Did author John Bellairs ever meet illustrator Edward Gorey? The answer is a firm "No". It also appears that they also did not personally communicate directly with one another. Fans of Mr. Bellairs' book series may find this disappointing, but this is the usual working relationship between most authors and illustrators, especially on an author's early books where they have yet to achieve recognition and influence. Mr. Bellairs had previously published three adult novels, but had not published a book for teens.
John Bellairs submitted his manuscript for The House With A Clock In Its Walls to Dial Books early in the summer of 1971. After several revisions to the manuscript based on the publisher's feedback, Dial made an offer to publish the story (with the caveat that further revisions would be suggested). On November 15, 1971 Mr. Bellairs returned the signed contracts along with a brief letter asking if they intended to have the book illustrated. Here is part of that letter:
Senior Editor Jean Gavril was in charge of the House manuscript at Dial and she responded favorably to this suggestion, but she was unfamiliar with Marilyn Fitschen's work and requested that samples be forwarded to Dial. Presumably these were sent, but there is no written record in the university archive confirming this.
Subsequent letters in the file make no mention of an illustrator for House until this note from the editor dated June 2, 1972:
Up until this time Edward Gorey appears to have illustrated only one book published by Dial, and that was in 1965. Mr. Gorey did have a solid reputation and would have been considered something of a catch as an illustrator, but it is unclear from the letters in this archive how he was engaged to illustrate House. In her recorded interview, Priscilla Bellairs states that everyone was very excited that Mr. Gorey was going to work on the book because his name and talents would increase potential sales.
The next post will continue the tale of Edward Gorey's involvement with The House with a Clock in its Walls.