A Giant Rises or Umm, I Just Wrote Another Kids' Picture Book - But It is Weird
Updated: Mar 29, 2021
I wrote the first sentence of the story back in March 2017 - March 16, to be precise.
I sat down and wrote it basically because I was struggling with a novel - that, as it turned out, I was going to struggle with for nearly another two years - and I had a nap, and a dream, and then had an earworm of a sentence running through my head. The first sentence of the book:
There was a giant that stood on the shore of a sea.
(Well, we changed that that to a who in later edits)
It's not a particularly remarkable sentence, it's no: In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.
But... it tugged at me until I had to sit down and write. And I damn well wrote it in a single sitting.
Of course the draft was raw, all first drafts are, but there was something there. Enough to have me throw it to my agent, who is also one of my dearest friends or there is no way I would have sent it to her at that early stage - if there is one thing I have learnt over the years it is that no-one gets to see my early drafts. They're confusing, odd, and often written completely out of order, and I we all end up feeling a bit embarrassed and looking at our shoes.
This, though, this felt... cohesive. Still, I was a bit defensive, I'm one of those people who likes to jump in with their self-criticism before anyone else can. So my email subject was:
Umm, I just wrote another kids' picture book - but it is weird
See, I'd been trying to write a kids picture book for a couple of years, I have a good thirty or so picture book concepts and drafts, and while there are a few of them that I love, this one felt different. For one, it wasn't silly (not that there's anything wrong with silly), and it felt concrete, fleshed out, and its rhythms were the rhythms of my novels - when I'm firing, which I admit isn't nearly as often as it should be (see, jumping in with the self-criticism).
Anyway, Alex liked it. A LOT. We played around with it, and then, to my surprise, Lothian, publisher of one of my favourite authors Shaun Tan, decided to publish it. (This is the short version)
We had an illustrator in mind, and she said, yes!
To have Rovina Cai illustrate the story was incredible. Her art brings everything together she manages to make a giant seem at once solid as a mountain, and light as air. There is motion and stillness on every page, and I am still noticing new things, every time I look at the book.
It is odd that the book that I feel is the most me book I have ever written, is also the one I have shared and passed on the most. I let this book go much sooner that I would a novel, where you can be working on it a few months (or even weeks) from release date. It had another reader who then brought their vision to the work, and Rovina's art is breathtaking. It was at once humbling and exciting and incredibly educational.
Suzanne O'Sullivan, my publisher at Lothian has given me a dream, built on a dream (well, an earworm sentence, which is where the best stories come from), and I thank her for it deeply. And Rovina Cai who made words and the spaces between words into glorious art. And Alex Adsett who went in to bat for this story, and pushed me to make it better. And Sophie Mayfield who worked on making it even better as well. Editors are gold. And Hannah Janzen who designed the book, and brought everything together. And Emily Lighezzolo who has been an absolute star of a publicist, and everyone else at Hachette. These are all people who carried that story on, and without whom there wouldn't be a book to read.
We've carried this book out into the world, and, from tomorrow, you'll get a chance to read it too. It was my book, but it's theirs too, and yours, above all yours. Which is what every book wants to be, most particularly those books built on the substance of dreams.