“Hallucinatory…disorienting, destabilizing, and game-changing. I’ve never read anything like it.”1

“Successfully disguised as a page-turning thriller…also a deep meditation on marginalization, vulnerability, and resistance.”2

MCD x FSG Originals, 15 May 2018
cover design Boyang Xia
art direction Rodrigo Corral

Image description: Book cover in matte black with the title So Lucky, and the author’s name Nicola Griffith, in big uppercase type formed of burning paper. In smaller, brighter letters between title and author is, A novel, and, below the writer’s name, Author of Hild.

I’m very happy with this! But getting to the happy place was an interesting process.

Usually, by the time a book gets to the cover design stage I have a pretty clear idea of what I want. I don’t always get it, but I know how it should look. But Lucky came together so fast and is so unliked anything else I’ve written (or read from anyone else), that when my editor, Sean McDonald, asked me how I saw it, I said: I’m perfectly blank.

Seriously, that’s all I could see: blankness, blackness. My agent, Stephanie Cabot, said: Well, maybe the cover should be perfect black. No, I said. Black is in there, but it has to convey the irony/not irony of the title, the essential paradox at the heart of the book, the what-you-see-is-definitely-not-what-you-get Fuck You at its centre. It had to have a sense of power, of agency and urgency. I was clear about one thing: No representation of the narrator on the cover, and meant it this time. And no, absolutely zero, images of mobility devices. I had a nightmare vision of the art department falling in love with a pity-porn picture of a woman struggling sadly with crutches, or a woman in a wheelchair gazing wistfully at the outside world.

Just before Christmas I got a few covers to look at and hated them all. They were mostly white with lettering in bright and juicy iPhone X colours, and wispy young women in quarter profile: looking away; looking like objects of pity, not subjects. The only cover that was even close to acceptable to me was black, with the title and author in thin, neutral-coloured type.

LUCKY black

I thought it was a reasonable beginning, but it needed a visceral image, something to halt a browser in their tracks and make them reach out, intrigued.

I’d been chatting with a friend, Maria Dahvana Headley (whose novel The Mere Wife is also coming from FSG this summer) about covers (hers is great), and she sent me a picture of a sculpture by Kate MacDowell that she’d found on Pinterest. (For those too lazy to click through, it’s a  half eviscerated rabbit that shows a human skeleton underneath.) I wasn’t sure I liked it, exactly, but I found it arresting, and the sense of the hidden thing trying to break free, of the surface not being the whole story, spoke to me. If  the cover could convey that sense of a hidden thing energy bursting/burning through, then maybe this would work.

So I built a composite image and sent it back (with the skull emphasised, and some bubbles added so it looked as though the rabbit was swimming up towards the surface of a deep, dark place). I reassured everyone that, no, that’s not what I actually wanted for the cover, but that it conveyed the sense that someone was actively working to get out from  under, break free, and could the art department pretty please come up with something like that?

Then I thought some more. I kept thinking of my original notions, of flames. How about this? I said.

LUCKY black and fire

Obviously the flames should be bigger and more powerful but, well, I’m not a graphic designer. Just to be helpful I also sent a folder of the kind of silkscreen images used by revolutionary and terrorist groups like Hezbollah and ETA that got their point across in crude but powerful graphics. I want something with flame that does that, I said.

A long silence. Followed, at last, by a sketch-draft of what became the cover you see today. Yes! I said. Yes, yes, and yes. Dark and dangerous and blunt, just like the book is supposed to be, something to match the blurbs that have begun to roll in:

1“This genre-violating story begins straightforwardly then slides into a hallucinatory exploration of the body, reality, and identity. It is disorienting, destabilizing, and game-changing. I have never read anything like it.” — Riva Lehrer, award-winning artist, and author of Golem Girl

2“All too often, stories glide past issues of the body…but what happens when our relation to our own body turns adversarial? Successfully disguised as a page-turning thriller, So Lucky is also a deep meditation on marginalization, vulnerability, and resistance.” — Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

“Nicola Griffith’s So Lucky is compelling reading, a tour de force … that describes an autobiographical experience of disability from Day One with a relentlessness that can parallel disability itself. It is intense, sad, and dramatic, combining mystery, romance, terrorand hope. Just like life itself.” — Steven E. Brown, Co-Founder: Institute on Disability Culture

So Lucky fires a gritty, scary, wrathful, sometimes blisteringly funny broadside at the monsters of ableist culture.” — Maria Dahvana Headley, author of The Mere Wife

So Lucky is somehow both a tense psychological thriller and a subtle character portrait… Nicola Griffith is an essential writer, and here she is at her most personal, political, and perfectly unputdownable.” — Robin Sloan, author of Sourdough

“In Nicola Griffith’s So Lucky, Mara is stalked by a phantom. The phantom threatens her work, her relationships—nothing less than her identity. This angry, funny, cleverly-written piece … ushers in a new wave of disability story.”  — Susan Nussbaum, author of Good Kings, Bad Kings

Griffith’s lean, taut prose, and her willingness to delve deeply into Mara’s fears, transforms So Lucky into a story about what we all share: an unpredictable life filled with vulnerability and need for community.” — Kenny Fries, author of In the Province of the Gods

I am now very happy. I can’t wait for you to read it. So Lucky will hit the shelves on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. You can, of course, pre-order in print, digital, and audio formats. (Audio narrated by me—I just finished recording. More on that in a future post).