A question I get asked a lot is, “How did you get your illustrator?” Many people think writers find someone to illustrate their book before they send it off to a publisher. Not true. Unless the writer is also an illustrator, the manuscript will go to an editor as simply text. And unless there’s some part of the text that can’t be understood without explanation, the text will stand alone–no illustration suggestions included. Editors who find a manuscript they like will have their own vision for the book. They’ll have their own ideas of who they’d like to illustrate it and what they hope it will look like in the end.
After all, there are dragons. The horse and wagon I wrote about were, in my mind, a real horse and a farm wagon. But my editor at Disney*Hyperion, Abby Ranger, saw a pretend horse who was really a dog, and a little red wagon.
Now I think, Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? But in the beginning I was surprised that we imagined such different books.
Abby’s first choice for an illustrator was Pascal Lemaitre. An editor doesn’t always get her first choice. Factors include timing (it takes a long time to illustrate a book, and the illustrator’s schedule may be full), payment, and whether the illustrator is interested in the project. We were fortunate that Pascal was willing and able to illustrate Goodnight, Dragons. I love what he did with it. And it’s also cool to me that he’s international. Pascal was born in Belgium and divides his time between Brussels, Brooklyn and Trouville. I’d love to meet him sometime and say, “Bonjour.”