The Making of a Picture Book: Guest Post by Majanka Verstraete

on Oct 15, 2013
Today we're happy to welcome Majanka Verstraete to the Runaway Pen to discuss the making of a picture book.


Making picture books takes a lot of work. Most of that work is on the shoulders of the illustrator. As an author of a picture book, “Valentina and the Haunted Mansion”, I could see the process for making a picture book first hand.

When my publisher accepted my manuscript and told me they wanted to publish it, of course I was over the roof. But I had no idea how it actually worked to go from manuscript to complete picture book. My manuscript had no illustration descriptions, because I’d read somewhere that some publishers don’t like those. But the first thing my publisher had me do, was insert descriptions of what I’d wanted in the illustrations.

Then the publisher put me in touch with Noelle Giffin, my illustrator. Noelle did an amazing job translating my not-so-detailed descriptions into character designs. She made a character design for Valentina, the main character, and I was amazed by how well the design matched the picture I had in my mind for the character.

Once I’d approved the character designs, she started working on the cover. First I got to see a sketch, and then we discussed some things I wanted to change. Then she sent me the inked version, and once that was approved, the colored version. I didn’t have a lot to say to improve the cover – I absolutely loved it. Last step was adding shading, and then the cover looked even more beautiful.

As soon as the cover was finished, we started work on the other illustrations. Noelle has this amazing talent that she knows what I want in an illustration, even if I don’t know it myself. She made thumbnail illustrations for each page. Next up was the inking process. The thumbnails didn’t convince me, because they were hard to see, but as soon as the pictures were inked, I was sold. She’d done an amazing job.

Then came the coloring, and then the shading. It’s amazing how much shading adds to the pictures. If they’re just colored, it’s kind of dull, but as soon as the picture is shaded, it turns into a vibrant, lively picture.

When all the illustrations were done, we also worked on some small illustrations to add a little detail to the book. For instance, Noelle made chapter headings – a smaller replica of the haunted mansion Valentina lives in. She also made a design for a small bat, which we used on every page above and below the text.

Then all that was left to do was the formatting. The end result was a beautiful book I’m very proud of, and I hope Noelle is proud of it as well.




About the Author

Majanka Verstraete begged her Mom to teach her how to read while she was still in kindergarten. By the time she finished fifth grade, she had read through the entire children’s section of her hometown library.

She wrote her first story when she was seven years old, and hasn’t stopped writing since. With an imagination that never sleeps, and hundreds of possible book characters screaming for her attention, writing is more than a passion for her.

She writes about all things supernatural for children of all ages. She’s tried to write contemporary novels before, but something paranormal always manages to crawl in.

Majanka is currently studying for her Master of Laws degree, and hopes one day to be able to combine her passions for law and writing. When she’s not writing, reading or studying, she likes watching “The Vampire Diaries” and “Game of Thrones,” spending time with her friends, or playing “World of Warcraft.”

Her debut picture book, “Valentina and the Haunted Mansion” released in May 2013, and was published by Evolved Publishing. She is now working on her second picture book, “Valentina and the Whackadoodle Witch”, which will be published in December 2013. 

She has a lower grade chapter book, “The Doll Maker” coming out in September 2013. This is the first book in the Weirdville series, a series of scary books for kids. The second and third book will be released in December 2013, along with an audio book for “The Doll Maker”. 

Her debut young adult novel, “Fractured”, the first book in the Mirrorland series, released in September 2013 by InkSpell Publishing.

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Preorder your copy of Fractured here. And purchase your copy of Valentina and the Haunted Mansion here



About the Illustrator

Noelle Giffin is an alumna of the Savannah College of Art and Design, equipped with a BFA in Sequential Art. She enjoys a good story and believes that it should always be accompanied by art that complements it, instead of overshadowing it. Her favorite part of creating artwork is working towards that feeling of “being in the zone,” where everything just fits together seamlessly and is difficult to distract from.

She likes to listen to music while she draws and, as a result, comes up with silly music video ideas for her characters. Her medium tends to be digital, but nothing beats drawing with pencil and paper. Lastly, she loves fat little birds like nothing else in the world (and now no one is surprised as to why she’s drawing Bird Brain Books).

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Valentina and the Haunted Mansion

Valentina isn’t thrilled with her parents’ decision to move into an ancient, gigantic mansion in the middle of nowhere—filled with dark, unsettling rooms, and far away from civilization, where they don’t have to worry about hiding who they are. Sure, it may be perfect for a vampire family like hers, but moving here meant leaving her best friends behind.

The new house has some perks, though. Valentina gets to choose her own room, and when she explores the mansion on her own, she discovers a trophy room, a museum room, a music room, and much more.

From the moment Valentina started exploring, however, she’s felt someone watching her. Strange things start to happen all around her: footprints appear in the dust, a disembodied voice sneezes....

...and just because Valentina is a vampire, doesn’t mean she doesn't get scared like any other little girl. 


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