2 minutes reading time (484 words)

Under the Covers

Under the Covers

Growing up in the age of the gatefold sleeve and the triple album, I always wanted to design record covers and was deeply upset to have to accept that I was never going to be Roger Dean or Rodney Matthews. Fast forward, oh, at least that many years, and here I am, designing covers for Cinnamon books. Is it as exciting, as glamorous, as just, well, stunning as I'd dreamed? Well …

If I'm lucky, they cover idea appears from the ether and — plonk! — drops wholesale onto the computer screen. The Shark Cage by Laura Seymour is a case in point: Jan described Laura's collection and I saw a series of waves. Et voilà: cover done. Wow, so easy …

If only. Inspiration's a fickle, duplicitous force. My first idea for Tricia Durdey's The Green Table was a series of blocky geometrics meant to suggest the Nazi flag. It looked like a baked bean tin. The cover only started to gel after a random image popped into my head: El Lissitzky's "Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge" …

Writers suggesting ideas can be a tremendous help, or a cause for tremendous anxiety. It all depends. Robin Lindsay Wilson brought the ventriloquist's dummy image that's the heart of the cover of his collection, Myself and Other Strangers; I immediately decided it needed a frame and the concrete wall to hang against. So far, so good. But David Mark Williams' remark that he'd like something that "looks like Wes Anderson" for the cover of The Odd Sock Exchange left me floundering. Cottia, bless her, spent days photographing odd socks as I thought I was going to do a photo-composite. In the end, I created a naive, slightly 50s-looking drawing, laborious tracing out dozens of Cottia's sock piccies.

And then there are the ones that threatened never, ever to appear at all. I had a couple of quite grandiose ideas for Ian Gregson's The Crocodile Princess. But, as I got closer to having to execute them, I knew there was no way I was going to get them to work. Who did I think I was? Roger Dean? Peter Mendelsund? Countless sketches produced nothing. The thought of doing a cover like "one of those great old Penguin books" lead … sort of somewhere but nowhere gripping. Version after version piled up, as did the anxiety and sense of impending doom. Desperation drove me to sling a silhouette of Angkor Wat into the mix. Suddenly, in the space of a couple of hours, the cover fell into place — a cover that's my current fave rave out of all the ones I've designed over the last few months.

Yup, this is a pretty stunning job.


Adam Craig is a co-director of Cinnamon Press and editor of Cinnamon's innovative fiction imprint, Liquorice Fish Books. His first novel, Vitus Dreams, was published earlier this year.

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Monday, 30 March 2020