A Gift to the Reader: Illustrations and The Undressed

January 6, 2011

"Sam puts Kay to Trial" by Carol Phillips

One thing I notice when most people are considering purchasing a book is that they go through a very rigorous decision-making process. They look at the book and judge the cover. They pick it up and flip it around, taking in the marketing on the back cover, and then they do a quick fan through the pages, looking for illustrations.

Illustrations are a gift from the author to the reader. As a boy, I loved my Narnia books. They were rife with little illustrations that drew me into the story and made me want to turn the page and get to the next one. As an author, I want to give that same gift to the reader.

"Cover Idea #2", by Carol Phillips

I always have several ready-made illustrations for each book. I never dictate to my cover artist, Carol Phillips, what the cover for each book is going to be. It’s a collaborative effort and I try to include Carol as much as possible. I usually give her four or five ideas, detailing them out to her as necessary. She then draws up a little thumbnail of each one and we toss them around and pick. “I really like this one,” Carol will usually say and I go with her judgment. Like I said–it’s my book, but it’s not my book; it’s a collaboration.

The above illustration was one of those cover ideas that didn’t make it to the cover. It was #2 of 4–with #4 eventually being selected for the cover. So, once it’s all said and done, I have these wonderful sketch concepts with no place to go. The next logical place to put them is in the interior, where they can light up the pages. Everything Carol draws is a masterpiece, and it’s a shame to see any of it go to waste.

Another consideration for picking the cover-interior illustrations is content. As with many of my ideas, they often skirt the boundaries of good taste, where the difference between being dressed and undressed is a whole lot of clothes, and, you can get away with a bit more nudity in the interior of the book then you can on the cover. My big guiding influence has always been Michael Moorcock, who, unlike C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien, was always rather unabashed with the dress (or undress) of his characters, and I happily follow that model. I recall being astonished reading Moorcock’s work, where you could have long conversations or fight scenes between completely undressed people. Quite an eye-opener and Carol, being a fairy artist, is always up for drawing “The Undressed”. Take a good hard look at the illustration–what do you see?? A couple of naked people here and there, a little S&M going on–yep. One variation from the book is Kay being fully dressed, as, in the book, he’s not dressed at all–everybody’s naked.

This illustration, along with twenty more shall be featured in TOTEH, The Dead Held Hands.

Bowl Naked


Copyright 2011, Carol Phillips

4 Responses to “A Gift to the Reader: Illustrations and The Undressed”

  1. Ha Ha! I love Carol for being a faery artist and drawing nude people! I also highly respect your humility, Ren–that this is a collaborative effort. To me, that says that this is not just about earning an income to you–this entire process is about ART. Art for art’s sake. I feel this way also, and feel so very blessed and lucky to have met so many creative and talented individuals. Years from now, when we are gone, some kid on a rainy day will pick your book from a library shelf…and it will be the beginning of one of the greatest adventures of his life. That’s a wonderful thing!

    • theleagueofelder said

      Hey Chris. I often call Carol the Queen of the League of Elder, as she’s really helped expand the universe. I’ve gone into thinkgs thinking “this is what I want” only to have Carol change my mind. That’s way collaborations are fun–you never quite know how thing’s will turn out.

      And, I think that’s why we do this–for that solitary person out there somewhere turning a page and wondering …

  2. Bea said

    Carol is amazing! ^-^
    I just discovered this blog, I love it.

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