“It always starts with a blue Volvo, driving away.”
—Still Life Las Vegas
In some ways, my book must be a big pain in the ass for my publishers. I mean, they bought a novel, but it’s not just a straight up novel. There’s narrative art in it as well (the twenty-buck term for cartoons). Plus sketches. Plus color. Plus colored text. All those pluses add an expense to the printing, and for a debut novel, it takes an extra measure of faith. So, when my editor, Sara Goodman, wrote in July that she was waiting on approval for adding color, I wasn’t holding my breath.
I also took a preemptive dip into anxiety. I knew that Sungyoon Choi’s amazing illustrations would certainly hold up on their own, but a POP! of color could add that much more to a reader’s experience. It also served as a subtle but pervasive thematic element that wove several strands of narrative together. At least, this is the argument for color that I imagined myself giving as I threw myself on the conference room table of St. Martin’s Press in a last ditch appeal for a CRUCIAL element, just as I was resigning myself to the idea of black-and-white art.
Two weeks ago Sara wrote me again. Color was in.
She had just gotten approval for one other color, plus black (YAY Sara!). This color had to be derived from a single Pantone shade, not comprised of several colors together. We needed to send the colorized art files to the book’s interior designer and the whole production process would begin.
The hunt for Blue was on.
What followed was a ridiculous amount of emails propagated by me in the dark of night and hurled towards Choi, Sara and my agent, all about what shade of blue was the perfect shade of blue. Was this blue too gray? Was this blue serious enough? Didn’t this one look like it came from a mimeograph machine? (Only my agent got this reference.) And not only what shade, but where the blue was going to be used. Should this text be in blue? What was it saying if it wasn’t blue? Or should it be a blue box? Could the blue of the hat match the blue of the car window? I had a sudden appreciation for my husband’s futile attempt to get me interested in the color of the dining room trim.
Luckily, everyone humored my molehill preoccupations and gave sage, considered advice. Choi doled out color revision after color revision with the patience of a Baskin-Robbins scooper handing out samples. And the winner?:
It really is a lovely blue. And what Choi can do with one shade of blue is nothing short of miraculous.
Color does make a difference. A big difference. I am the luckiest guy in the world. Who has developed a sudden craving for panettone.