We had a lot of trouble doing a cover for The Magicians. Not without good reason. I don’t think Viking’s art department had done a lot of fantasy before. And I have the visual sensibility of an eyeless cave creature. So together we made a great team.
As a result we went through five or six ideas that were interesting and cool and totally wrong for The Magicians. I wish I had a framed poster-size version of each one of them. They were great. But there was no way I wanted them on my book.
(By the way, unless you’ve done a book yourself, you may not realize that it’s inherently extremely cool that they even discussed options with me, as usually publishers just put a cover on a book and the author can like it or lump it. Except actually they can’t even lump it.)
Then Viking’s art director sent me a link. This link. It’s to the website of a French artist named Didier Massard. What Massard does is just insane.
Massard is a photographer. But not the regular kind. I’ve heard what he does called constructed photography or fabricated photography or tabletop photography. He actually builds models of things, in his studio, and then photographs them as if they were real. So what you get are hyper-real, hyper-detailed images that look strangely fantastical for reasons that aren’t immediately obvious. You think you’re looking at a painting, but you’re not. You’re looking at a real thing.
I flicked through a few different images on his site. Then I saw this:
It’s called Arbre en Automne. I picked up the phone to call my girlfriend, to whom I’d forwarded the link. Except my phone was already ringing. It was my girlfriend. We both said at the same time: I found it.
The Vikings liked it too. I actually became a bit obsessed with the image. I kept it on my desktop while I did my final revisions to the book. It was like he’d said in that one image everything I’d been trying to put in a whole novel (about 148,000 words). I wrote him a fan letter. He replied warmly, in charmingly broken English.
Then I called his gallery and tried to buy Arbre en Automne. In response I heard only the cold, plastic sound of my credit cards laughing at me.
But here’s the thing: now I’m writing the sequel to The Magicians, and I want to use another of Massard’s images. Partly to keep the look and feel consistent book to book, but mostly because his images rock. So I’m going to have to start planning now, to fit the book to the right image, and to lobby Massard for permission to use it.
So do me a favor. Head over to Massard’s site. Tell me what looks like a great cover to you. The cover of a book you’d want to read. I have a few ideas, but I want to know what you think.
[p.s. if you find Massard's work interesting, check out the amazing making-of video under "Backstage." Unfortunately featuring the worst video client ever.]