Our own Eleanor Rosenberg has illustrated the recently published The Midnight-Blue Marble, a mystery novel for young adults. We think it’s simply fantastic, and I kicked things off by telling her so.
R: First off, congratulations on a beautiful piece of work. It’s simply fantastic.
E: Thank you Rona!
R: Is this your first published title?
E: No, this is my third with Gumboot Books. They're a publisher in Vancouver. I also self published a Choose-Your-Own Short Story adventure in 2006. That was my first book.
R: Give us a quick synopsis of the story, for those who haven't read the novel yet.
E: Sure. The story is about a missing diamond that led to the beheading of Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution. The diamond is lost in Vancouver– present day– and the main character, Ailie, and her friends are trying to track it down during a weekend music festival before someone else does, and without compromising their lives.
R: Do you share the author Melanie Jackson's passion for all things historical?
E: In a way, yes. I was never very good at remembering dates, but I love the nuances and details of the more personal side of a story. I loved researching the French revolution for costumes and antiques that I could use as reference.
R: What is the process for illustrating a book like this? Do you read the entire book and then begin the illustrations, or is it a collaborative process?
E: Yup. I start by reading a draft of the novel and marking imagery that excites me. I map out who is who and details I need to remember like who has freckles, what colour their hair is, the types of clothes they wear and all that physical description. At the same time I start covering a wall with references, in this case from France circa 1790. Did you know that the roman numeral "4" in the 1700s is four lines, instead of a "V-I"? I find all sorts of random information when researching. What are mutton-sleeves? What does King Louis wear? What were the alleys of London like at the beginning of the 19th century? Anyway, then I sketch out thumbnails in pencil and propose them to the publisher. They give me feedback and off I go! The rest is a secret.
R: What was your biggest challenge illustrating The Midnight-Blue Marble?
E: Waiting to see the printed book! Living in Whitehorse is great because I feel I can focus on my creative projects, but when the book launched in Vancouver and I hadn't even seen it in physical form, ... that was hard. I was having nightmares about it nightly, but it turned out great and now I have copies all over the place so it was worth the wait!
R: Many of the illustrations contain a hint (or more) of gore. Would you say you have a penchant for the macabre, or was it purely the source material that took you in that direction?
E: Ha ha ha! Um, the author does have a soft spot for beheadings, but I also revel in it. I think spooky illustrations strengthen the mystery-genre, so I watched some Hitchcock films to get in the mood.
R: Favourite illustration and why?
E: That's a hard question. I loved doing the detailed swirls of fabric and jewelry on Marie Antoinette. I really like the chapter 1 illustration though. It introduces Ailie who has a skeptical look on her face, funky style and a row of weird clues in front of her. In particular I enjoy the drip of ketchup on the bag of chips...just a touch of sinister foreshadowing, and the clues have more meaning as the story continues.
R: Are there any book signings in your future?
E: Not really. I was invited to one this weekend at Mac's but I'll be away in Dawson City. BUT, there is an exhibit of the original illustrations at Baked Cafe. We're talking about having some kind of event but I haven't planned it yet. The show goes up Wednesday night!
R: And we can all rush out and buy copies for Christmas presents...where?
E: Good question Rona! There are lots of places you can buy it. It's in the new arrivals section at Mac's Fireweed, It will be at Baked Cafe starting Thursday morning and you can buy it on Amazon.com, and book stores in Vancouver. You can also buy them directly from me. Just email me to arrange an exchange. They're $10 - $12.99 depending on where you get it.
R: Thanks for chatting, E. Always a pleasure to sit down with greatness.