When you write a story, you not only hope it will resonate, you also hope that those involved in the creative process will do it justice. So, how did children’s book author John Bray feel when he could not communicate with illustrator Josh Cleland during the development of The End (Starry Forest Books, September 13, 2022)?
“It was nerve-wracking because you’re handing over–kind of a child–a thing that you created to someone that you’ve never met that other people tell you will treat it nicely, and then you just wait,” he tells So Booking Cool.
Though it is common in traditional publishing for authors and illustrators to not meet, some could not fathom the circumstances and questioned how Bray could trust a stranger he’d never talked to with his creation. “And it’s weird because…I had a clear idea in my head of how this story would look visually, but if you were to ask me to explain that idea to you, I couldn’t because I think it was just a feeling of what this story would be. So, when I saw the early sketches, all at one time, it was everything I could have hoped for and also nothing I had imagined.”
Cleland, a veteran of over a decade in illustration and graphic design, understands the sentiments Bray expressed, which is why it is important for him to always honor the manuscript. He also says it is his duty to expand on the world within the manuscript.
“Sometimes it’s easier, sometimes it’s harder, sometimes there’s art notes that kind of guide me on that process and sometimes there’s very little at all, and it’s really up to me,” Cleland shares with SBC. “With [The End], I think there were very little, maybe even no art notes. It was just the words, so it really provided an opportunity for me to actually create a story within John’s story.”
The End earned a starred review from Kirkus and is currently the number one release in Children’s Time books on Amazon. Through familiar activities such as eating lunch, playing with friends, reading, and/or building a fort, the picture book shows youth that every end to something leads to a new beginning.
“When I was illustrating the book, I started really thinking about the concept,” says Cleland. “And I’ve been thinking about the concept since.”
Check out the interview to learn more about the book including what and who inspired it, more of Bray and Cleland’s respective details on the publishing process, their influences, the best advice they can give to aspiring authors and illustrators, the other ideas Cleland has for The End, their thoughts on children’s books sparking conversations, their quarantine revelations and more! For more information, visit Bray and Cleland‘s official websites.