A Few Quick Questions With…B.C.R. Fegan

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about a wonderful children’s book, Henry and the Hidden Treasure, and now the author of that book, B.C.R. Fegan is back on the blog for a few questions about the book and his writing in general.

I’m fascinated by the process of putting together a book like this — have you and Wen worked together before? Do you script it out, including the images, like a comic book writer?
Henry and the Hidden Treasure was the first book that Wen and I worked on together. She is an extremely talented illustrator which is what caught my eye in the beginning.

The actual process of working with an illustrator is fairly straightforward. Generally, the first step is to have a designer who can lay out the book with the required margins and provide the text at a size appropriate for the age group. This layout (or scamp) makes it easy for the illustrator to see how much room they have to play with, and where any negative space should be.

The next step is the brief itself. For Henry and the Hidden Treasure, a fair amount of direction was provided. This is only because when I write, I do it with the illustrations in mind. For children in this age group, the visual aspect of the story comes first and the narrative provides reinforcement to their imagination. This is why I needed scenes drawn in specific ways or from certain perspectives.

The way this is done is simply by scripting out each page with characters, events, actions taking place and anything else that reinforces what is going on in that scene. Other aspects include any colors (if they are important), lighting, perspectives, emotions or a certain ambience that I’m looking for. In addition to this, I provide overall direction that is important or that might be helpful to the illustrator. What is great though with talented artists, is they can take this direction and elevate it to a place even more impressive than the scenes visualized in the mind.

The third step is really the fine tuning. As the illustrations are completed and sent through, they are checked. Sometimes they are great the way they are – at other times, there might be some minor amendments.

The final step is receiving the files in a project format ready for the design stage.

As I mentioned it is fairly straightforward but by no means the only way of working with an illustrator. Wen and I work together really well and the process has always been quite smooth. I’m very lucky to know her.

Of all the ideas flitting around your head, what was it about this one that made you say, “this is the one.”
When I consider ideas for children’s books, I generally try to center my thoughts on exciting subjects or narratives. I want my books to be filled with imagination rather than lessons. So for Henry and the Hidden Treasure, the whole idea came about from considering hidden treasure – particularly as a child might perceive it. It was from this point that the story itself was crafted.

Once complete, I didn’t really pick up the manuscript and think that it was ‘the one’. I guess my approach might be a little different to other authors, but by centering my thoughts on something that children already find exciting, I’m fairly confident that the idea will naturally develop into a nice story.

I appreciated the subtlety of the moral/lesson to Henry and the Hidden Treasure — how’d you decide to convey it that way?
As I mentioned previously, the subject of hidden treasure was where the story began. I think this leant itself quite well to considering what real hidden treasure might be in the context of the family unit – particularly with siblings.

I wanted this to be a subtle theme rather than the driving force behind the book, mainly because I think imagination should take priority. Too many books start with the lesson, and often the narrative feels contrived.

In the writing of Henry and the Hidden Treasure, what was the biggest surprise about the writing itself? Either, “I can’t believe X is so easy!” or “If I had known Y was going to be so hard, I’d have skipped this and watched more TV”.
This is a difficult question. Henry and the Hidden Treasure actually came together fairly organically. I guess in a sense, writing it was quite easy. However, I remember something my father once said to me that I think applies to authors as well.

I remember as a child watching my father, a locksmith, unlock customer’s front doors very quickly – sometimes in just a few seconds. On the rare occasion, a minor objection would be made about the cost in relation to the time it took to open the lock. He explained to me later that what so many people fail to realize is that his ability to open the lock so quickly was because he had dedicated his life to perfecting his craft. What sat behind those few seconds, was decades of training, study, understanding the right tools and constant practice.

I enjoy writing, and have been reading and writing for as long as I can remember. Henry and the Hidden Treasure was definitely a pleasure to write and I certainly wouldn’t say any aspect of it was difficult. However I don’t want to leave the impression that this was just a lucky break. The difficulty for most authors I think lies in everything that came before!

What’s next for you? Are you sticking with the children’s books?
I actually have a long list of children’s books going through the stages of publishing. The next one should be out toward the end of the year. In addition to children’s books, I am in the process of writing Young Adult Fiction. I think the future will include children’s picture books, young adult fiction – and probably everything in between.
Thanks for your time, Mr. Fegan. Readers (especially those with younger kids) — go check out Henry and the Hidden Treasure.
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