Thursday 26 August 2010

Guest Post: Cathy Brett

I'm really thrilled to present a guest post from Cathy Brett, the author of Ember Fury and Scarlett Dedd...

Hello. I’m Cathy Brett, author. Mmm. Author? No, it still doesn’t sound right. Exciting? Yes. Thrilling? Obviously. But, it still feels very new and rather absurd to be calling myself an author. An actual, published, professional author. Surely not. But, ‘Hello, I’m Cathy Brett, illustrator?’ That’s better. Well, not better exactly, but more familiar, because I’ve been an illustrator, an artist (or wanted to be one) for as long as I can remember - since I was able to chew the corners of my picture books and hold a crayon. Art is what I do and who I am. Of course, I’ve always loved books and was one of those kids who preferred reading to almost any other occupation - sometimes a book a day in the school holidays! But books with pictures were always my faves. In fact, I was devastated when I first opened a ‘grown-up’ book and saw that there weren’t any. How could this be? They were the best bits! Why would you take away the best bits? Poor adults, I thought, to be so deprived. I wanted to write to the publishers and tell them that ‘Catch 22’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Catcher in the Rye’ were pretty amazing but would be so much cooler if they had some gorgeous drawings in them of Elizabeth and Darcy and Yossarian and Holden.

So, although I entered young-adulthood still loving books, I started to love art more. And design. And movies. And the gorgeous glossy photographs in magazines. My fledgling career as an illustrator took me into the exciting worlds of fashion and advertising and retail. I travelled the world, attended glamorous parties and fashion shows, mixed with creatives and designers and image-makers. It never occurred to me that book publishing was where I’d eventually end up and where I’d finally find my niche as an ‘author’.

Actually, I’d almost forgotten that there were books with pictures, until my fashionable, creative friends started to get preggers and squeeze out rugrats. I began to visit the alien territory of the children’s department of bookshops and flick through page after page of what I now realised were the most brilliant illustration masterpieces. Why hadn’t I noticed them before, I wondered? A whole load of new artists entered my top ten fave list, like Oliver Jeffers, Dave McKean and Chris Riddell. These guys were miles better than those fancy-pants fashion illustrators. And I wanted to be one of them.

That’s when I realised that children’s book illustration meant drawing kids. I know you’re saying to yourself, ‘duh! course it means that, you twit!’ but, I wasn’t really into kids (found them a bit irritating, actually), so drawing them was much more difficult than I thought. But, I learned how, created a few cool characters and even had a go at writing some picture books myself - which were rubbish! Because, what I really wanted to write was the sort of thing I loved to read - teen fiction. You see, I get teenagers. I remember being one... vividly! It was the most intense, horrible, exhilarating, emotional and amazing time of my life. The problem was, although teen fiction was totally awesome, it didn’t have pictures. I wasn’t going to let that stop me!

Fourteen-year-old angry emo, ‘Ember Fury’, popped into one of my dreams and started setting fire to things, so, naturally, when I woke up I drew her. Then Ember’s adventures began to play like a movie in my head and her angsty, roller-coaster-ride-story became a novel, an illustrated novel... but with a difference. Because, not only did I want to create teen fiction with pictures, I also wanted to have fun with the type and the layout, just like in my favourite picture books. Every image and every choice of font had to enhance the story and intensify the emotional experience. I knew my books would have to compete with all the other sources of visual entertainment available to my readers.

I KNOW everyone says books are great because you make up your own pictures, but they used to say that about radio until the telly came along, didn’t they? And in today’s image-filled world where young adults are the most visually sophisticated young adults of all time (having access to awesome TV, movies, animation, computer games, blogs, apps and photo sites like Flicker) it’s simply bonkers not to give them illustrated fiction. And let’s not stop there. With the launch of ebooks and the iPad what’s to stop us having colour, sound, links, animation, videos, games and interactive narratives? I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait!

So, now that my second (illustrated teen) book, ‘Scarlett Dedd’, is being published and I’m working on my third and fourth, I suppose I’d better get used to being Cathy Brett, author. But add the word ‘illustrator’ as well, because that’s what I am and have always been.

Thanks Cathy! You can check out Cathy Brett's website here. My review of Scarlett Dedd is here - which includes a chance to win a copy of the book:)


Unknown said...

What a great guest post! So honest and really witty!

Luisa at Chicklish said...

I loved reading this. Thanks! I really enjoyed Ember Fury so I'll be looking out for Scarlett Dedd.

Unknown said...

There needs to be a place for books with pictures and books without them for all readers, say from six or seven year olds and up. Please visit my blog and leave a comment. Thanks!


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