One of the main reasons that Jamie and I are so proud of the Fabled Lands books, and why we think they really achieved our goal of transporting the reader into an immersive fantasy world, is that we had the privilege of working with that maestro of fantastic visualisation, Russ Nicholson.
Russ illustrated many other gamebooks too - he illustrated almost all of mine, in fact. But Fabled Lands was unique because we had more time to work closely with Russ at the concepting stage. Not only did he bring his awesome imagination to bear on the work, he was probably the only artist who could have understood what we were trying to do with Fabled Lands.
It wasn't just a question of picking a scene and illustrating it. We needed somebody who could evoke an entire world with a varied and authentic range of architectural styles, clothing, imagery and culture. He had to pull off the same kind of effect that, over a decade on, James Cameron was trying to do with Avatar. It needed to be as if a documentary film-maker was showing footage of another universe - only Russ had about one hundred thousandth of Avatar's budget to work with!
These pictures are two of my personal favorites. They transcend the specific scene as described in the books to make you feel like you are glimpsing moments in the lives of people who really do inhabit a teeming, breathing world full of sights and smells. And that's a big part of why Fabled Lands has such a devoted following all these years after it first appeared. Because we know that, in our mind's eye, the world persists as a living, breathing fantasy and if we were to drop into it we would encounter a merchant of Conflass or a masked lord of Uttaku as naturally as we walk past the folks at our local Starbucks.