Sometimes it takes a long time for an idea to germinate. One of mine took a whole year. Back in July 2020, I was standing under a particularly fine beech tree with my daughter when she suggested I ‘do a book based on trees’. At the time, my two illustrated magical books The Herbarium and The Chesil Apothecary were being prepared for publication, and I was completing a third book in the series, so I mulled over the idea until I had time to write a few experimental stories for the tree book. I decided on an autumnal setting, and a general idea for the overall story began to take shape. But then I thought about the illustrations and how to approach them. Trees are complex and there are many different parts of them you can illustrate, from leaves, to twigs, to fruits, to bark; I simply couldn’t see a way to go about it, and eventually I set the project aside.
That was nearly a year ago, and, of course, much has happened in the interim, including two lockdowns here in the UK. I set myself fresh projects and planned two novellas (the first is with my publisher, the second nearing completion). My tree book remained on the back burner until a few days ago. I was doing a crossword, and the answer to one of the clues was ‘yew’. Trees, I thought, and remembered my abandoned book. I inked in the word YEW, downwards in the middle of the puzzle and suddenly had an idea. Put the tree name in the middle of the illustration, I thought, and work round it – make it part of the design. In my other books I had added the plant names at the bottom or top, or sometimes at the side of the drawings. But I would be able to arrange elements of each tree much more easily if I integrated the lettering into the drawing instead of around it. Bingo! Soon I had working sketches. There’s much more to do, of course, but essentially I can see the way forward and the project is alive again. I can resume work writing and illustrating my long-delayed tree book with confidence. So you see, some ideas can’t be rushed. They pop into our heads when they’re ready. After that, it’s up to us to take advantage of them!
Quirky Tales series My illustrated books The Herbarium and The Chesil Apothecary are available from www.veneficiapublications.com. The third book in the series, Dropwort Hall, will be available soon.