When a writer gets an idea for a story, he or she never knows where the tale will take them before it gets into the hands of eager readers. Now that WANDERING WEBBER is out for folks to enjoy, I've been looking back on the process that led to the book's creation. I'm sure there are many of you who are scratching their heads about now, wondering how hard could it be to take the short, little tale of Webber from first draft to published book?
Well, you might be surprised to know that no other novel, anthology or story of mine has taken LONGER to produce than good ol' Webber's adventure. It's true. Follow along with me as I recount how the book came to be created.
We begin about 30 years ago. Yes, you read that right: 30 years. I was living in the family home while finishing up college and heading into university in the Creative Writing program. One night, pondering in my old room I shared with my two older brothers and gazing out the window, I saw a spider doing what Webber is doing at the end of WANDERING WEBBER. I'm deliberately vague here for those reading this without having read the book - don't want to spoil anything. I remember thinking that was one smart little critter! And I watched him every night for the rest of that summer.
The image stuck in my head and, at the time, I had no idea what I would ever do with it. Writers are always getting ideas flowing in and out of the transom of the mind. Some stick, some blow away on ethereal winds. Some you can't let go of even if you don't know what they mean.
Thus life moved on. I got my BA in Creative Writing, fell in love, moved out of the family home, eventually relocated to Vancouver BC where my wife and I currently reside. Many tales were born and died over that time. A lot were scribbled furiously, and a lot of rejection slips piled up as the years flew by. Like I said above, you never know how long a tale will ferment in the mind. Over this stretch, every time I saw a spider, I thought of that little guy I'd seen back in the family home all those years ago.
Living in Vancouver, the wife and I frequently hosted visitors from her side of the family mostly, and, on one of these visits, I popped out to pick up a grocery item or two while my wife spent time with her sisters. We had all been discussing a children's tale my wife had put together which might see publication one day. It was with children's books on mind that I headed out to the store. And I got to thinking, I should write a children's book. It'll be fun!
But what to write about?
Immediately the image of that industrious spider popped into my head. Then, in one of the few quick moments in the development of the book, the plot just was there in my head. But I needed a title. And what would be the spider's name? Again, instantaneously, "WEBBER" and, as I'd already worked out he'd be searching for a home, boom! WANDERING WEBBER! See, quick and easy. Of course it had only taken about 10 years or so. Ha!
Back from the store, I announced I'd just written a children's book on my little jaunt. From that excitement, I quickly crafted the text of the tale. Things were really rolling now. The book would be finished and published in no time.
Not so fast.
I sent the manuscript out to numerous publishers. Some expressed interest, others sent the dreaded form rejection. But the personalized rejections were encouraging and I was convinced I had a tale readers young and old might enjoy. This was in the early days of the internet and the wonderful changes in the publishing industry were not even on the horizon back then. Thinking outside the box, I considered another way to bring Webber's tale to the world.
By this time, I was publishing tales and novels with Airship 27 so I knew a little something about the publishing industry. The editor at Airship, Ron Fortier, is a good friend and he was able to offer some suggestions on how to land an artist. He even considered publishing the book but it was outside what Airship was creating in those days. Hiring an artist? I wasn't sure. I was a starving artist myself as a writer. I couldn't afford to pay anyone for their work. So I decided to see if I could find a way to illustrate the book myself. I should point out that I have trouble drawing a crooked line so my efforts along this line won't work.
But we did have clip art on our home publishing software. Was there enough good stuff in the 1000s of images to bring the story to life? Yeah, there was! This wasn't stuff that could hang in the Louvre, and I still would have preferred a real artist to create individual, specific work for the scenes but, still, at the very least I could create a book version of the tale and envision what the final product would look like. Many hours of sifting through the clip art, I hit the jackpot!
Well, when I saw this little spider, I knew I'd found Webber!
This was exactly how I envisioned little Webber! Spurred on by this I set out to create a title page and wound up with this:
You can see how the progress of the book came in fits and starts. Years of an idea settling into the bog of the brain, then flashes of inspiration. As you can see from the finished version of the same page below, the basic concept I got in that momentary flash was really the only way to go. Of course the journey between the two versions of this page, and every page, didn't move quite so quickly. And therein lies the journey.
From this humble beginnings, I created what we can call the Crude Edition of WANDERING WEBBER. It would still be far too many years before we got to where we are now but it was a start. Over the course of future entries, I'll share with you the process of each art page from my Crude Edition to the actual published work. There's also some never-before-seen artwork and a full page alternate of a key scene. Tune in next week and every week as we Wander with Webber together.
Any questions or comments along the way, please share. I'll do my best to respond. Happy Wandering!