“It’s so sweet,” said my mother. “It’s like how you’d draw pictures of princesses and write stories about them when you were seven!”
“It is NOT like that,” I said. “I am doing very serious important work here.”
But of course she was right. It is in fact, exactly like drawing pictures of princesses and writing stories about them when I was seven. Or – to put it in a slightly less embarrassing way – drawing pictures of my characters is something I’ve always done.
With Romanitas, it started as a world-building exercise. I needed to have some idea of how modern Roman clothing looked in my head – something to get across that this world is like-ours-but-different, something to keep me consistent. So I finished Romanitas with a handful of scrappy sketches of Varius’ business-wear and Marcus’ mourning clothes and Una’s sort-of-Chinese/sort-of-Roman outfit. I drew them in hotels and cafes while I was chasing my characters across France, from Toulouse (Tolosa) and Saint-Béat (Wolf Step) to the gorge in the Pyrenees where at last, I decided they were hiding. (Which was a great relief. There had been mild panic when I got into Andorra and they were not there).
I also drew six-wheeled Roman cars and glassy modern palaces too, of course, (the cars were okay. The palaces, I’m just not very good at). But drawing costumes meant I got to draw my people. I ended up with a lot more of the costume designs.
And then, I found I had rather a lot of time on my hands. I couldn’t really get started Rome Burning, because every week I expected to have to start work on editing book 1 (because every week my editor told me that his notes were almost ready.) But I had to be doing something. And then a film company wanted to see me. Now, I’m pretty sure foisting amateur sketches of costumes onto film producers is not really done but I... uh... did it anyway. No, I do not currently have a film contract. WHAT’S YOUR POINT?
(They really didn’t seem to mind. )
Anyway, that’s how I started working up my sketches into ever more detailed pictures – first with pencil and paper and later with Photoshop. And gradually, the focus on the costumes dropped away. That was never really what I cared about. I wanted to draw my characters just because I love them, because, after I finish writing about them, it’s a way to keep hold of them when I’m still not quite ready to let them go.
I didn’t get much of a chance to draw pictures during or after Rome Burning, because as soon as I finished EVERYTHING COMMENCED GOING WRONG. The one character I did find I really had to draw? A PRINCESS. IN A PRETTY DRESS. (Dammit.) So I promised myself I’d draw a lot when I finally finished the trilogy altogether, because I missed it. I love the leisurely wind-down of it, the difficulty, the way it’s like writing and not like writing at all. I finally started drawing my characters actually doing things this time, rather than just staring out of the page at me.
But those pictures are for another day.
I don’t want to talk these things up too much – they’re approximations of what’s in my head at best. I’m a very amateur artist. I’m even worse as a fashion designer, even if that was nominally the point. I’ve cobbled together noses and jawlines from pictures off the internet and Photoshopped the crap out of them. If you’ve read my books and you picture the characters differently – you’re right and I’m wrong.
Well, maybe. Unless you thought Una was blonde or anything like that. In which case I, in fact, know better.
With all that said, for now, here's Marcus.
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Do you ever draw your characters?