I realized I’ve been a little misleading about Woodwalker. This occurred to me after about the tenth person asked when they could buy the book for their child. I’ve also been asked if my illustrations will be in the e-book version, and in a recent article I was referred to as a “children’s author.”
This is totally understandable, based on my frequent posting of scene illustrations and inane cartoons (though I admit it’s hard to look past the book blurb available on all retailer websites, which includes the word damn and multiple references to execution).
So I’m here to set the record straight: Woodwalker isn’t a children’s book.
It’s not graphic or even terribly violent, but it’s not really aimed at readers younger than high school or so. HarperCollins has placed Woodwalker in the “epic fantasy” category, which I have trouble with—epic fantasy to me means dragons and sorcery and probably talking plant life. But really, it’s just a way of saying “adult fantasy” without sounding questionably erotic (no sex in this book—it’s going to take several more novels before I get comfortable writing that kind of thing in something my in-laws will probably read).
Another classification HarperCollins has given Woodwalker is “Coming of Age”—I have issues with this, too. I can’t speak for my editor or publicist, but the audience I envision for Woodwalker are twenty-something readers who are looking for stories similar to their Young Adult favorites (like Tamora Pierce’s heroine novels), but starring characters closer to their own age and life stage. This audience is often referred to as “New Adult,” though that categorization usually means steamy romance novels (again with the eroticism). The reason I have trouble with the “Coming of Age” classification is because Mae isn’t struggling to master a skillset or figure out who she is. She knows her strengths and her role, and she uses them to meet the challenges she’s presented with.
There aren’t any illustrations in the book. I drew the cover, which will debut this coming Wednesday, and I drew the map inside that shows the protagonists’ journey. But that’s it. Everything I post—all the paintings and sketches and goofy comics—those are partially for my own enjoyment and partially because that’s how I organize my thoughts. The best example of this is my old Keepers of the Orb blog, which some of you probably remember, where I drew comics of my adventures in parenting. I stopped posting on that blog right around the time I started querying agents for Woodwalker, because I didn’t have time to do both. But the point remains—drawing is how I make sense of the world.
Sketching and illustrating has also played a big part in planning and writing this novel and its companions. In fact, once I started writing Woodwalker, my art production literally tripled—prior to writing it, I was filling up maybe one sketchbook every year and a half. But since starting the story, I’ve filled up three sketchbooks in that amount of time, and I’ve produced much more finished art. Sketching has helped me determine how my characters look, what they’re wearing, and how they interact. I've also storyboarded certain scenes, like the one below, which eventually morphed into the prologue for book two.
Promotion for Woodwalker, too, has started to ramp up in preparation for the May 17 e-book release. So I’ve been creating and posting more publicity art to help reach interested readers and introduce my characters, plot, and setting. I’ve also been working on a lot of new illustrated content for my website, which I plan to debut after the e-book release. Maybe my distorted Disney/children's storybook illustration style is sending the wrong impression about the book. Maybe I should stick to photomanipulation or fine art. But I'm useless at fine art, and quality photos cost money. At any rate, I have nothing better to do with these 6 gigs of digital illustrations.
So. There it is. Woodwalker is not a storybook for children, or even a middle-grade novel. It's an epic fantasy written for college-esque “new adults.” It has adult themes and complex issues. But it also has adventure, and humor, and a secret plot, and a character who’s perhaps not quite what s/he seems. I hope it has elements that will appeal to a wide variety of readers.
But maybe hold off reading it to your second-grader, at least until they’re prepared to discuss the intricacies of political revolution.
Emily B. Martin
Author and Illustrator