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Monday, September 17, 2012

GUEST POST: Go Ahead: Judge These Books By Their Covers by Daniel Rabuzzi



Deborah and I will celebrate our thirtieth anniversary on October 1st, so the September 15th publication of The Indigo Pheasant - which we collaborated on - is a perfect present!   We have shared similar tastes and interests in arts and letters from the very beginning, and had long dreamed of working together.  As I wrote my first novel, The Choir Boats, starting in 2002 and ending with its publication by ChiZine Publications (CZP) in 2009, Deborah read closely and critically every line.  More than that, she began to render key characters and scenes into drawings, and we imagined what formal illustrations might look like.  Doing so came naturally, in part, because I write in what I call an "imagistic" way, i.e., I typically see an image (say, a blue-trimmed house with a dolphin door knocker on a busy London street in 1812, or a giant, fiery-eyed white owl with a long tail streaming behind him) and work to clothe the visual in words on the page. 



  Birdlike seabeast

 Rosaccio seabeast - 1595

Blagrave mermaid - 1696

 Sparked by her reading of The Choir Boats in draft and by the Renaissance European maritime maps that influenced the world created in the novel, Deborah in 2006 began designing a series of four mythical sea monsters, which she exhibited as "Here There Be" in May, 2007 at The International Contemporary Furniture Fair at the Javits Center in New York City.  (We are happy to say that a private collector in Boston has purchased the series...and is also an avid fan of the novels). 

Deborah Mills (holding a gouge and mallet) exhibiting her Here There Be series, which she hand-carved in sapele wood and framed in ebonized mahogany with 23K gold leaf."

And then our hope was realized when Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi, the co-founders of CZP, asked to use two of the "Here There Be" monsters for the covers of The Choir Boats and The Indigo Pheasant.  Our dear friend Shira Weinberger photographed the chosen carvings and CZP's graphic designer Eric Mohr transmogrified them into the mysterious and beautiful covers that grace my books.  Without fail, the covers receive attention and praise.  One may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but one will certainly be drawn to read a book in the first place by a cover as gorgeous and intriguing as the ones I am so favored to have on my novels.

  Photographs by Shira Weinberger

 Inspired by the cover as CZP moved into pre-production on the first novel, we were able to get Deborah to provide interior illustrations as well.   Once again, CZP demonstrated how a small press can realize an author's broader vision by allowing illustrations that so intimately and effectively support (in fact, extend!) the story.  I could not have asked for more.   Readers of The Choir Boats routinely hailed the artwork, so it was practically a given that Deborah would do the cover and interior illustrations for its sequel, The Indigo Pheasant.

Readers of Fantasy Book Critic may be interested in learning more about Deborah's artisanal approach; you can see her in action at www.deborahmillswoodcarving.com.   Here are some quick snapshots to give you a sense of how she works.

Deborah Mills at Carving Bench 
 
 Tools Of The Trade

What's next for our blossoming collaboration?  We together designed and exhibited fantastical small sculptures at The Observatory gallery in Brooklyn this spring (check them out HERE), and are busy dreaming up other co-productions...stay tuned!


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