Writing the book has felt like this.
The ground was curious in the beginning, lush and ripe. But then there had to be that moment, that first solid intention. This might go somewhere, maybe, a book and the change underfoot was abrupt, with splintery spots and creaks under weight. And no clear view of what might come of this presumption, or of what might happen to the parallel souls that jostled at my back.
He facebooked me first. I’ve been approached to illustrate a book. Could it be you?
I stalked his profile holding my breath. This was to be the handing-over of my words and my noise and my brain matter to another. This person is intended to be the custodian, the lens. He might take what I've done and make it further and deeper and just More. Or not.
But something at the bottom of my spine snapped into place like THAT’S THE GUY. If I could ever be a Roald Dahl-like figure—even just within a 50-foot radius of my parents' house, with my fame and literary riches reaching as far as the Farmer's Market, oh yeah—he could be my Quentin Blake.
He is Sydney Smith, and he’s local, weaned on the same salt as me, which feels so damn righteous it makes me want to throw rocks at his window with latenight offerings of donairs and Keith's. In one ravenous facebook session I trusted him instantly as you tend to like the people of a house that smells of woodsmoke.
He’s got to be a bit odd, you see. He’s got to be into illusions. He’s got to play superhero. He’s got to have a head like a rabbit’s warren, some rooms dark and musty, with trapdoors and jesters, and he’s got to be on the front stoop employing some sweeping gesture, or doing a headstand in a cape.
I only see flashes of wheels, of the cannon, the boards of the deck, of boulders and trees cracking and crunching, mowed down by its bow. I can’t see the whole ship. And I know that she wears waffle longjohns and shitkicker boots, but I can’t see her face through her hair, all whipping in the wind. Can he? Can he make them stink on paper?
My editor knew it when she found him, and she sent this to me saying OH MY GOD he can do this and I wrote back OH MY GOD you’re right and then the facebooking and the skulking and as if his work wasn’t enough, which it was, I knew for sure.
So far he’s done the sketch for the cover art and when I saw it I gasped, broke out in goosebumps and smiled for three days straight. Look at what he can do. Still ahead: sixteen scenes, one for each chapter. If he did chalk drawings on sidewalks I’d say a spell and jump right in.
You would too, yeah?