
Then a selection of illustrations came back. James de la Rue was the artist. We had never met. Never even spoken. Yet, it was if he had rummaged around my head and seen exactly what I saw.
I was just a little freaked out.
But I was delighted. Utterly wowed by it. And I had learned one particular secret of just when the collaboration between illustrator and writer works best: where James had added details, he had put them in all the right places.
I knew then that the illustrations running through the text were going to bring the book onto a whole other level I had never envisioned. The characters and the action have been brilliantly shown, but James had also captured something very important in the story - which is that it is contemporary but should feel timeless.
Ultimately, it's incredibly satisfying as a writer, having imagined this world, tried to grab hold of it in my mind, lived with it for so long, to see it be brought to life in an extraordinary way. And, because Darkmouth is a series, it is great to know that the words are in very safe hands. Literally.
On a couple of early school visits, the reaction to the illustrations have been immediate and resounding. The young readers love them. They see the text and pictures working perfectly, as if one springs organically from the other. As the writer, it is wonderful to feel the same way too.
Although, in retrospect, it would have been fun to have had a go at the illustrations myself. Stick figures are very big these days, apparently.
Darkmouth (HarperCollins) is published on January 29th.