Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Blue Orchard

Sometimes you work on a cover, it gets approved, you're waiting for the email/call to get started on the mechanical and boom....the cover is killed. Why? Well, doesn't matter. Some internal conflict has rendered your cover a no go.

Case in point: a novel, The Blue Orchard.

Summary: On the eve of the Great Depression, Verna Krone, the child of Irish immigrants, must leave the eighth grade and begin working as a maid to help support her family. Her employer takes inappropriate liberties, and as Verna matures, it seems as if each man she meets is worse than the last. Through sheer force of will and a few chance encounters, she manages to teach herself to read and becomes a nurse. But Verna’s new life falls to pieces when she is arrested for assisting a black doctor with “illegal surgeries.” As the media firestorm rages, Verna reflects on her life while awaiting trial.

I was told to make this one "beautiful." Even heavy subject matter requires a pretty cover...

Here are the three comps submitted.

The comp below uses a vintage fruit crate label from my collection. The peach is meant to overwhelm the cover (and the main character, Verna). The numbered lines in the back reference the ledger she keeps of all the patients in the doctor's practice:

Again, I used (more of) the vintage art in a new composition, this time paired with an image of a maid. Verna originally worked as a maid before becoming a nurse.

For the third comp, I mocked up the front & back. Using a vintage illustration of a woman from a stock house as reference, I redrew/recolored the figure to represent Verna. On the front cover I have her dressed as a maid, and on the back as a nurse, each time holding the peaches which are a symbolic of her family orchard.

The top comp above was chosen. A few months later the cover was killed. Too bad, I liked this one...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The First and Final Nightmare of Sonia Reich

A few years ago I worked on this title for PublicAffairs. This is an incredible story written by Sonia's son. From Booklist:

Reich's Jewish mother lived in the town of Dubno, Poland, as a child. In 1941, when she was 11, she began a four-year journey of running and hiding from the Nazis, coming to the U.S. when she was 16. She worked in candy and clothing factories in Chicago and met the author's father, a survivor of a death march to Buchenwald, on a blind date. On February 15, 2001, when she was living in Skokie, Illinois, she packed some clothes in two shopping bags and fled, believing that someone was trying to kill her, "to put a bullet in my head." She was diagnosed as having late-onset post-traumatic stress disorder, was admitted to a psychiatric ward, and then to an assisted-living facility.

From the author:
"In the midst of my mother's stunning soliloquy of rage and delusion, of anger and fear and accusation," Reich writes, "I finally, belatedly, incredibly realized that this was all about the war, and what awful things must have happened to my mother when she was a child, pursued because she was a Jew."

This was obviously a very moving, disturbing story. The author provided a wealth of photographs of Sonia, though at first we weren't sure if we would use them.

From the first comps (which used a different title at the time) I was taken with the idea of ghosts from the past coming back to haunt Sonia. For this comp, I used a chair with the ghostly image of Sonia as a child overlaying it.

I also created an all type version:

With a title change (so that it wouldn't be put in the Holocaust memoir section), we also changed directions. This time we went with a film reel, the idea of images replaying over and over in Sonia's mind:

From there, the direction was to go back to something more thoughtful, so I merged these photos to create a woman (not Sonia) in front of a window. Still using that ghostly effect:

In the end we did some photo layering again, but this time with Sonia as an adult over a desolate, beautiful landscape image:

I had liked above how the type worked with the image, out of focus and moving, but I was asked to go back to a more straightforward treatment. Final is below: