Donovan Bixley had almost given up on his 10-year project, an illustrated biography for adults on the life of William Shakespeare.

But life moves in mysterious ways and just when the Taupo author and illustrator seriously thought Much Ado about Shakespeare would never see the light of day, the project received an unexpected boost when Bixley's new publisher Upstart expressed interest in the project.

The upside of the long wait also meant that the book is being published in 2016, the 400th anniversary of The Bard's death.

In the end, it turned into a mad rush to have all 60 illustrations ready in time for the book to be published, with Bixley trying to finish the Shakespeare book along with seven others he was working on.


Much Ado About Shakespeare follows Bixley's 2005 book on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Faithfully Mozart, which has gone on to sell 28,000 copies.

Bixley said, even before the start of his 20-year journey to become a successful author and illustrator, he had the idea of doing a series of stories on three great artists: Leonardo da Vinci, Mozart and Shakespeare. But a literary picture book for adults was a hard sell and it's taken him years to find a publisher who felt as passionately about it as he did. Even after Upstart took it to the Frankfurt Book Fair two years running and then to the Taipei International Book Exhibition, there was still no real confirmation the book would be published and Bixley didn't even have a contract for it until last November. When he finally got the green light, the text, which he had written years ago, was ready, but he only had about three pages of the required 60 paintings done. It was "a hell of a lot of work to get through" but enjoyable too.

"I just enjoyed every second that I spent with these paintings. I reminded myself that 20 years ago I had come up with this idea and I wanted to be able to paint these beautiful glorious paintings that I didn't then have the skills to do and now I do, and it's such a pleasure to have it coming out. The fact that it's actually happened is a little bit overwhelming."

He said the idea of the illustrations were to capture Shakespeare in moments of real life and as a man of many parts.

"We don't know much about him but we do know that he was a son, eldest brother and a young lover. He was a bit of a tavern brawler and a tax evader and various things like that so I've tried to capture the real man behind the famous legacy."

The book was launched in New Zealand last week.

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