Sunday, January 25, 2015

Book Cover Reveal: Landfall

When I design a book cover, the biggest question in my mind is, how can I honor that book, but in tinkering around with ideas for Ellen Urbani's upcoming novel Landfall, which takes place in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, I thought also, how can I honor that storm?

It's a strange thing to say, honoring something that was nothing but destruction and horror. Of course, things aren't just the things they are; they're also what comes out of the things they are, and a lot of rebirth came out of Katrina - but still, I suppose what I was trying to do was more like bearing witness - or, because I was not anywhere near the South when Katrina hit and the most visceral experience I've had with the horrendous hurricane has been through this book, maybe something like bearing witness once removed.

I looked at a lot of pictures of the damage as I was thinking on design possibilities. Remarkable, awful pictures. Only one made it into the final design, although I used a lot of actual Katrina imagery in lots of ways in the different cover layouts I tinkered with. In a picture showing a jeep making its way through the flooded out city, I was intrigued with some telephone poles that were leaning at odd angles, and it inspired me to add a a similar element in my design, wanting to bring in a sense of urban destruction (the telephone poles) along with destruction of nature (stripped branches which I placed opposite).

Here's a taste from the book:

They beat the floodwaters to Maya’s house, but only because she lived directly across the street. The levee water barreling toward the women paused for a moment a block away, when a roof swirling on its crest wedged itself between two cars. The wave quickly flung the obstacles aside, but the delay bought them enough time to smash through Maya’s door, sprint up the stairs, and hoist each other high enough to grab the rope and pull down the attic ladder. They pushed the old woman ahead of them as the water swallowed up the stairwell. In concert, Cilla shut the trapdoor, Rosy pulled a trunk over it, and the three women threw their bodies atop it as if the flood were a giant they could barricade into another room. They sat wordlessly, stunned. From a long way away, someone screamed, a scream that wouldn’t end, a child-ripped-from-the-arms kind of wail. Below them, something metallic bent with a groan. Thunder clapped around them, again and again, but on the third or fourth stroke they realized it wasn’t thunder. It was houses. Every wooden house caught in the upsurge plowed into Maya’s brick façade and dissolved around them. Her mortared walls shook, but held. 

When I put together the design, I was thinking of that one leaf that remains on the branch as a symbol of rebirth. Of the fact that even in the wake of all the destruction, something survives and something grows. I think that's a central theme in the book and I wanted to pay a little homage to that. The dragonfly does that work as well, and that's good, because author Ellen Urbani saw the leaf differently:

"It is so lonely." she said. "It speaks to the sentiment both these girls embody in the book — 'I have been lost to a storm, I am the only survivor, I am clinging desperately to my home and my roots and trying not to get lost to this tempest that has become my new reality.'"

I love that.

Landfall will be published by Forest Avenue Press on August 29th, the ten year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall. You can get more information about it here.

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