A WRITER IN TRANSITION BLOG #12.

THE COVER STORY.

In my previous blog in this series, I had discussed the role of immediate environment and family support system in writing a novel. In this blog, I would discuss the visual impact of a cover of a novel.

Till I published my first novel, I was totally blind towards the importance of a book cover. Of course, this was partly due to the fact my father was a member of a public library. That library had a policy of binding all the books purchased by it. Since the binding was old fashioned leather binding, this policy ensured that the books had long shelf lives. However, as a result of this utilitarian practice, my impressionable mind was conditioned to overlook the book covers while selecting the books. Of course, my father would guide me about which authors to read. However, the visual appeal of new books had always been alien to my sensibilities in my formative years. It was only when I grew up and started buying books on my own that I began noticing book covers.

Even then, I would react to book covers almost unthinkingly. I would like some book covers and dislike the rest. To be candid, ‘ dislike ‘ is rather a strong word. I think it would be correct to say that I was indifferent towards some of the book covers. Of course, there were some book covers which I liked immensely. The turning point in my thinking about the book covers came about when I bought a novel “ A Chronicle of A Death Foretold “ by Gabriel Garcìa Márquez. It was a Penguin edition. The book cover was brownish yellow, with author’s name in white in the forefront. The title of the novel was written on a purple brushstroke. Till date, I can not analyse what happened to me when I saw that book at the Strand bookstore. I knew I had to buy it. I would like to admit that till then , I had not read any of Marquéz ‘s novels. Therefore, I did not have any expectations, but there was something incredible about that book cover. It touched my subconscious mind. That was the moment that changed my attitude towards book covers. The irony of that moment was that I became lifelong reader of his books , but I still don’t know the artist responsible for that book cover. The novelists become famous but artists who create the book covers remain anonymous.

Before I move on to my understanding of book covers, I would like to point out two of my shortcomings. Firstly, being a male, my colour sense is rather primitive. I realized this while describing that book cover in the previous paragraph. My description of that book cover is rather inaccurate. I am sure there are more specific descriptions of colour scheme of that book cover. However, I don’t think I can differentiate between different shades of brownish yellow. To me they are all same. This has nothing to do with my upbringing. It has to do with genetics. Very few of us are aware that genes responsible for color perception are present in X chromosome. Therefore, all males, including me, are endowed with only one set of these genes. Women, on the other hand, are endowed with two sets of these genes. Moral of the story is never argue with women about colours. They are better equipped to differentiate between shades of colours.

Secondly, having been trained as a scientist, I am more inclined to be analytical than being emotional. Those who have been reading my blogs, would realize that I tend to analyse and deconstruct human existence rather than describing the emotions that dominate our lives. I am more of a content person rather than an expression person. Maybe, that is why I was late in realising the importance of a book cover. Somewhere, deep within, I think of novels as vehicles of telling readers about life. I don’t think of novels as sensuous expressions.

However, this predominance of rationality started changing when I began writing my first novel. I had to, perforce, confront my emotions. The writing of novels has liberated me from analytical predilection. The climax of that liberation came when I was required to think about the book cover of my first novel. I am thankful to my publishers CINNAMONTEAL for guiding me through this process of making a book cover. I had some ideas about the design of the book cover. The artwork was provided by the publishers. Someone in my family is professionally trained in visual arts. So, the final outcome was a result of cooperation between three of us. I am already in the process of visualising a book cover of my second novel. This time, I am more comfortable with colours and the emotions that they evoke. However, the real achievement would be when I start visualising my novels rather than thinking about them. A graphic novel would be a pinnacle of creativity for me. I am not sure whether I would climb that mountain.

This brings me to the end of this blog and the end of this series of blogs :A Writer in Transition. I would resume blogging after a gap of couple of months. During this gap, my third novel would be under production and I would be busy with the ‘non literary ‘aspects of that novel, including its cover design.

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A WRITER IN TRANSITION. BLOG # 11.

AN EMOTIONAL ECOSYSTEM OF A NOVELIST.

In my previous blog, I had discussed the role of an editor in creating a finished novel from a manuscript. In continuation with my blogs on the ‘non literary ‘ aspects of fiction writing , in this blog, I would discuss the role of immediate environment and family support system in writing a novel. Normally, when one thinks of an emotional ecosystem of a novelist, first thing that comes to one’s mind is that of an inspiration that influences a novelist. Every creative person is supposed to have a muse who triggers the creative outbursts. However, in this blog, I would not discuss about any such muse in my life. This is partly because I am a private person and I firmly believe that there are aspects of my life that are out of bounds for my readers. However, let me admit that there is nothing that I would like to hide. It is just that I, as a person, is distinctly separate from I, as a novelist. Secondly, I have come to the conclusion, after writing two novels, that what prompts a novelist to write a novel is not a romantic love personified in the form of a life partner, but rather a nonstop feeling of angst. While romantic love with its many splendored glory, could suffuse one’s life with sublime emotions, it does not necessarily make one a novelist. The writing of a novel requires a constant struggle with one’s own self to make sense of life. Therefore, I think I would set aside this hyped image of a muse inspiring an artist.

Instead, in this blog, I would discuss the kind of emotional background that has allowed me to follow my creative urge to the fruition. When I began my first novel, the writing was irregular. Though, I would write almost every day, there was no rhythm and I would write at odd hours, depending on my professional work load. However, while writing my second novel, things have fallen in place. I write for couple of hours every day at a fixed time. This has been possible because my family provides me with a greater privacy. I still live in an emotional cocoon provided by my family, but within that cocoon, there is a complete undisturbed privacy that facilitates my writing. There would be scores of household chores that would have otherwise fallen on me. However, everyone ensures that these don’t interfere with my work. This mindfulness speaks volumes about the emotional ecosystem that I operate from.

In addition to this subtle adjustments, a novelist also needs an empathy. It is not necessary for a novelist’s family to read and approve of the novels written by the novelist, but it imperative that the family knows and appreciates the sincerity and commitment of the novelist. This alone is sufficient for a novelist to continue writing. I have realised that, as a novelist, I too am influenced by the overall mood of the novel that I am writing. This influence is of course, a short time influence. For instance, there is a description of a death in my second novel which occupies a few pages. I remember that while writing those pages, I was deeply disturbed. It must have also reflected in my demeanour. The family is normally unaware of what is being currently written by the novelist. Therefore, the family has to accommodate these mood changes of the novelist simply by intuitively guessing the reason behind the novelist’s changed demeanour. This is precisely what happened in my case. This is where empathy comes into the picture. A family undergoes trials and tribulations together. Therefore, there is no need for verbal communication to tell family members about how one feels. The family can relate to one another simply by observing. The shared emotions ensure that empathy prevails.

It is not just a novelist’s immediate family but even the larger group of individuals of cousins, friends, neighbours, and acquaintances also contribute to a novelist’s emotional ecosystem. Being surrounded by known individuals, adds a sense of belonging and comfort to a novelist’s emotional ecosystem. For instance, I don’t think I would be able to write my novels if I were to be kept away from my comfortable niche. Strangely, I would be able to do my scientific work even if I were to be banished ito some godforsaken place, but I would not be able to write novel. That sums up the importance of of emotional ecosystem in allowing one’s creativity to blossom. Writing a fiction is not a clever workmanship of a wordsmith, but an act of creativity.

In my next blog, I would discuss another apparently non literary aspect of writing a novel viz. importance of book cover of a novel.