I’ve been thinking a lot about graphics and images lately.
(Okay. That’s almost, if not entirely, a lie. The truth is, I’ve been thinking a lot about how great it would be if I was able to sleep four hours in a row, and (on a related note) how I wish the babies in my life were somehow immune from cold /flu season.) But in some alternate reality where I’m exclusively focused on writing, I have been thinking a lot about pictures.
First, a few weeks ago I had a photo session with my friend (and very talented photographer) John Goldsmith, with the aim of getting a good photo for the book jacket. I’ve posted a few of my more favorite ones above, plus I added one to my welcome page. The first one on the left above is the one I’m using for my author photo on the book jacket.
Around the same time, my editor shared a preliminary image of the cover we’re going to use for The Path of Names. It’s pretty great – I can’t wait to see the final version (at which point I will be able to post it here, as well.)
I’ve also been thinking about pictures for use in The Path of Names. There’s this scene in The Path of Names when the main character looks up the Wikipedia entry for a Chasidic rebbe. In the text of the novel, I mention that at the top of the Wikipedia entry there’s a picture of the rebbe. Not long after my own photo session, Cheryl Klein, my editor at Arthur A. Levine, wrote me and suggested that it would be cool to have a picture of the rebbe in the novel, along with the Wikipedia entry. As usual, she’s right – it would be cool. The problem, of course, is that the Wikipedia entry is fictional and the rebbe in question never existed. We played with the idea of using the picture of a real Chasidic rebbe, and quickly rejected it, as certain to offend any followers or descendants of said rebbe.
Then I thought about using a photo of one of my own ancestors. My great grandfather, for instance, was an orthodox Jewish rabbi in 1930s New York City – just like the rebbe in the novel. Perfect, you might think. We have pictures of him, and he certainly looks the part. The problem is, he was most definitely not a Chasid, nor was he a big fan of Chasidim. A brief straw poll of my family came to the consensus it would be weird to posthumously have him stand in for a Chasidic rebbe. One of my great uncles actually made the switch to Chasidim before immigrating to Israel in the 1920s, but no one thought his ultra-orthodox descendants would be real hot about seeing his image used as a stand-in for a fictional Chasidic rebbe.
After another back and forth with my editor, she got back to me and let me know that her boss had actually managed to dig up a photo of one of his ancestors. She e-mailed me the photo, and it’s perfect for the fictional rebbe.
I’ve also been thinking about images after seeing the first typeset version of THE PATH OF NAMES. It’s really fun — there are a variety of visual flourishes that surprised me. For instance, each chapter heading incorporates a little symbol of a maze (on account of a hedge maze playing a major role in the book.)
All this has got me thinking about how visual we are as a species. How important the novel’s cover is as a way of convincing the reader to pick up the book in the first place. How the main job of the author photo is probably just to convince the reader that you’d be a good person to spend time with while the reading the novel.