Finding Robyn

MonoKubo’s work meant colour printing which is much more expensive than standard paperbacks. You need better paper in thickness, quality and finish. The inks cost more.

At smaller production quantities with current technologies, there is no price difference in having one colour page or 300. No price difference in having 1% of a page in colour than 100%. So having MonoKubo on board allowed me to explore what else could be possible.

I went in search of freelance book designers. The choice was cook book, textbook, or floral swirls for chapter headings. No thanks.

I turned to degree courses in print and print design. London’s Royal College of Art, Masters in Print. It just sounds good, doesn’t it? A web page showed the latest degree show. Great work from global talent. I wanted to approach UK graduates first. That connection with soil, land. Robyn was my first choice. Her work had an organic quality, and separately, she was changing the shape and position of words which was fascinating but not really suitable/possible for a book of Teufel’s length.

I’m an ‘approach one person at a time’ sort, so off the email went, explaining the project and where I was up to. Robyn was interested if it was a paid gig. ‘Of course!’ –so we began to explore the 46 individual chapter ornamentations of the brief and maybe the cover (Robyn had explained she wasn’t a really a graphic designer and hadn’t done covers).

The first sample ornamentations came back and they were a delight. Everything I would have asked for if I’d known what to ask for. The perfect artist interaction and interpretation. But there was a surprise. Robyn had done the chapter’s text in her signature style too – as dynamic emotion-creating devices (my clumsy description) that work visually and narratively. Static words moved across the page. Found and earned a new place. A new emotion.

I was disjointed.
I liked it, but I was also unsure.

I printed it out at roughly the correct page size for the book, cut away the excess and began to read.

It was disruptive.
But 30 seconds in
my brain got the hang of it

– and I realised something.

I was deeper into the story, deeper into the page, concentrating. My focus more naturally engaged (I’m a terrible reader, my mind wanders like a missioning butterfly).

I was like, wow,
this does things.

Amazing things.

I asked a trusted reader and dear family friend, Jane Leggett, a retired English literature specialist and teacher. Jane confirmed the same feeling. So, I opened the discussion with Robyn about what it would take – to do this work together, for over 60,000 words. The size of the task. But if she was up for it, I was up for it. And with a yes (in a kind of “doh, of course doofus” way), we began.

Robyn would do the first cut of a chapter. I would build on that, adding comments for stuff beyond my software ability. Handed it back. Robyn recut. I recut. And so we continued, perhaps 5/6 turns each. Something things fell naturally, like ‘Everyone turned’ and ‘Black’ for those that know.

Designing the cover was a different challenge. There were great ideas, but something missing too. It’s a specialist skill. I tried a recommended firm. What came back was okay. I’m not really into okay. The search was on again.

Milan popped up by chance. We chatted, I gave the same brief including Robyn’s design- thinking elements and so we got to the cover Thunderpaws has today. Robyn’s a star (Milan too). I loved working with her. Love her thinking and craft. And I’m looking forward to working together on Thunderpaws and the King (I hope!).

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This is a wonderful read for anyone aged 9 to 90. Think Harry Potter meets Horrible Histories… I’m in my 50’s and enjoyed it immensely. I fell in love with Thunderpaws and can’t wait for his next adventures. The cat mannerisms are hilarious and very true to life. The book is a piece of art and beautiful to hold and read from and the illustrations are wonderful. I’m not going to give much away as you need to read this alone or with a child and become lost in its magic xxx

Rachel, Goodreads