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  • Johanna Gousset

Xessus II - The Warning

The second instalment of the Xessus series is now out on the shelves! I present you "The Warning"! For those of you who haven't heard about book 1 and about how I started working with Mike Thexton please read the previous article "Xessus I - The Magistrate's Son".

Like last year, I worked on the illustrations for this book over the summer. However the time frame was a lot tighter this time because I didn't have the whole competition time like with book 1. I believe that the time frame was also tight for Mike who was still editing the text while I was illustrating. I decided to start with the chapter headings (the little images next to each chapter title) and move on to the main images after. It mostly went smoothly as I already had the practice of the previous book and Mike and I were more aware of each other's way of working as well. Mike let me go ahead with mostly everything I offered. Mostly... apart for one chapter where we both really struggled! I mean I did anyway. When you read Chapter 2 of this book please have a little kind thought for me who had to read that part of the book about a hundred times to try and work out what The Gate looks like (yes there is a Gate in the story. A big Gate. A very big Gate. A very important Gate. If you've read the book you will know what I'm talking about). Well that Gate... I'm not even sure if even Mike himself really knows what that gate is supposed to look like. I did quite a few versions of it and in the end the agreement that Mike and I found was not to put an image of the gate in the book! :D However if you have read the book and can picture the gate clearly please do a quick drawing of it and send it to me! I would be really interested to see what you imagine!

As I mentioned in my previous article about Xessus, Mike had decided to add horses in the story to fulfil my horsey passion. Admittedly the horses only appear near the end of the book but they should definitely be more present in book 3. I struggled a little bit with the horses in fact because Mike wanted big/though looking riders but when I made the riders bigger, the horses looked like ponies, which wasn't the idea either. I had to play around with the proportions before finding the right balance. An amusing anecdote is that Mike, who was in Italy at the time, emailed me saying that he had met a Thrarn during his trip! Joined to the email was a picture of one of Enrico Chiaradia's sculpture representing Victor Emmanuel II on a horse. This stunning piece of art figures in front of the Altare della Patria in Central Rome. If you happen to go to Rome do not miss this one! It's the biggest one in Rome!

One more thing that I learnt during the preparation of this book is that printers do not like 100% black, and for a good reason (be aware fellow illustrators!). Unlike in the first book I decided to use ink in some of the images to have a darker black (I previously only used pencil). As a result some illustrations had large black surfaces, which in fact is bad idea for a book as thick as the Warning. Indeed, the ink wouldn't have time to dry between each page being printed and the ink would spread on the following page. Luckily our amazing designer Luisa Hiromi rapidly solved that problem and I can assure you that the printed book looks stunning! Now, if you want to have a look for yourself the book is available on Amazon! I hope you enjoy it! See you soon for book 3: "The Westwall Guard"...

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