Blog Tour! Guest Post & Giveaway with Jackie Morris on The Wild Swans

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I'm thrilled to welcome UK author and illustrator Jackie Morris to Midnight Bloom Reads for today's stop on THE WILD SWANS blog tour!

The Wild Swans is a retelling inspired by Hans Christian Anderson's classic fairy tale of the same name. When Eliza's eleven brothers are turned into swans by their new stepmother, she sets out to rescue them and break the white witch's spell. If you love reading fairy tales, then I'm sure you won't want to miss Jackie Morris's enchanting The Wild Swans.

For Jackie Morris's guest post, I asked if she could chat more about her creative process for painting with watercolours and how she decides to accompany her beautiful illustrations with the text. It's a question I've always been curious to ask a children's book author!

 Release Date: October 1, 2015
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Books

This very beautiful and lyrical extended version of the fairy tale 'The Wild Swans' by Hans Christian Andersen is the much anticipated companion to East of the Sun, West of the Moon. With strong characterization of the heroine and also with more rounded characterisation of the wicked stepmother than in the original version, and with delicate watercolor paintings throughout, this is both a wonderful story and delightful gift. Beautifully presented in a jacketed edition with foiled title. 

Every book I work on is different. I’ve never produced a series. But my two books East of the Sun, West of the Moon and The Wild Swans are very closely linked. They are the same size and shape, small. They fit neatly into the hand, the pocket, a bag. Both are designed to give space to the type, both on the page and also by breaking up the type with pictures instead of chapters.

It took me about 7 years to find a publisher for East of the Sun. I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to create. Many rejection letters came back to me, most being kind enough to say that although the work was well written the editor couldn’t see how it ‘fitted with their list’. That’s because it didn’t really fit anywhere as there wasn’t much out there like it. It found a home in the end with Janetta Otter-Barry at Frances Lincoln, and here too it stood alone. Judith Escreet, the designer there worked closely with me to take the book from the ‘ideas’ stage and into the real world. And then it sold. And fast. In the meantime I had begin work on a new text, a retelling of The Wild Swans.

With The Wild Swans I learnt from mistakes made with East of the Sun. The small pictures in East worked to break the text up, but some were almost too small. This time we gave the vignettes a bit more space.

Both books tell the stories of strong heroines who have to undertake tasks in order to achieve their goals. Both books are centered around migrant peoples, in the case of East the girl’s family are asylum seekers. In Eliza’s case the family are driven from their home and they travel in strange lands. And in Eliza’s story what fascinated me was her silence.

So many themes run through the book, but the central one is around communication; what is said, what is left unsaid, between Eliza and her mother, between the king and his new queen, between Eliza and the prince, for while she knits with nettles to free her brothers from the spell cast on them she cannot speak. Silence is such a rare thing in out world. Most people never give themselves time alone without voices, music, radio, tv. And silence in company can make people feel uncomfortable. The Wild Swans is about communication, with words, with silence. It’s about how we often fail to appreciate the truth behind the words we hear, how we read into them what we wish to hear. 

When beginning to work on The Wild Swans I first went to Slimbridge wildfowl and wetland trust in the UK. Here I sat watching swans and trying to catch the shape of them with simple line drawings.

Then I worked in a sketchbook to try and envisage the characters. Two, who began to take centre stage were Shadow, Eliza’s dog, her mother’s dog too, and The White Queen. I painted Shadow. The following week Ivy came to live with me. It was as if she had stepped out from the book. Ivy became my Shadow and so wound and found her way into many more pages than she would have and now works with me at book events. She always steals the show.

Harder to draw was The White Queen who runs in the woods with the Wild Wood Hares. 

Both East of the Sun and The Wild Swans are stories I have lived my life with. As time passes, as I grow and learn, the meaning of the stories change. In working on both retellings I was attempting to discover more about them. What I found was answers to some of my questions and more questions. I suppose that is what makes them good stories that have lasted for centuries.

But there are so many more to tell and I am hoping to follow more of these paths that lead back into a dark forest as well as to follow the White Hare Queen into her future.

Jackie Morris lives in Pembrokeshire, Wales, with children, dogs and cats. Ever since leaving college, Bath Academy of Art, at least one cat has watched over her while she works. Big cats and small are a passion in her life, and it was while reading and watching her cat Pixie sleeping in winter that the idea for I am Cat came about. Among her many books for Frances Lincoln are The Ice Bear, The Snow Leopard, and Tell Me a Dragon.


The Wild Swans blog tour continues tomorrow with a review and giveaway at Pamela Thomson's Blog!

Thanks to the generosity of Quarto Publishing Group USA, I will be giving away one hardcover copy of Jackie Morris's The Wild Swans! This contest is open to US/CANADA residents only. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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