Kismet, serendipity, etc.
An essay on the rare occurrence of an author and a designer thinking the same thing without knowing it.
Over at the Hawthorne Books blog you’ll find a nice post by author David Rocklin about the cover I designed for his excellent debut novel The Luminist. Mr. Rocklin is an excellent stylist, so I recommend you go over and read it for yourself; but here’s the short form.
The novel explores the early days of photography against the backdrop of colonial Ceylon in the late 19th century – the period just as Indian nationalism was beginning to take root. His heroine is a not-very-well-behaved woman loosely modeled on photographic pioneer Julia Margaret Cameron, who also lived in Ceylon at about that time.
At any rate, the dramatic climax of the novel occurs around the heroine’s first successful photograph, a portrait of her daughter (also not particularly well-behaved, and in the midst of an unrealized romance with her mother’s Tamil servant and assistant to boot). It’s a lovely moment in the book, and when I was doing image research for the cover, I came upon an portrait of Cameron’s that seemed to be that very image.1
Well, as it turns out, it was, more or less. Mr. Rocklin writes that the image that I chose for the cover of his book was the one that motivated him to write the book in the first place. I did not know that, as I get the manuscripts without any contact with the author and read them blind – it’s better if I approach a text as a reader, without any particular brief.
Hawthorne’s authors usually like their covers, but this is the first time I’ve ever been so tightly synchronized with one. It’s very gratifying. It’s also an excellent book, and the design isn’t half-bad. You should buy it.