Ian Beck on Visualizing the Characters in his YA novels,
Hearty congratulations on the release of your two new YA novels, both in the one year! That is some achievement! I’m fascinated by how you come up with such a range of amazing and vastly different characters and all so vividly drawn.
Do you ‘see’ with your illustrator’s eye, the characters before you flesh them out? What part of the author is still the illustrator? Does the novel roll out in movie sequence in your mind?
Firstly, the characters in “The Hidden Kingdom” [see review below]-
What was the origin of Prince Osamu, the arrogant prat turned soldier king?
The whole book started with a single sentence. I wrote it for inclusion in a book which was intended to kick start ideas in children and encourage their own writing . The original sentence went something like, ‘The Prince woke to the howling of wolves’, and I thought, ‘well I would like to write that story myself and see what happens’, and so my Prince was the first settled character around which the story built. I imagined him as a pampered princeling in a fairy tale forced to confront something very big but I wasn’t sure what it might be at the beginning of the process.
Why Baku and the Snow Maiden? Is this a tip of the hat to the Brothers Grimm with their tales of transformation and tragic love, thinking particularly of The Little Mermaid, but with role reversal?
Not quite, Baku and the Snow Maiden were in a separate book, based on a Japanese myth story. It was only after working on both discretely for a few months that I realised in a flash of inspiration, (which now seems obvious but didn’t at the time), that they belonged in the same book as Prince Osamu.
Lissa, the warrior maid, is a thoroughly modern miss. What were her antecedents?
I think Lissa is to me quite clearly based on the character and beauty of Zhang Zi Yi in the film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, that is exctly how I saw her in my mind, fiery and difficult, but dedicated to the saving of the Prince even though she begins the story despising his weakness.
Secondly, the lead roles in the very visually realized, “The Haunting of Charity Delafield” [see review below]-
Charity Delafield, is a quintessential heroine for a disaffected generation. The working woman’s children, tossed from home to childcare, child care to school and back and never long enough in one place to identify with it as ‘home’, whom I suspect ask ‘Who is Mum? Is she really the hollow eyed lady who picks me up late afternoon/early evening, rushes me through dinner to bed and pulls me out in the morning, drives me and drops me off with a stress fraught kiss and a wave?’ Charity is a brave new kind of heroine, finding her way, finding herself. In a seemingly disaffected world. What inspired her?
Charity began life as picture book idea. I had drawn some rough sketches of a girl in a long red coat out in the snow in an old fashioned formal garden. I liked the place and time of the story, the only difficulty was that there was no story. At about the same time my daughter started leaving notes for the Fairy she believed to be in the house and I started to leave replies in minute hand writing, which developed into a nice game. I mentioned them to my agent and she thought it might be worth developing as a book. My editor at Random House, Annie Eaton, always liked the initial drawings and would occasionally enquire if I had done anything with them. After I had finished the Tom Trueheart books, I finally saw a way to develop the story as a novel with the girl in the red coat in the garden. It went through three very different drafts before it was finished.< Add a Comment