I’m enjoying Victoria Hislop’s “Cartes Postales” at the moment. I’ve never visited Greece, but this is a delicious appetiser for another place on my bucket list. The story opens with Ellie in London. Every week a postcard from Greece arrives through her door, addressed to someone else and signed with the initial “A”. Then, a notebook is received and it contains a moving account of A’s journey through the country; an odyssey. I’m only at the start but I’m tantalised already by this novel. And I particularly like the black and white photos, artistically enhanced, which are scattered throughout. At Christmas I read Kate Mosses’ “Winter Ghosts” and she has included faded, spooky photos throughout her book, which I loved.
Do you remember your favourite childhood reads? I loved poring over comforting, detailed images in Jill Barklem’s “Brambly Hedge” and Cynthia and Brian Patersons’ “The Foxwood Tales”. Thomas Henry’s brilliant illustrations in the old editions of “William” stories by Richmal Crompton still make me smile. They amplified my enjoyment of William’s escapades. I have a treasured, slightly mildewed copy of J. M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan and Wendy”, decorated by Gwynedd M. Hudson. There are only three colours used in each illustration and the style is redolent of the 1930’s. I’m lucky to have four grandchildren and the excuse to share these stories with them and peer at the pictures together again. Why shouldn’t there be illustrations in more adult books?
I have included photos in both my historical novels, many of them kindly donated by our local tourist office in Italy. The Tuscan locations are an inspiration to me as a writer. Some would argue that it is up to me to paint those pictures through my words alone. I have had a couple of comments saying as much: “Not too sure about the photos – perhaps unnecessary to include because of the quality of reproduction,” said one reviewer. Contradicting this point of view, somebody else wrote: “…at first sight they’re just grainy little black and white images, but each one explains and is explained by the text, so that the more you read the more alive they seem, like Facebook pages from a hundred years ago.”
The e-pub versions of my book have been published by Endeavour Press and they have not included photos in their books. However, I’ve kept them in my paperback versions.
I’ve sneaked a peek at the back of Victoria Hislop’s book where she chats to Patrick Insole, Creative Director at Headline, about the photographs. He worked for many years in children’s publishing. He says the key to including illustrations is to identify “the moments where text and picture work together, where they are supposed to work together.” Hislop adds that “ultimately it gives the reader pictures that will float around – and live – in their mind’s eye.”
I have a third Tuscan novel in the pipeline and I intend to include photos. Victoria Hislop has encouraged me to think that I can enhance my text through photographic glimpses. But in the meantime, I’m looking for an illustrator for my WIP which is nearly finished. It is important for me to get the right pairing. I think I am almost there with my hunt. Watch this space for news of “The Adventures of Mavis and Dot”.
I would love to know your opinions about illustrations and photos in adult books.