I’m super excited that Swapna Haddow and Sheena Dempsey’s new book, Bad Panda, is finally here in NZ! It is an absolutely hilarious read that you will have you giggling along while you read it. You can read my review here on the blog. On my stop of the Bad Panda NZ Blog Tour today Swapna shares her story about collaborating with Sheena. Read on to find out how this collaboration (and their friendship) began. Check out the end of this post to enter to win a copy of Bad Panda.
Working in Collaboration by Swapna Haddow
I first met illustrator Sheena Dempsey in 2014. I had just signed my first book deal with Faber & Faber and Sheena was an author-illustrator in her own right, having a number of books to her name already.
I remember finding out that Alice, my editor, and Will, the art director at the time, had selected Sheena to illustrate Dave Pigeon – they’d seen her portfolio which included a pigeon perfectly in tune with the vibe of the Dave Pigeon text.
I’d Googled Sheena’s work and knew she was perfect for the book but as I waited in the Faber lobby to meet her, my knees bobbed in anticipation. What would she make of a nobody author like me?
As my anxiety was about to tornado into a disastrous spiral of self-doubt, a huge red jacket launched itself into the lobby and there was Sheena. I knew we would be firm friends the minute she decided that the best place to put her huge coat was the middle of the floor.
I didn’t know then that five books later we would be starting our second series together and I certainly didn’t know then that we would have built the friendship we have. Sheena is, without a doubt, my best friend in the publishing world and I couldn’t imagine working on books about daft pigeons and bad pandas with anyone else.
It might surprise you to hear that more often than not, writers and illustrators don’t ever meet. That seems bizarre, right? Publisher often pair an illustrator with an author and they work separately. The text and pictures are then brought together in-house and a book is created without the author and illustrator ever meeting. The justification for this approach is that the publisher can avoid clashes of creative differences by keeping the author and illustrator apart or at least more easily manage conflict.
Despite that, I still think it is a great shame that two creatives working on a joint project often don’t get to meet and I realise how uniquely positioned Sheena and I are to have actually met during the creative process. Thankfully it has worked out brilliantly for us. We have been able to share our thoughts on the books and events and we still haven’t clobbered each other over the head.
As we have got to know each other over the years, we have worked more collaboratively on our books and Bad Panda is the most collaborated work that we have ever put out into the world. Right from the initial idea, Sheena and I have discussed everything from characters to the layout of the book.
Working in a partnership can be tricky in the creative industry. There are strong opinions and differing tastes and you certainly won’t always see eye-to-eye on everything, but I think the key is to be honest and respectful. It’s important to remember that when someone shows you what they have created, they are making themselves vulnerable, so always offer opinions that are constructive. Equally, there is no space for being meek with your views in order to placate someone else’s pride because it’s your name on the cover too. It’s a balance and if you are considerate and thoughtful, you’ll find that equilibrium easily.
I’ve just sent Sheena the text for the Bad Panda sequel and as the first book makes it out into the world, I can’t help but think just how lucky I am to create books with my friend.
Win a copy of Bad Panda!
Thanks to Allen and Unwin NZ I have 3 copies of Bad Panda to give away. To enter to win a copy just fill out your details below. Competition closes Monday 13 September. Open to NZ only. Winners will be notified after competition closes. Due to lockdown restrictions I can’t guarantee when prizes will arrive.