As a writer of fantasy, whenever I tell someone who is not a speculative fiction enthusiast what type of books I write, they always respond with the same words.
“So you write for children?”
(This is, of course, after they bury the expression that crosses their faces of “Oh, no. What kind of freakish conversation have I fallen into?”)
I then take the time to explain—with no ill will—that no, my books are not YA or middle-grade, but for older teens and adults, primarily because my protagonists don’t belong to the right age group for younger readers. If I could write for young adults or even tweens, I would. That’s where the lion’s share of sales in this genre lie, since these age groups still have a firm hold of their sense of wonder, and that’s what fantasy of the type I write hinges on. But no, my voice doesn’t work for the average younger reader, so instead I count on the young at heart to have the desire to join me on the wonder-journey.
As I’ve been analyzing tactics I can use to rise above the typical obscurity that plagues the majority of authors who publish a book in any given year, my thoughts have lingered on ways I can bring something to the table with my books that other authors can’t. There’s this other side of me that I’ve been told more than once I am not taking full advantage of, however, and that’s my artist side. Many folks have asked me why I don’t do my own covers, and the response is easy: I don’t paint. But I do draw, and my work is well-suited to interior illustrations for books. As of yet, though, my artwork has not made it into my novels, aside from a few maps that have served as section dividers.
Since I already have the problem of people assuming I write for young readers because I write fantasy, I have hesitated to add character artwork to the
interior if my books for fear that doing so will push people’s assumptions even further to the side of “this must be for kids” when they page through and see drawings. There are things I am writing now that become more PG-13 with each revision as I work to make my characters’ situations more desperate. I don’t want to confuse or upset any potential readers by developing books with illustrations that draw young readers, and then leave those readers (or their parents) blinking wide-eyed at the remnants of skeletons burning in a lake of magma that they did not expect in an illustrated book.
I continue to mull this concept, but I would love to open a dialog on this. Do you think that illustrations are a potential value addition to a fantasy book for teens and adults? Or would they just create
confusion in terms of target audience? If you knew the author of the book you were reading was an artist, would you want to see that author’s rendering of his characters? Or would that interfere with your immersion into the story? I’d love if you’d comment below and weigh in.