In working on Lighter Than My Shadow as a college project, I knew I couldn’t tackle the whole thing. Instead I picked a few moments from different stages of the story to work up into comics, giving an example of what the finished work might look and feel like.
At that stage, I was a lot more shy about things being made public than I am now. I don’t think I ever really believed the book would be published, and I was horrified enough that my college work had to go on public exhibition. I set about thinking of a way to display the work that felt less exposing than hanging the images on the wall. I wanted people viewing the work to have the intimate, private experience of reading a book, but equally I didn’t want my exhibition to seem unenticing and visually dull.
I came up with this book-box-thing, housing each of the short extracts in a separate compartment. I think this helped the viewers/readers to understand that these were disparate parts of an incomplete project, rather than something finished. The box was displayed on a plinth, and above it I hung a wire sculpture of the snarling black cloud that appears in the first illustration. I WISH I had taken some photographs – the cloud was an unwieldy 3ft across and so I decided to throw it away after the show. Perhaps I will recreate it for the book launch…
These extracts, along with a vague synopsis and some notes about why I wanted to do the project, became my book proposal. I graduated in June 2009, and showed the pages to Jonathan Cape in September of that year. In January 2010, thrilled and in utter disbelief, I signed the contract that made everything real.