Once upon a time novels used to be illustrated. My copy of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, which belonged to my late mother-in-law, is a dull little book at a glance – until you open it and find the illustrations. Your feeling for the story – your curiosity – is awakened immediately. Who are these people, and what is their tragic entanglement? It’s an inducement to read on.
I remembered this recently when someone asked me where I saw the future for my writing. I thought long and hard about this. Would I like to sell lots of books? Of course. Win critical praise? Who wouldn’t? But what I’d really like to do is write beautiful stories and have them enhanced by beautiful illustrations.
I’m not talking about graphic novels here – I’m talking about a book containing occasional illustrations to surprise and delight the reader as they turn the pages.
These days, sadly, such books are a rare thing. Children’s books and non-fiction might be lavishly and imaginatively illustrated, but adult fiction is generally left to muddle along as best it can. This affects the modern writer’s style: you must grip the reader in the first few paragraphs if you want them to read on. A set of illustrations might make all the difference in capturing the reader’s attention – and allow a more leisurely start to the book. Just a thought. The best most authors can hope for these days is an eye-catching cover design.
But do readers still cherish books in this read-it, forget-it, buy-another world? I do, which is why I still have my Ma-in-law’s Wuthering Heights. Would people be prepared to pay a little more for an intriguingly-illustrated novel? It’s probably a pipe dream on my part, but it’s the kind of book I’d love to produce. Retro? At the very least. Old-fashioned? Certainly. But a picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. I wonder…
No illustrations, sadly, but a beautiful cover for a beautiful story: my new novel is available now for pre-order
A sea captain passes through the forgotten port of Wych Ferry, and whiles away an hour relating his traveller’s tales to young Rosamund Euden. He tells her that the stars are different, if you sail far enough, that the horizon isn’t quite real, not when you get there; he speaks of sea serpents and whales, and mysterious islands. To an impressionable girl who has never left her home, the whales and strange stars of his stories come to symbolise the great outside world she longs to see. The sea captain moves on, unaware of the dramatic events he has set in action as Rosamund’s search for adventure leads her into a world of dangerous secrets in the marshlands of eighteenth century Kent. Torn between loyalty to her uncles, and her desire to discover what lies beyond the marshes, Rosamund seeks help from an unexpected source. But who can she really trust?
To be published by Crooked Cat Books, 16 January, 2018