Tag Archives: scary

Seriously Spooky Month: Guest Post – James Foley

 

Bringing My Dead Bunny to life – James Foley

www.jamesfoley.com.au/books/my-dead-bunny

MDB_cover-1000px

I have never owned a rabbit, let alone a zombified one, so when I began working on ‘My Dead Bunny’ I had no idea how to approach the character of Bunny Brad. I knew plenty about zombies, having watched all of the Walking Dead and the original Romero film Night of The Living Dead; but I didn’t know how to draw a decent rabbit (or, as this book required, an indecent one).

In addition, I wasn’t sure what illustration style would suit the book; in the first few pages I needed to show a live rabbit being electrocuted, then coming back as a zombie, and I needed to accomplish this without making the audience want to stop reading, close the book, and burn it immediately. As you would expect, it was a challenge bringing a dead bunny to life.

I always start a book by developing the main character. This inevitably involves experimenting with style at the same time. Once the main character design has settled, it informs the style of the whole book; everything else forms around it.

I read the first draft for ‘My Dead Bunny’ and was instantly hooked. Then I was perplexed. How would I draw Bunny Brad? I realised I needed to answer three questions:

  1. How ‘undead’ would he be? (i.e. would Bunny Brad still look relatively alive, or would he look obviously undead?)
  2. How much sentience would he have? (i.e. would Bunny Brad appear to be conscious of his actions and intentionally evil, or would he be acting out of unconscious zombie impulses?)
  3. How real would he look? (i.e. would Bunny Brad have realistic proportions, or would he appear more cartoony?)

I wrote these three questions down in my sketchbook, and tried a few drawings.

20130615-MDB-first-sketches

The brain worm was there from the start, as was the idea to have Bunny Brad appear at the narrator’s bedroom door casting a long shadow.  But that’s about all in these sketches that looks familiar.

At this point I realised I needed to look at reference photos of actual rabbits, so that I could clarify what features I needed to include. I soon found another challenge; how could I take a rabbit’s features and zombify them? Rabbits look very alert, anxious and cuddly, whereas zombies need to look slow, dim-witted and creepy. How could I draw a zombified rabbit and still have it seem like a rabbit?

I tried many many options over many many months. Here are some of those designs.

random-sketches

The publishers (god bless them) were very patient and supportive, rejecting options that were too cute and/or not strong enough. After many rejected character designs I was feeling very frustrated, so I sat on my studio floor with a big sheet of paper and a sharpie, and drew some ridiculous zombie rabbits that I thought the publisher would hate. ‘Let’s see what they think of these!’ I thought. I sent the sketches off with a devilish glint in my eye.

20140215-bunny sketches

The publisher emailed me back almost immediately. ‘We love them!’ they said. ‘More of these, please!’

I felt surprised, then relieved. The character had finally clicked, and so had the style. Bunny Brad shifted a bit from that sketch to the final version, but he was basically there, and the rest of the book flowed quite easily once he was in place.

LEFT: a colour test version of the rough sketch in the previous image;  RIGHT: final version from the cover of the book

LEFT: a colour test version of the rough sketch in the previous image;
RIGHT: final version from the cover of the book

It’s always the case that I spend at least half of the creative process experimenting and planning. Quite often there’s a point where it seems like it’s never going to work – that the character is never going to settle and the book won’t go anywhere. I’m so glad Bunny Brad eventually turned up! He’s been a heap of fun to work with (if a bit nibbly).

My Dead Bunny by Sigi Cohen and James Foley is available now from Walker Books Australia.  Grab a copy now from your library or bookshop.

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Filed under books, Guest Post, picture books, Seriously Spooky Month, Seriously Spooky Month 2015, spooky

Beware – Seriously Spooky Month is here!

I love spooky books for kids and teens!  If it’s got ghosts, witches, vampires (non-sparkly ones), zombies or anything supernatural I’ll read it.  So I’ve decided to dedicate a whole month to spooky stories.

Throughout Seriously Spooky Month in October I’m highlighting my favourite spooky and scary books for kids of all ages, from picture books right through to YA.  I’m also very excited to have some wonderful guest posts from authors and illustrators who create spooky books for kids, including Barry Hutchison, Chris Priestly, Gareth P. Jones, R.L. Stedman, Sue Copsey and James Foley.

Scare your socks off this October and join me for some Seriously Spooky reads!

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Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that I love creepy stories of all kinds.  Ghosts, werewolves, zombies, vampires, and other creatures that live in the dark are often featured in the books I love.  I’ve been reading many of the first titles from Hot Key Books (a brilliant new publisher based in the UK) and when I read about Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones I had to get my hands on it.  A ghost story set in Victorian London, featuring a boy who could communicate with ghosts, sounded absolutely fantastic!  Constable & Toop was even better than it sounded.

Sam Toop lives in a funeral parlour, blessed (or cursed) with an unusual gift. While his father buries the dead, Sam is haunted by their constant demands for attention. Trouble is afoot on the ‘other side’ – there is a horrible disease that is mysteriously imprisoning ghosts into empty houses in the world of the living. And Sam is caught in the middle – will he be able to bring himself to help?

Constable & Toop is a creepy, gruesome story, with plenty of mystery, and a good dose of wit and humour.  Gareth can have you cringing one moment and laughing the next, which is why I liked the book so much.  He has given us a glimpse inside the ghost world and it’s not what you would expect.  It’s the ghost world and the witty banter between his characters that provide the comic relief of the story.  There is also plenty of throat slitting and stabbing for those who like their ghost stories gruesome.  The story is set in Victorian London and from the first page you are immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the period.

There are several different threads of the story, following different characters, which Gareth weaves together perfectly.  Gareth shows us the lives of the living and the dead, and the ‘Talkers’ allow them to communicate with each other.  Characters whose lives seem quite separate from each other in the beginning become increasingly intertwined as the story progresses.

The thing I liked the most about Constable and Toop was the way that Gareth portrayed the ghost world.  It’s very bureaucratic, with each ghost having a role, like Enforcer or Prowler, and there are lots of rules and regulations that ghosts must follow.  If they don’t do as they are told they’re labelled Rogues and are hunted down.  There is an incredible amount of paperwork that needs to be filled out to do anything, and you must have a license in order to be a Poltergeist.  In order to go to the physical world and find out what your unfinished business is (so that you can step through the Unseen Door and cross over) you have to apply for a research license.  Lapsewood is my favourite character because he’s a very likeable guy, who just wants to get away from all the paperwork and get some adventure out in the real world (while impressing the girl of his dreams).  He has some of the best lines and has some incredibly strange conversations with his superiors, who can never seem to get his name right.

If you want a ghost story with a difference grab a copy of Constable and Toop by Gareth P. Jones.  I would recommend it for fans of Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series, Joseph Delaney’s Spook’s Apprentice series, or Barry Hutchison’s Invisible Fiends series.

5 out of 5 stars

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