With A Single Stone making its way out into the world, I’ve been thrilled to hear that the cover is attracting a lot of praise. As someone who isn’t a visual thinker at all, I have very little involvement in the design process. When I’m writing (and reading) I don’t picture the setting or characters; even at the end of my sixty-third draft, I generally have no idea what people look like or where they are. This leads to my editor guiding me into the sixty-fourth draft with questions like, But how could they possibly see him from there? and Just how big is this valley anyway?
For this reason, among others, I’m perfectly happy to let designers and illustrators get on with their work independently. Once there’s a draft on the table, or early sketches, I might start to have some input, but until then, I’m completely content to leave things in the hands of others. As a result, I generally have no insight at all into how the design process works. And for that reason, I was absolutely thrilled when Gayna Murphy did this wonderful blog on how she went about designing the cover for A Single Stone.
It’s fascinating for me to see what Gayna drew out as key words and images, how certain phrases and ideas stood out, while others receded. And it’s wonderful to know that my work was given such a close reading, such careful attention. As a writer, this is of course what I hope for, but I’m also conscious of how busy designers are. And if I’m truthful, I’ve harboured some anxiety that they simply get a manuscript in their in-tray, production-line-style, with a sticky note attached saying, Girl likes mountains. Blue stones. Something about birds. Need this by Tuesday!!
I’m struck by how much time has gone into this cover, by how many drafts Gayna did before arriving at the final concept. I didn’t see any of these early drafts and am intrigued to do so now, to try and imagine my words beneath them: How would these designs represent the story? Which elements are foregrounded in each, while others disappear? What would the difference be to a reader, a bookseller, a browser?
They are all so different but the final version is my favourite, hands down, and is very close to the first draft I saw. Although I had some input in the later stages, I was tweaking fine detail only – things like Can the stone be higher? lower? I think her hair needs to be darker. What if we turned the feather around?
This hands-off approach might not suit every author but it’s perfect for me and if the end result is anything to go by, it’s worked for Gayna too. I can’t seem to tear my eyes from Jena’s penetrating gaze on the cover; I can only hope bookstore browsers feel the same!