I always carry around a little notebook for story thoughts and sketches, and I just got through the one I started for Woodwalker. My notebook-in-waiting is a little bigger, just the right size for pen-and-ink illustrations (unlike my sketchbook, which is too big-- it's a fine line). So I kicked off the first few pages with some ink.
Mae and Mona, each with quite a bit of symbolism attached.
For Mae, significant details include the rhododendrons, alluding to the Appalachian-esque setting of the Silverwood Mountains, and the blue fireflies and foxfire (i.e. glowing mushrooms) at the base of the trees, which are sacred to the Wood-folk. Both of these are real things in our world--the blue ghost fireflies (Phausis reticulata) are confined to a small portion of southern Appalachia and are, in my opinion, pretty much the closest thing to magic in our world. Foxfire, or bioluminescent fungi, is found worldwide and called many other names, but it's also a common sight in Appalachia.
Perhaps the biggest symbolism here, though, is Mae's compass, her main tool and last link to her former life as a Woodwalker. It gets her out of more scrapes than one, beyond just wayfinding.
Mona's symbolism is mostly pearls, pearls, pearls, her country's primary resource and her folk's livelihood. Mussel shells, like the ones at the bottom of the picture, and mother-of-pearl are also common materials in Lumen Lake-- Mona's palace is called Blackshell and is tiled with mother-of-pearl. The flag of Lumen Lake is two crossed bulrushes and twelve pearls, representing the twelve islands in her country, so that's what's going on at her feet and around her head. Her pearl pendant is an heirloom of her throne, the one she's now trying to reclaim.
Things are moving forward-- I just received the copy for the back page of the book and my author bio, so it's neat to see it coming together as an actual book! So far still on track for May 17, 2016 for the e-book, which you can pre-order on Amazon or HarperCollins! I'll let you know when I find out about the paperback release.
Emily B. Martin
Author and Illustrator