Sunday, 31 October 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you … Stanley.

By a nice coincidence, my first ever collaboration with an illustrator began just after I’d written the previous blog – about visuals in text. My kids’ stories featuring Stanley, the fairy who lives in the washbasin in my bedroom, had been accepted by a publisher and I obviously needed someone to create some appropriate images for him. Fiona-Jane Brown, a FaceBook friend, suggested I contact Melanie Chadwick. I did and, as a consequence, met Stanley for the first time.

By that I mean that, although I’ve written seven stories about him and am aware of his character, his habits and his presence, I’d never really thought about what he looked like. I knew he was the size of a mouse and that he preferred being miserable, but that was it. In the first story, which I wrote in response to the publisher’s request for information about how he’d come to be living in my bedroom in the first place, I gave him a scarf, woollen socks, a tee-shirt and some shorts, but I never envisaged him wearing them.

Melanie agreed to do some sketches for me and I have to say I’m delighted with her ideas, her style, and the Stanley she’s created. But …

The first sketch she sent me was a black and white version of the one above. I’d told her that Stanley was miserable and that’s what she’d given me. But it was only when I looked at it that I realised that, more than miserable, Stanley is angry, aggressive, rude, impatient. I’ve known him for two or three years at least but it was only the visual representation of him that brought that realisation. So a more typical Stanley pose is this …

The point is that all my theorising and/or speculating about visuals in text was exactly that – abstract – and it was only when I literally had to look at a picture of Stanley that I first began to wonder what he looked like. Well, thanks to Melanie, now I know. She’s produced lots of versions of him in various moods and has designed three of the seven covers, bringing her own sense of Stanley (and sense of humour) to them and really transforming the stories into something other than the things I’d written. Her sketches have also given me ideas for more stories because I’ll now be ‘interfacing’ with the character in a different, more questioning way.

This business of visuals in text is even more complex than I thought it was.

By the way, it’s important for me to say that the copyright for these images belongs to Melanie Chadwick and they can only be reproduced with her permission.


  1. Hello Stanley. After meeting you in story many times I am happy to meet you in person (sort of). I look forward to getting to know you even better as time goes by and wish you much success and happiness (ARGHHHHHHH Don't be offended it is just a figure of speech, I don't really want to change you) in the future.

  2. Hey, Bill this is great stuff! When does Stanley see the light of a book shop?

  3. very glad I was able to put you two in touch!!

  4. Bill, How wonderful for you, Melanie, and Stanley!

  5. Wonderful visuals! I can't wait to see Stanley stories in print.

  6. I absolutely love these coloured versions of Stanley. The second one is great too. Well done you two.

  7. Thanks everyone. I'm glad Stanley had that sort of effect on you too.

    Eliza - I don't think I'll pass your exact words on to him - you know how touchy he is.

    Michael - the hope is that certainly the first story, and maybe the second, will be out before Xmas.

    Fiona Jane - yes, thanks for pointing me towards Mel - she's terrific.

    Linda - rather different from our usual commercial and criminal pursuits, isn't it?

    Diane - I'm even more impatient than you are.

    Anneke - if you say that, Mel should be very pleased. You know Stanley as well as I do.

  8. Love your image Stanley, even the angry one. Bill, that's so interesting about visualising your character. I can imagine how much easier it will be to give him further adventures now that you can see him.

  9. Thanks Rosemary. The scary thing is that, when I read your comment (the bit addressed to Stanley), my first impulse was to answer as him. Having just read Stevenson's original Jekyll and Hyde (for the first time), it was creepy to feel I was being taken over by a misanthropic midget .