So, how did I get Shawn Maldonado to illustrate The Outsiders from Oz?
To be honest, he offered. A long time ago, he tweeted on Twitter that if Nathan DeHoff or I had something to be illustrated, he'd do it. And I warned him I might take him up on it.
Not that he was actually my first choice. I asked my Scottish friend Al Cook if he'd be interested, and he was, since he enjoys drawing Oz characters but rarely has a reason for it. However, we had a snag: I was still writing the book and didn't want an illustrator to draw something I might change or remove later, thus wasting their effort. Since he was unable to schedule it and had other illustration jobs coming (plus concepts for a morbid webcomic in his head), Al eventually declined.
I also asked Sam if he'd be interested, but since he hadn't done any professional art, he wasn't sure he could do it. However, I later asked him to do "decorations," so he provided chapter headings and a design for the table of contents.
But that came after Shawn agreed to do it. I had just about always had him in mind, but considering his cartoony style for Oz, I wasn't sure if he'd be appropriate for my story, which, while it isn't a dark story, does have some heavy stuff in it. (Or at least, I think so.)
The first completed picture for the book I saw Shawn posted on his blog. I had to ask him to revise how the Wizard looked, but it looked all right. Still, it was the first chapter, which set up the two alternating plots throughout most of the book. I wasn't really sure if Shawn's work matched the tone.
In late May (Shawn was working on two other illustration jobs at the time, and I know he just finished one of them, not sure about the other one), I saw another picture. This one featured Button-Bright, who was one of the principal characters. I had previously indicated to Shawn that I wanted an "older" Button-Bright from what he'd drawn for other projects, such as "The Ransom of Button-Bright" in the 2009/2010 Oziana. I'd expected Shawn would have Button-Bright based on his look in Sky Island and The Lost Princess of Oz.
So, imagine my surprise when I got a boy with neat but shaggy hair, a t-shirt, and khaki shorts. But, for some reason, I liked it. Yes, the classic Button-Bright was a favorite of mine, but I was able to embrace this new version as well. In my writing, I was not specific as to when the story took place, willing to let the reader make up their own mind about that, if they so chose. It was definitely post-Baum. Shawn's illustrations put it in more modern times.
So, I like where Shawn is going with the illustrations, but at the time, I didn't know if he could pull off the tone I needed.
Some of my story was derived from plot elements in Baum's Oz-related The Magical Monarch of Mo, which had been illustrated by Frank Ver Beck. In fact, the Monarch of Mo himself does appear in the story. Ver Beck's illustrations showed the Monarch as a dumpy silly character. One of the next illustrations Shawn showed was the Monarch, based on his appearance in Mo, but he was tall and stout rather than squat and dumpy. It was a excellent mesh between the Mo Ver Beck showed us, while working within the world we know from John R. Neill's illustrations.
Still, the tone. Early in the story, the Wizard and Button-Bright find themselves among some ruins. On June 17, my birthday, I got an illustration of this part of the book. Shawn's picture presented a gloomy landscape with Button-Bright and the Wizard looking for a way to leave it. Perfection!
As I've assured folks, Shawn is working hard on the illustrations and he wants to complete it soon. He's been busy and 2011 wasn't kind to him at all. Unlike John R. Neill who didn't take more than a month to illustrate an Oz book, he doesn't get paid that type of salary. While I intend to compensate Shawn for his amazing art somehow (in fact, there's a few pieces of art I may offer to buy from him), it's fact that we Oz fans write our stories and create pieces of art out of a love for Oz rather than a desire to make money from it.