Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Making of 'A Day with the Duchess'

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's itinerary for the tour to New Zealand and Australia has just been released  and my new book A Day with the Duchess is scheduled to be published this  month! At long last! It's almost been two years in the making. 

When it was announced that Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were set to visit Singapore, I wanted to do something that would commemorate their visit and the idea of a book began to percolate in my mind.

But I had trouble formulating a storyline. It was tough to say the least. I wanted something engaging and something that
was not too predictable. But one thing was for sure, I had to meet the Duke and Duchess! So I headed down to Gardens by the Bay with my mum, niece and family friend Chantal to meet them. We weren't able to meet the Duke but we were thrilled when the Duchess walked over to us.  She was so charming and down to earth. She's a really lovely, lovely lady. And even more stunning in person than her photographs.

While waiting for the Duke and Duchess, we met Vicky Adeney, mum of royal fans Alice and Mikey. As we had two bouquets of flowers, my mum gave one to Alice, and when the Duchess saw little Alice, she came right over to speak to her. By the way, A Day with the Duchess is dedicated to Alice and Mikey, who were the inspiration for the story.

The Duchess and my thumb

So at the end of 2012, I came up with  a story and then  planned on self publishing the book in time for the 2013 London Book Fair.  

Now the thing with picture books is that the illustrations have to be spot on. They are what attract the readers and they've got to be just right. So I asked my illustrator to start drafting concept sketches.  We experimented with several styles and we both agreed that none of them were as appealing as they could be. We had never had an issue with coming up with concept sketches before, so this was a baffling experience for us. The process took far longer than we would have liked, and truth be told, it got slightly frustrating. I guess we were both under a lot of pressure.


Early concept sketches
A Disney Duchess?

I don't know who this is supposed to be!! lol

An early concept
Then just before the London Book Fair last year - when we were just about to give up -we managed to come up with a cover image that we were relatively satisfied with. We didn't have any other illustrations  other than the cover art, but it would have to do.

Concept cover of the book that might have been...

We showed the cover art to some publishers and distributors, and there were nibbles but they wanted to see the whole mock-up,  not just the cover.  

When I returned home, I decided to submit the story to my editor, Sheri, and after an editorial meeting with the team, they offered me a publishing contract with the caveat that it become part of my Sam, Sebbie and Di-Di-Di series, which was already underway. Since Sam really did meet the Duchess at the Gardens by the Bay, I had no problem editing the story slightly. Sadly that meant parting ways with my longtime collaborator, the talented Enrico.

But when I saw Soefara's concept sketches for the story, I was thrilled! Not only were the sketches beautiful, but she captured the essence of the story. She's a brilliant illustrator and it's hard to believe this is her first series of books.

Soefara's Concept Art

A Day with the Duchess is the fourth book in the series. Now my brilliant illustrator Soefara is putting the finishing touches on the final arwork and I'm beside myself with anticipation. I'm really excited about this book. Hopefully it will be hot off the press in time for the Bologna Children's Book Fair and the London Book Fair.

The London and Bologna Book Fair Catalogue

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