Debut author-illustrator Flora Delargy talks about her work on Rescuing Titanic, and shows readers that a glimmer of hope can be found even in great tragedy and heroes are not always big and mighty.
Where did the idea for Rescuing Titanic come from? What is your personal connection to the story of the Titanic?
I have lived in Belfast almost all of my life and Titanic is a huge part of the city’s history. It was built here and people are very proud of our shared connection to the ship. We have the amazing Titanic Belfast Museum, a Titanic themed hotel and even a restaurant called Thai Tanic! I also have a family connection to the ship as both my grandfather and great grandfather worked in the Belfast shipyards. My grandfather was a Naval Architect for Titanic’s shipbuilder, Harland & Wolff, and my Great Grandfather was an Iron Turner (someone who shaped the propeller shafts) for a rival shipbuilder.
Despite all this, I actually knew very little about the story of the Carpathia before beginning this project. I knew it had come to the aid of the survivors of the Titanic but only fully discovered the extent of the role it played while in the final stages of my Masters in Children’s Book Illustration. I had been looking for a non-fiction subject for my final project and came across the story of Captain Rostron and his crew on Twitter of all places. I was immediately drawn to the heroism and bravery of the actions carried out those aboard Carpathia and the more I read, the more I felt it could make a wonderful children’s book
What is your research process like for this book? What were some of the more challenging moments in your research?
The research process for this book was fascinating. So much has been written on the Titanic and what happened on that fateful night in April 1912 but there are relatively few publications that focus solely on Carpathia and the actions of Captain Rostron and his crew. Despite this, I discovered a few excellent books on the subject which can be found in my bibliography at the end of Rescuing Titanic and I would highly recommend those interested in the Carpathia to check them out! Captain Rostron’s autobiography in particular gave me a real sense of the emotions he felt when the distress call came through and also what life was like aboard a passenger ship in the early 1900s.
Two absolutely key resources which helped guide me through the events of that night were the transcripts from the British and American Inquiries following the disaster. Many of Titanic’s surviving passengers and crew, as well as senior crew from Carpathia, provided in depth testimonies and these insights allowed me to plot an almost minute by minute account of what happened that night. It was almost like piecing together an elaborate jigsaw puzzle.
By far the most challenging aspect of my research was fact checking the text when I had finished writing. Although it was a hugely important part of my writing process, it was quite slow and laborious and involved cross checking various sources, reports and publications.
Aside from the story itself, what is the biggest takeaway you hope readers will get from the book?
It would be really wonderful if the book encouraged children to learn about their favourite historical events from different perspectives. Rightly or wrongly, Titanic has become a by-word for large scale tragedy, suffering and misjudgement. However, the role that the crew and passengers of the Carpathia played in the story of Titanic truly illustrates the supportive and selfless nature of humans in times of crisis.
How do you create your illustrations?
I create my illustrations by hand and, for this book, I used a mix of watercolour, gouache and pastels. Once I’ve finished a piece of artwork, I’ll scan it into photoshop and correct any mistakes or to tweak the levels slightly.
I like the unpredictability of using traditional materials which can sometimes lead to happy accidents that I wouldn’t maybe achieve as easily if I were using digital media. One of my favourite parts of any project is in the early stages of experimenting with materials where I can play around with mark making and textures.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on my follow up to Rescuing Titanic which focuses on a few incredible women involved in the Klondike Gold Rush at the turn of the century. It’s been wonderful to delve into another lesser known side of history and learn about some inspiring figures.
About the author:
Flora Delargy is an author and illustrator from Belfast. She has a master’s degree in Children’s Book Illustration from Cambridge School of Art. In 2019, she was selected for the Illustrators Exhibition at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Rescuing Titanic is her debut book for children.