Seven months till publication – June

I had lunch with my editor on Thursday. I love having lunch with my editor. I mean, she wouldn’t buy me lunch if she wasn’t going to publish my novel, right? So that makes it real, in a way that school runs and lost homework and washing up and power cuts and removing dozens of toads (dead and alive) from the cellar pump in the company of an excited four year old just doesn’t. She greeted me with the words, ‘We have a cover,’ swiftly followed by the words, ‘But I didn’t bring it with me. I’ll e mail it, so you can react in privacy.’ And I’m afraid those are the last words I actually heard or can report on, even though we’d barely even been given menus at that point. I vaguely remember being encouraged to order a pie, and that I didn’t order a pie, but that what I ordered was delicious. I think it was a fish.
I try to believe that covers aren’t as important as all that. It’s a novel. The important thing is the story. The words inside the covers. But I know it’s not true. Who doesn’t love a beautiful cover? The duck egg blue of the hardback of Evie Wyld’s All The Birds, Singing? The blue and ivory paper cut outs of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin? The iconic blue and orange silhouettes of One Day? The cover of The Ship will tell me everything about the novel I’ve written. If it’s ivory with a small detail from an oil painting, then I’ll know it’s To Be Taken Seriously (like The Luminaries and The Goldfinch). If it’s in primary colours and graphic blocks with a 3D font for the title, I’ll know it’s got Young Adult appeal. A watercolour seascape with a young girl gazing out over a deck rail will give me Romance; a Soviet-style poster will suggest a political novel; something pointed and shiny with a few stars might get fans of the futuristic, whilst a decaying cityscape, perhaps in silhouette, will show that The Ship is a Dystopia with a capital D. And while The Ship is all these things, it’s really just a novel about people. About a father wanting to do his best for his daughter; about our own responses to a society in crisis; about what on earth we’re all doing here anyway. I’m not sure how you’d get that into a cover image.
Anyway, The Ship is not really mine any more. I’ve written it and redrafted it and redrafted it again, and taken it apart and put it together. I’ve embroidered and unpicked and remade it. And now I’ve ironed it, boxed it carefully in tissue and handed it over. And in a set of offices in St. Martin’s Lane, it’s been unpacked, shaken out and put on a mannequin, ready for potential readers to take a look and decide whether they want to accept the invitation. That’s what a book cover is, after all – an invitation to step inside and explore.
It’s what I’ve always wanted. I’m just not sure I’ll be able to look.

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