Header image  
what's happening in your town  

Jonathan Walker Interview

authour of Five Wounds an illuminated novel.


Jonathon Walker is the author of a unique new book called Five Wounds which is an illuminated novel set in an alternate universe city of Venice.

Walker works on the history of Venice and says the novel is "sort of set in alternate universe of Venice which is never named but if you have ever been there you will recognize bits and bobs coming into the background…” and he is living in Australia working at The University of Sydney.

“One of the ways I describe Five Wounds is it is the book my PHD was dreaming when it was asleep so I actually started it a very long time ago when I was in Venice studying my PHD and the nature of a PHD is that it is very boring tedious literal kind of writing…you have to explain everything in the clearest dullest way possible…I kind of felt Venice deserved better.

I kind of felt it was a limiting way to write and think…I actually wanted to find a way to engage with where I was and thinking about where I was so I began magically recreating it…..So I began with what was a faerie story and it is a kind of parallel universe version of Venice.”

The difference between my history work and this novel is that one of them is very rational and clear light of day kind of thinking and the other is the kind of logic you dream while you are sleep…

The books layout is unusual and an integral part of the publication, Walker says “the intention of the layout is to reference older works such as the Bible or Homer’s odyssey”

Five wounds is filled with lush illustrations by artist Dan Hallett.
Walker met Hallett the illustrator of five wounds “ when I was in Cambridge quite a long time ago when I was there and he was doing an illustration degree…I was just interested in different ways of telling a story not just history but also telling a story in a fantasy novel, but also the difference in telling a story in words and in pictures…but I am not an artist and I needed to find and artist to work with.”

“ I had stumbled on Dan at the right time….Dan now lives in Spain and we haven’t met for years and we actually just do everything via email…By collaborating with Dan it was really a question of trying to rethink the process of what it means to tell a story and not take anything for granted. What happens if you try to make the design and the pictures part of the story how you can represent ideas differently in pictures and words…the layout and design of the book they are all part of how the story works…”

“ I look at a lot of very old manuscripts in the archive when I am researching and this is kind of where the idea for an illuminated novel came from but we had a very specific influence in the form of William Blake. He did what he called illuminated books of his poetry which he arranged on plates with watercolors and drawings around it…he was one of the first people to think about what happens if you try to combine words and images and make it a total experience…”

The collaboration between Walker and Hallett was based on a "model of how to collaborate which is provided by the comic book industry where it’s very normal to have a writer working with an illustrator so there was a convention…I wrote scripts for Dan to work from…I describe what the subject is and I give some guidance on the composition and I do a bit of picture researches well given that much of it is derived from this history of Venice I have quite a bit of material relating to that.
The challenge for the person writing the script initially is that I have to find a way of describing a picture that doesn’t exist yet and then Dan has to find a way of translating that picture…the interesting part of that process is the thing that you don’t expect…it's not about me trying to control everything Dan does I am surprised by what Dan does in response to my directions it is the element of surprise…” I didn’t quite expect it to look like that” was the actual pleasure in collaborating.”

“It was an enriching experience and one of the benefits of having a collaborator is that they bring their own ideas to the work so that Dan’s illustrations provide..not only translating my directions but they also provide something that by definition I could not have imagined because it is coming from Dan’s imagination”

There is a broader question here…the assumption that a book with pictures must be a children’s book…is a puzzling assumption there is no reason why that should be the case….It’s a picture book for adults is the one line description of it, it’s an attempt to have a total experience of storytelling where everything about the book is part of the story, the design illustrations as well as the words are all creating a world for you that you enter when you pick up the book.”
The point of having all these elements in the design and illustrations is to enrich that world so it can engage you as many different levels as simultaneously as possible so it’s not just a sort of tatty paperback but that it’s when open you are already entering getting your entrance  into the flavor of that world just by looking at the pages.

Five wounds is out now through Allen and Unwin for $39.99 and you can buy a copy by clicking here

more info about five wounds can be found on the website www.fivewoundsthenovel.com