In my ongoing blog series to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the publication of Kendra Kandlestar and the Box of Whispers, I’ve talked about the setting, heroes, antagonists, and overall inspiration for the book.
For this installment, I’m discussing the visual design. Since I come from a graphic design background and am also the illustrator of the series, I was allowed to have a strong say in the overall look of the book—which is far from the normal situation in publishing.
I had a lot of passion for the way the books should be presented, so I was accommodated! When I was a child, my favorite books were those from the turn-of-the-century, when art deco was the flavor of the day. In those books, such as the Oz series by L. Frank Baum, art, text, and delightful elements of design seemed to dance together to create a magic portal into the world of storybook.
This was very much a tradition I wanted to echo when it came time to present Kendra Kandlestar to the world. This is most dramatically seen on the first page of each chapter in The Box of Whispers, which makes use of large, elaborate typography. I looked in particular to Ozma of Oz (Chapter 1 shown below, left). Published in 1907, this third book in the Oz series was illustrated by John R. Neill (and was also my favorite in the series as a child).
Here are some of the other “chapter title pages” in The Box of Whispers:
Incidentally, I should mention that the character featured in the illustration above was named after one of my favorite characters in the Narnia series, Puddleglum. Since my character—Pugglemud—was encountered in a marsh, just like C.S. Lewis’s Puddleglum, I thought it would be a nice homage. The characters share nothing else in common and, at the time, I thought Pugglemud would play his role in the story and then quietly slip away. Unfortunately, he’s rather like a bad weed; he kept coming back in future books. If I had known this, I probably would have not given him a name that is so similar to Puddleglum.
It goes without saying that I was very pleased when one of the early reviews for The Box of Whispers made a comparison between it and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
For the final installment, I’ll talk about some of the fun fan engagement that’s happened with the book.