I have been humming an haa-hing about the Axel Storm website and how I’m going to do it.
You know I’ve been doing my website for thirteen years now and I find it hard to get myself excited about finding artwork and scanning it and treating it in photoshop and laying it out for a webpage. I’ve been there and done it so many times now. It’s been quite hard to summon up the energy to plan the site and work out what should be in it, especially as I now have my schedule organised with my editor for the next project – next project?! Don’t I get a moment to draw breath?
Then I had a brilliant idea. Why don’t I do a video website? That’s much more fun to do and I hope a lot more fun to engage with that a load of static or animated illustrations on a webpage. So that’s what I’m going to do.
I had a great time at Cheltenham Literary Festival this morning where I filled in for James Mayhew, who has tonsillitis and was not well enough to talk to two hundred and something children.
I took a lot of artwork from my new Axel Storm books. with the aid of a visualiser – a sort of digital overhead projector, I showed hundreds of drawing I did while trying to decide what Axel would look like.
Often I gain insights into my work when asked questions at school sessions. I had one such question today.
“Do any of your characters look like you?” I was asked. It dawned on me where Axel’s “mono eye” comes from. I was born with a cyst over my bright eye. As a teenager I grew my hair to cover it. I remember being quite proud of my cyst, but now I know what teenagers are like, I think I was probably quite self-conscious about it and covered it up. Next to this this early pencil drawing of Axel I had written the enigmatic phrase, “Analyse this!” There must have been something about the drawing that I thought needed further investigation. If you look at the inset photo of me above, black-eyed after I’d had my cyst removed, I think you can see a resemblance. Axel’s hair is over his left eye, but that’s not how I’d see it in the mirror.
So the answer is, Yes! Sometimes I do look like my characters – and the way I write them is often how I’d like to be or how I’d like to think I am!
It’s always a strange moment drawing the last illustration for a book and even more so for a series.
I’ve been living with Axel Storm in my head since March 2007, and probably before, in different guises. He came together at Bristol airport, while my Flight was delayed on the way up to Scotland. I could probably hunt down the original sketch of the idea if someone asks me to in the comments below!
He’s all boy and the stories are all adventure. I managed to achieve what I set out to do. Have no girls, except for his nannying mum! This really is an adventure series for boys and I hope they will take to Axel and read them all.
So, the end of a series. Eight books, eight stories, many rewrites, eight layouts, eight sets of pencil sketches, Eight covers to be designed and painted, about five hundred black and white drawings and now it’s all over bar a bit of final editing for the last two books.
What am I going to do now? Work up some ideas that are busting to get out of my head and then it’s onto my next eight book series! What’s it going to be? At the moment it’s called Olympia, but that might change. It’s about a boy who wants to be an Olympic Champion in ancient Greece. Oh, is the Olympics going to be in london an a couple of years time? I hadn’t spotted that one!
The first four Axel Storm Books are now available in hardback.