April 12, 2012

I wanna see my characters SO BAD!

Aggie, by me
So, Blog, here's the deal: When you're a fiction author, and privileged with the power to create characters, sometimes you become pretty fond of them. Now imagine knowing and liking a bunch of friends that you will never see with your own eyes, not even in photos. I'm sure lots of writers deal with this okay, but me? Well, it makes me bonkers, and not in the good way.

Case in point is the title character in my latest novel, Aggie's Nine Heroes. She's a bright, earnest, philanthropic young girl, as determined as she is cute. I wish I could see her. Not just Aggie, but her team of nine friends and family, everyone of them unique and special.

Complicating this is the fact that all my life I've wanted to be a cartoonist/ illustrator. Cartoon depictions of the A9H gang would be perfect, Blog, because Aggie, her grandpa Bernie, and her best guy friend Brandon are all comic book fans. I could almost see how they should all look...just enough to make me nuts, and far short of being able to capture on paper.

W-I-P cover, by me
Which did not stop me from trying. I did the above cartoon of Aggie, festooned in her beloved hot pink hula hoop. Not bad for someone who sucks at illustration--but of course nothing like I wish I could do.

Early on in writing the book, I developed a work-in-progress cover which I cobbled together in Photoshop in a most complicated fashion. It did give me a sort of feel for Aggie, her teen-in-the-90s casualness, her air of independence and self-reliance. Another feeble stab...

Aggie, by Katie
For a long time now, my cover designs have been done by my daughter, Katie Nelson, who clearly got her illustration genes from her father and is a professional graphic artist. Katie flattered me by basing her cover on my W-I-P one, and she did a fine job turning Aggie into a silhouette/cartoon hybrid.

Her execution of the silhouettes of the team of nine was also boffo. I don't know how she does this stuff.

The Nine Heroes, by Katie

So, that made for an awesome book cover, but I couldn't get over my crazy craving to somehow see my ten fictional buddies turned into cartoons. Thus it festered inside me for months, until one fateful day....

Via Facebook, I was introduced to an illustration of a bunch of TV characters hanging out together at a cocktail party. I took one look at the depictions of personal faves like Sheldon, Mr. Spock, Walter from Breaking Bad, House, and the rest...and I went completely bonkers, in the good way. When I checked out the blog of the artist, one Anna Rettberg, I went bonkers in the good way all over again.

This was my illustrator.

Aggie, by Anna
Seeing as Anna's TV illustration was in the process of going viral, I wasted no time emailing her at once. In spite of being on the verge of college graduation and suddenly in the limelight, she was happy to agree to a commission! It was really happening! My SQUEE must have thundered across the entire Midwest, Blog. I sent her Katie's art and my notes on the ten characters, and prepared to wait for the line art for my review.

It was only a few days later when the astonishingly speedy Anna emailed me a 4 MB file, which, when opened by my trembling hand on the mouse, revealed the line art of Aggie and her crew. My cat Cody was sitting in front of the monitor, and who knows what he thought when his mistress began to sob and laugh simultaneously.

They were perfect!

How can I possibly explain the experience of seeing on the screen these ten characters who before lived only shadily in my mind's eye...and yet now were so perfectly, spot-on recognizable? This was, without doubt, a Top Ten Moment in my life, Blog. Bonkers in the BEST way!

For now I will share here just the image of Aggie Borkowski, with her hula hoop. Sometime in the next couple of weeks I'll be clicking on another file in another email from Anna, and seeing the ten in full color.

Plan now on me not getting anything else done on that day, Blog. And plan now on seeing it yourselves, readers, as soon as it comes into my possession!