Selina Fenech Interview, Author of Memory’s Wake, Illustrated YA Fantasy

My third interview in the illustrated fiction author category is with Selina Fenech. Both author and illustrator, Selina has carved out a fantastical world in Memory’s Wake. Read on to find out more about why and how Selina put together this Young Adult Fantasy.

What made you decide to write/create an illustrated book?

I’ve been a professional artist for almost ten years now, and am just entering the world of writing. It seemed to make sense to include some of my artwork in my novel. I almost went the opposite direction, publishing without illustrations under a pen name, just in case the novel really bombed and ruined my name as an artist 😉 But thankfully my writing has been well received so far, with all 4 and 5 star reviews.

How did you decide on the age level and genre? Was your book always geared toward this age level/genre or did you change it to fit?

I always intended my novel to be a young adult novel. It’s a style I prefer to read most myself even though I’m past the standard market age for “Young Adult” books. YA books can be dark and gritty, but they still have a level of innocence and excitement that I love, which is what I wanted to achieve for my book.

Do you also illustrate your books? If not, how did you find your illustrator/artist? Any suggestions for hiring an illustrator?

I was lucky that I could illustrate my story myself. If I couldn’t do it myself, I probably wouldn’t have illustrated at all. The novel itself is a full length novel that doesn’t necessarily require illustration, they’re just a bonus!

When seeking an illustrator (speaking from the illustrator’s perspective!), be sure to treat the illustrator as a skilled professional. Give them the same level of respect you might a doctor or lawyer, because most artists spend just as much effort and time learning and practicing what are very specialized skills. For both illustrator and client, it is always best to work with a contract, so each party has a clear understanding of what work will be done, time frames, costs, and how many changes an illustrator is willing to do based on clients requests.

Did you have an idea of what you wanted your characters to look/dress like?

I had a fairly clear idea, but when I started illustrating, of course I had to develop much more detailed designs for each characters clothes. And then each character changed clothing a number of times during the story, particularly my main character Memory, who begins in jeans and a t-shirt and undergoes a number of transformations throughout the book, which are somewhat symbolic of her internal transformation through the book.

How did you decide how many illustrations to include in your book?

At first I thought I’d just do one small illustration per chapter (28 chapters), but I kept thinking of other scenes I wanted to illustrate. And then I felt the illustrations were unbalanced, too many of one character, or too many for some chapters and not enough in others, and I just kept adding to the list. It became an ongoing joke between myself and my husband. I’d keep announcing, “Just 2 more illustrations to go!” Then I’d finish some, then announce “Just three more illustrations to go!” I ended up with 44 illustrations in total.

I’ve seen some posts on various boards concerning illustrated books detracting from the reader’s enjoyment of creating the characters in their own mind. Do you agree with this? Do you feel your illustrations enhance your book? How?

This is something I worried about. I almost went down the path of avoiding showing any of the characters faces for this reason. I do think readers form, and want to form, their own idea of how a character looks, and when presented with a different alternative it can be jarring (just look at the trouble that movie casting goes through when making movies from books!). In the end I went with including the characters faces, but tried to make them not overly unique faces, if that makes sense. I haven’t had any complaints that people didn’t enjoy seeing the characters in the illustrations. I think part of it is also because they meet the characters in words and pictures at the same time, rather than forming an opinion first then seeing alternate images.

What has been the response from your readers? Did you notice your fan base increase dramatically?

My book has only been out for a few months now, but I’m starting to see more readers amongst my fans, which before were primarily art fans.

How did you promote your book?

I tried a bit of everything. Because the book was illustrated, I could use the pictures in a book trailer, and also release a few of the pictures leading up to the book release as teasers which people loved. I have a website for the book where you can see some of my older posts about the big launch week program I organized to promote the book. I use Twitter a lot (@selinafenech) and it’s a combination of art and book promotion, and also just general chatter, since no one is interested in just being advertised to all the time.

Can you explain your formatting process and any problems you encountered with uploading/viewing your book? Do you offer a print version or digital only? Any tips you can offer?

I set my book up for print (paperback and hardcover) as well as ebook for Smashwords and Kindle.

At first, I only included the illustrations in the print versions. Laying these out was more straight forward, a what you see is what you get approach that I could also double check with hard copy proofs of the printed books.

Ebooks are a little trickier, because the one ebook can be viewed on any number of different device types, and people can adjust font sizing, screen colour and so many other options as they wish. It makes it hard to control formatting. My advice for those considering including illustrations in their ebooks is to not be too set on an exact formatting you want. Different devices will resize the images and treat them in different ways. It’s hardest to get images to show as “full page” images, and smaller images within the text work better. For myself, having the images appear where they are intended to within the text was the most important part.

How did you determine pricing? Have you played with pricing? How has it affected your sales?

I offered the book at a sale price during launch week, which a lot of people took advantage of, and since raised the price slightly. Otherwise I haven’t played with the price much. One thing I did which worked well, is during my launch week promotions, I offered a voucher to anyone who purchased the paperback to be able to also purchase the ebook for 99 cents so they could start reading while their paperback was being shipped. A lot of people took up that offer.

How many illustrated books have you written/have for sale?

I currently only have the one book published and available, Memory’s Wake. I’m about to publish another novella, however it won’t be illustrated.

Do you have more planned?

Memory’s Wake will be a trilogy, and I plan to illustrate the following two books as well. I’m hoping to have the next book out in late 2012.

What advice would you give other authors who have or would like to publish illustrated books?

From my point of view it’s a little hard to judge because many of my readers were my art fans first, but the illustrated format has been well received and people seem to really enjoy seeing the scenes and characters as they read. Of course, illustration isn’t appropriate for all books (which is why I’m not illustrating my urban/paranormal romance novella), but for books like Memory’s Wake, which already have a strong fairy tale theme, the illustrations help bring the book together as a nice package.

Born in 1981 to Australian and Maltese parents, Selina lives in Australia with her husband, unnamed cat, and a lorikeet who’s far too clever. During her life Selina has found ancient Roman treasure, survived cancer, had knights joust at her wedding, earned a living from her art, written a novel and eaten every bizarre and wonderful food put in front of her.

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