Today I’m thrilled to be posting an interview with the creators of The Adventures of Tooki: The Secret of the Stones, a lovely graphic novel for children aged 7+. I reviewed the book yesterday, you can find it here. Vicky kindly took the time to answer some questions for me, part 1 was posted this morning, and here is part 2.
Did you have any input into each other’s work?
Jamie is the artist, I the wordsmith, but both of us were involved to a greater or lesser extent in each other’s input. Jamie must take credit for the artwork; he has no idea how extraordinary it is and so, happily and proudly I sing its praises. Aside from coming up jointly with the story and the text, I was his grumbling dogsbody. Jamie was up at 5.30 each morning and didn’t stop ‘til 8 at night and never took a weekend off, trying to meet an impossible 10-month deadline (self-imposed and agreed by Walker Books because none of us knew initially how long each page would take to complete).
From commission, the coloured artwork took two years. As it progressed, so too did the text balloons: we made our own font from my handwriting (the most legible it has ever been) and I created and positioned the text-balloons, Jamie designing the artwork, around them. There is an extraordinary methodology to the construction of each complex page; too complicated perhaps to describe here (from pencil sketch, through watercolour wash, line drawings, to lighting and special effects in Photoshop), but suffice it to say that anything artistic and complicated, Jamie did and anything boringly monotonous and easy, he’d hand over to me, whereupon I’d settle down to the laborious task of colouring the hats, scarves, buttons, tentpoles … just look at the detail and spare a thought for the girl who coloured it, please! I can tell you that on the day when finally I was to colour in my very last Shuffley sledge, you could find me whooping and hollering around the garden.
Were you inspired by any other books when you were creating this?
Jamie was inspired as a child by Tove Jansson’s Moomin books; many people have noticed a similarity between Moomintroll and Tooki (and between Jamie and Tooki, if only Jamie had a yellow fur coat). Both of us grew up with Tintin. Jamie loved the Asterix books too and although I liked them, Tintin was and is an abiding obsession to the point of being able to quote lines, place frames and of having been accepted onto Mastermind with Tintin as my specialist subject, only to be told by the producer that having worked for the BBC, I wouldn’t be allowed on, as they might be seen to be partisan (a lucky escape perhaps). Herge’s manner of creating a spread was a big influence on us: he’d always have a minor page-turner on the left-hand page and a major one on the right, a question that needed to be answered; we’ve always tried to do the same with Tooki, to have the reader excited to turn the page to see what was coming next.
I loved the way the book takes some pretty big ideas and makes them simple enough for the fairly young target market. Were there any challenges in doing this?
Thank you for noticing these pretty big ideas; they are what drove the creation of the book because they are what drive us as people, the wondering about what life is all about. We aimed the book at a universal rather than a young readership. Even young children are much more sophisticated than we give them credit for and can often grasp the nub of an idea that flies over the heads of adults. Tooki is essentially the story of being human and asks the questions that we all ask from a young age. The challenge was to pose these searching questions without their being too consciously noticed, our aim to sweep the reader along at the same time as provoking deeper thoughts and feelings. Practically, that meant pushing the most immediately enjoyable part of the story – the adventure – to the fore to allow the deeper message to run subtly under the surface. The same is true of life: we are caught up in the day-to-day adventure but are never far from wondering what it’s all about. Don’t want to say too much else; would rather let readers read what they will into the book.
Our publishers, Walker Books, told us of a criticism levelled at the book by a potential foreign co-publisher: that the appearance of the characters is too ‘cuddly’ to carry what is quite a complex story. But the juxtaposition of simple-looking creatures with quite a challenging story is intentional, partly to include young children who don’t need to be patronised and partly because we feel that the appearance of the creatures will be immediately endearing to readers of all ages. Besides and daring to go a little deeper, life’s like that; is at once simple and unfathomably complex.
And finally, I have my fingers crossed for the answer to this one, will we be seeing more of Tooki’s adventures in more books?
On the penultimate page of the book, Tooki tells Miski that: ‘ … there’s someone I’d like you to meet’ and the last page is completed by the caption ‘The Beginning’, which would imply that this is certainly not the end. Jamie and I would love to set forth on further Took adventures (we have a sequel up our sleeves) but we have gone out on a long limb (a huge financial stretch) in order to bring Tooki into the world so we’ll just have to wait and see whether the world wants more from Tooki and thus from us.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions Vicky, it’s been a real pleasure hosting you on my blog today!