Finally, the Wait is Over!
Today I’m excited to share the cover for a new book that I’ve been illustrating for my friend Janice Fuller. Janice is a poet and playwright, and her most recent book may be a departure from both of those genres, but for me it has a little of both: there’s plenty of poetic language to enjoy (Gabriel the cat is quite the wordsmith, especially as he becomes smitten with Rosemary), and the dialogue between the main characters (two witty housecats) propels the story forward as it delves into character much the way a solid stage play does. These are two things that immediately drew me into the story—and when Janice asked me to illustrate, I was delighted.
A Little About Process
With many illustration and writing projects, I tend to work in an order that is not chronological. After some initial sketches of Rosemary and Gabriel, I jumped into the book and started drawing based on the scenes that came to me first. Rosemary and Gabriel is broken into 8 parts that essentially function as chapters—and we quickly agreed that each section should have its own illustration that pointed to the heart of that section. The question for me was to think of what sort of image might capture that heart—and sometimes that’s a tricky thing to see.
With my own writing, it sometimes (ok, almost always) takes a while for the real themes to emerge. If I let ideas percolate for too long, I find myself crippled by the possibilities, so I often have to just jump in and start writing a character down, and get them into trouble. Then their strengths, desires, and weaknesses begin to reveal themselves, and then the conflicts emerge, and the themes reveal themselves, and the pieces begin to fall into place and finally I get some momentum. A similar thing happens when I illustrate a story: sometimes if I think too hard about what the most important themes are (how do I illustrate grief??), then I stonewall myself. Sometimes I just have to start drawing some characters and see what happens. And as I draw them and discover their personalities, then it’s easier to illustrate what the story is really about.
That’s what happened with Rosemary and Gabriel. When Janice first sent me a draft, I drew a cat that I envisioned as Gabriel. (It turns out he looked nothing like the real Gabriel, who belongs to Janice), but doodling with some new charcoals and pencils helped me think about what kind of style these illustrations might have. In the beginning, I tried out several kinds of materials, including gouache and charcoal, but ultimately created the illustrations digitally. (You can read more about the illustrations in my previous post.)
When I started drawing for real, I read through the book again and made notes of scenes that came to mind as I was reading. Certain sections had a solid image that leapt out at me—like Gabriel dreaming he was a jaguar (below). Other sections had more abstract ideas that were a little harder to draw an image for. (I saved those for last, after I’d nailed down some key personality traits of the kitties.) And last was the cover—with my own novels, the title is often the last piece that I write after an entire draft. And then I design the covers after all the writing is done. Things were very much the same with Rosemary and Gabriel: I had no idea what the cover would look like when we started, but once we came around to the end, both Janice and I had a feeling about something circular (and I liked the idea of the cats circling each other, chasing each other)—and that’s how we landed on the cover design.
More About the Book
I won’t give away any spoilers, but here’s the book’s synopsis:
What can two cats teach us about being human?
In this modern epistolary story, two cats, Rosemary and Gabriel, begin an unusual friendship that begins with letter-writing and blossoms into love.
Gabriel, jealous of the way his owner toils over her laptop instead of scratching his ears, thinks such devices are silly. He can’t understand why his owner Janice spends all of her time typing. Who could she be writing so many emails to? When his curiosity takes hold, he makes a discovery that changes his world—Rosemary.
When Rosemary agrees to correspond with Gabriel, he immediately begins to court her: he sends her poems and valentines, and pledges to come and see her in Toronto. As Rosemary and Gabriel open up to each other, they share a commentary about life that’s both witty and poignant and, of course, filled with unabashed professions of love.
Written by Janice Moore Fuller and Janet Lewis, Rosemary and Gabriel is a heartfelt story about how we navigate friendship, romance, grief, and love—and everything in our hearts that makes us human.
Rosemary and Gabriel: Laptop Love goes on sale everywhere Sept. 21, 2020 and is available as ebook and paperback, on Amazon and at your local indie bookstore.