Veronica Mang, BFA Illustration, ’19, Lands Three-Part Children’s Mystery Book Series at Viking Books
Last fall, as Veronica Mang, BFA Illustration ’19, was starting her senior year at Parsons, she began developing her thesis project, a children’s picture book called The Secret Society of the Lady Spies. She was encouraged by several of her Parsons professors to find an agent who could facilitate a sale to an interested publisher. By May, the month she graduated, she had found an agent to represent her, and by September, she had landed a three-book deal with Viking Books, highly unusual for a first-time author several months out of college.
Mang realizes her good fortune. “I’m blown away. It landed in front of the right people,” she says. But her talent and persistence also played a role in paving the way to the publication of the first in her three-book series, scheduled for spring 2021. The series is geared to nine- and ten-year-olds.
“Veronica’s thesis project, which eventually became the basis for her upcoming series of children’s books, grew directly out of her personal interest in the early history of women spies,” says Steven Guarnaccia, an associate professor of illustration at Parsons. “And her illustrations for the project were fresh and contemporary while at the same time referencing imagery from the past half century of book illustration. The idea of casting a group of young girls as spies in the making, who encounter fictional counterparts of real-life women spies, seemed just right for the current cultural moment. Clearly her publisher thought so, too.”
Mang says that reviewing fashion illustration catalogs dating from the 1920s to 1940s “sparked the idea” that led to the final project.
The Secret Society of the Lady Spies chronicles the adventures of three girls, named Dot, Peggy, and Rita, who form their own spy club. The girls stumble on a spy ring of real-life women such as the American-born French entertainer, spy, and resistance fighter Josephine Baker and the British spy and World War II heroine Noor Inayat Khan.
“I admire the spirit and intense bravery of these women,” Mang says about the spies she selected for her story. “Noor was a pacifist music teacher who didn’t give up secrets even when tortured.”
In Mang’s book, the real-life spies enlist the junior private eyes to help them solve a mystery.
“I’m totally in love with these characters and excited to see what happens to them,” Mang says, referring to her child spies. “They’re going to exist in the same world as the historical figures and be part of fun situations.”
When Mang began working on her thesis, it was primarily a book of illustrations with little text. Last summer, her agent Andrea Morrison, helped her develop the book, and during this period, she rewrote and resketched the project. Mang promises that future books in the series will reflect her own interests in fashion and jazz.
Originally from Perkasie, Pennsylvania, Mang dreamed of coming to study at Parsons and was influenced and mentored by professors such as Guarnaccia, Jordin Isip, Wendy Popp, Henrik Drescher and Guy Billout.
Working as Guarnaccia’s assistant in his studio helped Mang with the research process, giving her access to vintage books and other materials that helped define the spies’ old-fashioned look.
After some experimentation, she decided to employ traditional graphite drawing techniques, a stylized visuals and yellow pot color to create her illustrations. She used a risograph printing process to replicate old-fashioned two-color offset printing.
After graduation, Mang was hired at Scholastic Publishing as a junior book designer. She now has the opportunity to learn about the publishing industry as a writer, illustrator, and designer.
She credits much of her success to Parsons.
“I’m lucky I ended up at Parsons,” Mang says. “It’s hard to say if it would have worked out this way if I hadn’t.”