This is the original illustration Kye drew for me for Sole Survivor: The Story of Kaza of Theseus. It's more than five years old.
Here is how it looks on the cover:
Neither she nor I are professional illustrators. That's perfectly okay with us. We're willing to take our drawing and illustrating talents, sparing as they may be, and apply them to the projects at hand.
I suppose we could pay a professional hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, and I know indie authors who do just that. To each his own, I suppose. We don't have that kind of money, which, by the way, would be charged for each project. In this case I'm grateful for our poverty, because it forces us to take full control over our work. Besides, I know what I see in my head--in this case, Kaza's encounter with a battalion of killer demons in the Thesean capital he was desperately trying to escape from--and I know what I want. A professional illustrator, as talented as he or she may be, wouldn't care for the story nearly as much as I, and so wouldn't "see" the moment as I do.
She and I do all our own manuscript editing as well. I know that's literally blasphemy to many, probably most, writers, both traditionally and indie-published, who believe, always and everywhere, that not paying a professional editor to look over your manuscript is a Great Big Sin. But we don't care. Again, a professional editor wouldn't care nearly to the degree we do about our work. They may have the technical skills to fine-tune a manuscript, but not the love. That belongs to Kye. And it belongs to me, too.
Does that mean we produce substandard work? Again, most writers would say yes, even without reading anything of ours, or even bothering looking at our covers or illustrations.
One of the great crimes of the modern world is the brainwashing each of us has endured that says, in a million different ways each and every day: Doubt yourself, and doubt your experiences. Doubt your tastes; doubt your love; doubt your persistence; and doubt your gifts. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in writing, I think; though I'm certain it's as bad in other arts--music, for example, or painting, or even in something like architecture or homemaking. That brainwashing makes us instant victims and profit centers for others. It forces us on an artificial hierarchy. It makes us not just poor in wallet, but in spirit, too.
Am I a great illustrator? Most assuredly not. Am I a great writer? Maybe I am, maybe I'm not. Both questions are irrelevant to me. I love my projects as I'd love flesh-and-blood children, were I to have them. I love editing. I love polishing and rewriting. And despite my fear of drawing pictures, which I've had most of my life (due to an unfortunate encounter with an art teacher in the third grade, I believe), I love bringing an illustration to life, as I recently did with the next novel in Melody's story arc, The Failure of the Saeire Insu. You can see its cover on the right.
Writing is my answer to the world. These projects are who I am. I've put everything I possibly can of myself into each and every one of them. That's as meaningful a "thing" to me as anything I've ever done or experienced. It's how Kye approaches her work, too. It's one of the reasons I love her so much. She gives her all to her projects, and to hell with the naysayers, gatekeepers, and meddlers who try to tell her, and me, that that's not good enough.
In fact, yes it is.