As an illustrator who loves reading illustrated novels, I've longed to see more contemporary novels incorporate illustrations. This summer, I'm thrilled to be illustrating Julia Stoops' activist-adventure novel Parts per Million. Set in Portland during the lead up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, it features the voices of Nelson, Jen, and Fetzer, three mismatched activists who discover and expose corrupt war-technologies research at a prominent University. When they take in Deirdre, an Irish photographer with a hazy past, their modus operandi gets blasted apart inside and out. I love the characters and how they mess up and have to figure themselves out.
The novel is told in five parts. With your support, I will create five, full-page illustrations for the novel, one to introduce each of these parts. I've already begun research and sketches to create the looks of the characters, to recreate the Portland of 2003, and to place these activists in these spaces.
About the book and author
Julia Stoops is a visual artist, designer, and writer who spent a dozen years working on Parts per Million. Her time spent volunteering in the newsroom of a community radio station informed and inspired some elements of the novel. In 2016 she submitted the manuscript to Laura Stanfill at Forest Avenue Press, who fell hard for the story and will publish it in April 2018. You can read the first chapter here, it's told from Nelson’s point of view.
Over the years, Julia has engaged with many people in her quest for accuracy in context, voice and detail. My drawings will be held to her tough standard.
About the illustrator
The sketches become illustrations, prints or oil paintings. Often I incorporate an extra bit of historical/geographical research. Portland’s Froelick Gallery presents much of the work I do, like this water reclamation/murder story from 1906, or images from the closing of Crater Lake National Park in 2013. I’ve done illustrations for Graywolf Press and Akashic, and documented events for Greenpeace USA and 350PDX.
Why this project, and why we want you involved
I’m biased toward pictures and think contemporary novels need more of them. Parts per Million is a great book for me to prove that with. It’s a solid, very visual tale. It’s set in the early 2000’s, when GWB is about to launch another war for oil; here in Portland, Oregon, John Nelson has sacrificed a career as a Forest Service biologist and crossed over to direct action. He’s expanded the tactics of his colleagues from blockading forest roads to message amplification via undercover reporting, video, and community radio. Jen is the hacker-heart of this cadre of activist-journalists and has little patience for those who take their eye off the ball. Fetzer is older, maybe wiser, pretty much knows what’s got to be done and knows how to make their ’85 bio-diesel Oldsmobile Toronado go. Then Franky, a young, well-intentioned, trust-funder magazine model and the primary check-writer, brings in a stray Irish photographer, Deirdre, and their already shaky world gets turned upside down.
I draw from direct observation and memory; what photo references I do use are filtered through sketches before influencing the final picture.
I already have one Parts per Million sketchbook more than half-filled, and I expect to fill a second. I am taking time out from my other work to get these pictures drawn right and delivered on time. This commitment is more than an independent publisher can cover on their own, so I am asking our circle of fans and enthusiasts to support the project together.
With the help of literary advocate Kristi Wallace Knight, we have developed a roster of rewards to show our gratitude. Publishing illustrations in Parts per Million will both enhance the novel and demonstrate the expansionary role artwork can play in literary fiction. Please join us.
PS: An extra thank you to guitarist Moses Gunesch who, for reasons intrinsic to the novel, allowed me to record him as he learned an Irish reel on a fiddle that had lain untouched for a decade.
Risks and challenges
The final illustrations will need to be approved by Laura Stanfill, publisher at Forest Avenue Press, which should happen in late August 2017. So far Laura has liked everything she’s seen of my illustrations, and the team and I are confident that the final five drawings chosen for the novel will be welcomed.
We understand the responsibility that comes with launching a Kickstarter, and that the work continues long after the campaign is over. Between the three of us (Gabriel, Julia and Kristi) we are well-placed to produce the rewards and send them out on time. Kristi is the project manager and budget master. Julia and I are long-time professional artists. We know how to make things and deliver them on time.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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