Guest Post with Paul Mason and Katy Riddell.
In October last year a fantastic new book published by Stripes Publishing, The International Yeti Collective written by Paul Mason, and beautifully illustrated by Katy Riddell – daughter to children’s laureate Chris Riddell. We got to hear from this brilliant duo about the inspiration for the story, and the journey each of them went on during their respective part in the story building process.
Paul Mason (author):
While the mountains Ella encounters in the book are a work of imagination, they are inspired by the time I spent at boarding school in the foothills of the Himalayas in India: the cloak of mist drifting through the trees, the distant snow peaks, the vast plains below.
Woodstock School is spread out over the hillside, red-roofed buildings surrounded by steep slopes and lush forest. The forest is home to monkeys: grey Langur swinging from branch to branch, sometimes sitting on the path blocking the way up to school; and the Macaques that used to burst into the dining hall to steal the toast. (I wonder if they still do?)
I owe my Woodstock years a great deal—not just for the hills, and the wonderful country that is India, but for the friends I made from all over the world. I began to stand on my own feet there, and made my first steps as a writer—started to believe it might be possible.
Research and Inspiration
I’ve had a long fascination with yeti. Probably starting with Tintin in Tibet. Looking for an idea for a new book, I began to notice just how many tales there were of similar creatures. What if they were actually the same species, all trying to protect the Earth?
I explored cryptozoology sites, legends and folk tales, famous hoaxes and sightings—then stretched them to fit the narrative—as well as adding to the Yeti Collective with two yeti names of my own: Makimaki (meaning monkey or ape in te reo Māori,) and the Greybeards whom you’ll meet properly in the next book. But don’t expect to find a real-life member of the Collective anytime soon. (They’re too good at hiding.)
There’s part of me that likes to believe yeti exist–that the wilds of the world still guard mysteries. Rheinhold Messner the famous mountaineer put it best: “Without wilderness there is no yeti…there is much more behind our thirst for monsters than curiosity or escapism. There is the fear that the earth is losing the last regions where myths can flourish.”
Let’s do what we can to help the Yeti Collective save that wilderness.
Katy Riddell (Illustrator):
When I was asked to illustrate Paul Mason’s new book, I was already gripped by the thought of these fantastical beasts called Yetis. I started off by getting a short description of Tick and Ella and how Paul envisioned them to be. I then did my own versions based off of this. This process is so helpful in creating the first hints of character. Tick actually changed quite a bit until we all felt he was perfect. He started off a little more fantasy-like but became more like a gorilla, or an orangutan. I think this made the Yeti feel more like a realistic creature living in our world. I think it’s always important to get feedback on how the characters are developing.
Once I was sent the manuscript I was immediately gripped by the story. The thing I loved about it the most was its subtle message on respecting other species and the environment. Its delicately intertwined into an exciting adventure story and I read it all in one sitting! I felt like the story really resonated with me as it’s this kind of theme I really love to illustrate.
As I was reading, I sketched most of the yetis and the human characters out just to get a feel of who they were even if they didn’t appear in the main illustrations. This is quite a fun process for me. Paul’s writing is really nice and descriptive and his humorous Yeti names (which portray their traits) made it really easy to envision their different characters.
After I had finished the rough pencil sketches to the scenes I was asked to illustrate, I sent them off for some feedback and with a few tweaks here and there I started the final artwork. This is my favourite bit! I get to redraw and ink in the illustrations and see them come to life. It was even better seeing them on the page after I had received the finished book!
The International Yeti Collective is available to purchase now, and is priced at £6.99.
The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the FCBG.