Sascha Martin's Rocket-Ship began a long time ago, when the author was much younger. It was a poem, one of those verses that simply forms itself in the mind and insists on being finished. And I did finish it. Then it slipped into the background as these things do, but every few years it would resurface, demanding attention and a fresh set of eyes, and I'd tinker with it again.
Finally, I turned the poem into an eBook and published it on Kindle. The book needed illustrations, but I didn't know how to go about getting them. I was just pleased that Sascha was out there at last, tearing around the world on his home-made rocket and howling to be saved.
There were other Sascha Martin poems I'd worked on over the years, other adventures waiting to be discovered. Sascha Martin's Time Machine became the second eBook, and Sascha Martin's Superball the third. These weren't illustrated either, but now I understood that all three titles needed covers - compelling covers that would tempt a browsing parent to look inside, and see what Sascha Martin was up to.
Sascha was blazing through the skies, and he was bending time, and he was creating Matter out of Nowhere ... but his work was unknown, and amazing things like that really do need an audience.
So how do you get a compelling book cover? Well, there are probably lots of ways to do it, but I launched a design contest; and that's how I met Manuela Pentangelo.
When I saw her cover for Sascha Martin's Time Machine, I knew I'd found my illustrator.
Manuela's been working ever since on Sascha Martin's Rocket-Ship, creating a visual record of Sascha's very first misadventure. In the slideshow above, you can follow her progression from first concept to a finished, two page spread.
Illustrating this book has been a journey of discovery for me, and such an eye-opener (Manuela insists on opening my eyes all the time) and it's brought new ideas, new characters, and new adventures.
Now the Rocket-Ship has launched, but Sascha's journey is only just beginning.
Wormholes are the very stuff of Science Fiction. Other stars and exoplanets are so far away we'd need generations to reach them, if we had to use the technology we have now. But wormholes get us there much faster, so we need them in our stories.
It doesn't matter what you call them - wormholes, black holes, jump points, hyper gates, fold space, wrinkles in time - they're portals, and they take our imagination to the stars.
Four children discover a portal just like this in Through the Wormhole, a fast-paced, exciting and funny adventure where danger lurks at both ends of the journey.
Manuela Pentangelo has illustrated more than 30 published books, including Sascha Martin's Rocket-Ship and, next in line, Sascha Martin's Time Machine.
Her home is Sant'antioco, a town on a tiny island of the same name, off the coast of Sardinia. She runs a bed and breakfast with her husband, so in between illustrations she's looking after guests, making breakfasts, recommending sights to see, and laughing a lot. She runs occasional weekends for artists and other special interest groups, too.
Manuela studied architecture, and was working as a web designer when she met Cristiano Lissoni, who encouraged to follow her first love of illustration.
Initially she worked on paper before scanning her drawings and colouring them on computer. Her latest tool is her Ugee19 touch-screen monitor, which she loves because it's really comfortable and exactly like drawing on paper.
Sascha Martin's Rocket-Ship, I'm proud to say, is the first book that Manuela has illustrated exclusively on computer. I've asked her to illustrate all of Sascha Martin's adventures, so there'll be lots, lots more of her work to see.
You can find out more about Manuela's work at her website here.
As an adult reader, I’m most drawn to books that involve mystery and suspense. But I also love a good laugh, and one of my all-time favourite books is Lucky Jim, by Kingsley Amis.
Science fiction and crime are my go-to genres for mystery and suspense. I take the laughter wherever I can find it.
In my writing for children the same three elements emerge; mainly because I can’t help it, but then I think children love mystery, suspense and laughter as much as I do. Sascha Martin’s Adventures and Through the Wormhole (which will also be a series) are unabashed science fiction. Sascha Martin is all about the laughter. Wormholes covers the mystery and suspense … but it’s not all deadly serious.
My other project, T&DC, slips darkly into the crime genre, with an element of what I have to concede might well be fantasy. It’s on hold while I get the others into print and eprint, and I hope into the hands of parents and children.
I live on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and work each day on the mean streets of Wollstonecraft. Two of my adult children are also in Sydney. The other has moved to Melbourne. (I know! Why?)