I’m sure I’m not the only one who has always loved not only drawing maps, but staring at the maps in fantasy books, following the heroes along on their journey. How did you first get into map-making? Is Claire’s map the first one you created, or have you been creating maps for your own stories?
The first time I really wanted to do a map was when I read the Hobbit as a kid. I wanted to follow Bilbo along his journey and visit the elves, face the dragon, and return home to the Shire. I used to come up with these stories when I would build these Lego cities, draw a map of what I built and where it went, and then write the entire storyline I made up that day. I should have realized then I wanted to be an author/illustrator! I remember even drawing a map of my favorite stretch of woods with land markers. I was always into fantasy and very much still am, even though I’m more known in the community for horror. The first book I ever wrote was this epic fantasy with world maps and comic panels. I plan on returning to it when I finish working on my current MG horror.
Claire’s map was the first I created for publication then, which was an interesting challenge since I needed to have something to show in my portfolio in the way of world maps in order to get the job at all. I ended up drawing it and finishing it on the hope it would go over well. Needless to say, this story had a very happy ending! Yes, that was nerve-wracking. But after five years working my way up from a graphic designer to a brand manager, I had a pretty tough skin. I knew I could take any criticism thrown at me really well because I’m much more interested in the process of collaborating on a project than an artistic ego.
Can you summarize what was the process like?
Claire actually first approached me to do collectible cards for four of her Winterspell characters after she saw the work I did for Stefan Bachmann’s bookmarks for his The Whatnot book tour. She ended up loving them so much, she asked if I would be interested in doing a world map as well. After all four characters were finalized, we got started on the map next. Claire had a really clear idea of what she wanted for the map and border, so she sent me a preliminary sketch just to give me an idea of where to place elements. This was immensely helpful! Not to say you can’t start from scratch, but since we were on a tight deadline, a lot of the map back and forth was wonderful and easy because she really knew what she wanted and my job was to make that come alive.
In my first sketch, the map was tightly drawn, with the border elements close to the island. I went ahead and sketched portions on a piece of bristol board and sent them to Claire before I inked. As we went along, we researched a lot of maps. We looked at the Westeros map, the Grisha map, and a dozen others. I sent sketches and would ink them once they were approved. I work by hand first and ink with Micron pens before my illustrations ever see photoshop. When the ink was ready and Claire was happy, I painted it in Photoshop and we sent it off to her publisher. We went through some back and forth before print, mostly trying to extend the border to not crowd the island and balance it out well. I ended up loving the final draft even more and couldn’t be happier with what went to print! It was seriously a dream to get to collaborate with their publishing department.
Maps often seem stylized base on the genre of the book, or the type of world described in the story. Did you draw on any particular style to create Claire’s map?
For Claire’s map, I mentioned looking at Westeros and especially the Grisha map, but I had another source of inspiration that I brought to the table for Winterspell. My sister is a ballerina and has performed in the Nutcracker since she was four. As my sister is now nineteen, that means I’ve seen almost two decades worth of performances every year. I’m a huge fan. I’m also the sort of person that likes to read the book, or at least the synopsis and a few chapters, before I start on any piece I illustrate for an author. This is so I can really hear the voice of the characters, the world, and place “Easter eggs” or clues to the story. So, before I even started on the character cards much less the map, I got to read an advanced copy and really see the world and characters before I drew them. I also personally really drew inspiration from the Hobbit and surprisingly the end credits to the Secret of Nimh movie, which really influenced how I ended up spacing out the elements towards the final version.
Now that you’ve had a map published (congrats!), what do you see yourself doing next? What would be your dream project?
Right now, I’m commissioned to do another world map for a friend and a publisher is working with me on starting to illustrate some covers for their middle grade books. Honestly, I’d love to work with more authors on more amazing things! Bookmarks, character cards, world maps, book covers, illustrated web sites, you name it, I’d probably want to work with you on it. One dream project I have is to work on chapter headings for a YA or MG book (regardless of genre) or even a short story collection. Please drop me a line if you’ve got a project in mind! I’d love to hear from you and make something beautiful for your book or author platform together.
Do you guys have any more questions about illustrating, or map design?
CATHERINE SCULLY is a writer, illustrator, and graphic designer with her work featured in magazines, anthologies, and in Simon and Schuster’s Young Adult book Winterspell by Claire Legrand. Catherine is represented for Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction by Carrie Howland of Donadio and Olson and is currently working on a horror series for Middle Grade.
As the Young Adult Editor for the Horror Writer Association, she runs a blog at yahorror.com called “Scary Out There: What is Horror in Young Adult Fiction?” with multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author Jonathan Maberry, which was featured on CNN.com in an interview with R.L. Stine. She’s also a member of the YA Scream Queens, a group of nine women who write horror for kids and teens.
When she’s not writing and illustrating, Catherine can usually be found practicing on her drums.
You can follow her on twitter @CatMScully or check out her art at cscullyillustrate.tumblr.com.