At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting– he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd– whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself– Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.
Anyone that watches horror movies knows that it’s what you don’t see that frightens you the most, and so we tried to avoid showing too much of the monster at any one time. I went through many stages designing the monster. Patrick knew what he was after, which helped a great deal. My first drawings were dreadful; he was too spindly, too manic, but from those came the idea to give him a scalp like a pollarded tree, and hands resembling a tangle of unearthed roots, complete with clumps of soil. He had to be solid, he needed a sense of mass, but the story allowed for him to subtly change in accordance with his mood; a human form to show his humanity, a mass of branches for when he was less benevolent.
2) Patrick Ness said that the first image you showed him and his editor was that image of the monster when he first comes to Conor’s window. Did it come to you in a rush, after you’d read the novel? Did you do some sketches first?
I was given the brief of the monster at the window as a test piece, and I had less than two days to produce the final image. In my head I had the image of a triangle (the monster) hitting a square (the building), and from that worked on the composition. I then went through the process of changing the viewpoint, quick sketches from different ‘camera angles’ to see if you can squeeze anything more out of the composition. I wanted the whole image to be a collagraph print, but we simply didn’t have the time, and so it was a mixture of printmaking and markmaking. With hindsight I’m glad we were pressured for time, it lead to taking a lot more risks, and every image became something of an experiment, which I think gives the illustrations dynamism.
3) You never do a portrait of Conor—except in silhouette (well, his feet are pretty clear among the yew needles). Why?
Can’t get enough? Check out the other stops in the A Monster Calls blog tour!
9/26: Educating Alice
9/27: I Read Banned Books
9/27: Charlotte’s Library
9/29: The Ya Ya Yas
9/29: Lisa the Nerd
10/4: Milk & Cookies
10/5: Waking Brain Cells
Check out my review of the book here and enter to win my ARC!