It went something like this:
1. Siobhan from Scholastic in New York calls me. There’s an spare page going begging in the American edition of Freefall – how about an additional illustration to fill it? Siobhan leaves no stone unturned when she produces her editions – not only are they in hardback (why can’t they do this in the UK?), but of all the ones released worldwide they’re also amongst my favourites because of the fantastic design work she puts into them.
2. I try to think of an excuse because I’m a). writing Closer, b). essentially very lazy, and c). a below average artist.
3. I panic, but eventually acquiesce. But an illustration of what, I ask Siobhan. She’d like one of the Loop Snakes in chapter 15. I panic some more.
4. While I have a mental picture of these creatures, trying to draw them is a completely different matter. I usually work from photographs, so I realise I’ve got no choice but to put some serious time into this task.
5. This is how they’re described: “Around four inches long, it was like a thin, perfectly white snake and didn’t appear to have any eyes. With some sort of sucker at each extremity, it moved by turning end over end, as if it was continually performing cartwheels”. So there it is, and I decide to make some in my youngest son’s FIMO modelling clay on the kitchen table. He watches on in amusement, telling me I’m mad, but “funny”.
6. I do a variety of different snake positions, then put them into the oven to harden.
7. They go a little pink, but the clay still hasn’t set, so I cook them some more.
8. I burn them. I’m annoyed with myself because they’re meant to be white.
9. So now I have to paint them.
10. And I add some detail at the same time (machete only in picture because I feel like hacking the stupid things up by this stage).
11. I grab my camera and go outside into the garden. It is dark. My son Frankie helps me to arrange the Loop Snakes on the scorched ground where we have bonfires. I use lengths of cotton and gobs of Blu-Tack to try to make them stay in place, but they will keep falling over. I shout at the snakes, then wonder if my neighbours are listening to the lunatic who lives next door. Finally, the snakes are more or less in position, and Frankie and I manage to take some photographs before they all begin to keel over.
I’ve even done a special edition Loop Snake – this is the Stepped-on-by-Chester version.
12. I select one of the photographs and work on it on the computer, then I print it out so I can draw over it. I re-scan the result and treat it a little more on the computer, eventually printing it out again so I can continue to draw on it, and so on. I suppose it’s similar to the way I write, but you can see the results more quickly.
13. Some hours later, I arrive at this version. I send it through to Siobhan, who tweaks it some more so it will look right on the page.
14. I proudly show it to Frankie, but he isn’t overly impressed. He says I’m a cheat because I didn’t draw it from scratch.