Our guest this week is Lucy Rowland, who is about to have some very exciting picture books published in 2017. Lucy is a Children's Speech and Language Therapist living and working in London. She started writing picture books around three years ago and has her first books coming out with Bloomsbury and Macmillan early next year.
I have always loved language. I have always loved words. My mum tells me that, from a young age, I had an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of nursery rhymes. I grew up listening to my grandparents’ bedtime stories; poetry by A.A.Milne, Dr Seuss, and the rather strange, but wonderful, story of ‘Augustus who would not have any soup’.
At school I studied English, French and German and went on to do a degree in Speech and Language Therapy. So I suppose, in lots of ways, language has always been important to me. But when I started writing picture books, around 3 years ago, it suddenly all made sense. This is what I wanted to do!
I was incredibly lucky to find my wonderful agent, Anne Clark (of Anne Clark Literary Agency) in 2013 while I was travelling in Indonesia. Anne has opened so many doors for me and has given me such valuable advice along the way. I remember one of her first lessons. While sitting in an internet café, on an island with a somewhat intermittent power supply, Anne emailed me a question about a section of my text- ‘Could this be shown in the illustrations instead?’
I realised that I needed to think much more visually. Now, this was hard for me. I am not a visual thinker at all! I don’t tend to have a picture in my head of what my characters look like or how their worlds appear but, in some ways, this makes things all the more exciting!
I’m very new to the picture book world, but so far, one of my favourite parts of the process is that very first time that I get to see the characters. It honestly feels like Christmas Day to me and I get a real feeling of ‘Oh wow! So that’s what he/she looks like!’ My first picture book with the very talented illustrator, Natasha Rimmington, is called ‘Gecko’s Echo’ and will be published by Bloomsbury in January 2017.
People sometimes ask me, is that how you imagined Gecko? But I’m not sure I really did imagine what Gecko looked like. I’ve watched Natasha develop her over quite a long period of time and I’m amazed when I look at Gecko now and when I look back to Natasha’s initial sketches. Naively, I had no idea just how much work goes into creating these beautiful illustrations. For me, the way Natasha uses light in some of her spreads is just magical and she somehow manages to capture the way Bali felt to me.
I am also lucky enough to have been paired with the wonderful Mark Chambers for two upcoming picture books with Macmillan. The first of these, ‘Pirate Pete and his Smelly Feet’, is out in April 2017. I couldn’t wait to meet Pirate Pete for the first time and Mark did not disappoint!
When Mark started working on the book it was really interesting because his ideas helped to change and shape the story even more. I have always loved language but illustrators are visual story tellers and I’m constantly amazed at all the little details they include in their pictures. Not only do these help to drive the story forward but they also add a depth to the characters that my words alone just cannot do.
I’m still working on thinking visually. It’s a lesson that I constantly remind myself of. As I write, I try to think about how the words I choose could support the illustrations, how the language could hint at the action which might be happening in the background. However, in the meantime, I feel incredibly lucky to have been paired with such talented illustrators who are able to show the worlds that I write, and in the most beautiful and powerful of ways.
Lucy’s twitter handle is @lucymayrowland