I’d hoped this post would be very different.
I’d hoped to tell all of you that Tess Fowler had returned to work on Doc Wilde and The Mad Skull. That she and I had revisited the conflict between us and, like thoughtful, reasonable adults, had reconciled and gotten back to work.
Toward that end, I emailed and called her several times, with humility, ready to eat more than my fair share of crow in order to make peace, in order to allow her to make good on her promises. I did this not only because I’d paid her a great deal of money which was as good as flushed if she didn’t complete the job, but even more because I love her work and still think she might have produced a beautiful book. And that’s still my goal.
She simply ignored me.
Now, I already wrote a post about all this, a post full of anger and bile, and I’m sure some of you saw it. But I took it down soon after because that wasn’t how I wanted to be. I didn’t want to present myself that way. I didn’t want to talk about Tess that way. She’s a fellow creator, and I don’t want to tear her down or hurt her.
But, because I wrote that post, I sort of feel the need to re-address the matter in a calmer, more objective way. I also feel a certain accountability to all the Kickstarter supporters who put their money toward the dream of these books, a lump of which I just lost. I’m deeply sorry this happened; it has set progress way back, but you will still get the books you were promised.
Below is a full account of Tess’s time on this job, and the unpleasantness that followed. It’s long, but I think it’s only fair to show our work relationship in detail to fully and accurately represent what happened. It is, at least, a good case study in how choosing the wrong person to work on a project can go very badly. For those unwilling to read the whole thing, here’s the short version:
I hired Tess Fowler in mid-May to do the cover, 20 pieces of interior art, and layout for a Doc Wilde book to be released by Christmas. She took a $1,000 advance from me.
I patiently worked around her scheduling needs, including an enforced break due to carpal tunnel syndrome. I repeatedly tried to get her to read the text and engage personally with the material, to find the things in it that excited her and contribute creatively rather than just drawing what I told her to. She refused. She did say, several times, she enjoyed working with me and liked that I gave her detailed notes on her work.
Tess did not devote much of her time to the project, working on it just a day or two per week, even after losing the weeks to her carpal tunnel injury. Most of her time went to other personal projects.
By late October, less than two months before the book’s release had been planned, Tess had produced just a handful of rough character sketches. She had also done a layout sketch for the cover that I liked a great deal, and had been trying to paint it, but it was turning out so badly that in a fit of frustration she literally ripped it to shreds without ever showing it to me.
She then accused me of being hard to please and denied the very terms she’d agreed to months earlier. She also insisted she was only supposed to do five illustrations, rather than twenty, and that she had never agreed to do layout “since that’s not even in my list of skills.” But the terms of the agreement are in the email I sent her, as very clear bullet points, and her agreement to those terms is just as clear (and enthusiastic) in her immediate reply.
While we were debating this, and our relationship was collapsing, she started trying to use my depression (which I’m very open about and have written of quite a bit on this blog) as a weapon against me, trying to portray me as irrational in order to make it appear our problems were all my fault.
Now, Tess Fowler has cut off all contact, despite my repeated efforts at reconciliation and to give her another chance, and refused to refund the advance, even though it is now past Christmas, the book is not out, and I have received not a single thing she’d agreed to provide for that money.
Now, the full story… Continue reading