East of the Sun, West of the Moon: in between the lines.

East of the Sun, West of the Moon is a small book. Based on a traditional story that comes from the Northlands, it is a version of Beauty and the Beast, with bears.  For those who love the story it holds very close to the traditional telling, re-imagined into a modern setting, but while I was writing it the characters began to walk their own paths. I hope that it will surprise even those who know the story well.

I wrote it because I had to. I wrote it because I have worked in picture books for so long now that there are children who have grown up with my stories. Some now even have children of their own. I wrote it to carry a story I love through to another generation. I wrote it to try and understand its fascination for me. I didn’t realise at the time but I also wrote it because my children were coming to an age where they would be going out alone into the world. But mostly I wrote it because it demanded that I paid the story the attention it desired.

Part of the story came from a fascination with the wind. I live in a place where the wind blows hard. Sometimes when you are walking you can hear it coming across the land before it springs on you. I always loved the part in The English Patient where he recites some of the names of the world’s winds and this drew me in to searching for them. I became more and more fascinated by the ocean of air we live in and how it moves across the land.

And as with all the books I wrote, the main work with pen and paper I did outside. I walk to write, and tend to sit at the beach or on top of the lonely hill above my house.

I write on a lonely hill or a beach. If there is heather there, all the better.

I write with a pen. I find I think differently depending on what I use, pen, computer, typewriter. And I write on one side of the book so that there is room for edits and additions.

Pages from notebook with manuscript from East of the Sun, complete with doodles

More manuscript, with ideas and suggestions.

Small pictures doodled into the spaces between parts of the book

Delighted when Frances Lincoln decided to commit to the book ( should I mention the rhemes of rejection letters, most complimentary, but unsure of where the book would sit on their list, in a bookshop) the act of designing the book was more difficult than anticipated. I had a clear idea of how I wanted it to look but struggled to explane, other than to say, small, hardback, precious. I had loved the shape of a book by Isabel Allende called The City of the Beasts and wanted something that size but with pictures. And so it began to take shape.

The design of a book is so important. How many words on a page? I wanted them to have space to breathe. How many pages? I wanted there to be room for double page spreads with no text. I began to doodle in my sketchbook.

sketchbook of image from East of the Sun

Through the trees, a picture that works best in the sketch book. Quiet, with a stillness.

Cover sketch, one of many

No problem with the bear, but how to get the girl to look old enough but not too old. She is about 16, and the story changes her. And she isn’t British.

A street in Swansea, Wind Street

The drawing above was originally made as a cover drawing, but was dropped from the book. It is Wind Street in Swansea, a coincidence that few will know, but one that appeals to my strange mind’s workings. Below are small sketches for the places where there are breaks in the text.

Small sketches for in between the lines

Frost on the bear's door.

It took a long time to find a way in to the book. Above is one of the double spreads that was rejected, by me, from the book. I reworked the whole image from a different angle, distance giving this the magic that was lacking in the first attempt.

Sketch of inside the wood and the bear's door.

back cover and interior of bear's door

Bears and the Northern Lights

Reading by bear light

All of the paintings are much smaller than my usual work. Some, like the wolf, are tiny.

Small wolf

Now, having finished the book,(it lay dormant in a draw for a while after so many rejections from publishers) having illustrated it and lived closely to it for years, having read, reread, listened to other versions, I don’t believe I am much closer to knowing what it is about than when I started. Perhaps it is about finding your way through the world, keeping promises, free will. It is a book about journeys, about growing up. Perhaps it is simply about love. I think it is a book about love.

Walking the land, searching

East of the Sun, West of the Moon is written and illustrated by Jackie Morris, published by Janetta Otter-Barry Books, Frances Lincoln, in UK and USA.

ISBN: 978-1-84780-294-1

Published 7th January 2013. (The 7th is a Thursday. Traditionally books are always published on a Thursday.)

It is dedicated to my daughter, Hannah Stowe and my friend, Erin Keen.

East of the Sun, west of the Moon

You can pre-order signed copies from Solva Woollen Mill. You can also order from your local book shop, and pre- order on internet sites.

I am currently working on a new novel. Or two.

Article about East of the Sun in Books for Keeps.

Interview about my work and East of the Sun on Playing by the Book.

Review for East of the Sun in Times Newspaper, Top 10 Easter round ups by Amanda Craig

18 Responses to East of the Sun, West of the Moon: in between the lines.

  1. adele geras says:

    This is a completely magical blog post! I am going to tweet about it now. Book looks quite wonderful, needless to say.

    • Jackie says:

      Thanks Adele.There is more to be added to this post. I need to just find a time machine so that I have enough time to do everything. Hoping it sells well so that I can work on the new novel in similar format.

  2. Kit Berry says:

    This looks stunning and I can’t wait to get my copy! I especially love that picture of the great swarm of polar bears – it made me feel very strange, looking at that. Very exciting indeed, and I’m sure this book will be cherished by all who are lucky enough to own a copy. Congratulations!

  3. Katerina Ray says:

    Thanks for a really informative post about your writing techniques. It’s lovely to read and hear about the little quirks and techniques that others use in their writing.
    I am a reader who’s grown up with your books (and now pass them on to the next generation) and I can’t wait to add this to my collection.

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  6. Dorothy Hallam says:

    Cant wait to hold and read this beautiful book . One thing – I can’t see the price anywhere. This would be useful as I’d like to buy some for presents.

    • Jackie says:

      If you buy from a real shop it is £9.99. If you buy from Amazon it is cheaper. If you buy from one of the places listed on this post you pay full price, support a real business that pay proper wages and their taxes. I like independent bookshops, but the choice is there.

  7. Karin Hines says:

    Just ordered my copy from the Solva Woolen Mill. I can’t wait. This is a story that has very deep personal meaning for me and for you to write and illustrate it, well…. how perfectly perfect.
    I shall treasure my copy for so many reasons.
    Thank you for re-awakening a very special story to a new audience…
    May the North Wind carry you bright blessings and lots of sales!
    K

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  9. Tammie says:

    this is such a lovely post about your journey with this book
    your words and art make me want to buy it and i will
    it looks beautiful and moving, as in moving the heart in a way that feels good
    thank you for sharing this with us ~

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  11. Della Marinis says:

    I have just received my signed copies of East of the Sun… and I am Cat from Solva Woollen Mill who was able to get them to Berlin in just a week by regular Royal Post (and are so much nicer to deal with than Amazon).

    Thank you Jackie, for taking the time to sign these beautiful books, it makes them so extra special. The editions and drawings in both books are gorgeous, and I’ve sneaked a quick read of the first few pages of East of the Sun.. though all my books are meant to wait their turn on my night table. Lovely!

    The stamp on the reverse of your bookmark says something about entry to win an east of the sun necklace. Have I missed that? Is it only for UK customers? I’m also a friend on FB, but haven’t spent much time there lately, so may have missed the announcement.

    Many thanks & all the best wishes,
    Della

    • Jackie says:

      Still in time and no, not just for UK customers. You will have been entered by Solva Mill. Will do the draw in a couple of weeks time. So glad you like the books.

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  13. Kathy Rasmussen says:

    Thank you for creating so much beauty from your heart and hands! Have noticed your artisan crafted jewelry…but is anyone printing your illustrations onto fabric? How I would love to wrap myself in your polar bear designs! A nice, silky, flowing scarf is going to be as close as I ever come to riding a polar bear! Smile!
    Thank you!
    Kathy

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