We have the fabulous Grace Draven on the blog today discussing her latest release ENTREAT ME which is a wonderful retelling of the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST fairytale. We will be hosting a giveaway later next month for this book as well as a review and interview with Grace.
Pay No Attention to That Wizard Behind the Curtain
I first considered writing a post about world-building, but I’ve done that already. Instead, I’ll talk about book-building.
If you’ve watched The Wizard of Oz, you’ll recognize the paraphrased title of this post. In this particular scene, Dorothy and Co. learn that the Wizard of Oz is not actually a wizard with magic but simply a man using machinery to create the illusion of magic.
A book is Oz, dreamed up and written by the author. Behind the concealing curtain is usually a group of folks dedicated to levering and manipulating a book into the best shape it can be and putting it out there for a reader to enjoy.
ENTREAT ME is a story built on the framework of Beauty and the Beast. Like Oz, it has magic, villainy and an intrepid heroine. It also has a wizard—or in this case, wizards—working behind the curtain. The creation of ENTREAT ME was a team effort where I dealt with editors and artists on a very hands-on level. For this project, I had two of each—four women with a mountain of talent between them.
I used one artist, Louisa Gallie, for my cover. I used another, Isis Sousa, for my interior illustrations. Because I am my publisher in this venture, I wear a lot of hats. One was art director. I can’t draw a stick figure, but these two artists sure can. I had to step up to the plate and provide them with a clear idea of not only the physicality of my characters but also the mood, tone and theme of the book in general. Sometimes that meant a brief, general description, sometimes it was a partial scene straight from the book. They ran with it from there.
While I gave suggestions, I also needed to listen to their suggestions. I hold to the philosophy that an artist sees the world with a layered eye. I can attest to the fact that Louisa and Isis do. While I gave them ideas of what I pictured in my head, the illustrations and cover are reflections of the artists—signature marks of their styles unique to them—and boy they knocked it out of the park. It takes a particular talent when I can give them something as brief and interpretive as “Illustrate an embittered, battle-hardened fighter” and get these back:
Louisa and Isis brought this tale to vivid life with their artistic contributions to its creation.
Solid ideas and great artwork aren’t the end of it though. A good story is still disjointed, nonsensical babble if the prose isn’t up to par. As a writer, I need to continuously add to my skills repertoire, and that includes strengthening the vertebrae of every story—grammar, structure, pacing, etc. All good but still not enough. I’m too close to my creation, too myopic to see those glaring offenses and issues that a far-seeing, objective pair of eyes can spot right away. That job belongs to my editors—the other wizards behind the curtain.
Editing is hard, tedious, detail-oriented work. An editor walks a fine line between guiding a manuscript toward its best possible conclusion and seizing the work to warp it into their vision instead of the author’s. A good editor never crosses the line. I have excellent editors. Lora Gasway and Mel Sanders have been with me on ENTREAT ME since the beginning and labored just as hard to get it dressed up and ready for show time. They’re the ones who went in and, line by line, trimmed the fat, whipped a wandering character back into line, straightened the kink in a timeline and busted my chops in the kindliest, most implacable way. They cut me no slack and never let me get away with laziness. That is wizardry of the best kind.
On behalf of these hard-working, talented folks, I want to say thanks for reading and hope you enjoy ENTREAT ME.
Lora, Mel, Isis and Louisa, I’ve pulled back the curtain and revealed what you four have been doing back there. Please take your bow.