This is the cover art for Olives - A Violent Romance, my first published novel. It's quite a high-res file so you can click on it and get it nice and big if you like. It’s by Naeema Zarif, a lady whose work has long enthralled me. Naeema is responsible for the iconography of GeekFest, her work on the various GeekFest posters increasingly taking on the style of her own art – a distinctive series of images consisting of a range of juxtaposed elements creating a whole that makes your eyes flit around trying to decipher what’s going on in the resulting melange. There’s often a great deal of wit, subtlety and game-playing, but Naeema is a natural tease and likes to leave the viewer to try and sort it all out rather than giving the game away.
My own cover for Olives, designed back when I needed one to post an early version of the manuscript up on Harper Collins’ Authonomy, consisted of a photo of some olives together with the word (wait for it) 'Olives' in my favourite typeface of all time, Gill Perpetua. I have long admired stonecutter and typographer Eric Gill, who combined being a darling of the Catholic church with a singularly robust sex life involving most of the women who ever met him.
Naeema’s art for Olives, when it arrived, blew me away. It’s utterly not what I expected, and yet seems so, well ‘right.’ It also, critically, works well as a thumbnail – today’s book cover needs to work as a booky book cover, a Kindle book cover (in colour as well as mono, BTW - don't forget the Kindle Fire!) and also as a thumbnail for Amazon.com and other sites.
It’s no surprise the cover of Olives consists of a number of elements. It’s a mash of images that come from Naeema’s reading of the book, there are elements resonant of multi-theism – Amman’s citadel is in there (look for a shape a little like ‘in’ at an angle across the cover), there is the earth the olives come from, the land and its importance are such an important part of Olives. The blues of the Mediterranean sky and the water are there, too. And so is parchment, a symbol of the unravelling peace the book is wound around. You’ll be hard put to find ‘em, but there are even some olives in there. Together, these things all speak to Olives – to the fundamentals that underpin the book. And behind the title, in faded characters, Mahmoud Darwish’s famous words – which form the frontispiece to Olives: “If the Olive Trees knew the hands that planted them, Their Oil would become Tears.”
It’s a remarkable piece of art and I’m very proud to have it grace and represent my work
Being able to select who designs my cover is, of course, a huge privilege open pretty much only to self published writers - publishing companies don't consult authors about their covers, that's a marketing decision and one not to be made by a mere scribbler (or 'content producer'). I suppose you get an option once you sell your first million copies or so, but I know a number of published authors who were told, 'This is your book's cover, matey', which was the beginning and end of the conversation. I'd always hoped if I landed a contract they'd let me at least pitch Naeema's hat into the ring, but I sort of knew that was a forlorn hope. But now I'm in control, I get to have my cake and eat it.
And it tastes just dandy...