Melissa Walker

Sunday, April 20th, 2014 Melissa Walker

illyria.jpgThe moment I saw the lovely cover for Elizabeth Hand‘s Illyria, I knew I had to ask her how it came about. And when I read this review, I knew I had to read it (it’s high in the pile!).
Meanwhile, here’s Elizabeth with the Cover Story:
“Put simply, I adore this cover. It may be my favorite, from anything I’ve ever written. It’s very different than the artwork for the original UK edition, which had a very small print run and a lovely, Edward Gorey-esque black-and-white pen-and-ink drawing that showed Maddy and Rogan in the attic (below). This one is more romantic and dreamlike. I find it very easy to imagine myself in those boots and that cape.
Illyria, bw.jpg
“But I don’t really think of cover art when I’m working on a book. For some reason the only similar thing I daydream about is the music that will play over the end credits of the movie (not that one’s ever been made, but still), when, of course, the screen is BLACK. But this story was inspired by so many real people and events and places from my own life that I pretty much just plugged them into the appropriate places in the text when I was imagining it.
“My wonderful editor, Sharyn November, sent me some early mockups of a cover that were totally different from this one — a photograph of a stage set for a production of ‘Twelfth Night,’ with a shipwreck, footlights, etc. The image was very striking, but it didn’t give the feeling of a toy theater, and it lacked the dreamy magic I envisioned for the toy theater. I wanted something of the feel of Bergman’s Fanny and Alexandra, maybe my favorite movie, poised somewhere between the real waking world and the even more intensely imagined erotic inner world that, in Illyria, is symbolized by the theater in the secret attic.
“When Sharyn sent me the images for the final cover, I immediately thought, This is it. Not only did the figures resemble the characters in my head, they looked like the real-life Maddy and Rogan at seventeen. My friend Anne, who I’ve known since high school, saw the image and wrote that it looked just like me — my cape, my beret (actually a cape hood in the photo), my boots.
“That was actually kind of eerie, because I’d felt that same thing. So my immediate reaction was that someone had shoved a camera into my head and somehow captured those two people. I LOVED it.
“I don’t think I had any suggestions — I think everyone at Viking who saw this immediately felt the same way I did: This is it. I was very fortunate.
1900.jpg“As it turns out, the artwork isn’t from the inside of my head, but from the inside of Bernardo Bertolucci‘s head — it’s a still photo from his movie 1900. I was never a big fan of his older stuff (I liked more recent films like Stealing Beauty and The Dreamers), but my college boyfriend was a huge Bertolucci fan. So I saw everything, including 1900. Now I want to go back and see it again, to figure out which scene this came from. I especially like the fact that the guy is the very young Gerard Depardieu. I asked Natalie Sousa, Viking’s marvelous designer who came up with this, and she said she ‘took the fog element and continued it over the couple’s faces to give it more mysterious air.’ I think it works beautifully.
“What I love most about this cover is how it sums up everything about Maddy and Rogan’s relationship — their intense focus on each other, their dreaminess, but also the sense that their love is truly otherworldly, and suspended somewhere in time. Like those twinned figurines in a music box, dancing together to a song only they can hear. The fact that you can’t see their faces clearly underscores that. They’re always sixteen. Even in middle age; they never lost that purity or connection. At the novel’s end they’re in each other’s arms again. That’s where I like to think of them always, eternally suspended inside their shared dream.”
Beautiful story, Elizabeth–thank you! I do think this cover has a suspended feel, an otherworldly mist. And I love that it’s from a movie still. Are there other covers out there like that. Anyone know? What do you guys think?

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