Monday, 11 March 2013

Development of the CF2K cover

Normally when I finish a book I come up with a temporary cover myself, then work with Derek Murphy at Creativindie on a more professional design. When I did this with Turner I followed it up with blog posts showing the evolution, from early drafts, to later revisions, to the final version. (For comparison, there is an image of the original cover here). I'm fascinated with how the ideas take form so thought I'd follow the same process for Cold Fusion 2000.

The original cover I made, based on Marek Bernat's image

I liked my own cover because it captured a modern starkness that fits the surreality of Jane's story, yet the face image isn't tied to an individual character and could represent Jane or Natalie. It also ties in to the descriptions of faces and art within the novel (it resembles a line drawing). The washed-out nature could be because of bright sunlight, which fit the plot. The cover was pretty, it generated desire, but was also otherworldly and cold and lonely. I still like it but it lacked warmth.



My original brief to Derek was:
"It is set in Manchester (UK), in the year 2000, during a very hot summer. My rough idea for a cover is a female figure in the foreground (anything between 18 and 30 y.o. - it isn't necessarily meant to represent a particular character, just a young woman, could be in a dress or cargo pants and T-shirt, doesn't really matter). Can't see her head or face, maybe not legs either (or all of them) i.e. top and bottom could be cut off. Could be side on or at an angle, needn’t be facing out. The background is blurred, as if the sun is so bright that nothing else can be focussed on (but it also implies the impermanence of memories, or the fact that actually one of the characters isn't alive and the world is a bit unreal to them). The background could be a city centre street, possibly with something recognisably 'Manchester' in it or the background (e.g. one of the big red brick historic buildings in the city centre); but could be something else (e.g. art gallery), or even just a washed-out street of shops, or Manchester canals. There could be people in the background scene but they would be blurred/washed out too. I thought it could be nice if the girl's hand is holding a dog-eared postcard by Rossetti, 'Donna Della Finestra' which appears in the novel, I've attached a scan of one I bought in a Manchester museum. However, I'm open to other ideas on any of this."
And later I added this:
"As usual I’m not too keen on clear-to-see faces, since it takes away some of the element of the reader imagining for themselves how someone looks. The other possible ideas, which could be combined with each other, or my previous idea, or anything else you can think of:
1> Two images of the same woman with blonde bobbed hair, dressed differently (i.e. for twins), as the main focus or in the background, one on each side. Possibly faded out/blurred or some other effect (in the novel the ‘twins’ turn out to be the same person, but two aspects of her personality which unite at the end – the girl is really dead and it is her spirit making amends for something).
2> Similar to the above but one girl with blonde hair, one slimmer and younger with dark hair. Again perhaps blurred in some way. They represent the two lovers/choices the protagonist has. Therefore it could make sense to have him in the picture. Possibly just as a torso, no need to see the head, a man in trousers and a shirt. [Would descriptions of the characters help? I can easily copy them out and send them).
3> Other ideas for the background could be frosted windows that only show vague shapes, as if it is misty or foggy beyond (representing the otherworldliness the ghost twins experience), if not a Manchester street? Or maybe a cracked clock face, which appears in a dream, tied to the theme of time passing."

The first experimental designs 

I was sorting out permissions to use the Rossetti drawing when Derek sent the drafts above which played with various ideas and styles. They inspired many thoughts in me. I won't go into all of them, but here are the ones most pertinent to the later versions.

Font
The ones I liked most were 2, 9 and 10 (possibly 1 or 4 but they reminded me a bit of a thriller novel).

Faces
Unless book cover faces exactly match the characters then they need to be hidden or made less specific in in some way. They should provide interest without confronting the reader with an image that doesn't match their perception of the character.
Options are:
1. Blurring (as done to good effect in 8, 9 and 10). Over-exposure is a form of this, as in my original cover.
2. Using a torso where the face is cut off, or facing away, or at an angle - this seems to be common in women’s novels e.g. Good Enough To Eat, When Love Takes Over, Getting Rid Of Matthew, Skipping A Beat, Girls In White Dresses, Imaginary Men, and Here, Home, Hope.
If we were to work with faces I was keen to have something more natural and less glamorous than those in the drafts. I found some images which I thought could give ideas for Jane's face here and here. I was also interested in mirror images, which could represent the Jane/Lucy 'twins' duality.

Temperature 
Despite the name, the novel is set during a hot summer, apart from the last chapter in freezing winter. This gives the option to include ice elements, which I think worked best in image 3. Sunny summer backgrounds could also work, using a torso instead of a face but otherwise resembling images like this, this or this. I'm a fan of lovely sun effects.

(I sent a lot more detail than that to Derek - he had to put up with a lot, working with me! Too many options.)

Second set of draft images


My favourite images were:

1: I liked the faded-out girl, sparse background, and the fact that you can’t see a clear face. The white clothes and fact that she’s looking down fit with the idea of her being a ghost (angel?) It’s got a nice simplicity to it. Nice font too. I wondered if it might be better with some sunlight shining from behind.

3: Although it isn’t easy to read in 3, the font reminded me of finger writing on a steamy shower pane, which I like.

12/13: I liked the face looking down on a Manchester scene. I prefer pretty bright blue sky instead of pink, and wasn't sure if either face worked, thinking the image from 1 might be a better fit, as if she's looking down on the city.

Third set of drafts to work from

These were all nice but D was my favourite. Nice image, ghostly otherworldliness yet bright sunshine, and the font is attractive and clear, reminding me of both ice and sky. Derek tried a few other fonts with the cover.

Variant fonts

My favourites were #1 (though the name at the bottom needed to be a bit darker) and #5 (if the colours were bluey instead of grey). We played with those variants until we were happy with the final choices, and also tried removing a bit more blurring of the clouds/smoke, and removing them altogether.

With and without mist

I thought either of them would make a fantastic cover. The first was everything I wanted in the brief, ethereal, ambiguous and beautiful. The second one lost some ghostliness from the mist but is still a bit ghostly; I loved the extra yellow sunshine and clouds, the contrast between cold whites and warm yellow/blues. We went for the one on the left with the smooth mist in the end.

And so we get to the final cover:


As to the beautiful Rossetti drawing, I used a version of it on the back cover of the printed novel instead. The Whitworth Gallery in Manchester has the original image which is tied to particular scenes in the novel, but they were pretty snotty about the idea of letting me use it - in the end they refused without giving a reason, and passed my appeal up to their Head of Collections but then never responded to it. I won't be setting scenes in that gallery again! Luckily other galleries and art collections are much more supportive. Firstly Aberystwyth University's School of Art had two lovely Rossetti drawings, one of Clara Vaughan Morgan (which has an interesting story behind it) and one of Ruth Herbert. The curator Neil Holland was really helpful, and willing to give permission to use either image. Also the Fogg Museum of Art owns a version of 'La Donna Della Finestra' - a later painting for which the Whitworth drawings were just preliminary sketches. Molly Frazier worked in the Digital Imaging and Visual Resources department of Harvard Art Museums and was my friendly and inspiring contact. Getting permission to use the finished version of the painting was straightforward. So my faith in galleries is restored!
Share:

1 comment:

  1. Really interesting to see how a cover develops from a collection of ideas and possibilities. It would be interesting to get the designer's views on the process too!

    I like the one you went with - the 'ghostly' impression may help with some hints.

    ReplyDelete