Debut Author Spotlight: How Black Swan Inspired My Book’s Cover by Ruth Joffre
Today, we are proud to continue our Debut Author Spotlight series with an essay from Ruth Joffre, whose debut story collection Night Beast is out today from Grove Atlantic. This collection is especially near and dear to our hearts because we had the pleasure of publishing the title story, which won our Fall Fiction Contest judged by Kelly Link. In this essay, Joffre discusses the joys and challenges of finding the perfect cover.
“When my editor at Grove asked me if I had any ideas about what the cover of Night Beast should look like, I admit I felt a bit paralyzed. What single image could represent all the short stories in this collection (which is itself so varied in form and style, including stories written in the second person and the third, the present and the past)?”
Night Beast has always felt like a particularly evocative title. I drew the title of my short story collection from the final story in the book, “Night Beast,” which won The Masters Review’s 2016 Fall Fiction Contest. Neither too specific nor too vague, the phrase “night beast” brings to mind images of a dark, ferocious predator without identifying any particular animal or even requiring the beast to be an animal. As is often the case in the collection, the “beast” can be a product of our own untamed desires. Fierce, territorial, and unrepentant, the beast raises its head when you least expect it, driving the narrator of the title story to pursue an ill-advised affair with her brother’s fiancée, a sleepwalker wrestling with her own demons. It’s beautiful and terrifying and refuses to be restrained.
How, then, to convey all this in a cover?
When my editor at Grove asked me if I had any ideas about what the cover of Night Beast should look like, I admit I felt a bit paralyzed. What single image could represent all the short stories in this collection (which is itself so varied in form and style, including stories written in the second person and the third, the present and the past)? Every writer must go through this: the immediate fear of getting it wrong followed by the elation, however preemptive, at the thought of getting it right. I began to fantasize about what my cover would look like, and eventually I realized that the fantasies were starting to self-segregate into discrete artistic directions.
I chose three to send to my editor.
The first direction was inspired by the artwork that accompanied “Night Beast” when it was first published in The Masters Review. Mysterious and surreal, the photograph features a woman in a white wedding dress walking through a verdant forest. Her back is turned, and she’s climbing a staircase, lifting the dress so the train won’t drag through the dirt; but there’s no one around, and there’s nothing to explain how the bride came to be here. She just is.