The Three Incestuous Sisters

I bet that title got your attention!

I mentioned in my last post that I might tell you the story of Audrey Niffenegger’s book. Just in case you don’t recognize the name, she is the author of

I read this book a few years ago and finally watched the movie this past summer which made me think I’d like to read the book again. When I ordered it from my friendly neighbourhood library (have I ever mentioned how much I love my library?) I checked to see what other books she has written and this one came up:

It’s a little . . . bizarre . . . which is not surprising, I guess, when you think of what else might be lurking in the mind of a person who would come up with the concept for The Time Traveler’s Wife.

What really fascinated me about the book was the author’s afterword. She first created this visual novel (not a graphic novel) as a handmade edition of ten books.


It took her fourteen years to complete because she was living a very full life (which included writing The Time Traveler’s Wife) in that span of time. While it must have been frustrating to have to fit this project in among all the other things she was doing, a visit to a teacher’s art studio gave her a different perspective.

Her teacher worked on six different paintings at once. He said that “he could make one painting a week or six paintings in six weeks. He preferred the latter, because then all the paintings were being made over a longer period of his life, and thus the end result was richer.”

Thanks to his insight, she could see that The Three Incestuous Sisters was able to truly come into its own over the 14 year period with the gradual changes in her skill and imagination. No doubt, her work was richer because of all the other living that went into that span of time.

Once again, I am so impressed with someone who follows their passion – no matter how long it takes to bring into fruition – especially, in the case of a writer, when they are also doing their own illustrations. She says, “I created the story in pictures, sketching page spreads the way a director might work out the storyboard for a film. I rote the text; as the images gained in complexity, the text dwindled until the weight of the story was carried by the images. I then spent spent most of the next thirteen years making the aquatints [a time-consuming, antique process using nitric acid and rosin dust where she worked ‘blind,’ not knowing what was being created until it was printed], designing the book, and setting and printing the type. The final year of the project was spent binding the books, elaborately, in leather.”

How’s that for love of the craft?

Well, about the only parallels I can draw between Audrey’s process and my own is that Leaf  took about 13 years from concept to final product. There’s precious little illustrating going on in my ‘studio’ at the moment, but I can still dream, can’t I?

Oh, and I tend to read six books at a time, picking and choosing what I want to read depending on my mood at the moment.

That’s kinda the same.

Isn’t it?

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