It was very important to me to include a map of the 1939 World’s Fair at the front of We Came Here to Shine to orient the reader and to give a sense of place, which would help facilitate the reading of the book.
There are many versions of World’s Fair maps out there, but I chose not to use an existing map because I wanted to focus on only about a dozen places at the fair that were central to the story. Also, since the fairgrounds were so large, one of the existing maps, depicting the hundreds of buildings and labels, would be difficult to read shrunken down into a two-page spread. So…. I decided to commission an artist to draw a custom version of the fairgrounds map.
CHOOSING AN ARTIST
I interviewed a handful of artists for this job and ultimately chose Silvia Gherra whose work and professionalism stood head and shoulders above the rest. Working with Silvia turned out to be one of the best parts of bringing We Came Here to Shine to publication. Silvia lives in Italy so all of our communication was done via email (except for one lovely breakfast meeting in NYC when Silvia was on holiday with her family over the summer).
HOW THE PROCESS WORKED
First, I sent Silvia a bunch of images of maps of the fair and photos of the particular buildings that I wanted her to highlight in her illustration. From there, Silvia worked up a rough draft of the map to make sure we were on the same page with the illustration and wording style, wayfinding approach, etc. I loved the overall look and feel from the very beginning!
From there, we went back and forth several times adding more landscaping, changing the way the buildings were represented, incorporating additional illustrations, etc. One of the best changes we came up with was to add illustrations of the two main characters—Vivi and Max—and locate those images at their respective places of work.
The final step was to have the art and production departments at my publisher, St. Martin’s Griffin, provide their input and make any changes.
THE FINAL PRODUCT
Silvia’s final map, pictured above and at the front of We Came Here to Shine, is absolutely gorgeous and an important and informative addition to the novel!