Car makers love selling you stuff other than cars, and the more rarified the brand, the more stuff they offer.
This was brought home to me at a recent Jaguar Land Rover press event, held at a posh, central London hotel. Here I mingled with predominantly young, expensively dressed types. If I say that there were a lot of huge, Victorian explorer style beards on display you’ll get the vibe.
We were there to look at Jaguar and Land Rover-approved bicycles, luggage, clothes and ‘eyewear,’ which turned out to mean sunglasses. All these things were impeccably tasteful, mostly expensive and not suitable for me, because they’d soon get soiled or in the case of the ‘eye-wear,’ sat on and broken.
Then I came across a lady called Veronica Lamond, author of an entirely delightful series of Land Rover-themed children’s books, featuring a Series 1 and a Defender. Despite that vehicular icon finally coming to the end of the road, its maker was clearly charmed by its book alter egos too, and is now offering them at its dealerships.
Lamond is a medical secretary, the books are self-published, and she got in touch with the Land Rover to make sure that they weren’t infringing its copyright. Car makers are particularly beady about their brand names and iconography, and a few years ago Land Rover played hardball with a lot of independent repairers for using its logo. It did indeed have some concerns about the books, but rather than getting heavy and sending for the lawyers it quietly ironed these out and there now seems to be a genuine warmth between the car giant and author.
Veronica Lamond’s route to car-themed children’s publishing is an interesting one. Now living in Cornwall, she’s South African by birth, trained as an art teacher, and arrived in England aged 19 ‘with £50 and a backpack.’
She worked with people with learning difficulties, was involved with a project to get school refusers back into the classroom and became a botanical painter, while harbouring a desire to illustrate children’s books. Her 4×4 subject matter came from a friend whose sons were obsessed by Land Rovers.
Unable to decide which model to use she visited Mick Moore, a local Land Rover specialist.
‘We went into his yard and there was Mick’s 1956 Series 1 and I thought; ‘here’s my character,’’ says Lamond of a car which is now immortalised as ‘Landy’ (a tandem series of books about a Defender that lives by the sea called, inevitably, ‘Fender’ is also based on a real car). Both have back stories that feature human and animal characters, and are often photographed ‘in character’ as the basis for Lamond to illustrate her books.
‘My style is quite loose, but I like to keep things in proportion. Anyone who likes Land Rovers will see that they’re accurate.’
Although she insists that the books are aimed at a generalist audience, that not all their readers are small boys and that quite a few end up in the hands of Land Rover owning grown ups, this fidelity to how things really look has made them popular with children on the Autistic spectrum, for whom accuracy is very important.
‘I did have this in the back of my mind, and it’s happened,’ she says. ‘I visit schools, and was told the book had transformed the life of an 8-year-old at the back of one class. He used to be very resistant to reading. Some children just don’t get fantasy in books.’
Self publishing can be expensive and time consuming and the rewards meager. Victoria Lamond took the plunge despite serial rejections from established publishers before she started, and with 35,000 sales so far–enough to shame many celebrity biographies- and more books in the pipeline, her instincts have been proved correct. Soon you won’t be able to buy a new Defender car from a Land Rover showroom, but you will be able to buy the book of the car.