Monday, 15 January 2018

Where voice comes from by Jane Clarke

People speak about picture book writer having a 'voice.' It's a tricky thing to pin down. The voice of the writer helps create the tone and the mood of the book - but a huge part of that is down to the illustrator. If the writer's text gets taken for publication, a good editor will match the voice of the writer with an illustrators voice, so that both voices complement one another.

For me, voice is what comes naturally - my writer's voice is a reflection of the way I speak. In my head, my characters talk, I try to make their voices distinct, but they are part of my life experience. I can identify three main  sources of my picture book writing voice:

  • The voice of the child... 


                               in me


I shared everything with my dog
 and my sons' voices when they were small.



  • The parental voice


                         I can still hear my mum and dad's' voices

I was an only child ( my dog was my brother) and had a brilliantly happy childhood.

        and the voices of the parents my late husband and I were to our sons

 Always ready to catch!





  • Then there's the voices of pets,  and there's been a lot of them over the years - from stick insects, snakes, bearded dragons, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits to cats and dogs.


Bramble was particularly expressive!

Recently, I've found a fourth voice is creeping into my writing - my grandparental voice, acquired with the arrival of 4 granddaughters in 3 years.







And as my granddaughters get older, I'll be excited to add their voices to my voice, too!

On the few occasions when I've tried to modify my voice, for example as follow-up writer on a ghost-written series, I've found it really difficult When I use my voice writing picture books, the texts feel like a part of me. I guess that's what makes it so hard when they get rejected!

Where does your writing or illustrating voice come from?


Jane's most recent picture book, Firefly Home, glimmeringly illustrated by Britta Teckentrup, published in the UK, 11 January 2018 - and all of her voices are in it :-)

Very special to Jane who watched fireflies with her sons and their families when they shared a holiday at Lake Lure, NC.

11 comments:

  1. Thank you Jane. Having already illustrated a couple of your books and being familiar with your 'voice', I'm now wondering how different they would have looked if illustrated by someone else and how the mixing of those voices alters the feel of the story, undoubtably it would. What an interesting experiment it would be to have two versions by two illustrators. Book jackets are often re-illustrated and movies are regularly remade but I cannot think of this ever happening to a picture book.

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    1. Yep, that'd be a very interesting experiment, Garry, the style of the illustrator is what really dictates the feel of the finished picture book.

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  2. Interesting post. Never thought about which voice I'm using in my stories. I'll have to take notice next time I working on a new story.

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    1. Hope there are dogs and hedgehogs in the mix :-)

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  3. How lovely Jane, it will make your books come alive even more now when i think about all the "voices" from your past and present. My daughter and i love Neon Leon and recently shared it with our mother and children group where it went down very well. I can't wait to read Firefly Home especially as my daughter's name is Florence.

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    1. Thanks Becky! Send a note to me using the form on my website www.jane-clarke.co.uk, I'll be happy to sign a bookplate to put in Firefly Home for Florence

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  4. Lucky, you, Jane, I want to be able to add grandchildren to my 'voice'. Maybe one day?! Two of my picture books are in the first person, so the 'voice' is that of a determined little girl and it rang much truer than when I'd written it in the third person as my own 'voice' intruded too much, though my 'voice' is still lurks there too.
    Adore the Firefly cover and the complementary blue and yellow work so well together.

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    1. Hi Paeony, love that determined little girl voice. Were you thinking of someone in particular?

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    2. Ha ha! She was inspired by somebody, but became her own character.

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  5. Hi Jane, I love the look of Firefly home- it's got such a beautiful stand out cover. Britta's artwork is always so lovely and I'm really looking forward to reading this one! (I currently get to look at the cover everyday as it's January on my Nosy Crow picture book calendar!)

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    1. And I'll be looking at The Knight Who said No! everyday in April :-)

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