Blog Behind The Book - Unicorn Not Wanted
Fred Blunt is an award-winning author and illustrator renowned for his humour-infused creations. His passion for illustration goes back to his time at school where he would draw portraits of his teachers!
You may or may not have noticed that unicorns are a rather popular subject for picture books these days. In fact, 50% of all picture books are now about unicorns.
I’m joking, of course, but it’s certainly a continuing trend that shows no signs of slowing down and that’s why I decided to write a book set in the wild west, where you definitely won’t find any unicorns… or will you?
It all started in my sketchbook way back in late 2019 with the opening line “I’m so sick of seeing unicorn books that I’ve decided to make this book a unicorn free zone.” Sometimes that’s all you need to start writing a picture book - a good hook and then the mayhem and mischief follows almost as if by magic.
Among all the chaos and humour is a message of standing up and being counted - make no apologies for who you are and be proud.
I purposefully wanted to leave this message quite open, so that it could be applied to anyone really, but I think a part of me wrote it for my daughter who’s autistic. It was just saying to her that she can do anything she wants in life and she doesn’t have to fit in. I didn’t write the story to fit around a message though - I like to just let that happen organically. First and foremost, I’m writing to entertain.
As a visual storyteller, I usually write with a mixture of sketches and words in a kind of storyboard that I streamline over several drafts, and then concentrate on the text as a script after I’ve worked out the page flow. One of the hardest things about writing picture books is getting your story to fit over 32 pages and getting the pacing right. It really is a hard discipline.
The story didn’t change much from sketchbook thumbnails, to first draft and onto book form. I did have a great editorial team at Happy Yak though - Sarah Chapman and Emily Pither - they helped smooth the edges and make it into something a little more cinematic. My initial draft existed in an abstract world, where unicorns stood on rainbows with little sense of environment. Sarah and Emily steered it into a much more Wild West themed space, which I’m really pleased about.
Initially I had hoped to go really bold with this book and maybe draw in brush and ink, but as the book developed and scenes became more fleshed out, I needed to accommodate more detail, so I settled on a brightly coloured, reduced line style, which is a mixture of scanned line and textures with digital colour. I’m really pleased with how silly and bright it turned out and I particularly love the neon pinks on the cover.
As always I had the most fun making the characters act on the page - really going over the top with expressions and body language, showcasing big emotions.
The last thing to fall into place was the title and the cover, which had multiple alternatives. Thankfully the team at Happy Yak hit upon the wanted poster theme, which was a brilliant idea.
I had a great time making this book with Happy Yak and can’t wait to start my next author book with them very soon.
You can purchase a copy of Unicorn Not Wanted here!Published: Fri 9th Jun 2023