I first visited The Rainwilds when I worked on the covers of Robin Hobb’s brilliant books. To coincide with the publication of Fool’s Quest a ‘new look’ was commissioned by Harper Collins for the whole backlist. Amazingly I was asked to work on this. So, I got to re-read and rework all the covers, the last being The Rainwilds Chronicles.
Re-reading these books, especially in the light of having read Fool’s Quest and Fool’s Assassin I found new depths. I love the Rainwilds. If ever there was a fictional place I desire to visit it is here, preferably via a trip up the river on The Tarman and then a flight across to Kelsingra.
I’ve worked on Robin Hobb’s books for years now. One thing that has been unusual in the fluid publishing industry is that during that time I have worked with the same wonderful art editor, Dominic Forbes, and astonishing calligrapher, Stephen Raw. Working with Stephen’s lettering is a pleasure. Watch him, here. Mesmeric.
But, well, maybe because these are the last, it became something of an epic struggle.There were 9 previous books and 2 subsequent and these had to fit in with the ‘look’ of all of those.
So: lots of sketches, back and forth. As ever I spoke a great deal with Jane too, Robin’s UK editor. How to catch something of the book. To me the atmosphere of the books is rain and trees and dragon, warm, wet, river. It begins with dragons born sick, unformed, moves though triumphantly. Second time round I loved the books more.
Some were approved, some reworked. Eventually I tried to settle, with amended annotated sketches, glorious flowing lettering.
Part way through the struggle, in Cirencester Waterstones I found copies of The Liveships books which at the time had also been a struggle. They looked wonderful, really standing out amongst the other books in the fantasy section.
So, courage. I painted. Then I sent off my work with fingers crossed, to Dom, hoping he could work magic. Some of it I knew wouldn’t be used. I tend to do all of the art at least twice. All is done with watercolour and a brush, because I am what I believe is called a ‘traditional’ illustrator ( old fashioned).
Somehow he always seems to make my work shine. And well, I do love what he has done. And I hope fans of Robin’s will like them too, and that they will draw new readers into discovering her astonishing world.
Once they are done it looks easy. It wasn’t. But it was a pleasure.
Now, like everyone else, I wait… for the final episode in this glorious tale.